NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – The Aquarium of Niagara is one of only 20 places in the US and Canada where you can see Humboldt penguins, but more help is needed to keep the threatened species in our area.
The Aquarium is working to raise $3.2 million for a new exhibit for the Humboldt penguins, and is seeking donations from the public to reach the goal.
The new exhibit will allow the Aquarium of Niagara to add nearly 20 more penguins to its colony, replacing the current exhibit where seven Humboldts live.
“This particular exhibit is old. It’s outdated. So we want a new facility incorporating all of the scientific advancements in penguin husbandry,” said Aquarist Ben Brownstein.
The new exhibit is critical as the Aquarium works to become accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which has been the primary accrediting body for zoos and aquariums for over 40 years, using rigorous, scientifically-based standards to examine the zoo or aquarium’s entire operation, including animal welfare, veterinary care, conservation, education, guest services, physical facilities, safety, staffing, finance, and governing body.
Without the AZA accreditation, the Aquarium of Niagara will not be able to bring in new penguins to start a breeding program back up, to ensure the future of the threatened Humbodlt species. The Aquarium’s current colony cannot breed because the penguins are too old or too closely related.
If the new exhibit is not built, the Humboldt penguin population will disappear from Western New York.
Work is already underway at the Aquarium of Niagara to make room for the new state-of-the-art space ahead of the planned groundbreaking in January.
Some of the nearby animals, like the sharks, have now been moved to a new home in a newly opened gallery, which also focuses on native species. “We have a living collection here so it’s not just as easy as moving a couple boxes around. We have to move literally these animals’ homes around,” said Gary Siddall, Executive Director of the Aquarium of Niagara. “We’ve been working really hard to strategically place them in the building in a place that makes sense, where we can tell their story and make sure they have everything they need for a perfect home.”
The future home for the Humboldts is designed to more closely simulate their native habitat in South America while offering visitors a more exciting, interactive experience. “We’re really trying to bring Western New York to the coast of Peru and Chile where these penguins are native to,” Siddall explained, “So there will be a panoramic-style viewing panel, there will be underwater viewing, where you’ll see the penguins underwater as well as on the land, up close. We’ll have a classroom space that sits right next to the penguin exhibit, where the staff will be able to bring animals out and do interactions with visitors. There’s a lot that’s going to happen with this project.”
More funding is needed for the project, though. If you’d like to make a donation, you can give in person at the Aquarium of Niagara or donate online at: https://www.gofundme.com/saveourpenguins.