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Lincoln Park Zoo reopening penguin exhibit

African penguins | Photo courtesy of the Lincoln Park Zoo

The Lincoln Park Zoo will debut a new penguin exhibit in October, allowing visitors to get “nose-to-beak” with the animals for the first time in years.

The exhibit, housing nine male and four female African penguins in a 3,350-square-foot outdoor space featuring a 20,500-gallon pool, will open to the public October 6, according to a statement from Lincoln Park Zoo.

Guest will have the opportunity to enter a 1,350-square-foot sheltered viewing area featuring floor-to-ceiling viewing with “squishy floors imitating damp sand and tactile rockwork complete with artificial mussels and barnacles,” the statement said. The exhibit, dubbed the Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove, is part of the zoo’s $125 million capital campaign.

Designated nesting areas will also be on display, but will be camouflaged in the exhibit’s rocks, allowing “the penguins to burrow and nest, eliciting natural, species-specific behaviors,” the statement said.

African penguins, which are native to South Africa, are endangered due to human impacts, the statement said. The species, one of 17 worldwide, is identified by pink coloration around their eyes and black breast-band and belly spots.

“With the Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove comes an incredible opportunity and responsibility to connect visitors with nature and demonstrate the effects of human-wildlife interactions,” Megan Ross, the zoo’s vice president of Animal Care and Education, said in the statement. “This unique, endangered species shares the South African beaches with humans and cannot survive without our help.”