The Aquarium of Niagara in Niagara Falls is celebrating the grand opening of its new Penguin Coast exhibit.
Aquarium Executive Director Gary Siddall says the $3.5 project is a big improvement for the birds and will enhance the visitors experience.
"We've officially made that transition to a more modern and inspiring experience. So it definitely doesn't give you the idea of, 'Here's an animal in a tank.' You come here, they're in a habitat. There's life. There's rock work. There's so much time and consideration that went into making sure these birds were comfortable. I think that everyone will note that very quickly."
Siddall says visitors can now view the penguins above and below water in their new 15,000 gallon pool. He says the state-of-the-art exhibit is very interactive and educational.
"Now we have this really great dynamic of going back and forth between the staff our educators and the public. They actually have a chance to ask questions on microphone. It goes into an earpiece for the aquarist and they can respond back. And that's what's fantastic. You see these kids who one day might be future biologists maybe they'll even work here. And seeing them get excited and inspired. The penguins go by. The aquarist is talking to them. It's fantastic," Siddall said.
With the new larger habitat, the Aquarium will seek accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Siddall says it also allows room to increase the size of the colony from seven, up to about 20 penguins, by the end of 2018.
The Aquarium of Niagara is one of about a dozen facilities in the U.S. and Canada to house the threatened Humboldt penguin. The Aquarium draws 270,000 visitors annually. And the new exhibit is expected to boost attendance by more than 10%.