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Bismarck’s Dakota Zoo opens penguin exhibit welcoming Banks, Doug, Joop, Divit, Ambrose and Nick

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 6:47 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Animal lovers flocked to Bismarck’s Dakota Zoo Tuesday to see the “coolest” guys in town: African penguins. A new penguin house is open after 18 years of preparation and planning.

“Penguins!” exclaimed 3-year-old Ellis Heinley of Mandan.

Parents were eager to teach their kids about the flightless birds.

“We have four kids and we come to the zoo weekly, and we have been waiting for the exhibit to open. Everybody else is at school today, and Hank and I were able to sneak away and come out. We’re really excited to have this special time and be with the community,” said Kristine Johnson of Bismarck.

Kids got to see these animals up-close for the first time.

“I like their beaks,” said Heinley.

“Some live in the North Pole,” added 4-year-old Hank Johnson of Bismarck.

“They swim,” said 4-year-old Kaitlyn Hummert of Mandan.

“One slid down... he swimmed,” added Sawyer Davidson of Bismarck.

The African penguins are eating, playing, waddling, and adjusting well to their new home.

“I think it is going to be a very popular exhibit. Especially as people come and they get to see these folks and watch their antics. It’s amazing to see penguins in action,” said Zoo Director Terry Lincoln.

The six birds are all male and wear bands to help visitors distinguish between Banks, Doug, Joop, Divit, Ambrose and Nick. Female penguins are expected to be added in the next couple of years.

These birds enjoy temperate climates.

“Most people think of penguins as being from the Antarctic and it is cold and twenty below and all that. These penguins don’t survive in that. These are found off the coast of Africa. They are highly endangered because they are so available. They are nearby populations and oil tankers, and things like that,” said Lincoln.

Lincoln adds that the zoo uses a Species Survival Plan and works with other zoos across the country to help penguins in the wild.

The penguin area features indoor and outdoor pools and is next to a new children’s playground.

In the next few years, the zoo hopes to add red pandas and meerkats to this area of its campus.

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