Thursday, August 30, 2012

Penguin relocations: We've been here before

You may have heard that the New England Aquarium is undertaking a major construction project:  the transformation of the Giant Ocean Tank. A big question that people may have is, "What do you do with all the animals during this type of project?" Well, Myrtle and all her tank mates will be moved into the Penguin Exhibit, which means the penguins have moved to a new home.

Little blue penguins

For the duration of the construction the penguins will be housed in two different areas. The little blue penguins will be on exhibit near the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center at the Aquarium, while our rockhoppers and African penguins will be at our Quincy, MA, offsite facility. Stay tuned to future blogs to learn how we turned an open space in Quincy to a penguin habitat. (Followers of the Rescue Blog know all about the Animal Care Center in Quincy from this post!)

This has not been the first time we have had to relocate the penguins for a major construction project; it has been done a few times since 1978 when the penguins made their current exhibit home. The most recent was in the winter of 2008. The main purpose was to repair some concrete around the exhibit. This required all the 150,000 gallons of exhibit water to be drained. Before the water was drained, all the penguins were removed from the exhibit to a holding area behind the scenes. Our penguin off-exhibit holding area was not big enough to house all of our penguins so we borrowed space from our next door neighbors at the time, the aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue department.

The penguins had a large flat deck area and large in-ground pools. It was a little weird not getting into a wetsuit every day to feed the penguins and clean; but it was a very cool experience being able to see and work with the penguins from a different perspective.

2008 file photo: African penguins swimming in their temporary housing during construction

Even though we were out of the exhibit all the same tasks—like preparing the food for the penguins, feeding them, and cleaning their living space—needed to take place. While cleaning the deck space we would escort all the penguins into the pools (check out our usual daily cleaning routine here). The pools had little ramps installed to help the penguins get out when they were done swimming (though many of the rockhoppers chose to just leap right up on the deck instead of using the ramps).

2008 file photo: The rockhopper room behind the scenes during construction

Also during this time we were able to make some modifications and repairs to the exhibit that would be very difficult to do if there was water in the exhibit. It was like walking around in a totally different exhibit!  Since all of our activities were being run out of  the holding area we had a chance to give our penguin office area a little face lift. 

2008 file photo: An empty exhibit, so weird!

Once the repairs were finished and the exhibit filled with salt water the penguins were reintroduced and life was back to normal. That is, until now. Don’t worry about going through penguin withdrawal. You will be able to get peek at our little blue penguins behind the scenes through a viewing window and stay tuned to the blog for penguin updates from Quincy.


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