African penguins return with a splash to Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo

Posted at 11:51 AM, Aug 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-12 11:51:52-04

Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo announced Friday that 11 birds have returned to the newly renovated Penguin Beach campus following an extended “staycation” during construction.

“We are doubling our commitment to African penguins with a new conservation center which encompasses animal care and educational components,” said Dr. Larry Killmar, Chief Zoological Officer, Senior Vice President and Zoo Director. “The expanded penguin campus will help us do what we do best -- provide excellent animal care for this endangered species and educate our guests about the needs and perils of the wild population.”

The new 750-square-foot building provides greater opportunities for penguin pairing, mating and nesting, while improving the capacity for the Zoos professional staff to care for future offspring. This new facility is critical to the zoos role as a leader in African penguin conservation, according to the Zoo.

Since opening the Penguin Beach habitat in 2007, the Zoo has successfully hatched nine chicks. Today, the Zoo is home to the only breeding colony of African penguins in the state of Florida.

The Penguin Beach campus also includes a new interpretive conservation education center for guests featuring colorful graphics illustrating the plight of African penguins and two television monitors. The addition of audio visual components provides an engaging opportunity for guests to learn more about individual members of our colony along with the collaborative efforts of accredited zoos and aquariums to protect the population. Newly installed cameras offer opportunities for live feeds from inside and outside the new building.

In the coming months, the Zoo plans to introduce a new interactive experience that will allow guests to go behind-the-scenes on a guided tour of the new facility with a member of the penguin care team and have an up-close encounter.

The Zoo participates in the Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding and conservation program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Over the last 30 years, the population of the species in its range country has declined by more than 60 percent.

The Zoo is grateful for the support of a number of public and private partners who made this project possible: Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council of Arts and Culture, Integral Systems, Jacqueline Preis, Richard and Marilyn Stohler, Triad Foundation and friends of the Zoo.