Friday, July 2, 2010
First Penguins to Call Gatlinburg Home, now Living the Good Life at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies | Ripleys Newsroom
The playful colony of Blackfooted Penguins is now totally acclimated to their home in the new $5 million, state-of-the-art indoor/outdoor habitat – ready to meet their public.
The unique, naturalistic 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 12 million have visited the aquarium since its opening in December 2000.
Fast Eddie and the gang now reside in a habitat that closely models their native homes. Naturalistic rockwork surrounded by more than 30,000 gallons of temperature controlled saltwater depict the coastal island rookeries along the coast of South Africa.
Aquarium guests are able to view the penguins from both above and below water level and unique to this exhibit, visitors can crawl through clear underwater acrylic tunnels and pop up on the penguin’s private beach to view the birds nose to beak.
As visitors crawl through the tunnels, penguins swimming above and below them will have the opportunity to get a good close up of the human species!
The highly interactive habitat has two wave machines and multiple spa jets that create continual water movement which in turn creates an inviting watery playground for the birds.
“Our penguin habitat is a wonderful family experience that showcases these beautiful birds and adds a new dimension and added value to our guest’s aquarium visit,” said Ryan DeSear, General Manager of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. “Each penguin has its own little personality and charisma. The habitat is an entertaining and playful environment for both the humans and the penguins. I’m not sure which species is having more fun.”
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.”
“We are pleased to be bringing another world class fun attraction to Gatlinburg as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of our Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and also while marking our 40th year of family entertainment in this beautiful Smoky Mountain city,” said Jim Pattison Jr., president of Ripley Entertainment Inc.
The penguins who are now calling Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies home are all captive bred and are part of the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. When they reach breeding age, they too will contribute to the survival of this species in the wild.