New penguin exhibit opens at Ripley’s Aquarium
Posted: Thursday, April 22, 2010 8:02 pm
GATLINBURG (AP) — It was a nose-to-beak Tuesday at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies as the attraction opened its $5 million Penguin Playhouse exhibit.
People stared at penguins.
Penguins — often just a step away — stared back.
The aquarium marked 10 years in Gatlinburg by officially opening the 4,000-square-foot permanent addition featuring African black-foot penguins. Located where the aquarium’s Veranda Restaurant was, the natural habitat is the aquarium’s biggest and most expensive change.
The 18 penguins living in the exhibit belong to the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which oversees the animals’ location and reproduction. Another dozen birds will join the exhibit in coming weeks.
Designed like a rocky beach, Penguin Playhouse encompasses a 30,000-gallon, 59-degree saltwater tank and multiple above-water and underwater views for visitors. A clear acrylic window in the aquarium floor allows visitors to watch the birds swim through an underwater tunnel between the indoor and outside sections of their home. But the habitat also gives visitors willing to get on their hands and knees an in-exhibit advantage point. Two clear acrylic underwater tunnels are part of the habitat’s indoor section.
Published in The Messenger 4.22.10