A newly-opened US$30-million facility has made Detroit Zoo more palatial, but it's not for visitors – it's for the zoo's penguins. The Polk Penguin Conservation Center is designed to be an optimal habitat for penguin welfare, with a controlled climate, activity features and a huge new pool.

The new environment was designed by Jones & Jones, which has previously worked on other areas at Detroit Zoo. Polar ecologist and penguin expert Dr. Bill Fraser also consulted on the project. Inspired by the icy environment of Antarctica, the aim of the new center is to encourage more wild behavior among the penguins, such as diving, porpoising, nesting and rearing young.

The 33,000-sq ft (3,066-sq m) facility is home to more than 80 penguins of different species, including gentoos, kings, macaronis and rockhoppers. Air temperature is set to 37º F (3º C) and there are a variety of features aimed at stimulating the penguins and encouraging exercise, such as rocks to climb, a wave machine with three settings, and the new 25-ft (8-m) deep, 326,000-gal (1,482,000-l) pool.

The volume of the pool is 10 times bigger than the one in the penguin's previous habitat, and the water is kept at 40º F (4º C). The pool also boasts an underwater gallery with an acrylic window and two acrylic tunnels to give visitors views of the penguins when they are underwater.

Above the water, there is a plaza area for the penguins to rest with a 1,400-sq ft (130-sq m), 32-jet fountain. The plaza sits at the base of a 25-ft (8-m) waterfall, which is designed to simulate the cracking and melting icebergs in the Antarctic. The habitat is also able to create over a yard (0.9 m) of snow and ice per day, and its lighting can be adjusted to mimic seasonal variations.

Entry to the Polk Penguin Conservation Center is free with admission to the Detroit Zoo, which costs $14 for adults and $10 for children.

The video below provides a tour of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center.

Source: Detroit Zoo

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