Penguins leaving Lincoln Park Zoo

September 22, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Zoo officials plan to shutter the existing seabird house to eventually building a new exhibition space.

"We're obviously sad that it's closing - we'll have to come and say bye to them," said Shannon Griffiths.

The move means the 22 penguins and 43 various seabirds will have to find temporary homes at other zoos and aquariums across the country.

"Penguins remind people of our childhood - whether you see them here or in a movie, they make you happy," said Elisabeth Rome.

The best time to move the birds is during the cooler months, which could mean the polar birds could be gone before the annual Zoo Lights program, which begins after Thanksgiving.

"We will be here for the Zoo Lights and for the Halloween, and, obviously, the penguins won't so that's kind of sad," said Christine Perkins.

The revamp of the penguin house comes nearly 30 years after it was first built, but because of its age, it just has to be updated.

Zoo staffers say the closure is necessary because some of the temperature control equipment in the Kovler Penguin-Seabird House facility is failing, and although the birds will not likely return for several years, zoo officials say they will be back.

"So cute and furry - the way they waddle," said penguin fan Joshua Garcia "Started liking them because I saw a movie."

Garcia isn't the only with a love of penguins. There's 4-year-old Nicholas and the class project: Stanley the Gingerbread Man. There's also Matt Anderson, who heard about the closing and just had to come and see his favorite penguin, who he calls Fred, just one last time.

The zoo's eventual goal is to create a new state-of-the-art exhibit featuring penguins at some point in the future.

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