Last month we blogged about Metro Detroit getting some new shark neighbors. This month, it’s three gentoo penguins.
Female Philly and males Popeye and Simon, which are each just over a year old, are the first of their species to arrive at the Zoo, joining the flock of king, rockhopper and macaroni penguins at the Penguinarium. More gentoos will arrive in the coming months as completion of the PPCC nears.
The long-tailed gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua) is recognized by the white stripe extending across its head and its bright red-orange bill. The gentoo is the third-largest penguin, reaching a height of 30 inches and a weight of up to 20 pounds. It is also the fastest-diving bird, with paddle-shaped flippers that help it reach speeds of up to 22 miles an hour underwater.
One of the most dramatic features of the new penguin home will be a chilled 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area with views above and below water as the birds dive and soar.
This will allow visitors to observe penguins dive under water – something that is impossible to see in the wild.
“We have observed thousands of gentoo penguins in Antarctica as part of our research and development of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center’s unique design. The aquatic habitat makes the facility an ideal environment for gentoos, which we know spend a lot of time in the water,” said Scott Carter, Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) chief life sciences officer.
The Polk Penguin Conservation Center is a $29.5 million project under construction on a 2-acre site. It is slated to open early next year. Once the penguins move to their new home, renovation will begin on the Penguinarium to turn it into a bat conservation center.