Charismatic, loyal, and well-dressed (sorry), penguins are among some of the most beloved animals on the globe. Now, locals will get a chance to meet these flightless birds up close.
The Houston Zoo announced that Humboldt penguins will be a part of its newest Galápagos Islands exhibit, opening in autumn 2022. The exhibit also will boast sea lions, giant tortoises, sharks, and more.
Galápagos penguins are threatened by overfishing, ocean pollution, and climate change and are highly protected by the Ecuadorian government. It is the most threatened penguin species in the world, the zoo notes, with an estimated population of less than 2,000 individuals.
Humboldt penguins are closely related to Galápagos penguins and are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species due in large part to overfishing, habitat loss, rising ocean temperatures, and human encroachment.
Unlike their cold-weather kin, Humboldt penguins originate from Chile and Peru — where temps can reach 100 degrees — making them ideally suited for hot Houston. These birds, however, will be in a climate-controlled protected environment, one that especially protects against Houston’s mosquitos, which can potentially transmit avian malaria to penguins, the zoo notes in press materials.
This new exhibit is a first as a showcase of the diverse and rich fauna — such as 100-year-old turtles — that thrives in the fascinating Galápagos, which is credited for inspiring Charles Darwin’s groundbreaking research on evolutionary biology.