Critically endangered African penguins at the San Diego Zoo are one step closer to having a new home, thanks to a $5 million gift from local philanthropists Dan and Vi McKinney.
The McKinneys’ leadership gift, along with support from 1,550 additional donors, will enable the Zoo to create Penguin Beach, a seashore habitat and breeding center that will be home to as many as 50 African penguins. Penguin Beach, which opens in 2017 in Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks, will resemble southern Africa’s shoreline with a sandy beach nestled among towering boulders. Gentle waves from a 60,000-gallon penguin pool will lap on the sand and guests will be afforded close-up and underwater viewing. Also included are 30 burrows that lead to nest boxes in a penguin care center, where parents can nurture their chicks.
“The McKinneys are longtime supporters of the Zoo—we are thrilled and grateful for their generosity now and over the years,” said Douglas G. Myers, CEO and President of San Diego Zoo Global. “They are committed to providing an excellent home for the African penguins as well as an amazing opportunity for guests to experience the world of these extraordinary black-and-white birds. In addition, their gift is helping the Zoo embark on a conservation breeding program for this endangered species.”
In honor of the McKinneys, two African penguin brothers that arrived at the Zoo a few months ago from the Tautphaus Park Zoo in Idaho, are now named Dan and McKinney. The pair, which is currently living in an off-exhibit area, will serve as ambassadors for their species. Animal care staff, who are working with Dan and McKinney, hope they will make occasional educational appearances in the near future to bring public awareness about their species, which faces many threats in the wild.
In the early 1900s more than 1 million African penguins lived along the shores of southern Africa. Since then, the population has plummeted to 40,000 birds—and in the past 10 years alone, their numbers have dropped by 70 percent. San Diego Zoo Global partners with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums on African penguin conservation efforts, and Penguin Beach will enable the Zoo to play a big role in a breeding program for these charismatic endangered birds.
Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by The Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.
CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291