A nonprofit aquarium in Niagara Falls is seeking to protect threatened species of Humboldt penguins through a new program, officials said.
The Aquarium of Niagara will undergo a major renovation to expand its area and build a habitat for Humboldt penguins, where the animals will be bred and taken care of. This program will rejuvenate the colony of geriatric penguins.
Humboldt Penguin Exhibit
The Aquarium of Niagara is currently one of 20 North American institutions that shelter Humboldt penguins.
On Feb. 24, officials from the Aquarium of Niagara, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, and Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster all broke ground on the area where the new project will be built.
The Humboldt penguin exhibit will be about 3,500 square feet big, and the habitat itself is 1,600 square feet. It is expected to be completed by spring 2018.
Once the project commences, the Humboldt penguin exhibit will become four times larger, and it will feature a rock beach modeled after the coast of Peru, as well as an interactive room for visitors.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved the $3.3 million project, which was funded by several donors. The list includes the New York Power Authority, which allocated $1.75 million for the habitat, Empire State Development ($400,000), and the City of Niagara Falls ($150,000).
The funding is enough to renovate the exhibit and push it to receive accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Educational Activity For Families
Howard Zemsky, chief executive, commissioner, and president of Empire State Development, said he is certain the exhibit will be both educational and entertaining for families.
"[The exhibit will add] even more to the tourism industry's significant impact on the regional economy," said Zemsky.
Mayor Dyster believes the penguin habitat not only adds to the program that the Aquarium of Niagara already offers, but it will also build upon Gov. Cuomo's vision of leveraging the city into a world-class tourist destination.
"I am confident that this exhibit will provide yet another exciting experience for visitors to the Aquarium of Niagara," said Dyster.
He added that he is looking forward to welcoming the colony of Humboldt penguins to the aquarium.
Humboldt penguins are found only in the Pacific Coast of South America from Chile to Peru. Based on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the animals' population has been fluctuating since 1988. As of 2015, counts of individuals revealed an average population of 33,380, officials said.