ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Following a voter-approved tax hike in Albuquerque, the BioPark says it now has the resources to start bringing penguins to the city.
Construction is now scheduled to start on the Penguin Chill exhibit in the fall of 2016, with penguins waddling their way into the zoo the following year.
Getting here hasn’t been easy. In 2010, the BioPark Society announced it was starting to raise the millions needed for a penguin exhibit. However, as other needs have come up, the society has been raising money for other projects as part of its capital campaign. The clock on bringing penguins to Albuquerque sped up significantly when voters approved a $17 million a year tax hike to pay for improvements and repairs at the BioPark. “To show the public that we’re moving on something fairly quickly that they can see and want is that we decided to go with the penguins first,” said Lynn Tupa, the Rio Grande Zoo’s manager.
The Penguin Chill exhibit is set to be, as the name would indicate, a chill one for both its residents and visitors. “They’re from the cold climate so we want the public to be cold when they walk in,” Tupa said.
The new exhibit is expected to be a big hit with kids. Maryjean Wall, who was visiting the zoo on Monday, says she’s seen firsthand how popular penguins can be. “In Kentucky, there’s an aquarium where I’ve seen the penguin exhibit and it is a huge draw for children especially,” Wall said. “They just seem to love those birds.”
The process of acquiring those penguins is already in progress. Tupa says the zoo will be seeking three different species of penguins and about 20 to 30 total penguins. “We will kinda make some feelers out to other zoos that are breeding penguins and start telling them how many we would like,” Tupa said. “It can take over a year.”
To make room, the zoo will tear down the Tropical America building and Phoenix snack bar next year. The animals currently housed in Tropical America will be moved to other locations at the zoo or other zoos altogether. If all goes according to plan, Tupa says 2017 will be the big year when the new Penguin Chill exhibit opens to the public.