By Gary Siddall
The Aquarium of Niagara has been a family favorite attraction in our community for more than 50 years. To ensure its longevity for future generations, we’ve started a significant transformation by renovating large sections of our first-floor fish and invertebrate gallery as well as updates to the facility’s overall infrastructure.
While these may seem like somewhat minor renovations, they are making a big impact on bringing the facility into the 21st century.
Our next focus is providing a state-of-the-art habitat for the aquarium’s favorite residents – our Humboldt penguins. We recently embarked on the largest improvement project since the aquarium was built – the construction of a 3,500-square-foot re-envisioned Humboldt penguin habitat. The project is primarily composed of a naturalistic seascape, enlarged viewing areas, enhanced programming opportunities, improved support areas and an interactive classroom.
The new penguin exhibit will tell an important story of conservation, education and inspiration as guests navigate through the renovated space. Visitors will have the opportunity to stand within inches of our birds as they approach the glass at the surface, and watch as they glide past our underwater viewing panel.
There is urgency to this project, and we are asking the Western New York community to help us to save our penguins. The reality is that our existing colony of seven penguins is aging and has not been able to produce offspring, as many of our birds have exceeded their median life expectancy. Within our colony, the birds have their own distinctive traits. We have a power couple, a princess, a troublemaker, and my personal favorite – the chatterbox! Each penguin has a story, and leaves a lasting impression on our visitors.
However, with rising zoological standards, we are unable to supplement our colony with new penguins until an enhanced habitat is built. This $3.2 million project will undoubtedly facilitate the incredible message behind our penguin colony. Significant grant funding has been received to date for the project, but there is an opportunity for the community to be part of the final push to meet our project fundraising goal and begin construction on the aquarium’s new habitat in early 2017.
Our team has worked strategically to bring life to this project and with community support and contributions this vision will become an imminent reality. The Aquarium of Niagara needs your help to save our penguins and keep this ambassador species here in Western New York for visitors of all ages to enjoy for years to come.
Gary Siddall is executive director of the Aquarium of Niagara.