African Black Footed Penguins to March in March

GATLINBURG, Tenn. – Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies has announced the opening of “Ripley’s Penguin Playhouse,” a new indoor/outdoor multi-million dollar habitat featuring a colony of African Black Footed Penguins. The exhibit is scheduled to open in March of 2010.
The 4,000-square-foot exhibit features a habitat that closely models the home of African Black Footed Penguins, also known as Jackass Penguins for the distinctive braying sounds they make. Naturalistic rockwork and plantings surrounded by more than 30,000 gallons of temperature-controlled saltwater depict the coastal island rookeries along the coast of South Africa.
“We are really happy and proud that we are able to debut this amazing exhibit during our 10th anniversary. We feel our “Penguin Playhouse” will soon become another iconic exhibit within the aquarium and will be at the top of must-see lists for visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains,” said Ryan DeSear, manager of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.
Aquarium guests will be able to view the penguins from both above and below water level. Visitors will also be able to crawl through clear underwater acrylic tunnels and pop up on the penguins’ private beach to view the birds nose to beak. At the same time, as visitors crawl through the tunnels, penguins swimming above and below them will be able to get a good close-up of the human species.
The highly interactive habitat will have two wave machines and multiple spa jets that will create continual water movements, which in turn will create an inviting watery playground for the birds.
Ripley’s Vice President of Husbandry, Joe Choromanski, who helped create the exhibit, notes that “we have studied penguin exhibits from zoos and aquariums around the world, as well as their natural habitat, and we are building what we believe to be the most realistic, interactive and fun exhibit in existence.”
The penguins that will be calling Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies home have all been bred at other zoos and aquariums and are a part of the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. When these young birds reach breeding age, they too will contribute to the survival of this species in the wild.
The exhibit is the largest and costliest expansion ever at the aquarium, now celebrating its 10th year in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. More than 14 million visitors have visited the aquarium since its opening in December 2000.

The Aquarium of the Smokies is the second most attended attraction in Tennessee. For more information about the exhibit and the aquarium, please visit