First Penguins to Call Gatlinburg Home, now Living the Good Life at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (April 15, 2010) The gang has arrived in town.

Dressed to the nines in black and white tuxedos, the 18 new residents of 88 River Road arrived in darkness on a chilly night in early April.

Fast Eddie was first out of the van, followed by Little Joe, Fearless Frank and then Stormin Norman.

One by one they were shown to their new digs – the new Penguin Playhouse at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. The disgruntled group had just made a 10 hour road trip from New Orleans and they were hungry and tired – and ready for a good swim.

New $5 Million Penguin Exhibit Opens at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Once in their new home, most took immediately to the water. They dove in, speedily darting back and forth as they played in the waves while becoming familiar with their new surroundings. It didn’t take long for their quirky and whimsical personalities to show through.

Lovin’ Their New Home

The playful colony of Blackfooted Penguins is now totally acclimated to their home in the new $5 million, state-of-the-art indoor/outdoor habitat – ready to meet their public.

The unique, naturalistic exhibit is the largest and costliest expansion ever at the aquarium, now celebrating its 10th year in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. More than 12 million have visited the aquarium since its opening in December 2000.

Fast Eddie and the gang now reside in a habitat that closely models their native homes.  Naturalistic rockwork surrounded by more than 30,000 gallons of temperature controlled saltwater depict the coastal island rookeries along the coast of South Africa.

Enjoying each Other – Eye to Eye, Beak to Beak

 
Aquarium guests are able to view the penguins from both above and below water level and unique to this exhibit, visitors can crawl through clear underwater acrylic tunnels and pop up on the penguin’s private beach to view the birds nose to beak.

As visitors crawl through the tunnels, penguins swimming above and below them will have the opportunity to get a good close up of the human species!

The highly interactive habitat has two wave machines and multiple spa jets that create continual water movement which in turn creates an inviting watery playground for the birds.

“Our penguin habitat is a wonderful family experience that showcases these beautiful birds and adds a new dimension and added value to our guest’s aquarium visit,” said Ryan DeSear, General Manager of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. “Each penguin has its own little personality and charisma. The habitat is an entertaining and playful environment for both the humans and the penguins. I’m not sure which species is having more fun.”

Ripley’s Vice President of Husbandry, Joe Choromanski, who helped create the exhibit, notes that “we have studied penguin exhibits from zoos and aquariums around the world, as well as their natural habitat, and we are building what we believe to be the most realistic, interactive and fun exhibit in existence.”

“We are pleased to be bringing another world class fun attraction to Gatlinburg as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of our Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and also while marking our 40th year of family entertainment in this beautiful Smoky Mountain city,” said Jim Pattison Jr., president of Ripley Entertainment Inc.

The penguins who are now calling Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies home are all captive bred and are part of the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. When they reach breeding age, they too will contribute to the survival of this species in the wild.

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About Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies (www.ripleysaquariumofthesmokies.com), the second most attended attraction in Tennessee, was Voted The Number One Aquarium in America by TripAdvisor.com and Forbes Traveler has named it one of America’s best aquariums. More than 100,000 exotic sea creatures live in its 1.4 million gallons of water. The aquarium is known for its shark exhibit that features 11-foot sharks and one of the longest underwater tunnels in the world. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is part of the Ripley Entertainment Inc. family of worldwide entertainment facilities that includes another world class aquarium – Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach, S.C. More than 13 million people visit Ripley’s 80-plus attractions in 11 countries each year.  Ripley Entertainment Inc. is a division of the Jim Pattison Group, the third largest privately held company in Canada.

Contacts

Dee Lundy Thomas
Phone:
865-522-1573
Email: lundy@ripleys.com

Tim O’Brien
Vice President Communications
Ripley Entertainment Inc.
Office: 615-646-7465
Cell: 615-496-5949
Email: Obrien@ripleys.com

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