Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is commencing construction on a new African penguin care facility designed to enhance conservation efforts for this endangered species.
Renovations Will Contribute to the Sustainability of Endangered African Penguins
TAMPA, Fla. (February 18, 2016) – Home to the only breeding colony of African penguins in the state of Florida, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is commencing construction on a new penguin care facility designed to enhance conservation efforts for this endangered species. As a result, the Penguin Beach exhibit will be closed for the duration of the construction, anticipated to take 2-3 months. The penguins will relocate temporarily from their outdoor habitat to an off-exhibit area near the Zoo’s veterinary hospital.
The African penguin population has been listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered since 2010. Over the last 30 years the wild population has declined by more than 60 percent.
“The decline in the African penguin subpopulation is alarming,” said Dr. Larry Killmar, Chief Zoological Officer, Senior Vice President and Zoo Director. “We are committed to leveraging our expertise to help raise the number of penguins in the managed population, as well as supporting the wild population by partnering with organizations dedicated to protecting coastal penguin habitats.”
When complete, the 750 square-foot penguin conservation and education facility (located behind-the-scenes of the penguin habitat) will significantly improve overall species management through increased opportunities for pairing and the care and management of offspring. In addition, it will enhance engagement opportunities for guests through up-close learning experiences that will educate about the plight of African penguins.
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo participates in the Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding and conservation program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which works to manage the populations of these endangered species. Since opening its African penguin habitat in 2007, the Zoo has successfully hatched nine chicks. Today, the Zoo is home to 10 penguins including three breeding pair.
The Zoo’s “Protecting African Penguins” initiative was launched in 2014 to raise funds to double the size of the penguin breeding center. The project is funded in part by a grant from the State of Florida, Division of Cultural Affairs. The Zoo also gratefully acknowledges two private partners -- Triad Foundation and Zoo Endowment Director Dick Stohler – for making the renovations possible.