First Look at New ‘Immersive’ African Penguin Exhibit at Lincoln Park Zoo

The habitat is now home to 12 African penguins, with the goal of growing to a colony of 30, zoo officials said

After two years of renovations, a new African penguin exhibit will open next week at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

The Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove debuts to the public Thursday, Oct. 6 in the Regenstein African Journey found at the northeast end of the zoo.

It’s a $7 million, state-of-the-art exhibit that allows visitors an immersive experience of interacting with the dynamic and critically endangered African penguins that are “otherwise located a world away,” zoo officials said.

Habitat designers created faux-algae barnacles that give the penguins what they would experience in the wild, said Hope B. McCormick Curator of Birds Sunny Nelson.

“The old exhibit you went inside,” Nelson said. “Here, you are experiencing the same thing that the African penguins are experiencing. They’re outside, you’re outside.”

Each penguin has a distinct personality, according to Nelson.

“They all came from different zoos and aquariums, so it’s been awhile for the keepers to work with them and get to know them,” Nelson said. “They have their individual characteristics. Some like different kinds of fish, some only want to be given their fish a certain way

There are currently a dozen African penguins in the habitat, but zoo officials hope the number grows to a colony of 30 as the birds reproduce, benefiting the species globally.

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