(kus) Construction work on a new penguin enclosure began at Frankfurt Zoo on Tuesday with a first "digger bite": On an area of almost 2,000 square meters in the middle of the zoo, a spacious enclosure for Humboldt penguins is being built and thus a new attractive visitor area with a high quality of experience and stay. Ina Hartwig, Head of the Department of Culture and Science, and Jan Schneider, Head of the Department of Construction, together with Zoo Director Prof. Manfred Niekisch, gave the starting signal for a construction project that points the way forward for the future of Frankfurt Zoo.
The excavator rolled on the site of the future penguin enclosure and around 50 guests celebrated the symbolic start of construction of the major project at the Zoo. "A nicer present could not have been given to the zoo for St. Nicholas Day - the city of Frankfurt is investing in the future with the construction of the new penguin facility. This new building is a logical step so that Frankfurt Zoo can continue its scientific success in the preservation of global biodiversity and remain the most visited leisure facility in Frankfurt as a visitor magnet," said City Councillor Ina Hartwig, emphasising the importance of the project.
City Councillor Jan Schneider added: "The new penguin facility is also extremely exciting from a structural point of view and zoo visitors will be able to experience the animals in a completely new way in future. They will be able to meet the penguins at eye level, so to speak. Young and old will then not only be able to watch the eager swimmers through underwater windows in their grotto, but will also be able to reach the top from there via a barrier-free ramp. There, visitors will find themselves in the middle of the penguin colony. They will then look out over a vast landscape - consisting of sandy areas, bodies of water and artificial rocks. In order to stabilize the underground concrete structure required for this, so-called micropiles are necessary for anchoring. Otherwise, the whole structure would float up like a ship when there is no water in the facility."
The new facility is designed to house a Humboldt penguin colony of 30 to 40 breeding pairs in a contemporary and species-appropriate manner. Humboldt penguins live on the Pacific coasts of northern Chile and Peru, and they cope very well with Frankfurt's climate, so they can be kept year-round in an outdoor facility - saving energy for costly refrigeration. The new facility does not skimp on space for the animals to swim, dive and breed.
The construction project, with a total cost of 7.2 million euros and scheduled for completion in 2018, is the biggest development step since the opening of the new facility for spectacled bears and howler monkeys, Ukumari Land, in 2013. The 30-million-euro investment program that city councillors approved for Frankfurt Zoo in 2008 has thus been completed. "I have asked the zoo to work with me on the basis of a master plan to be developed to determine the specific need for action for the aging animal houses and to meet the future requirements of a modern contemporary zoo with an overall concept," said Councillor Hartwig.
Councillor and zoo director agree, there will be no taking a long breath: "We must work at full speed to develop further sections of the zoo grounds and thus drive forward its expansion into a modern nature and species conservation centre. In addition to necessary renovations, concepts for the keeping of the large African animals, i.e. giraffes, rhinos, hippos and okapis, are now being developed."