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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:

  • An Antarctic-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 5-12 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.

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.

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

The roughly $16 million project is the first major project of the ABQ BioPark master plan to be funded by the gross receipts tax that voters approved in October 2015. Additional funding 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