Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

N.C. Zoo's new polar bear exhibit to open this month

Posted October 9, 2014
Updated October 10, 2014

Patches the polar bear will have an entire new exhibit to roam when the North Caroline Zoo opens its new expanded polar bear exhibit on Oct. 23. N.C Zoo photo by Valerie Harper.

The N.C. Zoo's new polar bear exhibit is nearly ready for a ribbon cutting.

The $8.5 million habitat, more than three years in the making, triples the size of the zoo's previous polar bear home, a zoo press release says. The new space allows polar bears more land space to roam and a stream, which flows through the center of the exhibit, to play in. A ribbon cutting ceremony with Gov. Pat McCrory and grand opening is scheduled for Oct. 23.

The polar bear exhibit has always been a big favorite for zoo visitors. In fact, the zoo brought in an animatronic dinosaur exhibit in 2012 and 2013 to make up for the loss of the zoo's polar bears, who were moved to other zoos during the work. Sadly, two polar bears died since their moves elsewhere.

Aquila, who was moved to the Detroit Zoo for two years, died in September 2013, about five months after returning to North Carolina. Wilhelm, who was on loan to the Milwaukee County Zoo since 2011, was euthanized in October 2013.

In November 2013, the zoo acquired Patches, a female polar bear from a Pennsylvania zoo. She went on display in the zoo's original polar bear exhibit in December 2013 and will be moving to the new space. 

Anana, who is on loan from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, arrived in September and is getting acclimated to her new home. She will not be on view when the exhibit opens later this month. She'll remain in North Carolina until 2016 when construction on a new polar bear exhibit at the Lincoln Park Zoo is complete.

Zoo staff would like to eventually open a polar bear breeding program. The new exhibit also includes expanded facilities behind the scenes and a special den for a mother with cubs. 

The new space can accommodate up to six polar bears, according to the zoo's website.

"We always are looking into other resources and other possibilities to bring more polar bears to the zoo," said Gavin Johnson, the zoo's information and communications specialist, in an interview. "It's one of the most popular animals out there. We're always looking at other options."

State legislators approved about 60 percent of the funding for the $8.5 million project. Private contributions to the N.C. Zoological Society, the zoo's non-profit support group, made up the rest.

The N.C. Zoo is in Asheboro, about 90 minutes from the Triangle. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily, from April to October and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., from November to March. (It's closed Dec. 25).  




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  • cynicaljill Oct 10, 2014

    Sorry, your facts are incorrect about sanctuaries. Do you know that your sanctuaries breed animals for money as well? what about those you see that let you take pics with tiger cubs? Do you think those animals are being used for conservation when they get too old to handle? NO!
    I am a zoo-keeper, I know what I am talking about. Do you know how hard we work to make these animals lives better? The days of old zoos with animals in barred cages are slowly fading away. Colleges and professionals teach ACTUAL zoo keeping and the science behind all of this. Yes, it is an ethical issue, but get the facts straight before you condemn a zoo.

  • Sarah Hall Oct 10, 2014
    user avatar

    @BusyB97 ... Patches moved into the original polar bear exhibit earlier this year, which is probably what you're remembering. But the big new piece of this will open later this month.

    Sarah (Go Ask Mom)

  • busyb97 Oct 9, 2014

    I thought they opened it earlier in the year?? That was why we went to the zoo this spring- all the ads about the bears being back (they weren't of course...not out the day we were there).

  • A cold, hard dose of Hans Oct 9, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Well said.

    Shut the zoo down NOW!

  • Carrboro-resident Oct 9, 2014

    Please support sanctuaries and rescues, not zoos that breed innocent wild animals into captivity to live a boring life solely for the entertainment of people. Check out "Bleating Hearts" for an in-depth look at how the zoo industry euthanizes "unnecessary" animals when there's no space for them. Sad.

  • Janene DiPierro Oct 9, 2014
    user avatar

    Some one really needs to explain why we get all these animals "on loan" and then they are dying or put down?? What is up with that?