Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Polar bear panoply - $31 MILLION ZOO PROJECT

$31-M zoo project to bring northern Manitoba to ’Peg'


The new polar bear exhibit at the zoo will let visitors feel as if they’re swimming with the Arctic beasts.
The province and the Assiniboine Park Conservancy unveiled detailed designs for the $31-million project announced last year as part of the Assiniboine Park Zoo redevelopment. The project involves the $25-million Journey to Churchill Arctic polar bear exhibit and the $6-million International Polar Bear Conservation Centre the provincial government believes will put Manitoba at the forefront of Arctic conservation and polar bear research.
The enclosure will be a marked improvement on the old setup that last housed polar bear Debbie until her death at 42 in late 2008.
Visitors will be able to watch bears interact from all angles, on ground and in water via a walk-through transparent viewing area.
The new exhibit will cover 10 of 80 acres at the zoo and is expected to open by fall 2013. The new space will be able to facilitate up to six adult bears and any cubs born on-site.
Premier Greg Selinger touted the improvements as world-class.
“It will make Manitoba and Winnipeg a destination for people from all around the world,” he said.
The outdoor portion will feature a tundra area with motorized buggy rides to see the bears up close in a much more realistic environment than the previous exhibit. The indoor interpretive centre will offer up a dome-style aurora borealis theatre and numerous interactive features.
“We’re bringing northern Manitoba to Winnipeg through the polar bears,” Selinger said at the announcement Tuesday at the IMAX theatre in Portage Place.
Assiniboine Park Conservancy president and CEO Margaret Redmond said the new facilities will go far beyond merely showcasing the bears. The conservation centre will be equipped to take in orphaned polar bears and will host Arctic researchers from around the world.
“People have been really anxious to know when polar bears are going to return to the zoo and we’re so excited to show them it’s so much more than that,” she said. “What we’re doing is really trying to make a difference and save this incredible animal from extinction.”

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