IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI)- It was an exciting morning Thursday at Idaho Falls Zoo, with the ribbon cutting for the new penguin exhibit.
David Pennock, the executive director for the zoo, said he hopes visitors use the exhibit as an educational moment.
"If population trends continue the way they are now, this species will be extinct in the wild in five short years," Pennock said. "And so the main point of the exhibit is to get people to come up, interact with an extraordinary species, and learn about them. Not only do you get a better interactive experience with the wonderful species, but there are educational opportunities to learn more about it and the conservation challenges."
The 16 African Blackfooted penguins bring in visitors from all over, Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper said.
"I have a roommate from college, who when she found out I began serving in elected office in Idaho Falls, she said 'Oh we go to your zoo just to see the penguins.' And she doesn't live here. She lives down in Utah. She has to pass Hogle Zoo to get here, so this to me is very impressive," Casper said
The zoo works closely with conservation programs, not just the penguins, but all types of animals, said Pennock.
"Every time someone comes to visit the zoo, part of their entrance fee is a conservation donation," Pennock said. "Fifty cents of every entrance goes to conservation. And one of the projects that that money goes towards help support is the African penguin. So when you come to the Idaho Falls Zoo and you learn about penguins, and you have this wonderful opportunity to interact with the penguins you should feel proud that you're proactively helping the penguins survive in the wild."