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314-781-0900
9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Free admission


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Polar Bear Habitat at Saint Louis Zoo
Jeffrey P. Bonner, Ph.D., Dana Brown President and Chief Executive Officer of the Saint Louis Zoo, explained how the new McDonnell Polar Bear Point will more than double the space of the old polar bear habitat. Bonner was joined on stage by (L - R) Joseph F. Imbs, III, Chair, The Living Promise Campaign and James S. McDonnell III.

Polar Bear Habitat at Saint Louis Zoo
(L - R) Anita Siegmund and Nancy Suelflow, donors to The Living Promise Campaign, enjoyed learning more about the new McDonnell Polar Bear Point from Jeff Huntington, director of development, Saint Louis Zoo.
Polar Bear Habitat at Saint Louis Zoo
"Throughout this exhibit, we are employing sustainable design and construction methods to increase the amount of recycled materials used with this project, including the concrete from the historic bear pits that was crushed on site and is being reused as sub-base and backfill," said David F. McGuire, Saint Louis Zoo Vice President Architecture and Planning.
Polar Bear Habitat at Saint Louis Zoo
After leading a tour of the construction site, David F. McGuire responded to a question from Elaina Jones (age 16) regarding the temperature of the pool for the polar bears.
Polar Bear Habitat at Saint Louis Zoo
With its natural substrate and saltwater pools, this new habitat will transition seamlessly from sea to coastline (or moraine) to land (tundra). Rendering courtesy Saint Louis Zoo
Polar Bear Habitat at Saint Louis Zoo
Glass windows will be opened so that visitors can observe bears behind a safety fence interacting with their keepers through training exercises. Rendering courtesy Saint Louis Zoo
Saint Louis Zoo's Polar Bear Habitat Will Allow Visitors to Get Up-Close and Personnal with the Bears
by Bob Moore, bob@slfp.com
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), October 9, 2013 - Scientists believe that there could be a thirty percent decline in polar bears over the next four decades, due to the dramatic, progressive loss of sea ice over the past 20 years.

Across the country, Zoos are beginning to build habitats to ensure the future of the polar bears and build public awareness for the survival of this iconic species.

In 2010, the Saint Louis Zoo launched a $120 million capital effort, The Living Promise Campaign, to continue leading in wildlife conservation, and generate financial support for exhibits that would enhance the experience of more than three million visitors a year to its zoological facility.

On Wednesday morning, October 9, major donors were treated to a special tour of the construction site for the new $15 million McDonnell Polar Bear Point, which is expected to be completed in 2015.

Jeffrey P. Bonner, Ph.D., Dana Brown President and Chief Executive Officer of the Saint Louis Zoo, explained how the new exhibit will more than double the space of the old polar bear habitat.

"This is one of the most exciting projects we have in The Living Promise Campaign. And, that's saying something after the Sea Lion Sound opened last year to incredible reviews and received four national awards for design and construction."

"This is a major exhibit," Bonner stated enthusiastically. "You will have 22-foot glass windows where you can get nose to nose and polar bears will come right up to the glass to greet you. There will be a 1,000-square-foot Arctic cave room with four viewing panels - four windows that are eight-feet-tall and 21-feet wide. You will be able to see them swim in this deep, climate-controlled water that is 45 to 60 degrees."

"Polar bears in the water are a different species. They are graceful and balletic, beautiful and sometimes just wild and crazy," continued Bonner. He added that during a recent trip to the Kansas City Zoo, he enjoyed watching a young polar bear who just played all the time.

Bonner stated that visitors will be able to see how keepers interact with bear. "We will open the glass up and there will be fencing behind that so you can see how we train bears with positive enforcement. If you've never been next a thousand pound bear, it's something that you'll never forget. We'll use this exhibit to really share information with our public," he said.

Bonner noted that right now there are 76 polar bears in 42 US zoos. There used to be 200 bears in 81 different zoos across the country.

