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Twenty gentoo penguins are in temporary quarantine at the Detroit Zoo. They will join other penguins at the zoo's Polk Penguin Conservation Center when it opens in early 2016.

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Royal Oak — A flock of flightless gentoo penguins have landed at the Detroit Zoo after a cross-country special delivery, the zoo announced Tuesday.

The birds, 10 females and 10 males, arrived earlier this month via FedEx from a California aquarium, zoo officials said in a press release. The group will join the zoo’s three other gentoos and a colony of king, rockhopper and macaroni penguins when the Polk Penguin Conservation Center opens next year.

Until then, the birds are being housed in a “special quarantine area” at the Penguinarium, officials said. The three gentoos already at the zoo arrived nearly a year ago and were the first of their species to live at the facility.

The $29.5 million Polk Penguin Conservation Center is scheduled to open in April 2016, officials said. It will be home to more than 80 penguins who will feel right at home in a chilled, 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep pool. Views from above and below will allow visitors to see the resident penguins dive underwater, something not visible in the wild.

“Gentoo penguins are fast swimmers and divers and spend a lot of time in the water,” said Scott Carter, Detroit Zoological Society chief life sciences officer. “So their new aquatic habitat will be an ideal environment for them.”

The new penguin habitat remains under construction on a 2-acre site just inside the zoo’s entrance. Soon after the zoo’s 80 penguins move into their new home, renovation will begin on the Penguinarium to turn it into a bat conservation center, officials said.

The gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua) is the fastest-diving bird, with paddle-shaped flippers allowing it to swim up to 22 miles an hour under water, according to zoo officials. The long-tailed penguin features a white stripe across its head and a bright red-orange bill. The gentoo is the third-largest penguin, reaching a height of up to 30 inches and a weight of up to 20 pounds.

HFournier@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4616

@HollyPFournier

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