This week the Detroit Zoo opens its new state-of-the-art penguin exhibit to the public. The Polk Penguin Conservation Center features four different types of penguins; King penguins, Gentoo penguins, Macaroni penguins, and Southern Rockhopper penguins. The exhibit has a large swimming area for the flightless birds to take-off over the heads of visitors who are walking through a tunnel beneath the surface.
“It’s hard to video them [from inside the tunnel] because they move so fast,” says Ron Kagan, President and CEO of the Detroit Zoo. ”Underwater they’ll come right to you because they’re curious.”
Kagan says the penguins all have individual personalities, and it’s easy to antropomorphize the birds because they’re so lively and curious. But he says it makes sense humans recognize and appreciate penguin curiosity, because it’s an important trait for survival for all animals.
“The reality is we’re all animals,” says Kagan. ”There are many, many similarities, and one of them is curiosity.”
Kagan says the penguin center also serves as a tool to educate the public about the effects climate change is having on penguins in Antarctica.
“From going over the past 23 years, I’ve seen dramatic changes in Antarctica,” says Kagan. He says there are still climate-change deniers in the human population, but the penguins know there are dramatic changes happening in their natural habitats.
To hear more from Kagan’s conversation on Detroit Today, click on the audio link above.