Detroit Zoo's penguin conservation center reopens with glass floor, new nesting sites

King, rockhopper, macaroni, gentoo, and chinstrap - what do these all have in common?

They're species of penguin now enjoying a completely refurbished and upgraded aquarium at the Detroit Zoo.

The Polk Penguin Conservation Center has been closed since fall 2019 when planned upgrades and waterproofing needs started going into place. One of the Detroit Zoo's biggest attractions, the habitat is shared by more than 75 animals ranging from half a dozen species.

TJ, Haiku, Kringle, and Turtle, all chinstrap penguins, acclimated to their new home "immediately," the zoo's curator of birds said.

"They also had no problem integrating with the other species. Penguins thrive within larger colonies, and they are just exceptional at mingling," said Bonnie Van Dam.

The upgrades to the center include a new clear floor of glass where guests can watch the birds swim below their feet, repainted rock surfaces, upgraded water and air filtration systems, and a second snow machine.

More nesting areas were put in place as the zoo's penguin population continues to grow. Since its closing, five chicks have joined flock, including the zoo's first king penguin chick in 20 years. 

"While supervising the necessary waterproofing repairs, it was important for us to also use this time to make enhancements to the penguins’ welfare and our guests’ experiences," said DZS Executive Director and CEO Dr. Hayley Murphy. "Millions of visitors, from all over the world, have flocked to this conservation center since it opened in April 2016, and we are so thrilled to open the doors again this morning."

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While access to the center is included in the general admission, timed-entry passes are required to ensure a safe visit for guests. The 2,000 available passes will be handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis.