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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.

The wait is almost over for the Penguin Chill exhibit! Here are our most recent updates.

Arrival Announcement

When will the penguin exhibit open to the public?

The BioPark welcomed more than 30 macaroni, gentoo and king penguins in late May and early June. After a brief period of acclimation behind the scenes, the penguin exhibit will open to the public on July 23, 2019.

Why is there a gap between the penguins’ arrival and grand opening?

The penguins cannot immediately go in their public habitat, as they need time to acclimate to their new home and recover from their cross-country trips. Over the course of several weeks, ABQ BioPark staff is helping to 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).

What are the features of the new exhibit?

The 14,550 square-foot building includes a 75,589 gallon main tank, above-ground and underwater guest viewing areas, a large interactive educational area and an outdoor deck overlooking the Zoo's main park.

Major features include:

  • A themed main viewing deck will offer a panoramic view to visitors. Standing and seated areas provide visitors with comfortable viewing opportunities.
  • A main pool with depths varying from 5-15 feet allows for plenty of space for penguin activity including special public feedings with keepers, swimming and enrichment.
  • A glass floor area allows guests to see penguins swimming beneath their feet.
  • A fully immersive experience including opportunities to watch underwater behaviors and even step inside a curved glass area with water above and to the sides.
  • The largest interactive educational area of any ABQ BioPark Zoo habitat invites guests to learn more about penguins and how they can help with conservation efforts.
  • Natural day/night and seasonal lighting cycles help regulate the penguins' hormonal balancing and breeding.
  • An outdoor raised deck provides an overlook to the Zoo's Central ParQ and feature restrooms and a themed café.
  • A live replication of the Aurora Australis, also known as the southern lights.

How many penguins can visitors expect to see?

The ABQ BioPark is home to 31 penguins representing three species: king, macaroni and gentoo.

How will these three species get along?

Like any animal, penguins all have individual personalities, so the penguins are being 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.

What else do I need to know about these three species of penguin?

Macaroni (Eudyptes chrysolophus)

Life span: 15 years

Habitat: Ice-free shorelines

Diet: Krill, fish and squid, captured in ocean dives

Range: Sub-Antarctic and Antarctic Peninsula, various islands

In the 1800s, English sailors arrived to the Falkland Islands where these penguins live. Macaroni penguins have bright yellow feathers on top of their heads. This crazy hairdo reminded the sailors of a flashy fashion trend at home. People adopting this fashion trend were known as "macaroni," so that's how the penguin got its name!

Gentoo (Pygoscelis papua)

Life span: 15-20 years

Habitat: Ice-free areas such as plains, sheltered valleys, cliffs.

Diet: Mainly crustaceans, such as krill, and some small fish.

Range: Large geographical range, many sub-Antarctic islands.

Gentoos can swim at 22 miles per hour, making them the fastest underwater swimming penguin. They can dive up to 300 feet and stay underwater for seven minutes. They have been spotted as far as 16 miles from the coast! And they may make as many as 450 dives for food per day.

King (Aptenodytes patagonicus)

Life span: Up to 20 years

Habitat: Ice-free shorelines

Diet: Small fish, squid and krill

Range: Islands around Antarctica

It takes a lot of work to care for a king penguin egg! Mom and dad work together to hatch a single egg over 1-2 months. Chicks become independent fast though. They can keep themselves warm and protect themselves from most predators about a month after they hatch. At this time, the chicks leave mom and dad to join a group of other young penguins.

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.

Having an exhibit like Penguin Chill in the Southwest provides the ABQ BioPark an opportunity to teach the public about the detrimental effects of climate change, which is threatening penguins worldwide. Immersive educational exhibits are themed around climate change and what guests can do to help curb threats to penguins from right here from New Mexico. 

How much did the exhibit cost and where did the money come from?

The project cost roughly $19.1 million. $17.1 million of that was funded by the gross receipts tax, making Penguin Chill the first major project of the ABQ BioPark master plan to be funded by tax payers. An additional $2 million was provided by the New Mexico BioPark Society (NMBPS).

What was the timeline for this project?

Click on the image to enlarge.

Penguin Chill Timeline - Updated Fall 2018

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 an opening date in July 2019, this will put the ABQ BioPark at a little 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.

Who was involved in this project?

  • ABQ BioPark
  • New Mexico BioPark Society
  • VHGArchitects
  • HB Construction
  • Ideum
  • Lee Landscapes
  • Isaacson and Arfman Engineering
  • Bridges & Paxton Consulting Engineers
  • MRWM Landscape Architects
  • Chaves-Grieves Consulting Engineers Inc.
  • Alvine and Associates Inc.

Exhibit Sponsors

The New Mexico BioPark Society and the ABQ BioPark would also like to thank the following exhibit sponsors, who funded specific components of the exhibit with their generous donations:
  • Dr. Bruce W. Hinrichs, M.D.
  • Betty and Luke J. Vortman
  • Lane and Renee Sensabaugh
  • Tom Martin and Cindy Phillips
  • The Yearout Family Foundation
  • Anna and Reed Mulkey
  • Sunny 505
  • Michael Guier
  • MRWM Landscape Architects