Last week, seventeen African penguins jumped out of 65-degree water at the Denver Zoo’s new aviary and flew out onto the warm deck above it, as if they were part of a single organism.
Impressively, they never lost their tight formations, huddled shoulder to shoulder like an elevator full of tough-armed and tuxedo-clad (albeit incredibly cute) passengers.
“They will begin to spread and use most of the mainland as they become more acclimatized,” said John Azua, Denver Zoo’s avian curator, watching the tiny zoo patrons press their cheeks against a sheer acrylic divider to get attention. -in the eye with compact creatures. “While they are still getting together.”
You can’t blame them: On this visit, African penguins barely appeared in sight for 24 hours after zoo workers removed the wall separating their exhibit from the rest of the 84-acre campus, just north of City Park, which about 3000 more animals live.
Located on the former Benson Predator Ridge, the $ 1.75 million African penguin habitat, opened on September 30, beckons visitors right from the main entrance. The zoo has painted and repaired the brown artificial ridge stones (now gray) instead of demolishing them while closing their perimeter to create a modern 2,400-square-foot home for the endangered penguins that are native. to South Africa.
“Their new pool is about four to five times the size of their swimming space at Bird World,” said Jake Kubier, director of public relations for the Denver Zoological Foundation, which operates Denver’s non-profit Zoo.
“Its long, linear nature also allows them to exhibit some natural behaviors such as porpoises (ie what dolphins do) that they could not do before,” Azua added of the 40-foot pool. “Their old show was what we call ‘dump and fill’ in the industry, so no filtration, no circulation and a lot of wasted water.”
Pinnacle African Penguin Point, as it is officially called, solves these problems with technology. The new 10,000-square-foot water tank is temperature-controlled and filtered every 15 minutes, allowing caretakers to reuse the water instead of dumping it once or twice a week to avoid the summer algae bloom that plagued the Avian World exhibit. “.
There are also heaters underneath parts of the deck, which will allow penguins to easily reach the water even in freezing temperatures, although when temperatures reach 20 degrees or below, they are still pushed inside. Numerous burrows and nest boxes, as well as various challenging landscapes and natural substrates, effectively mimic their origins from the Cape of Good Hope, Cubier said.
It is specially modeled after Boulder Beach in South Africa, where Denver Zoo experts brought their Colorado knowledge to help rehabilitate and rescue African penguins for much of the past two decades. Animal care experts are also returning from these overseas trips with new techniques that improve the care of captive animals at Denver Zoo, Azua said.
Vertix Builders, behind the show, has a long history of adaptation, recently completing a major update to the hugely popular space odyssey at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
“Unlike a traditional commercial building, the exhibits are unique and the designers, contractors and zoo staff had to work closely to develop a vision and then bring it to life,” Ted Laszlo, vice president of Vertix, told the press. statement.
Vertix had to balance stretches of water and sand (the latter where daily conversations and feeding would begin soon) with spaces in which the penguins could exercise and cool off, including 600 feet indoors. They also installed a pulley system that zoo guests can use to create “their own playful waves that the penguins can splash in.”
Of course, this will require these still acclimatizing penguins to weaken their ranks, and luckily – for both visitors and penguins – they are doing well.
Subscribe to our weekly In The Know newsletter to receive entertainment updates straight to your inbox.