AboutZoos, Since 2008


Detroit Zoo close to build­ing 21 mil­lion dol­lar Pen­guin habitat

pub­lished 19 Sep­tem­ber 2013 | mod­i­fied 26 July 2014

The Detroit Zoo­log­i­cal Soci­ety (DZS) today announced the inten­tion of the Polk Fam­ily Fund to grant 10 mil­lion US dol­lars towards the devel­op­ment of The Polk Fam­ily Pen­guin Con­ser­va­tion Cen­ter. The grant will be the largest dona­tion in the his­tory of the Detroit Zoo. The Pen­guin Con­ser­va­tion Cen­ter has been in the plan­ning and design phase for two years and rep­re­sents the largest project the Detroit Zoo has ever undertaken.

Detroit Zoo - Polk Family Penguin Conservation CenterOne of the most dra­matic fea­tures of the 21 mil­lion US dol­lars, 24,000-square-foot facil­ity will be a pen­guin “deep dive” with views above and below water as the birds dive and soar through a chilled 310,000-gallon, 25-​foot-​deep aquatic area. That fea­ture, deeper and larger than the pool at the Zoo’s Arc­tic Ring of Life, will allow vis­i­tors to see pen­guins deep-​water dive — some­thing that can­not be seen any­where else, even in nature.

This project [The Polk Fam­ily Pen­guin Con­ser­va­tion Cen­ter] and the Polk’s gen­er­ous sup­port will be truly trans­for­ma­tional for the Zoo and for our community
Ron Kagan, Detroit Zoo­log­i­cal Soci­ety exec­u­tive direc­tor and CEO »

“We are thrilled to be able to move for­ward with our plans for an amaz­ing place for pen­guins that is cen­tered on con­ser­va­tion and will be an extra­or­di­nary and unique expe­ri­ence for our guests,” Kagan said. Con­struc­tion of the facil­ity — on a 0.8-hectare site near the Zoo’s entrance — will com­mence in March next year and it is expected to open in late 2015, but Kagan said the zoo still needs to raise 8 mil­lion US dol­lars to reach the 21 mil­lion total.

The Pen­guin Con­ser­va­tion Cen­ter will be home to 80 pen­guins of four species: rock­hop­per, mac­a­roni and king — which cur­rently reside in the Detroit Zoo’s orig­i­nal Pen­guinar­ium (the first facil­ity in North Amer­ica designed specif­i­cally for pen­guins [1968]) — as well as gen­too, a species which will be new to the Zoo. The habi­tat will ensure an opti­mal envi­ron­ment for the pen­guins’ wel­fare and encour­age wild behav­iour, from div­ing and por­pois­ing to nest­ing and rear­ing young.

“The Detroit Zoo has a rep­u­ta­tion for cre­at­ing world-​class facil­i­ties that pro­vide the best envi­ron­ment for ani­mal con­ser­va­tion and wel­fare and an edu­ca­tional and excit­ing expe­ri­ence for vis­i­tors. Our fam­ily is hon­oured to sup­port this excit­ing and impor­tant con­ser­va­tion cen­tre,” said Stephen R. Polk, for­mer chair­man, pres­i­dent and CEO of the R. L. Polk Com­pany and vice chair of the DZS board, who trav­elled with Kagan to Antarc­tica in early 2013.

Inspired by Sir Ernest Shackleton’s leg­endary Antarc­tic expe­di­tions as well as the epic cross­ings of Drake’s Pas­sage, the facil­ity will fea­ture 4-​D effects such as arc­tic blasts, rough waves and snow, and include other phys­i­cal ele­ments such as ice crevasses. The building’s exte­rior is a dra­matic design evok­ing a tab­u­lar iceberg.

“The design of this unique facil­ity has been informed and inspired by the harsh and vis­ceral ice world of Antarc­tica. The end result will be an extra­or­di­nary and authen­tic polar expe­ri­ence,” said world-​renowned polar ecol­o­gist and pen­guin expert Dr. Bill Fraser, who served as a design con­sul­tant on the project.

The entry plaza will include a water fea­ture that will be a splash area in the sum­mer and a skat­ing rink in winter.

The Pen­guin Con­ser­va­tion Cen­ter was designed by Jones & Jones, archi­tects of Disney’s Ani­mal King­dom as well as the Detroit Zoo’s Arc­tic Ring of Life and National Amphib­ian Con­ser­va­tion Cen­ter, and by Albert Kahn Asso­ciates, archi­tects of the Zoo’s Ruth Roby Glancy Ani­mal Health Complex.

More than 100 design, engi­neer­ing and con­struc­tion jobs will be cre­ated and sus­tained for the esti­mated two-​year con­struc­tion period, and the facil­ity will add sev­eral full-​time employ­ees to the DZS staff. With an asso­ci­ated annual increase of 100,000 vis­i­tors, the new attrac­tion is expected to have an eco­nomic impact of more than 3 mil­lion US dol­lars per year.

Unfor­tu­nately, besides the good news there’s still the Detroit City bank­ruptcy that Zoo’s man­age­ment has to worry about:

With the City of Detroit in Chap­ter 9 bank­ruptcy, many are won­der­ing what affect it might have on the Detroit Zoo. We don’t know and are reluc­tant to spec­u­late, but DZS lead­er­ship has been actively engaged in dis­cus­sions regard­ing the poten­tial impact of the City bank­ruptcy on the Zoo for sev­eral months.
While the City owns the land and assets, our ani­mals fun­da­men­tally have no com­mer­cial value in the mod­ern era of zoos. So, the pri­mary asset is really the land. The facil­ity has obvi­ously been devel­oped as a zoo and would require major expense for other use. In a sense, the Zoo is price­less to the ani­mals that live here and the com­mu­nity that comes here. As any­thing else, the cost of clos­ing, clear­ing and build­ing some­thing else would not likely be finan­cially fea­si­ble.
You’ll recall we went through great uncer­tainty seven years ago when we tran­si­tioned gov­er­nance and man­age­ment from the City to the DZS. It ulti­mately resulted in strong regional coop­er­a­tion and com­mu­nity invest­ment.
While the City con­tin­ues on this chal­leng­ing jour­ney, we will con­tinue to do what we do best — Cel­e­brat­ing and Sav­ing Wildlife while pro­vid­ing the com­mu­nity with great expe­ri­ences and new mem­o­ries. We have oblig­a­tions to all we serve and we intend to con­tinue to meet those obligations.(Detroit Zoo web­site notice)

(Source: Detroit Zoo press release, 18.09.2013; Huff Post Green, 19.09.2013)

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