Jennifer Svane/Woodland Park Zoo
A girl and a penguin see eye to eye at the Woodland Park Zoo's Humboldt penguin exhibit, which won the Association of Zoos & Aquariums' Exhibit Achievement Award this week.

Zoo wins award for penguin exhibit

The Association of Zoos & Aquariums has honored Woodland Park Zoo with the Exhibit Achievement Award for the zoo's Humboldt penguin exhibit, which opened in May 2009.

The prestigious award, equivalent to an Oscar in the zoo and aquarium industry according to a zoo press release, was presented this week at the Association of Zoos & Aquariums annual conference in Houston. This is the fifth time Woodland Park Zoo has won the award for best exhibit.

In a rare move by the association, the top award also went to a second institution, Oregon Zoo, for its Predators of the Serengeti.

The achievement award is presented by the association for outstanding dedication to conservation issues, construction of exhibit space and simulation of species' natural habitats.

“This award is the highest honor for new exhibits," Jim Maddy, Association of Zoos & Aquariums president and CEO, said in the zoo's press release. "Woodland Park Zoo is on the leading edge of zoological exhibits in North America. Their penguin exhibit demonstrates Woodland Park Zoo's dedication to the best in animal care and public education.

“We are honored that our peers at AZA have recognized our goal of encouraging our zoo guests to explore and discover more about the Humboldt penguins’ natural history and their plight in the wild, the birds’ connection to people and the collaborative work underway to help this endangered species,” Dr. Deborah Jensen, Woodland Park Zoo president and CEO, said in the press release.

The state-of-the-art penguin exhibit transports zoo-goers to the arid, rocky, coastal peninsula of Punta San Juan, home to the largest breeding population of Humboldt penguins in Peru, according to the press release.

Dramatic vantage points, shoreline cliffs, a cerulean, rocky tide pool, crashing waves and a beach create a truly memorable, immersive experience for zoo guests and a healthy, enriching environment for the birds, according to the press release.

The penguin exhibit was one of 12 exhibits under consideration for the association's award.

Last year, the exhibit earned a Design Excellence Award from the Seattle Design Commission for its sustainable goals, including energy efficient heating from Seattle City Light and a water-saving filtration system from Seattle Public Utilities.

As part of Woodland Park Zoo’s commitment to green practices, the exhibit uses geothermal energy and an innovative filtration system that will save 3 million gallons of water and nearly 22,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year, according to the press release.

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Congrats to Woodland Park Zoo

I've seen this fine penguin exhibit at Woodland Park and it truly is one of the best of its kind. Congrats to this amazing zoo for another award.

Allen Nyhuis, Coauthor: America's Best Zoos