Archive: Polk Penguin Conservation Center Reopens at Detroit Zoo

February 14, 2022

ROYAL OAK, Mich., 

The largest penguin facility in the world has reopened to the public. Closed since September 2019 for waterproofing repairs, the Polk Penguin Conservation Center (PPCC) has also received numerous enhancements and welcomed a new species.

The PPCC is now home to more than 75 king, rockhopper, macaroni, gentoo and chinstrap penguins.

“The chinstraps settled right in and became avid swimmers. Once the lights come on for the day, TJ, Haiku, Kringle and Turtle immediately dive into the pool,” said Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) Curator of Birds Bonnie Van Dam. “They also had no problem integrating with the other species. Penguins thrive within larger colonies, and they are just exceptional at mingling.”

Upgrades to the PPCC include a section of glass flooring that allows guests to see birds swimming below their feet, repainted rock surfaces, the creation of more nesting areas, a second snow machine within the habitat, upgrades to the water and air filtration systems, enhanced lighting and exhibits that focus on changing climate and the resulting loss of sea ice.

“While supervising the necessary waterproofing repairs, it was important for us to also use this time to make enhancements to the penguins’ welfare and our guests’ experiences,” said DZS Executive Director and CEO Dr. Hayley Murphy. “Millions of visitors, from all over the world, have flocked to this conservation center since it opened in April 2016, and we are so thrilled to open the doors again this morning.”

The PPCC is designed to encourage the penguins’ wild behavior, from diving and porpoising to nesting and rearing young. Since the building closed for repairs, five chicks joined the flock. In August 2020, a king penguin chick hatched at the Detroit Zoo for the first time in 20 years.

The PPCC features a 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area with breathtaking views. An underwater gallery with a vast acrylic window and two acrylic tunnels allows visitors to watch penguins dive under water – something that is impossible to see in the wild.

“These beloved birds continued to receive the same outstanding care as their home was being repaired,” said Dr. Murphy. “We know just how much DZS members and guests have missed seeing this world-renowned habitat.”

Located on 2 acres near the main entrance of the Zoo, the PPCC is included with general admission; however, timed-entry passes are required to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all guests. At least 2,000 passes per day will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at admissions.