The biggest news in the history of Birch Aquarium is quite little.
The aquarium announced the addition of the Beyster Family Little Blue Penguins habitat Tuesday, opening summer 2022. Birch Aquarium will be the only aquarium in the Western U.S. to house these small, but mighty sea birds.
Little Blue Penguins—the smallest species of penguin—are less than 12 inches tall and weigh just 2-3 pounds. Little Blues are known for their unique blue color and big personalities.
“We are so very excited to be adding the Beyster Family Little Blue Penguins to Birch Aquarium at Scripps. The new facility will allow us to contribute to an international Species Survival Plan and create an interesting new guest experience,” Executive Director of Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego Harry Helling said. “Little Blue Penguins will be wonderful ambassadors that can help us to engage our community more deeply and further our mission to connect understanding to protecting our ocean planet.”
Construction for this project will begin Sept. 27 and is expected to be complete by spring 2022. Birch Aquarium will be closed Sept. 27-30 to avoid negatively impacting guest experience.
About the Habitat
Beyster Family Little Blue Penguins is named in honor of a $1 million gift from the Beyster Family, who are long-time supporters of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Birch Aquarium.
“Their graceful swimming and diving abilities and awkwardness on land have endeared these little Southern Australian marine animal ambassadors to the Beyster Family. We are proud to support Birch Aquarium’s mission to shed light on the survival challenges that Little Blue Penguins face along with other seabird species,” James Beyster said.
At the Little Blue Penguins habitat, guests will be immersed in the world of Little Blues, learning about some of the challenges facing these birds in the wild, and how our future is tied directly to theirs.
The 2,900-square-foot exhibit will include rocky and sandy shore habitat and an 18,000-gallon pool where guests will observe the penguins socializing, interacting and nest building. The exhibit will also include a small amphitheater for guests to observe birds swimming, and a discovery cave for children to closely observe Little Blue Penguins on land and inside nesting burrows.
Photos: Artist Rendering of Beyster Family Little Blue Penguins Habitat
“Penguins, by their unique nature, are adored by our community and in this way help to serve as great animal ambassadors. We hope that one look at their awkward waddling, their pint-sized bodies, torpedo swimming and social nature will leave our guests enchanted and wanting to learn how to aid in conservation efforts,” Senior Director of Animal Care, Science and Conservation Jenn Nero Moffatt said.
Little Blue Penguins are native to the coastal dunes and rocky shores of Southern Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand and are part of the(AZA) collaborative international conservation program called Species Survival Plans (SSP).
Each SSP Program coordinates the individual activities of participating member institutions through a variety of species conservation, research, husbandry, management, and educational initiatives.
Though penguins are common in zoos and aquariums, only a handful of AZA institutions have Little Blue Penguins including, Dallas World Aquarium, the Bronx Zoo, Adventure Aquarium, Louisville Zoo, and the Cincinnati Zoo.
In addition to the naming gift made by the Beyster Family, generous gifts have also been received by Julia R. Brown to name the aquatic animal life support system, Miranda Ko and Jared Cui to name one of the penguins, and a gift from an anonymous donor to name the amphitheater. These gifts also contribute to the Campaign for UC San Diego.
Once open, the Beyster Family Little Blue Penguins habitat will be included in the cost of Birch Aquarium admission. For more information about the habitat and donation opportunities.