The long-awaited, highly anticipated Penguin Chill exhibit at the Albuquerque Zoo is almost open, and KRQE News 13 got a sneak peek inside. But the public is going to have to wait a little longer.
“So right now it’s a little different because they are in our holding space, and we’re kind of spending a lot of time getting to know the birds. We want to get some quality time in with keepers and really formulating a bond with them,” said BioPark Bird Curator Karen Waterfall.
Last week, the BioPark welcomed 22 Macaroni and Gentoo penguins from SeaWorld in San Diego, and are expecting ten King penguins from SeaWorld Orlando in another few weeks. The penguins are getting used to their brand-new 14,000 square foot home and taking a dip in their 75,000 gallon above-ground main tank, giving them plenty of space to swim. When the exhibit opens, visitors will be able to watch them swim beneath their feet while standing on a glass floor.
“What we wanted to do for the BioPark’s penguin exhibit is we wanted to get people to feel like they were going on a journey,” said BioPark Director Dr. Baird Flemming. “We wanted them to start off on the southern tip of Argentina in the Tierra de Fuego region and go from there to the South Georgia islands where we see a lot of these kinds of penguins.”
Getting to this point hasn’t been easy. The Penguin Chill exhibit was supposed to open April of last year, then delayed again so zoo staff could adjust the life-support temperature reader that keeps the water and air cool enough for the penguins.
The public will most likely be able to see the penguins in July, but only if the penguins feel comfortable in their new home.
The Penguin Chill exhibit isn’t cheap. It was estimated to cost about $12 million, but BioPark officials said that number is now closer to $17 million.