City officials and Zoo Director John Walczak are scheduled to open Penguin Cove on Thursday at noon at the zoo off Trevilian Way. Among the dignitaries will be Kent Lanum, president and CEO of the Paul Ogle Foundation, which supplied the lion's share of the $1 million required to develop Penguin Cove.
The exhibit – officially The Little Penguin Conservation Center – is in The Islands area of the zoo and is being stocked with eight to 10 of the miniature birds. Most of the penguins have arrived from the Bronx Zoo.
The species is new to the Louisville Zoo, which has long had an exhibit of larger Rockhopper penguins.
"Penguin Cove will give guests the opportunity to observe the penguins' social, natural behaviors in an outdoor exhibit area. Guests will be able to visit one-on-one with the animals in a private interactive area," the zoo said in a release promoting the ceremony to open the exhibit.
The fairy penguins are the smallest of the penguin species. The birds stand about a foot high at full development and weigh around 2 pounds.
The penguins live in colonies along the southern coast of Australia and around the nearby island of Tasmania as well as along the New Zealand coastline.
The penguins hunt during the day and can dive up to 200 feet in pursuit of fish and small invertebrate animals to feed on.
Scientists estimate that fewer than 1 million of the little penguins remain in the wild, with the species on the decline as a result of oil pollution and drowning in fish nets.
The Louisville Zoo is actively participating in an effort to conserve the penguins through a species survival program, in cooperation with other zoos and aquariums.