Penguins complete move to Bird Paradise; new habitat features southern lights, deeper tanks
Their new home, the Ocean Network Express Penguin Cove, is three times the size of the previous exhibit at Jurong Bird Park.
SINGAPORE: The penguins from Jurong Bird Park have finally completed their move to Bird Paradise at Mandai Wildlife Reserve.
The 32 birds were among the last few to move over, Mandai Wildlife Group said in a media release on Tuesday (May 2).
The penguins were transported on Apr 28 to their new habitat, the Ocean Network Express Penguin Cove. They consist of four species: Gentoo, Humboldt, King and Northern Rockhopper.
“To ensure the penguins were fit for the move, the veterinary healthcare team conducted physical checks which included weighing each individual before they entered their customised transport crates,” said Mandai Wildlife Group.
The Humboldt, Gentoo and Northern Rockhopper penguins, which are smaller in size, were “gently cradled” by the keepers and placed in compartmentalised crates, while the larger King penguins were “ushered along” to enter their own crates.
"The crates were packed with ice at the bottom to keep them cool before they were loaded into a truck that maintained a temperature below 12 degrees Celsius, similar to their old penguin exhibit," said the group, adding that minimising temperature fluctuation prevents thermal stress and ensures a safe and smooth transition.
After a 30-minute journey to Bird Paradise, the birds were released into the second level of Ocean Network Express Penguin Cove, which is the beach level of the habitat.
Mandai Wildlife Group added that temporary barriers were put up to encourage the penguins to remain on that level in order to acclimatise to the new environment. The barriers were then removed on Tuesday after the keepers assessed it was safe to do so.
"Some of the more curious penguins have been observed diving and exploring the deepest parts of the tank, a positive indicator that they are adapting to the new space," it said.
SOUTHERN LIGHTS, FEEDING SESSIONS
Spanning 3,000 sq m, the Ocean Network Express Penguin Cove is three times the size of the previous exhibit at Jurong Bird Park and contains two saltwater acrylic tanks with a water depth of 7m.
Given the deeper tanks, the animal care team “has to undergo special training and certification for dry suit diving in order to clean and maintain the tanks while submerged in the cold water”, said the group.
The penguin's new home also features its own southern lights, or Aurora Australis, which will be projected onto the "domed sky" of the multi-level habitat.
“The lighting in the habitat is also designed to mimic the day and night cycles of the sub-Antarctic Falkland Islands which is a key welfare enhancement for the birds, as this allows for their natural biological cycles to follow the seasons in the southern hemisphere,” said Mandai Wildlife Group.
For further enrichment, the penguins will receive mental and physical stimulation via special feeding devices concealed within the underwater rockwork.
Thawed frozen fish will be propelled from these feeders to encourage the penguins to dive and express their natural hunting behaviours.
"During these feeding sessions, guests can participate in the Penguin Keeper Talk, an interactive programme with the penguin keepers who will share nuggets of information about penguin behaviours and anecdotes about their favourite penguin personalities," added the group.
Dining options are available for visitors as well.
Penguin Cove Restaurant on the first level will offer views of the animals diving and hunting while Penguin Cove Cafe on the second level has seating for guests to observe the social interactions between the mixed-species colony on the beach.
Those who want to get up close and personal with the black and white birds can look forward to an upcoming behind-the-scenes tour experience.
It will delve into the expertise and dedication needed to care for the colony as well as a close encounter with one of the penguins, said the group.
PLANS TO EXPAND PENGUIN COLONY
Due to a larger habitat, Mandai Wildlife Group said there are plans to expand the penguin colony through ex-situ conservation programmes aimed at maintaining “healthy and genetically diverse populations of animals under human care”.
The King and Northern Rockhopper penguins are part of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria Ex-situ Programmes, while the Gentoo penguins are under the European Studbook programme.
“Participation in these global population management programmes allows Bird Paradise to receive penguins from other member zoos,” it said, adding that eight Gentoo penguins arrived from a zoo in Europe in February this year.
Mandai Wildlife Group noted that the Ocean Network Express Penguin Cove was also designed to achieve overall energy savings of 30 per cent from a baseline reference model.
This includes using only LED lighting within the habitat and an air conditioning system that reduces energy consumption.
“The building has also been designed with extra insulation to help maintain a comfortable temperature while using less energy, making it more energy efficient.”
Bird Paradise opens on May 8, and there will be a S$10 (US$7.50) discount on tickets for children and adults during the soft opening period.
From May 27, tickets will cost S$48 for adults, S$33 for children aged three to 12 years old and S$20 for senior citizens.