By Jeffrey Buck
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ROYAL OAK, Mich. – Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) board members, donors, staff and guests gathered at the Detroit Zoo yesterday evening to ceremoniously “break the ice” on the Polk Penguin Conservation Center (PPCC). The groundbreaking event marks the beginning of an 18-month development period for the largest project the Zoo has ever undertaken.
DZS Executive Director and CEO Ron Kagan and Vice Chairman Stephen Polk – whose family donated the $10 million lead gift for the project – swung ice axes at a wall of ice, which shattered on impact to reveal an ice-carved rendering of the PPCC.
“We are thrilled to be moving forward with our plans for this amazing place for people and penguins that will be centered on conservation. It will be an extraordinary and unique experience for our guests,” said Kagan.
Inspired by Sir Ernest Shackleton’s legendary Antarctic expeditions and epic crossings of the Drake Passage, the facility’s dramatic exterior design suggests a tabular iceberg with a crevasse and waterfall. The interior experience will feature effects such as arctic blasts, iceberg “calving”, waves and snow – evoking the harsh and visceral ice world of Antarctica. The entry plaza will include a water feature that will be a splash area in the summer and a skating rink in winter.
Kagan, Polk and other DZS leaders visited Antarctica to gain firsthand knowledge of and immersion in the Antarctic environment in order to bring the authentic polar experience from concept to reality. In addition, world-renowned polar ecologist and penguin expert Dr. Bill Fraser – who gave a talk on penguins and the impact of climate change at the Detroit Zoo’s Ford Education Center following the ceremony – served as a design consultant on the project.
One of the most dramatic features of the $29.5-million, 33,000-square-foot facility will be a penguin “deep dive” with views above and below water as the birds dive and soar through a chilled 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area. That feature, deeper and larger than the aquatic area at the Zoo’s Arctic Ring of Life, will allow visitors to observe penguins as they deep-water dive – something that is almost impossible to see, even in the wild.
The PPCC will be home to about 80 penguins of four species: rockhopper, macaroni and king – which currently reside in the Detroit Zoo’s original Penguinarium – as well as gentoo, a species which will be new to the Zoo. The habitat will ensure an optimal environment for the penguins’ welfare and encourage wild behavior, from diving and porpoising to nesting and rearing young.
The DZS also unveiled an official penguin mascot that joins Junior Z and the Zooper Heroes, costumed characters that greet visitors at Detroit Zoo events. The penguin joins two Junior Z zookeeper mascots and the cape-wearing polar bear and giraffe Zooper Heroes.
The PPCC was designed by Jones & Jones – architects of Disney’s Animal Kingdom as well as the Detroit Zoo’s Arctic Ring of Life and National Amphibian Conservation Center – and by Albert Kahn Associates, architects of the Zoo’s Ruth Roby Glancy Animal Health Complex. DeMaria/Wharton-Smith has been named general contractor on the project. The facility will be built on a 2-acre site just inside the Zoo’s entrance and is slated to open in late 2015.
More than 100 design, engineering and construction jobs will be created and sustained for the development period of the PPCC. With an associated annual increase of about 250,000 visitors, it is estimated that the Detroit Zoo’s revenue will increase by at least $2 million annually. The new attraction is expected to have a regional economic impact of as much as $10 million dollars per year, adding to the current $100-million economic impact the Zoo already has on the region.
In addition to the $10-million grant from the Polk Family Fund – the largest gift in the history of the DZS – the William Davidson Foundation Fund has committed $3 million toward the development of the PPCC. Twelve gifts of $100,000 or more have set the pace for contributions from individuals and corporate and family foundations. The DZS Board has committed $8.5 million, bringing funds secured for the landmark project to $25.2 million and leaving $4.3 million yet to be raised.
For more information or to make a philanthropic investment in the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, click here.
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ROYAL OAK, Mich. – The William Davidson Foundation Fund has made a $3 million grant intention to the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) to support the development of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center at the Detroit Zoo. Construction of the $26 million facility will begin in the spring near the Zoo’s entrance.
