City breaks ground on penguin exhibit at Albuquerque zoo

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After years of talking about it, the city broke ground Tuesday on the much-anticipated “Penguin Chill” exhibit at the zoo. City leaders also got into the act, donning tuxes and hats.

Valentine’s Day was the perfect date to break ground. Kids in attendance learned some valuable lessons about the penguins and love.

It’s finally happening, soon people will be able to see penguins up close and personal at the Albuquerque zoo.

Mayor Richard J. Berry said the exhibit will have a “glass floor area where guests will be able to see penguins swimming underneath them.”

Since penguins were not able to attend the groundbreaking, the city improvised.

“So we asked our staff to come dressed as penguins,” said Mayor Berry.

Students from Dolores Gonzales Elementary came to lend a helping hand at the groundbreaking ceremony.

The “Penguin Chill” exhibit will be more than 14,500 square feet, with a 75,500 gallon tank.

“It’s going to have two levels of viewing, and you are going to have an outside deck,” said J.T. Allen, Chief Executive at the Albuquerque BioPark.

Students received key chains and toy replicas of the three species of penguins that will call the zoo home — macaroni penguins, gentoo penguins and king penguins.

“Who is four feet tall? You are exactly the size of a King Penguin,” said Mayor Berry.

Breaking ground for the penguin exhibit on Valentine’s Day was a perfect match because penguins are known to mate for life.

“When they’re courting, the boy penguin brings the girl penguin a rock when he wants them to be his wife.”

And as students learned, humans can learn a lot from penguins.

“Penguins are great parents, they kiss their babies.”

The $12 million project is being paid for by the new city sales tax that goes to the BioPark. The city hopes the penguin exhibit will be open in the Spring 2018.

Next up for the zoo — otters and a new jaguar exhibit.

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