Jenkinson’s Aquarium, Point Pleasant Beach, NJ
This great post for Behind The Glass comes from my dear friend Doug Hack at the New Jersey aquarium, the Jenkinson’s Aquarium. Photos courteous of Doug Hack.
Q: What made you decide to remodel the African Penguin exhibit?
A: The species of penguin that we have was placed on the IUCN Red List as an endangered species in May, 2010. As a breeding facility and a partner of the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) we wanted to increase the size of our exhibit to allow us to further help in the conservation and preservation of these amazing animals!
Q: How long did the remodeling of the African Penguin exhibit take to complete from design plans to actual construction?
A: The remodeling process was a very long and rigorous process. The planning phase took 6 years of careful thought and design. On April 10th, 2012, the walls of the old exhibit came down and construction began! The grand opening will be July 13th, 2012
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of the exhibit to install or create?
A: This project is the ultimate challenge that we have faced in our 21 year existence! This is the first major renovation that we have done and that in itself made it an incredible challenge. In the end, our dedicated staff and the Aquatic Exhibit Group were able to come together and create something that is really something to be proud of!
Q: How many penguins and other species do you have in this exhibit?
A: We have just 1 species of penguin in our exhibit. The species is the South African Black Footed Penguin! We currently have 14 penguins, but the new exhibit will allow us to increase the size of our colony!
Q: Where did the penguins reside while their new home was being updated?
A: During construction, our penguins were kept in the lower level of the Aquarium in a 20 foot round pool. The pool is equipped with several aspects of their natural habitat, including lots of swimming space, an island, sand, and rocks.
Q: What is unique about the new African Penguin exhibit?
A: Two unique things about this exhibit are the bubble and curved viewing window. The bubble will allow people to crawl into the pool of the new exhibit and actually watch the penguins swimming all around them! The curved window will give visitors a wide range of views of our penguins going about their daily activities.
Q: What do people most love about this exhibit? What makes it your most popular exhibit?
A: There is something about penguins that seem to captivate people. You really can’t help but smile when you look at one of these animals, which is probably the thing that people love the most. The bubble in the pool will certainly be a favorite with people of all ages!
Q: What is the most important thing you would like visitors to take away after seeing the new exhibit?
A: One of the key things we would like people to take away from seeing the new exhibit is what the real habitat of an African Penguin is. So many people believe that all penguins live where it’s cold. In reality that is not the case as our African Penguins live on the warm beaches of South Africa. From looking at the new exhibit, you can really get a feel for the natural habitat of these animals. We would also like to see people take away a new appreciation and awareness for these animals. African Penguins are an endangered species and any amount of awareness that we can help generate for them can be a great help to penguins in the wild.
Q: What is one unusual fact your aquarium has learned about penguins while having them?
A: One of the most unusual things that we have learned about penguins while we’ve had them is just how unique each individual bird is. Visually it’s incredibly hard to distinguish one penguin from another, but their distinct personalities make it very easy to tell each bird apart. These personalities are really who the penguins are. For example, one of our penguins will literally stand and wait for his food while all the others come running up to the feeder. Along with this, it is amazing to us that certain birds tolerate certain staff members better than others and in some cases even defend certain staff members from other staff members and penguins.
Q: What is your personal favorite aspect of the aquarium?
A: Everyone who works at Jenkinson’s Aquarium really does care for all of our animals. For some staff members it is literally impossible to just pick one aspect to highlight as a favorite. The people who did this interview do have their personal favorites though! Aquarium Director Cindy Claus is a big fan of the Harbor Seals, Doug Hack is an advocate for Sharks, and Reagan Quarg’s favorite is the African Penguins. In fact, she has been to South Africa to work with SANCCOBB in their efforts to save African Penguins in the wild!