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Penguin Chill

View gentoo, macaroni and king penguins year-round in this immersive, indoor exhibit.

Penguin Chill Artist Rendering, ABQ BioPark.

Penguin chill is coming spring 2019. In the meantime, here are some answers to our most frequently asked questions.

When will the penguins be here?

Two groups of penguins will arrive in Albuquerque in April 2019. One group will come by air from Orlando, Florida, while another will come by chilled vehicle from San Diego.

What happens when the penguins get here?

The penguins cannot immediately go on public display, as they need time to acclimate to their new home and recover from their cross-country trips. Over the course of a few weeks to a month, ABQ BioPark staff will help welcome the penguins to their new home, perform medical assessments and begin to build bonds with the birds (which will help with their long-term healthcare). After staff feel that the penguins are healthy and happy in their new environment, the ABQ BioPark will open exhibit doors to the general public.

I heard penguins would be here in the fall. What is the delay?

The ABQ BioPark has not undertaken a project of this complexity since the Aquarium construction in 1996 when construction protocols and procedures were very different. For the Penguin Chill exhibit, the ABQ BioPark has worked diligently alongside architectural, construction and exhibit design contractors to move the project forward. Originally, the ABQ BioPark had hoped to have the penguins in Albuquerque by fall 2018, but due to the complexity of the project, the building was not ready.

If the building is almost ready, why is the ABQ BioPark waiting until spring to open?

Technically, the facility is now close to being ready and the ABQ BioPark could receive the birds in the next months, but it would not be in the best interest of the animals. At this time, the penguins have begun a natural life cycle called “catastrophic molting,” in which they lose all of their feathers and replace them with new ones. During this period, penguins stop eating, causing them to lose weight. The process requires a lot of energy from the penguins, and can be highly stressful. It is also mating season for the penguins. It is in the best interest of the birds to delay transport to Albuquerque until they have finished their molting and mating seasons, and have had the opportunity to regain some of the weight they will lose during molting.

What were the specific delays to construction/opening this fall?

Before bringing penguins to the facility, the ABQ BioPark was diligent about testing the new exhibit to make sure it would be safe for its new inhabitants. During the course of these tests, staff identified a possible leak that needed to be fixed.

Water quality staff also has been working hard to ensure the facility can maintain the correct water temperatures for the penguins, which normally live in the Sub-Antarctic. Water temperatures must remain around 42 degrees.

What is the average timeline for the construction and opening of this type of exhibit?

Not all penguin exhibits are created equal. Some feature outdoor penguins from temperate zones and others feature indoor penguins from Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic habitats. Indoor exhibits require much more planning, air and water temperature control, and seasonal timed lighting control to mimic the seasons of their natural habitat. The ABQ BioPark’s penguins are Sub-Antarctic, and so fall into the second, more complex exhibit design. The groundbreaking for the Penguin Chill exhibit occurred in February 2017, and with a likely opening date of spring 2019, this will put the ABQ BioPark at just over 2 years from groundbreaking to opening day. This is on par with other similar indoor penguin exhibit construction projects in recent years. For instance, the Polk Penguin Conservation Center in Detroit broke ground in June 2014 and opened in April 2016.

How many penguins are coming and where are they coming from?

  • 10 macaroni and 12 gentoo penguins from San Diego
  • 10 male king penguins from Orlando

How will the two groups of penguins be introduced to each other?

Like any animal, penguins all have individual personalities, so the two groups of penguins will be carefully introduced. Luckily, these three penguin species –gentoo, king and macaroni—live side by side in their wild habitat, so it is natural for them to share a space together.

Is this really the first exhibit of its kind in the Southwest?

Yes. This is the first exhibit where you can see these three species together. The closest exhibit of its kind is in San Diego, nearly 12 hours by car.

What is staff working on from now until the penguins arrive this spring?

While we wait for our feathered friends to arrive, we are continuing to further test the life support systems for the penguins. We are also continuing to add the thematic bells and whistles and educational aspects of the building. This will include a simulated live re-creation of the southern lights, a research vessel, and an ice core sample to help guests learn about penguins and the challenges they face due to climate change.

What is the timeline for this project?

Click on the image to enlarge.

Penguin Chill Timeline - Updated Fall 2018