The Saint Louis Zoo is participating in the Species Survival Plan© for polar bears - a cooperative breeding program with a number of North American zoos working together to ensure the survival of the species. McDonnell Polar Bear Point will allow for potential breeding of polar bears.

Bonner stated that they are hoping to get a young polar bear cub who was rescued off the north slope of Alaska.

"We'll get polar bears for the exhibit. There's no question in my mind," emphasized Bonner. "The real question in my mind is 'Will our children see bears in the wild?' That is really the significant question. That's why we are doing this exhibit. We've seen progressive loss of sea ice over the last view decades. They are marine mammals who need the sea ice for feeding and mating. It's essential to the future of the polar bear," he stated.

In the next few weeks, Bonner will head to Hudson Bay for a visit with polar bears. "We are finding thinner bears and bears with lower productive rates and higher death rates. We are very concerned about polar bears because if the sea ice loss is that fast, the bears are not going to be able to adapt to climate change," he said.

Bonner expressed his hope that this habitat will be a life-changing experience for visitors and ultimately for the future of polar bears. His enthusiasm for the project was shared by many donors who enjoyed the preview tour of the construction area.

"The new polar bear exhibit is going to be really exciting," stated Mrs. Mikki Jones during the tour of the construction site. "It's phenomenal for St. Louis to be able to acquire the polar bears in a habitat that is going to be very natural."

Her daughter Elaina (age 16), who volunteered as a Sea Lion trainer at the Sea Lion Sound last summer, said the experience was very exciting. "I got to interact with them and see behind the scenes."

When asked if she might consider volunteering at the new polar bear habitat, Elaina's mom interrupted with a quick response, "Of course she will. I will too, if I can," she laughed.


Polar Bear Habitat at Saint Louis Zoo
The McDonnell Polar Bear Point will feature a 1,000-square-foot Arctic cave room that allows visitors to get up-close and personal with the bears by looking through a four-panel viewing wall that is eight-feet-tall and 21-feet wide. Rendering courtesy Saint Louis Zoo

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1904 World's Fair Bird Cage
Accent your office, restaurant, hotel or home with exciting images of St. Louis. For a fine art print of the 1904 World's Fair Bird Cage, see stlouisphotos.com
The Saint Louis ZOO is home to more than 3,000 animals and features Jungle of the Apes and Big Cat Country. Additional attractions include the Emerson Electric Children's Zoo, The Living World educational center, River's Edge, "Penguin & Puffin Coast," Monsanto Insectarium, Mary Ann Lee Conservation Carousel, sea lion shows and bird house.

The World's Fair Flight Cage at the Zoo and the Saint Louis Art Museum, located north east of the Zoo, are the two structures remaining in Forest Park that were built for the 1904 World's Fair. Photos highlighting the 1904 World's Fair can be seen at the Missouri Historical Society, located in the Jefferson Memorial Building in Forest Park.

The Zoo is open year round, except December 25 and January 1. Summer hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

Non-summer hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. General admission to the Zoo is FREE. Parking on the Zoo's two lots is $11 per day. Parking for buses, motor homes and R.V.s is $22 and is available on the South Lot only. Some events and special programs may have an admission cost.


Note: Coolers and picnic baskets are permitted on the Zoo grounds. There are picnic tables located in central areas at the Zoo. All major facilities are wheelchair accessible, as are most restrooms. Wheelchairs and strollers are available to rent at The Living World and South Gate. Wheelchairs: $7 per day; motorized vehicles (limited number) available to those 18 years or older with a major credit card: $25 per day; single strollers are $7 per day; double strollers are $9 per day. For more information, please call 314-781-0900, 1-800-966-8877 or TDD: 314-768-5421.

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Moore Design Group The Saint Louis Front Page is owned and maintained by the Moore Design Group for the sole purpose of disseminating news and information about the Metropolitan Saint Louis area. Text or graphics may not be copied, rewritten or distributed in any manner whatsoever without written permission. For more information, contact editor@slfp.com All rights reserved world wide © 1996 - 2013 Moore Design Group.
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