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Cleveland Metroparks Zoo welcomes African penguins



Penguin Shores facade


Next Friday, April 3, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo will be introducing some visitors, the likes of which it hasn't had for 13 years.
 
Penguin Shores will feature six African penguins, which average two feet in height and weigh about eight pounds. The tuxedoed guests will jet up from Florida a few days early to prep for their big reveal.

"They're coming up like the snowbirds to enjoy a beautiful Ohio summer," says zoo executive director Chris Kuhar.

Also known at the black-footed penguin or jackass penguin (not on account of the birds' unfortunate party antics, but because of it's braying call), the birds will be hanging out near the grizzly bears in a special habitat created just for them in the Northern Trek section of the zoo around the former Grin ‘n’ Bear Eats concession stand. Their exclusive space will be decked out with all the amenities a proper penguin could want.

"There's water for them to swim in and land for them to get up on," says Kuhar, adding that the motif is fashioned after the rugged and rocky coastline the birds would normally populate in South Africa. As for getting too hot, African penguins are inclined to more temperate climates than the Antarctic birds normally seen chillin' in the documentaries, but these visitors will have A.C. just the same.
 
"The temperature will be in the 60- to 70-degree range," says Kuhar.
 
Presented by Cleveland Clinic Children's, Penguin Shores is included in a regular admission and will be available during regular Zoo hours. The exhibit will run through mid-September. Those interested in getting better access to the waddling visitors (which have been described as curious, nosy and loud) might want to look into one of the Zoo's Night Track programs, which include an overnight stay at either the Wolf Wilderness Cabin, Reinberger Homestead or Waterfowl Lake Tent. In the morning, guests can visit the penguins (or other animals) before the zoo opens.
 
"You kind of get your own personal penguin experience without the crowds," says Kuhar.
 
The Zoo has not hosted penguins since the old bird building was dismantled in 2002. Hence, Penguin Shores is not only a great opportunity for Zoo visitors to see the exotic birds, it's also offers a chance to learn about them. To that end, the exhibit will illustrate how pollution and climate change affect them.
 
"We know people love penguins," notes Kuhar. "This is a great opportunity to use that connection to talk about water quality issues and climate issues that are so important to our wildlife." He emphasized how the Penguin Shores exhibit is a perfect compliment to the Cleveland Office of Sustainability's Year of Clean Water, putting a real feathered face on the impact of water pollution.
 
"The penguins are sort of our ambassadors."

Read more articles by Erin O'Brien.

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit erinobrien.us for complete profile information.
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