Friday, February 17, 2012

Calgary Zoo set to host splashy penguin party

By Jenna McMurray ,Calgary Sun
They’ve trekked here from their former homes in three different countries and are finally ready to celebrate their permanent move to Calgary with the public.
The much-anticipated Penguin Plunge officially opens at the Calgary Zoo Friday, years after talks of bringing in the animated black and white birds began.
Originally slated to be part of the planned Arctic Shores exhibit, which was axed after estimated costs to build it ballooned to $200 million, officials continued to investigate whether the zoo could accommodate penguins alone.

The answer was yes.
And so, throughout December and January, 46 penguins slipped and slid their way into Calgary from zoos across North America and as far away as Scotland.
The birds represent four of approximately 18 species of penguins — Calgary is now home to King, Rockhopper, Gentoo and Humboldt penguins.

A few more birds may be accepted over the next few months, said zoo spokeswoman Laurie Skene.
All of the penguins are part of species survival programs, she said.
“Ultimately we’re hoping breeding will occur and we’ll have some little baby penguins,” said Skene.
Humboldt and Rockhopper penguins are considered vulnerable species and Gentoos are called near-threatened, she said.

A big part of bringing the birds to Calgary is promoting conservation efforts, which the zoo, as a whole, is trying to focus on as part of a “rebuilding period,” said Skene.
The penguins inspired the zoo to take on three conservation projects, including supporting the development of a monitoring system that uses time-lapse cameras in Antarctica to understand what helps penguins survive.
Meanwhile, the zoo’s newest residents are ready to play with the public as the doors to their brand new exhibit swing open at 11 a.m. Friday, with opening ceremonies kicking off at 10:30 a.m.
The $24.5-million facility took 18 months to build and includes a gift shop, cafe, and a receiving area for trucks to deliver fish.

The birds have a 49,000-litre outdoor pool and a 144,000-litre indoor pool to splash in.
The temperature will be kept about 7C inside in order to accommodate species that prefer cold and warm weather, said Skene.
There will also be a sunrise and sunset each day to keep the penguins on natural molting and breeding schedules.
Zoo officials expect the birds will be a big draw for visitors.
“They’re obviously charismatic animals,” said Skene.
“They’re busy entertaining, you want to caption everything they’re doing, they’re funny, they’re comical.”

On Twitter: 24Hrsjmcmurray

Penguin Plunge at the Calgary Zoo:
• $24.5-million facility
• 18 months to build
• 144,000-litre indoor pool and 49,000-litre outdoor pool
• Indoor temperature: 7C
• 46 penguins representing four species
• Opens: Friday, Feb. 17

Calgary’s penguins came from zoos in:
Montreal, QC
San Antonio, Texas
Syracuse, N.Y.
Seattle, Wash.
Edinburgh, Scotland

Breakdown of species representation in Calgary:
Gentoo: 23
Humboldt: 10
King: 8
Rockhopper: 5

Who’s Who?
Humboldt penguin
Range: Coastal regions of Peru and Chile
65-69 cm tall
4.2 - 5 kg
Lives 15-20 years
Eats squid and small schooling fish such as sardines and anchovies
Known for the black band of feathers on their chests

Gentoo penguin
Range: Antarctica and islands off South America
51-71 cm tall
5 - 6.2 kg
Live 15-20 years
Eats small plankton, squid and fish
Fastest underwater swimming penguin, can reach speeds of 36 km/h

Rockhopper penguin
Range: Argentina, Chile, Antarctic Islands, New Zealand, Australia, St. Helena, South Africa
45-58 cm
2 - 3.4 kg
Live 10 years
Eats krill and other crustaceans, squid, octopus and fish
Leaps off ledges and cliffs of its rocky nesting habitat

King penguin
Range: Antarctic region
85-95 cm
11-15 kg
Lives 15-20 years
Eats small fish, especially Lanternfish, and squid
One of the largest penguin species, weighing up to 15 kg, second only to the Emperor penguin.

Video also available at source

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