Oregon Zoo penguins move to polar bear exhibit

October 27, 2010 - 8:00am

Temporary move necessary for installation of efficient, water-saving filtration system

Move over polar bears, the penguins are coming! Visitors are invited to wear black and white and join the "Penguin Parade," as the Oregon Zoo's colony of Humboldt penguins moves to its temporary quarters in the Polar Bears exhibit Wednesday, Oct. 27, at 10:30 a.m. The zoo is moving the birds so installation of a new, more efficient, water-saving filtration system can begin. The upgrade to the Penguinarium is one of several projects made possible by a $125 million bond measure passed by voters in 2008.

"We're inviting the public to help us celebrate the move, and expect they will be as excited to get the bond projects under way as we are," said Chris Pfefferkorn, Oregon Zoo interim deputy director.

The polar bears, which currently have two separate pools, will move into their summer pool, allowing their winter pool to be occupied by the penguins while the penguin exhibit is closed. The winter pool has been modified to meet penguin needs; the most noticeable alterations are a large tarp to protect the birds from the elements and decking material over the concrete, to protect the birds' feet.

"Penguin Parade" festivities begin at 9:30 a.m. with a penguin hand-puppet craft station for anyone who wants to "be a penguin" in the parade. The local band Sneakin' Out entertains at 10 a.m. And at 10:30, Zoo Director Kim Smith, Metro Councilor Robert Liberty and the zoo's new costumed penguin character Pisco (named for a region in Peru where the zoo does penguin conservation work) will lead the penguin keepers and the penguins (in crates) to their temporary home. The head of the line is reserved for Mochica, the zoo's visitor-friendly penguin.

In honor of the Humboldt penguins' Peruvian and Chilean roots, the Cascade Grill will spice up the menu with chicken empanadas and seafood specials featuring the fresh local catch of the week prepared with a South American flair. For those wanting to take home a cuddly souvenir or a fun toy, plush penguins will be available in the zoo gift shop, along with penguin jewelry and glassware.

The Penguinarium's current filtration system, installed in 1982, does not operate efficiently. Because penguins eat fish and their feathers are oily, their 25,000-gallon pool is drained and cleaned each week and water runs continuously to the city sanitary sewer. The new system includes a heat exchanger to keep water cool, strainer baskets and sand filters to remove feathers and debris from the pool, and an ozone tank to kill harmful bacteria. The zoo expects to save 80 percent of the water currently used –– millions of gallons every year. Water quality and clarity will also be improved with the new system.

"We want the zoo be an example of the latest thinking in sustainable design," Pfefferkorn said. "We're looking at ways to save water and energy in every new exhibit and across the entire zoo."