Toledo Zoo Plans New $3.5M Penguin Exhibit
The Toledo Zoo is constructing a new penguin exhibit, Penguin Beach, on the north side of its aquarium, near the playground. The new $3.5 million project will feature an underwater viewing area, a viewing deck attached to the aquarium, and an exhibit walkthrough that includes a bridge crossing over the pool.
“The new exhibit will be home to approximately 20 penguins and will give them a chance to encounter many more enrichment opportunities and provide visitors with a chance to experience the penguins like they never have before,” stated Dave Ruhl, assistant director of facilities construction for the Toledo Zoo.
Two buildings will be constructed for this project. One building will serve as the holding building for the penguins and the other will be a mechanical building. Apart from these structures, the exhibit is entirely outdoors. The holding building will be approximately 727 square feet. The habitat – including the land, water, and pathway surface area – will be around 1,520 square feet. The exhibit also includes a 20,000 gallon pool.
Ruhl noted that an important feature of this new exhibit is that it will allow the zoo to breed African penguins. African penguins are listed as an endangered species. Penguin chicks have not been raised at the zoo since the early 1990s.
According to his contribution in a penguin three-part series for the Toledo Zoo, Robert Webster, the zoo’s curator of birds, noted that African penguins spend much time on land. The project includes an enhancement of the beach area that will feature a mix of substrates such as pebbles and sand. One end of Penguin Beach features a waterfall, leading to a shallow stream.
“The current penguin facility is aging and is in need of major upgrades. In the process of doing this, we wanted to make visitors’ penguin-viewing experience more cohesive with the Aquarium experience,” Ruhl explained. “Additionally, the new site gives us the greatest possibility of making underwater viewing part of the exhibit, because we’re building the exhibit into part of a hill.”
Construction on the project is anticipated to begin this summer and will continue into next year. Ruhl noted the penguin exhibit is anticipated to open for Memorial Day weekend in 2014.
According to Ruhl, the zoo currently has 12 African penguins on exhibit and will increase that number to 20 penguins with the new habitat.
Rudolph/Libbe Inc. is serving as the construction manager for the project. Other contractors have not yet been determined. EHDD, a firm located in San Francisco, is providing architectural services.
Ruhl noted that a number of zoo departments and employees were key people involved in this project.He mentioned the following departments and employees: Rick Payeff, also from the facilities construction department; Robert Webster, curator of birds, and his staff; Jeff Sailer, executive director; interpretive services; and the maintenance department.
The zoo is also undertaking a full renovation of its aquarium, which closed last October for renovations. The aquarium is expected to reopen in the first half of 2015. It is one of the final Works Progress Administration (WPA) era projects at the zoo and opened to the public for the first time in 1939.
“We’re creating a richer, more tactile experience for visitors with this renovation as well as updating the aquarium with modern technology,” stated Sailer. “At the same time, we’re preserving the exterior of this historic WPA-era building.”
He continued: “This is good news for the region, which will benefit from the jobs generated by this project, and it is good news for zoo visitors who will gain an aquarium unlike anything that has been possible until this point. We realize 2015 seems far away, but we’re confident that once you see the new aquarium, you’ll agree it was worth the wait.”