Island Life

Warm Weather-Loving Penguins Are Headed to Moody Gardens

A renovated Aquarium Pyramid is unveiling a new Humboldt penguin exhibit this summer.

By Katharine Shilcutt April 28, 2017

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Humboldt penguins are heading to Moody Gardens this May.

Image: Shutterstock

Humboldt penguins have been in the news for a variety of reasons in the last decade: A daring escape from a Tokyo zoo led one penguin to take an 82-day vacation in Tokyo Bay before being recaptured in 2012. In Germany in 2009, two pair-bonded males successfully hatched and raised a surrogate chick from an egg, while another male pair did the same in England in 2014. And in less jolly news, the little penguins—which only grow to between 8 and 13 pounds—were declared "threatened" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2010.

That's where captive breeding programs such as those found at the Oregon Zoo come in. Though the penguins originally hail from Chile and Peru, they're also found plentifully at the Oregon Zoo, which now has one of the largest collections of Humboldts in the U.S. Houston is now benefitting from that program, as Moody Gardens is the lucky recipient of 10 Humboldt penguins from Portland's Oregon Zoo as well as Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo. The penguins' brand-new habitat inside the Aquarium Pyramid will open on Galveston Island on May 27.

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Moody Gardens' blue-hued Aquarium Pyramid will unveil its new exhibits on May 27.


Unlike its larger Antarctic-based cousins the king penguin and the emperor penguin, the Humboldt thrives in warmer climates. As such, you'll notice their habitat looks very different than that of the South Atlantic Penguin Habitat next door in Moody Gardens, where you can spot king penguins alongside gentoo, chinstrap, rockhopper and the orange-crested macaroni variety.

"Most people assume that all penguins live in the cold and on the ice. That’s not the case. The Humboldts are a warmer species and can tolerate heat," said Diane Olsen, Moody Gardens assistant curator of seals and penguins, in a press release. In fact, those signature pink patches on their face, feet and under their wings? Those are patches of bare skin—not feathers—which help the penguins regulate their body heat.

The pink-spotted penguins will join a new jellyfish display at Moody Gardens this summer, as well as a new Gulf of Mexico Oil Rig Exhibit, Mangrove Exhibit, Caribbean Exhibit Touch Tank area and a new Flower Garden Banks Exhibit. Like the penguins, they'll all be revealed in a grand unveiling on May 27.

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