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First penguins coming to Kansas City Zoo

Updated: 2013-09-26T14:38:58Z

By MATT CAMPBELL

The Kansas City Star

The first penguins for the Kansas City Zoo’s new exhibit will arrive Thursday.

Zoo staffers will drive to Wichita to collect three birds of the Humboldt species from the Sedgwick County Zoo.

The zoo will update their progress on its operation #penguinwatch2013 all day on Twitter, Facebook, Intsagram and Vine, making these birds the zoo’s first true social media stars.

The penguins will be among a few dozen that will populate the $15 million Helzberg Penguin Plaza scheduled to open in late October.

The rest of the birds, representing four species in all, will come from animal parks across the country.

Humboldts are temperate-climate penguins that nest along the Pacific Ocean coasts of Peru and Chile. The other species coming to the Kansas City Zoo will be cold-climate birds.

Friends of the Zoo board members got a fresh look at the exhibit Wednesday, shortly after muralists had finished painting an Antarctic sky on the wall and ceiling of the display behind a “rocky” shoreline crafted with formed concrete.

The part of the exhibit that will house the cold-weather species must be chilled by the time those birds start arriving in early October.

The construction contract calls for the work to be substantially completed by Oct. 21. The zoo tentatively plans to show off the exhibit at the Friends of the Zoo board’s annual meeting Oct. 23 and then open it to the general public.

Even the unfinished penguin exhibit drew compliments from many of the roughly 2,000 zoo professionals representing 16 countries who came to Kansas City earlier this month for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ annual conference.

It was the second largest attendance the conference had ever had and gave the zoo a chance to burnish its reputation by displaying its progress in recent years.

“It was the best thing that could have happened to this zoo at this point in time,” said zoo Director Randy Wisthoff.

To reach Matt Campbell, call 816-234-4902 or send email to mcampbell@kcstar.com.

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