Her name is Winnie, and of the hundreds of guests who came to The Maryland Zoo’s ribbon cutting ceremony for the state-of-the-art Penguin Coast exhibit, she was the only one who showed up in a tuxedo. Acting as an Animal Ambassador for the Zoo, Winnie is just one of the zoo’s 66 penguins who are enjoying their spacious new home.
Penguin Coast, the plans for which started over five years ago, officially opened to the public on September 27th and for the first time zoo guests marveled at the impressive habitat, which includes a 185,000 gallon pool reaching depths of 8.5 feet, two underwater viewing areas, a dump tank that releases 1,000 gallons of water into the tidal pool, and a blow hole that shoots out water so both penguins and people can cool off. There is also an indoor Penguin Education Center that boasts fun, hands-on activities for learning more about these endangered animals.
During the ribbon cutting ceremony, Don Hutchinson, president of The Maryland Zoo, acknowledged the tremendous investments made by the Zoo, Baltimore City, the state of Maryland, and countless other private parties – without which this 11+ million dollar investment would have never come to fruition.
“We are the top breeders in the U.S. with almost 1,000 penguins bred at the zoo,” states Hutchinson, and undoubtedly this new exhibit will continue to contribute to this prestige.
But the latest improvements to the Zoo, which is the third oldest in the country, don’t stop at the Penguin Coast exhibit. The Marsh Aviary that had been destroyed during a winter blizzard recently completed renovations and all throughout the zoo, guests were noticing positive enhancements.
“This is certainly a historical zoo, but it is no longer old. It is brand new,” said Hutchinson to the crowd. “You’re going to see it in the Maryland Wilderness, in our Farmyard, and you’re going to see it here [at Penguin Coast].”
Also attending the ribbon cutting ceremony was Speaker Pro Tem, Adrienne Jones of the Maryland State Delegate and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
“This is a place where people can come create memories, but we are also creating a consciousness around conservation,” said Rawlings-Blake. “The zoo has experienced a renaissance making a significant improvement while remaining fun and affordable to everyone.”
Although a big day for the penguins, all the zoo’s animals were at their finest and out to impress the crowds, demonstrating their keen awareness that something special was indeed happening that day. Even the leopard, who reportedly hasn’t been seen up in the tree in years, climbed up on Saturday to make a special debut.
Winnie however stayed at Penguin Coast to show off her new home and welcome visitors, who poured excitedly into the zoo all day long.