Warm Up to Winter At Detroit Zoo’s Wild Winter Weekends

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The Detroit Zoo will host its annual Wild Winter weekends for families over the next two months featuring activities such as children’s music, zookeeper talks, games, and crafts at the zoo’s Ford Education Center.

Ron Kagan, executive director and CEO of Detroit Zoological Society, says the winter allows visitors an opportunity to see animals both indoors and outdoors. Wild Winter weekends will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 16-17 and Feb. 6-7.

Kagan says since many of the Detroit Zoo animals are active during the winter months, visitors will be able to observe gray wolves, wolverines, Japanese macaques, tigers, camels, polar bears, and others outdoors. 

He also says if families hope to catch a glimpse of rhinos and giraffes, they are in luck. “While it’s too cold outside, there are indoor viewing areas where visitors can see these majestic animals year-round,” Kagan says.

The zoo provides many indoor areas to explore, including the Edward Mardigian Sr. River Otter Habitat, Matilda R. Wilson Free-Flight Aviary, Butterfly Garden, Holden Reptile Conservation Center, National Amphibian Conservation Center, Great Apes of Harambee and Penguinarium.

Additionally, as completion of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center draws near, 20 of its future residents have landed at the Detroit Zoo. The aquatic birds — 10 females and 10 males — arrived earlier this month via FedEx from an aquarium in California and are chilling in a special quarantine area at the Penguinarium. The newest flock joins three other gentoos — the first of their species to arrive at the zoo nearly a year ago — as well as the colony of king, rockhopper and macaroni penguins.

A signature feature of the penguins’ new home will be a chilled 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area with views above and below water as the birds dive and soar. This will allow visitors to observe penguins dive under water – something they would not be able to see in the wild.

“Gentoo penguins are fast swimmers and divers and spend a lot of time in the water, so their new aquatic habitat will be an ideal environment for them,” says Scott Carter, Detroit Zoological Society chief life sciences officer.

The gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua) is the fastest-diving bird, with paddle-shaped flippers that help it reach speeds of up to 22 miles an hour under water. The long-tailed penguin is recognized by the white stripe extending across its head and its bright red-orange bill. The gentoo is the third-largest penguin, reaching a height of up to 30 inches and a weight of up to 20 pounds.

The Polk Penguin Conservation Center is under construction on a 2-acre site just inside the Detroit Zoo’s entrance and is slated to open in April. Soon after the zoo’s 80 penguins move into their new home, renovation will begin on the Penguinarium to turn it into a bat conservation center.

For more on the center, click here.

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