FedEx dropped off an early Christmas present to the Detroit Zoo – 20 gentoo penguins from an aquarium in California. The 10 males and 10 females arrived in early December and are in a special quarantine area in the Penguinarium waiting for their new home, the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, to be finished in April.
They join three other gentoos that arrived almost a year ago as well as a colony of king, rockhopper and macaroni penguins.
The Polk Penguin Conservation Center, the most vaunted coming attraction that awaits the penguins and zoo patrons, features a chilled 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area with views above and below water as the birds dive and soar. That not only adds recreation and exercise for the birds, it gives us a unique peek into the lives of these Antarctic creatures.
“Gentoo penguins are fast swimmers and divers and spend a lot of time in the water, so their new aquatic habitat will be an ideal environment for them,” says Scott Carter, Detroit Zoological Society chief life sciences officer.
With paddle-like feet that allow them to reach speeds up to 22 mph, the gentoos (Pygoscelis papua) are the fastest of all the diving birds. Watching them will be fascinating.
You can easily pick the gentoos out of the penguin crowd. They have a long tail, a white stripe extended across the head, red-orange bill, and are up to 30-inches tall. That last bit, along with a weight of up to 20 lbs., makes them the third largest of the penguins.
Polk Penguin Conservation Center is set to open its doors in April, 2016. Once the zoo’s feathered, below-zero birds move into the 2-acre site just inside the Detroit Zoo’s entrance, their former home in the Penguinarium will be turned into a conservation center for bats.
– Photo Credit: Jennie Miller