Four species of penguins now inhabit the Calgary Zoo’s $24.5 million Penguin Plunge exhibit that opened mid February 2012. The exhibit houses four of the 18 species of penguin – Humboldt, gentoo, king and rockhopper, and will eventually have over 50 penguins. The penguins live in a rocky shoreline landscapes complete with a waterfall and ice formations where the average indoor temperature is a constant 7 degrees Celsius.
The lights of the Aurora Australis flicker across the dome of the ceiling and reflect on ice covered rocks with simulated snow. Visitors can view them through plexiglass windows as they swim by or see them paddle underneath their feet. The outdoor pool holds 9,300 gallons in an over 2,000 sq ft exhibit and indoor with 5,800 sq feet, the pool holds 32,000 gallons. The exhibit features state-of-the-art air quality and water management systems to ensure the birds’ requirements are met. Behind the scenes, there are large food freezers with food preparation space and veterinary areas for the penguins’ healthcare requirements.
The Calgary Zoo’s Conservation Plan
The Penguin Lifelines project monitors Antarctic penguin populations using various technologies to identify trouble spots. This important research will be used to inform policy makers and educate the public about the plight of penguins. The Calgary Zoo will work with the Zoological Society of London and Oxford University to uncover problem areas.
Humboldt penguins are facing serious challenges and the Zoo has chosen to support Sphenisco which is working in Peru and Chile to protect and monitor breeding colonies, create marine protected areas, educate local people and develop ecotourism as an alternative to unsustainable fishing methods as a source of income.
The Northern Rockhopper Penguin Project will see the Zoo partner with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the Edinburgh Zoo to initiate conservation programs aimed at this species that lives in only two locations in the southern Atlantic ocean, Gough Island and Tristan de Cunha and two in the Southern Indian Ocean, St. Paul and Amsterdam Islands. Many penguins perished following an oil spill near Tristan de Cunha in 2011.