The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is thrilled to begin construction of a brand new state-of-the-art exhibit. This exciting African penguin habitat will provide an enhanced natural environment designed to reflect the South African home of these unique coastal birds. Among other enhancements, this new exhibit space will allow guests to get closer than ever to this amazing and endangered species.
Scheduled to open as early as fall of 2014, the new African Penguin Exhibit will dramatically change the landscape and feel of the Zoo. Located between Polar Bear Watch and African Journey, this new habitat will be a featured destination easily accessible right in the center of all other exhibits. Along with a brand new location, this new construction will also bring a significant number of improvements for both the birds and guests.
Please note: The current Rock Island penguin exhibit in African Journey will not be affected by construction and will remain open, so you’ll still be able to see African penguins on your next visit to the Zoo.
Imagine a makeshift fishing camp erected on a small island surrounded by water. Penguins can wander under and around the camp, swim beneath its pier, or sit on rocky outcroppings nearby. The island and its building – not a fishing camp at all, but a state-of-the-art facility for penguin housing, breeding and care – will serve as a center of animal operations for the new exhibit. Keepers will access the building from a bridge leading off a main wharf.
As a visitor, you’ll be able to walk around the island, stopping along the way to watch the penguins, observe a feeding, participate in a Keeper Chat, or enjoy special water features such as The Blowhole, which will occasionally shoot water in to the air to cool off those who don’t mind getting wet. Enter the exhibit’s Interpretive Center and you can view penguins from above or descend down a set of stairs to see them swimming underwater. At the Tidal Pool Viewing Window, you will witness a periodic waterfall creating waves for the penguins to bob in. Inside the comfortable new center, you’ll also find restrooms, a multi-purpose education room for programs and space for special events.
Guests will also be able to visit a new Penguin Embassy building where Zoo educators will be on hand to provide special animal presentations and penguin encounters.
The Maryland Zoo is home to one of North America’s largest breeding colonies of African penguins. Since their arrival at the Zoo in 1967, African penguins have been a significant focus of care, research and breeding. In 2009, the status of African penguins in the wild became endangered which has greatly enhanced the role The Maryland Zoo plays in the conservation of this threatened species.
Currently, 46 penguins live in the Zoo’s Rock Island Penguin exhibit. The exhibit, built in the early 1960s, was originally home to goats and monkeys. This space has served the birds extraordinarily well, but in an effort to improve living conditions and expand the colony, a plan to build a new exhibit was created.
The African penguin population in the wild has declined by 90% since the turn of the 20th century. There are approximately 52,000 birds remaining, but threats to their habitats and survival are very real. Human interference used to pose the greatest threat. Collection of their eggs for human consumption and collection of guano used for fertilizer destroyed nesting sites which contributed to the penguins near extinction. Today, although better protected as a species, African penguins continue to compete with commercial fisherman for access to fish and remain vulnerable to pollution along the coastline caused by oil spills.
We thank you in advance for your patience and your sense of adventure when visiting the Zoo during construction. The finished exhibit promises to be profound. We want to keep you updated on our progress as we move forward to keep you informed and excited of what’s to come. Check back here periodically for updates, new pictures and video of the penguin progress. Click below to access the most recent exhibit information. We hope you’ll visit often and share in the excitement of this next chapter in the Zoo’s history!
The creation of the new African penguin exhibit is an exciting and important milestone in the Zoo’s history. A multi-million dollar facility of this scope is a large undertaking for the Zoo and would not be possible without the generous, visionary support of the State of Maryland. Funds provided by the State for the exhibit are in addition to money allocated for the Zoo’s annual operations budget.