Penguin move to Bird Paradise goes swimmingly

2 May 2023
A colony of 32 penguins consisting of four species – Gentoo, Humboldt, King and Northern Rockhopper Penguins – has successfully made their way to the new Bird Paradise on 28 April 2023. The penguins from Jurong Bird Park’s Penguin Coast were amongst the last to move, as the great migration from Jurong Bird Park to Bird Paradise nears conclusion.

Senior penguin keeper Benazir Begum, ushering a King Penguin out of its exhibit at Jurong Bird Park. 

Photo credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

A crowd of enthusiastic guests who attended an early preview of Bird Paradise got the chance to witness the penguins’ first steps into their new home in Ocean Network Express Penguin Cove. 

Photo credit: Mandai Wildlife Group


To ensure the penguins were fit for the move, the veterinary healthcare team conducted physical checks which included weighing each individual before they entered their customised transport crates. Smaller species like the Humboldt, Gentoo and Northern Rockhopper Penguins were picked up and gently cradled by the keepers who placed them into the compartmentalised crates, while the larger King Penguins were ushered along as they entered the crates on their own. The crates were packed with ice at the bottom to keep them cool before they were loaded into a truck that maintained a temperature below 12 degrees Celsius, similar to their old penguin exhibit. Minimising temperature fluctuation prevents thermal stress and ensures a safe and smooth transition for the penguins.

The truck made the 30-minute journey from Jurong Bird Park to Bird Paradise at the Mandai Wildlife Reserve, where the penguins were introduced to their new home, Ocean Network Express Penguin Cove. At 3,000m², the habitat is three times the size of the exhibit at Jurong Bird Park and features two saltwater acrylic tanks with a water depth of seven metres.

The penguins were released onto Level 2 of Ocean Network Express Penguin Cove at the beach level of the habitat. To encourage them to stay on the beach level to acclimatise to the new environment, temporary barriers were put up and removed on 2 May 2023, only after the keeper assessed it was safe to do so. Some of the more curious penguins have been observed diving and exploring the deepest parts of the tank, a positive indicator that they are adapting to the new space.

At this new multi-level sub-Antarctic habitat, guests can immerse themselves in the fascinating world of these marine birds and observe the penguin colony waddling under a domed sky. The new habitat even comes with its own Southern Lights, or Aurora Australis, which will be projected in the dome. The lighting in the habitat is also designed to mimic the day and night cycles of the Sub-Antarctic Falkland Islands which is a key welfare enhancement for the birds, as this allows for their natural biological cycles to follow the seasons in the southern hemisphere.

Special feeding devices, concealed within the underwater rockwork, serve as enrichment that mentally and physically stimulate the penguins. Thawed frozen fish is propelled from these feeders to encourage the penguins to dive and express their natural hunting behaviours. During these feeding sessions, guests can participate in the Penguin Keeper Talk, an interactive programme with the penguin keepers who will share nuggets of information about penguin behaviours and anecdotes about their favourite penguin personalities.

With a much larger habitat, the Group has plans to expand its penguin colony through ex-situ conservation programmes aimed at maintaining healthy and genetically diverse populations of animals under human care. The King Penguins and Northern Rockhopper Penguin are part of the EAZA Ex-situ Programmes¹ (EEP), while the Gentoo Penguins are included under the European Studbook (ESB) programme. Participation in these global population management programmes allows Bird Paradise to receive penguins from other member zoos. In February 2023, eight Gentoo Penguins arrived from a zoo in Europe, making them the latest additions to the penguin family.

With much deeper tanks than Jurong Bird Park’s, the new exhibit also poses exciting new challenges for the animal care team. The team has to undergo special training and certification for dry suit diving in order to clean and maintain the tanks while submerged in the cold water.

Coming soon, Ocean Network Express Penguin Cove will also launch the ‘Backstage Pass – Penguin Encounters’, an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour experience that dives into the expertise and dedication needed to care for the penguin colony in Singapore’s new bird park, as well as a close encounter with one of the penguins.

At the Penguin Cove Restaurant on Level 1 of Ocean Network Express Penguin Cove, guests can tuck into meals featuring sustainably sourced seafood, while they appreciate the penguins diving and hunting for their own fishy meals. On Level 2, Penguin Cove Café serves pastries for guests who opt for seating to observe the social interactions between the mixed-species colony on the beach.

Reaffirming the importance of sustainability as a core value within the Group’s operations, Ocean Network Express Penguin Cove was awarded the BCA Green Mark Platinum Award in 2022. The habitat was designed to achieve overall energy savings of 30 per cent from a baseline reference model. This includes using 100 per cent LED lighting within the habitat as well as an air conditioning system that uses magnetic bearings to support the spinning in the chiller rather than traditional lubricated bearings to help reduce energy consumption. The building has also been designed with extra insulation to help maintain a comfortable temperature while using less energy, making it more energy efficient.

Get ready to greet the penguins when the Bird Paradise soft opens on 8 May 2023. Visit for more information.

[1] EAZA Ex situ Programmes (EEPs) are population management programmes for animal species that are managed by EAZAMembers. The aim of EEPs is to maintain healthy populations of healthy animals within EAZA and beyond.

Veterinarian Dr Gabrina Goh conducts a physical check on Pinky the Humboldt Penguin while Penguin keeper Nuralyanti Jasni secures the animal. All the penguins were given a physical examination and weighed prior to transport to ensure they were healthy and fit for transfer.

Photo credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

Senior keeper for penguins, Benazir Begum, gently cradles a Gentoo Penguin to its transport crate. With the keepers’ vast experience working with the animals, smaller species such as the Humboldt, Gentoo and Northern Rockhopper penguins were able to be safely handled by the keepers and placed directly into their transport crates. 

Photo credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

Penguin keeper Nuralyanti Jasni guides a King Penguin to enter the customised transport crate on its own. The crate is cushioned with ice to keep the bird cool.

Photo credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

The Animal Care team loading the transport crates into the truck, where temperatures were kept below 12 degrees Celsius to keep the penguins as comfortable as possible throughout the journey.

Photo credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

The Penguin colony mingles on the beach of their new home in Ocean Network Express Penguin Cove at Bird Paradise under the watchful eyes of the Animal Care team. Acrylic barriers were temporarily put up to keep the penguins out of the water to allow them time to acclimatise to their new home. The barriers were up for three days before being removed.

Photo credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

The beach level of the Ocean Network Express Penguin Cove features a domed sky and special lighting feature that projects the Aurora Australis. The lighting also can be adjusted to follow a day-to-night cycle, with sunrise, daylight, and night modes to simulate the passing of the day in the indoor habitat, complementing the natural breeding cycles of the penguin colony.

Photo credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

The penguins exploring the beach level after the barricades were removed on 2 May 2023.

Photo credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

The Humboldt Penguins were the first to dive in, enjoying the water in their brand-new home.

Photo credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

A Humboldt Penguin exploring one of the islands near the front of the habitat.

Photo credit: Mandai Wildlife Group

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