“This very generous grant will help us create an extraordinary conservation center of international significance for iconic polar animals – penguins of Antarctica. The center will highlight that incredible ice continent and the dramatic effect of global climate change,” said Ron Kagan, DZS executive director and CEO.
“The Detroit Zoo is known regionally, nationally and internationally as a leader in the field of animal welfare, science education and visitor experience,” said Jonathan Aaron, president, William Davidson Foundation. “Research and personal experience tell us that having strong cultural destinations, like the zoo, promote the region’s growth and vitality. We are pleased to support this worthwhile and exciting project.”
More than 100 design, engineering and construction jobs will be created and sustained for the estimated two-year development period of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, and the facility will add several full-time employees to the DZS staff. With an associated annual increase of 100,000 visitors, the new attraction is expected to have a regional economic impact of several million dollars per year, adding to the $100 million economic impact the Zoo already has on the region.
Inspired by Sir Ernest Shackleton’s legendary Antarctic expeditions and epic crossings of the Drake Passage, the facility’s dramatic exterior design will evoke a tabular iceberg. The interior experience will feature 4-D effects such as arctic blasts, waves and snow, and will include a penguin “deep dive” with views above and below water as the birds dive and soar through a chilled 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area.
For more information or to make a philanthropic investment in the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, visit http://dzoo.org/pcc.
The William Davidson Foundation, a family foundation, was established in 2005 in Detroit to honor its founder’s memory by continuing his philosophy of giving. It is committed to efforts to preserve and enhance Jewish life in the United States and abroad. In addition, the foundation is funding efforts to improve the economic prosperity of its home community in southeastern Michigan in order to make the region an even more desirable place to work and to live.
The William Davidson Foundation established the William Davidson Foundation Fund at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan in 2013.
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ROYAL OAK, Mich. – The Detroit Zoo celebrated the birth of a macaroni penguin chick on May 25 – and celebrated its rebirth the next day. Using a rare and little-known technique previously employed with success on other bird species at the Detroit Zoo, animal care staff placed the incubator-hatched penguin chick back in its egg to be “hatched” again by a set of foster parents.
Typically, penguin eggs are incubated and hatched and the chicks hand-reared by animal care staff off-exhibit at the Detroit Zoo’s Penguinarium to better ensure their survival. The youngsters join the mature penguin colony about three months later, after they have fledged or grown their adult feathers for swimming.
“This is a rare opportunity for our visitors to see penguins rearing a chick,” said Detroit Zoological Society Curator of Birds Tom Schneider.
The chick’s parents are 25-year-old Needles, who laid the egg on April 19, and 8-year-old Diego. Because their nests are next to the habitat’s pool – a risky location for raising chicks – keepers pulled the egg for artificial incubation. After 36 days, a healthy chick was hatched, weighing 4.6 ounces – the Zoo’s largest macaroni chick ever. A DNA test will be conducted soon to determine the hatchling’s gender.
After observing that the chick was healthy and strong, keepers put it back in its egg and secured the top with tape. The egg was placed in the nest of 30-year-old Purple Girl and 12-year-old Tubby, who had made a nest in a safer location and were diligently incubating infertile eggs. Shortly after being placed in the foster parents’ nest, the chick “hatched” once again.
“The foster parents seemed a bit surprised by it all, but their parental instincts kicked in right away and both have been observed feeding ‘their’ baby,” said Schneider. “The chick appears to be thriving and we are very encouraged and excited.”
The macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus) is a sub-Antarctic species found on islands surrounding Antarctica. Also known as a crested penguin, the macaroni gets its name from the bright yellow crest feathers that adorn its head. These plumes reminded early English explorers of an 18th century man, called a “macaroni”, who wore flashy feathers in his hat.
The Detroit Zoo currently has 27 macaroni penguins, including the latest addition, and is one of seven institutions in North America that is home to macaronis. The Penguinarium also houses rockhopper and king penguins and features a circular pool that allows the birds to swim continuously through their habitat.
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