A waddle of penguins made their debut Friday as the Calgary Zoo opened its newest exhibit to the public.

Penguin Plunge features 46 of the flightless birds in a $24.5-million complex located just inside the main entrance of the zoo.

"I like how they are so fluffy and stuff and how they walk," said Catherine Walker, one of many young zoo patrons who wasn't deterred by the long lineup to see the birds.

The new facility has four species of penguins: 10 Humboldts, 23 gentoos, eight kings and five rockhoppers.

They came from five different zoos in eastern Canada, Scotland and several U.S. locations.

"We hope that the community will embrace everything this new exhibit offers and connect with these charismatic animals," said Clément Lanthier, president of the zoo.

"But most important, we hope that a visit to Penguin Plunge will inspire people to care enough about penguins to learn what can be done to make a difference and help save them in the wild," he said.

Penguins face serious challenges in the wild from overfishing, oil spills and climate change, the zoo said.

The zoo will be providing support to several penguin conservation projects in Peru, Chile and the Antarctic through its conservation outreach department, officials said.

"Visitors will experience a close encounter as they watch through acrylic panels and a peek-a-boo window as the penguins swim by mere inches away," the zoo said.

The exhibit has indoor and outdoor areas featuring realistic-looking rock and ice formations on a shoreline landscape, a waterfall and a diving pool.