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SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium ruffles some feathers with the launch of Penguin Expedition

December 13, 2016 Attraction No Comments Email Email

Sydney’s first colony of sub-Antarctic penguins has been welcomed to Sydney with the official opening of SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium’s world first penguin experience, Penguin Expedition.

To celebrate the launch, the King and Gentoo Penguins were treated to range of enrichment activities which saw them popping bubbles, playing with toys and enjoying special fishy treats in their new icy home.

Inspired by Macquarie Island – an Australian owned island in the Southwest Pacific Ocean – Penguin Expedition takes guests on an immersive journey as they travel in a raft through a rugged, sub-Antarctic environment at a cool but comfortable six degrees Celsius, surrounded by colonies of King and Gentoo Penguins.

Underpinned by a dedicated breeding and conservation-focused education program, the new $9 million exhibit is the largest investment in the Darling Harbour attraction’s 28-year history, and features state-of-the-art interactives including whistling winds, a stunning display of the southern lights and a flurry of snow, all designed to replicate Macquarie Island.

With meticulous planning by a team of SEA LIFE experts, Sydney’s newest sub-Antarctic residents were transported from SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium by road in a custom fitted truck which featured environmental parameters such as temperature and humidity. When it comes to moving marine animals, the SEA LIFE team is the most experienced in the industry, having successfully moved sea creatures all over the globe for decades.

Rob Smith, Divisional Director, Merlin Entertainments ANZ, said, “We’re thrilled to officially open Penguin Expedition to the public and see 18 months of planning and development come to fruition. Penguin Expedition truly is a world first and we’re excited that guests will be able to create magical memories as they explore life on Macquarie Island and learn about the different personalities of our King and Gentoo penguins”.

The aquarium will have a dedicated penguin breeding program on site whereby marine biologists hope to hear the pitter patter of little King or Gentoo penguin feet as early as next year. This program will provide valuable insight and research into the inner workings of penguin colonies to help ensure their future survival in the wild.

The Penguin Expedition experience includes on-site education talks, a dedicated conservation area – the Macquarie Island Explorer Hut – and uninterrupted observation areas, both on land and in the water. Guests will learn about the issues facing penguins in the wild and the simple ways they can make a difference, including reducing single-use plastic consumption and inspiring the next generation of healthy ocean ambassadors.

To further cement the attraction’s mission to reduce plastic pollution in wild penguin colonies, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium’s conservation arm, the SEA LIFE Trust ANZ, has commissioned a research project with renowned marine scientist, Dr Jennifer Lavers, to assess the plastic contamination rates in penguins living on Macquarie Island.

This unique research project will highlight the level of micro plastics present in these birds, and it is hoped that the results from the findings will engage visitors on the issue of plastic pollution and what can be done to reduce each individual’s footprint.

Smith praised the research project, stating that the SEA LIFE Trust ANZ and SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium are committed to making a significant difference to wild penguin colonies and greater marine life, both on Macquarie Island and around the world.

Penguin Expedition is more than a world first ride. It’s about inspiring our guests to conserve our marine life for future generations and educating them on the simple ways they can make a difference. SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium is dedicated to reducing all singe use plastic in our retail and food and beverage stores, whilst increasing the percentage of recycled materials incorporated into future building projects and site upgrades.

“Further to this, guests who bring reusable coffee cups receive an incentive and for every plush penguin toy sold, we will donate $1 to the SEA LIFE Trust to support its crusade against plastic pollution. Our teams are also dedicated to monthly beach cleans in Sydney Harbour and its surrounding beaches,” said Smith.

Penguin Expedition’s residents will serve as conservation ambassadors for the species and are a welcome addition to the other marine life that call SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium home. These curious, playful and sometimes cheeky critters can withstand the harsh winter environment on Macquarie Island and thrive in the chilly water. King Penguins can grow up to 100 cm tall and weigh 11 to 16 kg, while the smaller but still impressive Gentoo’s reach a maximum weight of 8.5kg.

Entrance to Penguin Expedition – including daily feeds and talks from dedicated keepers and trainers – is included in the cost of general admission. Visitors are urged to book tickets well in advance to avoid missing out on this very cool experience. For more information, visit

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