CALGARY — Tough criticism of the Calgary Zoo's approach to expanding its collection won't stop the facility from plunging ahead with a new, $24.5-million penguin exhibit.
Construction is already underway on the Antarctic Landing exhibit, which eventually will feature as many as 90 penguins from four species.
"It's been thoroughly planned out and it's well underway," said zoo spokeswoman Laurie Herron.
The exhibit is expected to open in early 2012, she said.
The Calgary Zoo came under fire last week after a report — requested by zoo officials following a series of deaths and animal mishaps — revealed a number of problems at the facility.
Amid other concerns revealed by the review team of accredited zoo experts were issues over the Calgary Zoo's poor collection planning, which showed little focus, critics argued.
Herron said the penguin display has already undergone exhaustive planning for several years, noting the zoo has experts on hand to care for the penguins once they arrive and is planning to bolster its team of knowledgeable marine animal staff in the meantime.
Antarctic Landing is the lone piece of the ambitious Arctic Shores proposal to be constructed in the near future after the rest of the exhibit was scaled back due to soaring construction costs.
The exhibit will feature King, Rockhopper, Gentoo and Humboldt penguins and include a pool with a viewing glass for visitors.
Penguin experts say the birds can do well in zoos, but only if the proper homework is done on their care.
When the penguin exhibit opens next year, it may also mean another part of the zoo will close, according to spokesman Simon Scott.
"When the penguins (exhibit) open(s), when they arrive, we will look to close another part of the zoo, perhaps an aging part of the zoo, which will allow us to focus more moneys and more resource in this area," he said.
In 2008, an entire cow nose ray exhibit was wiped out because of human error. Since then, the zoo has been harshly criticized for not having appropriate expertise to build the pool and to care for the rays.
With files from Richard Cuthbertson