World’s Smallest Penguins to Make History at Zoo

Sharon Renee Animals /
world's smallest penguins exhibit
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La Jolla's Birch Aquarium will be making room for its newest arrivals very soon. For the first time ever, the San Diego zoo will be housing penguins - the world's smallest. Here's what to know about the history-making event.

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On Tuesday, September 14, the aquarium announced the big news: 16 tiny Blue penguins will join their renowned exhibit next summer. "We are so excited to share the news about our Little Blues," Birch proudly revealed. But while the event will mark the first time the 116-year-old aquarium has housed seabirds, there's another important motivation behind the decision.

"Our field needs to and is pivoting [in] a world that itself is changing, confronting enormous challenges," director Harry Helling explained. "That has a lot to do with the fact that the issues we face as a planet have become more urgent over the last decade." As a result, penguins' existence might be under threat.

world's smallest penguins zoo
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With only about 1 million little Blue penguins worldwide, researchers are worried it's only a matter of time before they become a threatened species. From ocean pollution to limited food sources, among other concerns, such seabirds have become exposed to many challenges. And the Birch Aquarium plans to study exactly that.

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"We will use this as a platform to talk about local seabirds and the way we use local seabirds to understand the health of our local ecosystem," Birch's director added. As for when exactly they'll be unveiling their latest project? As part of a new outdoor habitat, the exhibit will be made available to the public by the summer of 2022.

blue penguins aquarium exhibit
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Featuring an 18,000-gallon pool and a sandy shore, the upcoming site will allow visitors to experience penguins like never before. "It’s so easy to just look at them and have joy and delight," senior director of animal care Jennifer Nero Moffatt explained. "We want people to have an understanding that these are birds, and they’re not any different than the birds that are represented here.”