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Meet the zoo’s new Humboldt penguins

Hundreds of donors and zoo members attended this morning’s ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the zoo’s new penguin exhibit. Mayor Greg Nickels and County Councilmember Larry Phillips spoke and helped cut the ribbon.

The 17,000-square-foot exhibit was designed to look just like Punta San Juan in Peru, a natural refuge for Humboldt penguins. The exhibit’s shoreline cliffs, nesting burrows, rocky pools, crashing waves and beaches help evoke the natural world of the endangered birds. These young kids crawled right into the portholes to get a closeup look at a penguin swimming by:

“It creates a great way for children to understand science,” Zoo President Deborah Jensen told the crowd basking in the sun. “Penguins are compelling.”

“The research that is done here at this zoo and other zoos around the country…allows us to do a better job of protecting them and protecting ourselves,” Mayor Nickels explained.
Visitors were treated to South American music by Quichua Mashis.

Some of the penguins were a little unsure of the huge crowd, so they hung back on the beach.

These kids crawled right into the replica of a penguin nesting den, complete with fake guano on the ground.

Tucked into the bow of the rowboat that kids can play on is a photo of a Peruvian woman. Andrea Barnes from Studio Hanson Roberts, which helped design the interpretive exhibits, told me that it’s a copy of an actual photo they saw in a fishing boat while visiting Punta San Juan. The photo was of the fisherman’s mother, and the studio thought it was a nice authentic touch.