ST. LOUIS (SAINT LOUIS ZOO) – The $11.1 million state-of-the-art Centene Grizzly Ridge habitat is twice the size of the old bear grottos, including approximately 7,000 square feet of outdoor habitat. It features a large freshwater wading pool, waterfall and stream, climbing and back-scratching rocks, a variety of substrates (grasses, mulch and sand), and other features to stimulate the bears mentally and physically. The new habitat also has over 3,300 square feet of behind-the-scenes space.
This exhibit was made possible by the generosity of many donors, including a meaningful contribution from the Centene Charitable Foundation. It opens to the public on Friday, September 15.
“The Saint Louis Zoo is one of the region’s greatest attractions and is recognized as one of the nation’s top wildlife conservation, research and education centers,” said Marcela Manjarrez-Hawn, Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for Centene. “The Centene Charitable Foundation is proud to be a part of bringing this new exhibit to our hometown.”
Some of the other supporters are recognized at the various viewing points into the bears’ expansive outdoor habitat: Grizzly Glade, a gift from The Bellwether Foundation, Grizzly Hollow, a gift from the Hermann Family, Palisades Overlook, a gift from Safety National, and River Bluff Overlook, a gift from U.S. Bank.
“This new exhibit allows us to provide our grizzly bears with excellent daily care and a very enriching environment,” said Saint Louis Zoo Curator of Mammals/Carnivores Steve Bircher. “We really think that visitors will love seeing these large carnivores up close in a way they’ve never been able to before. It’s through these personal connections that we hope to inspire people to advocate for these animals in the wild.” In 2010, the Zoo launched The Living Promise Campaign to raise $120 million for the building of dynamic, new animal exhibits, enhance the visitor experience, improve the Zoo’s infrastructure and strengthen its endowment. The Zoo exceeded the $120 million goal by $14 million when the Campaign ended in 2014. Grizzly Ridge is the culminating project for the Campaign. In addition to providing funds to build Grizzly Ridge, McDonnell Polar Bear Point, and Sea Lion Sound, the Campaign has covered the costs of converting the old elephant house into Peabody Hall, creating the Wells Fargo South Arrival Experience, building the Myron Glassberg Family Maintenance Facility, adding a fourth naturalistic area for elephants — Elephant Woods — and three new River’s Edge habitats for painted dogs, Andean bears and Malayan sun bears.
Historic and State-of-the-Art Design
Grizzly Ridge is located on the site of the Zoo’s historic bear grottos, which closed for construction in late 2015. When the grottos were built in the early 1920s, they were considered cutting-edge, and the Saint Louis Zoo was one of the first zoos in the world to replace barred cages with the open, moated enclosures. The new habitat retains three-fifths of the original rockwork, which was cast from Missouri limestone palisades. All new rock work was designed to reflect the historic look.