Wet and windy weather throughout the week hampered staff working on the walkthrough experience that opens to the public on Sunday, May 6 – the zoo’s 75th birthday – but final preparations are now underway.
The three-month-long project has doubled the size of Dudley Zoo’s enclosure for 70 rare Humboldt penguins – one of the largest colonies in Europe – and decking walkways and glass viewing platforms will bring visitors closer to the endangered South American birds.
DZG CEO Peter Suddock, said: “For years customers have asked to get nearer to our colony of rare Humboldt penguins and the new layout means the whole family will be able to do just that, plus have a fantastic overhead viewing platform to watch them swimming.
“It will give the 70-plus birds more space and we have used a rock and sand-based substrate to mimic their wild habitat.”
Mr Suddock added: “Work has taken three months to complete and it has been particularly laborious as all of the birds were in situ throughout the whole of the programme which means we have been unable to use mechanical diggers for the operation.
“The penguins have been entertained by it all, and have been watching progress from the poolside.”
The £40,000 project will also include refurbishment of nest boxes, checking and resealing of the pool and provision of a creche for young Humboldts.
The scheme, which has been designed in-house, has been funded by DZG with a £3,000 donation from Darlaston-based company Rubery Owen.
DZG is home to one of the largest groups of Humboldt penguins in Europe, with more than 70 birds currently in the colony. The highly successful conservation programme has been recognised by BIAZA (the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums), winning its award for sustained breeding of a species in captivity.
21 fibreglass penguins join colony
To mark Sunday’s anniversary the zoo has taken delivery of 21 bright birds!
The fibreglass penguins are painted in a rainbow of shades and will feature around the site – plus a whole load of surprise venues in coming weeks!
DZG Head of Media and Communications, Jill Hitchman, said: “They’re fab models and really make everyone smile when they see them.
“We’ve named them all Dudley and have 21 in honour of Pingu, our oldest Humboldt penguin who celebrated his 21st birthday last week (Apr 24), and they will be placed around the Zoological Gardens in a special Penguin Trail.
“The 21 Dudleys will also be taking part in a whole series of adventures at schools, shopping centres and may even be going on holiday, we’ll just have to see where they turn up!”
Birthday celebrations at Dudley Zoo
Anniversary celebrations will start on Sunday, May 6 – the date the zoo opened to the public in 1937 – and continue throughout the next 12 months.
Two anniversary stars are already settling in; Amur tiger Tschuna and Sumatran tiger, Daseep, transferred in February and have already become visitors’ favourites.
Modification work to the big cats’ enclosure created an eye-level glass viewing area offering never-before-seen angles of the iconic triple Tecton complex, plus a live tiger cam for off-site viewing.
Also on the list is the restoration of the 1958 chairlift – one of the oldest in the country. Work will begin in May with midsummer completion and offer visitors a view from the air of some of the rarest animals in the world.
Mr Suddock added: “It’s going to be a fantastic year; not only is it our 75th anniversary, we’ll also be finalising plans for the new entrance, retail complex and Tecton interpretation centre, there are wonderful additions to the animal collection and, of course, the chairlift will be restored, so there’s a lot to celebrate.”