Archive: New Additions Waddle into Detroit Zoo

February 4, 2015

ROYAL OAK, Mich., 

As work continues on the $29.5-million Polk Penguin Conservation Center, the Detroit Zoo welcomes some of its future residents – three gentoo penguins.

Female Philly and males Popeye and Simon – 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 Polk Penguin Conservation Center 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 under water.

One of the most dramatic features of the penguins’ new 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 under construction on a 2-acre site just inside the Zoo’s entrance and is slated to open in early 2016. Once the penguins move to the facility, renovation will begin on the Penguinarium to turn it into a bat conservation center.