Polar Bear Exhibit Renovations
After being gone from the North Carolina Zoo for nearly two years, Aquila, one of the zoo’s two polar bears, returned to the zoo after a two-year stay at the Detroit Zoo. Aquila will have several weeks to adjust to being back in his new surroundings before the exhibit is officially reopened to the public May 15. More on Aquila's Return
"Wilhelm" one of the zoo's two male polar bear was moved to the Milwaukee Zoo in September 2011 while the Polar Bear exhibit undergoes $8.5 million in renovations and expansion.
Construction began in fall 2011 and required that the bears be relocated. According to Jeff Owen, animal management supervisor in charge of the Rocky Coast complex where the polar bears are exhibited, the expansion project will triple the space available for bears and could accommodate up to six when completed.
Polar bears have always been a favorite with zoo visitors, but habitat loss and other environmental changes have placed wild polar bears on the endangered list. The N.C. Zoo is looking at the future of the entire species as the exhibit expansion will enable the park to add additional animals and help educate visitors about the polar bears' plight in the wild.
The project will provide additional viewing opportunities for visitors. A new exhibit area that simulates an alpine meadow will be added to the existing 10-foot-deep pool and rocky landscape. A maternity den is also included in the renovations, which may enable the zoo to create a breeding group of polar bears.
"We hope in years down the line we will have baby polar bears," Owen said. "So we’re setting up our new facilities and holding areas for that."
The exhibit renovations are expected to be complete in late 2014 and will provide the N.C. Zoo with some of the best polar bear facilities in American zoos.