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Zoo New England’s Franklin Park Zoo announces plans for African Penguin Coast and exciting expansion of African Savannah habitat


Zoo New England has announced that a capital campaign is underway to build the African Experience, featuring two seamlessly integrated habitats, the African Penguin Coast and the African Savannah.

This $16 million project continues the transformation of Franklin Park Zoo, and it provides new opportunities to inspire action in guests of all ages on behalf of wildlife and their habitats. Once completed, these two new habitats will connect guests with Zoo New England’s conservation mission as they enter the park.

To date, $13.5 million has been raised toward the capital campaign for this project, which is expected to open in summer 2025.

The African Penguin Coast will bring the return of these temperate climate living species to Franklin Park Zoo for the first time in more than 50 years. With glass-front views above and below the water of the habitat pool, guests will have a front-row seat to observe the natural behavior of these charismatic and endangered birds. Guests will also have hands-on opportunities to learn about how scientists are helping penguins survive in the wild. A life-sized replica of a penguin rescue boat will contribute to a fully immersive experience.

“This experience is unlike any other at Franklin Park Zoo, and I could not be more excited to provide an opportunity for guests to better appreciate, and understand, these iconic birds,” said John Linehan, Zoo New England President and CEO. “With the rapid loss of biodiversity across our planet, our conservation mission is more important than ever before. These new experiences will connect guests of all ages to incredible wildlife and to the critical role we all play in preserving and maintaining healthy ecosystems.”

African penguins are found in large colonies along the southwestern rocky coast of Africa from Namibia to Port Elizabeth in South Africa, but their population has declined by nearly 90% since the beginning of the 20th century. Climate change continues to affect marine and atmospheric environments, accelerating habitat loss and lack of prey availability for African penguins. Other threats include commercial fishing, oil spills and historic guano harvesting at breeding sites.

The African Penguin Coast project will highlight the Zoo’s conservation commitment. A living roof atop the penguin house will help to cool and insulate the building and a geothermal system will efficiently heat and cool the penguin pool and building as needed seasonally. Zoo New England’s international field conservation program will join forces with other institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, as well as partners in southern Africa, to help protect and recover African penguins.

From the coast to the Savannah, guests will have the opportunity to learn about the diverse wildlife species that call the African continent home.

The African Savannah habitat, home to Hartmann’s mountain zebras, wildebeests, and ostriches will undergo a dramatic expansion. A watering hole, a place where different species would naturally congregate and share space in the wild, will be added. New containment moats will allow for unobstructed viewing of these fascinating animals and their social interactions.

“This project demonstrates Zoo New England’s incredible growth. We’re adding another world-class habitat that enhances our ability to connect guests with the diversity of the natural world, that highlights our commitment to the best in leading-edge, modern animal care, and that centers our conservation mission in its construction and design,” said Colin Van Dyke, Chair of Zoo New England’s Board of Directors.

Generous support for this project comes from Mathworks, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Grace and Ted Fey, Welsh-Loveman Family, Lorenda Layne and Matt Niblack, Barbara and Peter Roberts, Peter Wilson and the Robert Lloyd Corkin Foundation.

“Continuing with ZNE’s recent fundraising success, there has already been a tremendous outpouring of private support for this exciting project,” said Grace Fey, Zoo New England Campaign Leadership Committee Chair.

Torre Design Consortium is the lead architect and design firm for this project.