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St. Louis Zoo Begins Construction of New Polar Bear Habitat

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Artist rendering of Polar Bear Point to be completed at the Saint Louis Zoo in 2015. (Photo credit: Saint Louis Zoo)

Artist rendering of Polar Bear Point to be completed at the Saint Louis Zoo in 2015. (Photo credit: Saint Louis Zoo)

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) – The Saint Louis Zoological Park Subdistrict Commission, the governing authority for the Saint Louis Zoo, Thursday approved the final contract for constructing the $18 million McDonnell Polar Bear Point.

The architect for McDonnell Polar Bear Point is PGAV Destinations; Alberici Constructors, Inc. is the construction manager. Rhodey Construction, Inc., is the general contractor for the project.

Below is a video of what the exhibit will look like once completed

Shovels will hit the ground Tuesday, Sept. 3, and the Zoo’s Penguin & Puffin Coast exhibit will close to visitors until the polar bear habitat is completed in 2015.

Penguin & Puffin Coast’s gentoo, rockhopper and king penguins plus horned and tufted puffins will remain in their current quarters, but the exhibit must temporarily close because its exit opens into the construction zone. However, the popular behind-the-scenes tours of the exhibit that for a fee, allow small groups to see the animals up close and personal will continue.

The penguins and puffins will be on display through Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2, when the Zoo will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. After Labor Day, the Zoo’s hours return to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours every day.

“While we regret that visitors will miss seeing the penguins, it is critical that zoos protect polar bears, which are declining in the wild and are highly vulnerable,” says Jeffrey P. Bonner, Ph.D., Dana Brown President and Chief Executive Officer of the Saint Louis Zoo.

The new exhibit will more than double the space of the old polar bear habitat, which had been home to polar bears from the 1920s until 2009. A walk-through arctic cave in the new exhibit will let visitors get up-close and personal with the bears; at one end of the cave, visitors will be able to watch bears swim in 45- to 60-degree water. Another viewing window will open to dry land where polar bears will come right up to the glass to greet visitors.

Portholes in the fence around the construction area will let visitors track the progress the Zoo is making to create this state-of-the art habitat for polar bears.

The path past the bear exhibits and Penguin & Puffin Coast will be closed during construction, however, the Mary Ann Lee Conservation Carousel and Emerson Zooline Railroad will continue to operate.

To make way for this project, the Zoo’s Andean, grizzly and sloth bears were recently moved to new quarters within Bear Bluffs or to off-exhibit areas. Sloth bear Daisy moved to an off-exhibit area.

The male grizzly bear Bert is now living in the former habitat of the sloth bear in Bear Bluffs next to Penguin and Puffin Coast. Bert will be visible to visitors throughout construction.

The two Andean bears, Poncho and Maria, were moved to an off-exhibit area until they can go to their new home in the Zoo’s River’s Edge in the spring of 2014. Andean Bear Range will occupy an area across from the capybaras and giant anteaters, and Sun Bear Forest will be located near the Asian elephants. The Malayan sun bears, Miskin and Rimba, will stay in their current habitat until they move to their new home in River’s Edge. Painted Dog Preserve, another new exhibit opening in River’s Edge next spring, will be across from the black rhinos.

Finally, on Aug. 20, the Zoo moved the Humboldt penguins at Penguin & Puffin Coast from their outdoor habitat to an off-display area. The 22 Humboldt penguins moved to the indoor holding area of the former Sea Lion Arena, where shows were conducted for decades before the Zoo opened its new Lichtenstein Sea Lion Arena in 2012 as part of Sea Lion Sound.

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