Chicago, 2016-Oct-13 — /Travel PR News/ — As part of its mission to connect people to nature and inspire them to participate in conservation, Lincoln Park Zoo today (Oct. 6, 2016) opened its new African penguin exhibit, Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove. This immersive exhibit brings light to the penguins’ endangered status as well as the unique characteristics of this temperate species. The zoo works closely with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA’s) Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) program, which focuses the collective expertise within AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums to save species. The African penguin is a SAFE priority species due to its decreasing population in the wild, which has gone from 141,000 breeding pairs in 1956 to only about 25,000 today.
“Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove not only gives guests the opportunity to observe these incredible animals, but also engages visitors in conversation about both the positive and negative effects of human-wildlife interactions,” said Senior Vice President Megan Ross, Ph.D. “Endangered due to human impact, such as unsustainable fishing practices and oil spills, this species cannot survive without our help.”
African penguins inhabit the 3,350-square-foot outdoor exhibit space that features a 20,500-gallon pool and naturalistic South African landscape and strategically designed rockwork that enables the penguins to engage in species-specific behavior, such as burrowing and nesting.
“Providing choice is critical to promoting animal welfare,” said Hope B. McCormick Curator of Birds Sunny Nelson. “At the Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove, the penguins can opt to be inside or outdoors and decide whether to spend time in terrestrial or aquatic spaces. The exhibit is expertly designed to accommodate the needs of individual animals as well as those of the flock as a whole.”
Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove is designed to accommodate up to a 24-30 penguin flock. The zoo works cooperatively with the African Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP) which uses Lincoln Park Zoo Population Management Center’s genetic analyses to inform transfer and breeding plans.
“Careful management by the African Penguin Species Survival Plan and the Population Management Center has meant that African penguins in zoos and aquariums have a large and robust population – even more important given the species’ precarious status in the wild,” said Director of the Population Management Center, Sarah Long.
Visitors now have the opportunity to get nose-to-beak with these captivating and vocal animals in a 1,350-square-foot immersive sheltered viewing area with floor-to-ceiling windows. Guests will feel as though they’ve plunged into the penguins’ habitat in a state-of-the-art tactile experience complete with squishy floors imitating damp shoreline sand and rockwork with artificial mussels and barnacles, emulating the terrain African penguins navigate in the wild.
“Active and fascinating to encounter, African penguins naturally ignite our sense of curiosity and connection,” said Vice President for Learning and Community Engagement Dana Murphy. “This new exhibit will help us harness that connection into caring about saving this endangered species.”
African penguins are also referred to as black-footed penguins, due to the coloration of their feet, and are further characterized by the pink coloration around their eyes, black breast-band and belly markings. Native to the shores of South Africa and Namibia, these beach-dwellers are one of 18 penguin species worldwide.
In addition to the new penguin exhibit, the zoo recently renovated the Kovler African Savanna at Regenstein African Journey, which expands the outdoor area for Lincoln Park Zoo’s two female Baringo giraffes by roughly 100 square feet. This area, modeled after the grassland savanna ecosystems of Africa, is designed to house multiple species. The centerpiece of the newly renovated area is a tree-shaped giraffe feeder, which will encourage species-specific behavior and facilitate giraffe enrichment.
Adjacent to Kovler African Savanna, guests can enjoy a new Kugel fountain, dedicated to the late Lincoln Park Zoo Life Trustee, Charlie Haffner. A tactile experience, visitors can move the 15-ton ball, which defies the laws of gravity and floats on water. If untouched, the fountain changes directions every six minutes.
Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove is a $7 million exhibit which is part of Lincoln Park Zoo’s $125 million capital campaign, The Pride of Chicago, which provides funding for new initiatives and structures throughout the zoo.
For more information about Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove and to view interactives and downloads, please visit lpzoo.org/penguin.
About Lincoln Park Zoo
Lincoln Park Zoo, a historic Chicago landmark founded in 1868, is dedicated to connecting people with nature by providing a free, family-oriented wildlife experience. A leader in conservation science both globally and locally, the zoo exemplifies the highest quality animal care and educational outreach. The not-for-profit zoo, managed by The Lincoln Park Zoological Society, is a member-supported organization and one of the nation’s only free, privately managed zoos. For more information, call 312 -742-2000 or visit lpzoo.org
Source: Lincoln Park Zoo