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The Lincoln Park Zoo welcomes African penguin friends to their brand-new exhibit

African penguins at Lincoln Park Zoo
Photograph: Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo

After much anticipation, Lincoln Park Zoo's Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove has officially opened to the public. The brand-new exhibit is home to a dozen African penguins, also known as black-footed penguins. The exhibit aims to conserve and study this endangered species, whose breeding count is just 18% of what it was 60 years ago.

This 3,350-square-foot outdoor exhibit features a 25,500-gallon pool designed to resemble the South African and Namibian landscape. Since penguins are both aquatic and terrestrial animals, the new habitat offers plenty of out-of-water rock space for the penguins to relax on after taking a dip. The loose rocks are designed to encourage the African penguins’ natural burrowing and nesting behaviors.

Now remember, these aren’t Antarctic penguins, so the Chicago winters are too chilly for them. Thankfully, this new exhibit boasts heated rock to mirror Southern Africa’s temperate climate, so their little flippers will stay nice and toasty. Not too shabby, penguins.

Personally, I’m obsessed with the names of our new penguin friends. We’ve got Mandela, Namibia and Madiba—okay, those all make sense, coming from Southern Africa. But then there’s Erik, TJ and Phil, who sound like the penguins who sit around on the rocks talking about basketball and trying to muster up the courage to ask lady penguins out. Just incredibly normal dude names, considering they’re penguins.

The African penguins exhibit, as you may recall, was in dire need of a fixer-upper. The Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove is a $7 million exhibit, a relative sliver of the zoo’s $125 million capital campaign, which will continue renovating habitats across the Lincoln Park Zoo.

As one of the best attractions in Lincoln Park, the 35-acre zoo is home to over 1,000 animals. Lean more wild facts about our free (free!) zoo right here.

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