Before the new chicks reach fledging age and go outdoors on exhibit, they will be removed from the nest so keeper staff can condition the birds to approach staff for feeding and other animal care activities. The chicks also will have round-the-clock access to a shallow pool where they can swim in a more controlled and less crowded environment. The chicks will join the colony of penguins in the outdoor exhibit sometime by mid-summer.
Woodland Park Zoo participates in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Humboldt penguins. An endangered species, these birds are important conservation ambassadors to teach visitors about the impacts humans have on penguins in their range countries. SSPs are sponsored by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and led by experts in husbandry, nutrition, veterinary care, behavior, conservation and genetics. AZA-accredited institutions manage each species as one population in North America to maximize genetic diversity, with the goal of ensuring the long-term survival of the population and the health of individual animals.
The penguin exhibit opened in 2009 and garnered the Exhibit Achievement Award from AZA, an award that is equivalent to an Oscar in the zoo and aquarium industry. The exhibit takes zoo visitors to the desert coast of Punta San Juan – home of the largest colony of wild Humboldt penguins in Peru. The 17,000-square-foot naturalistic home features shoreline cliffs, viewable entrances to nesting burrows, rocky tide pools, crashing waves and a beach.
People do not usually think of penguins as a desert species. Unlike their ice and snow-dwelling Antarctic cousins, Humboldt penguins inhabit hot, dry coastlines in Peru and Chile. They live on rocky mainland shores, especially near cliffs, or on coastal islands. Humboldt penguins have a body made to swim. Using their strong wings, they “fly” underwater, usually just below the surface, at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. They steer with their feet and tail.
It is estimated that only 12,000 survive in the wild. Woodland Park Zoo is committed to conserving Humboldt penguins by supporting the Humboldt Penguin Conservation Center at Punta San Juan, Peru, breeding the birds through the Species Survival Plan and encouraging visitors to choose sustainable seafood options. For information, visit www.zoo.org or call 206.548.2500.
Woodland Park Zoo is open 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily through April 30. Admission through April 30: Adult (13-64) id="mce_marker"1.75; Child (3-12) $8.50; Toddler (0-2) free. Active and retired U.S. military and their families, seniors and people with physical disabilities receive an admission discount. Zoo members receive free zoo admission year round. Parking: $5.25.