Thursday, November 15, 2012

Oregon Zoo's penguins make their move

By Katy Muldoon, The Oregonian

on November 14, 2012 
The Oregon Zoo's Penguinarium reopens to the public Saturday after two years of construction to improve water filtration and update the heating and air conditioning systems.

The zoo's 16 Humboldt penguins, presumably after packing their tuxedos, moved back into their digs this week from a temporary home in a walled-off section of the polar bear exhibit.

The water-filtration work was paid for with money from the zoo bond passed by metro-area voters in 2008.

By all accounts, the revamp was drastically needed. Built in 1959 and remodeled in 1982, the Penguinarium's pool was drained each week for cleaning. The work resulted in dumping millions of gallons into Portland's sewer system annually.

The upgrade, according to the zoo, should save 7 million gallons of water each year.

One glitch: As zoo staffers prepared to return the penguins to their spread about a year ago, they discovered the exhibit's 20-year-old heating and air conditioning system was on the fritz.

The penguins stayed put until upgrades on those systems were completed recently.

Joining the penguins, which are native to the coast of Peru and Chile and are listed as endangered, are 15 Inca terns, which spent the last two years temporarily housed in an enclosure that used to house orangutans. In the wild, the South American seabirds and penguins coexist.

With that game of animal musical chairs over, many more renovations -- lots of them bond-funded -- are in the works, including new exhibits for elephants, polar bears and rare, endangered California condors, which the zoo rears off-site but has never displayed before. That exhibit should come first, with an estimated completion date of Aug. 31, 2013.

The zoo, 4001 S.W. Canyon Road, is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at this time of year. Admission is $7.50 to $10.50; free for those 2 and younger.

Exceptions include the upcoming Zoo Lights extravaganza, which begins Nov. 23. For details about extended hours, pricing and special packages, check the zoo's Web site.


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