PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Zoo held a “demolition party” on Tuesday morning as the last sections of its old polar bear habitat were torn down to make way for the new.
The old exhibit was home to zoo polar bears since 1959.
Now, the next two-year phase of the zoo rebuilding project will focus improving exhibits for polar bears, rhinos and primates.The project is possible due to a $125 million bond passed by voters in 2008. The same money was used to improve and expand the elephant habitat to six acres.
“We promised our community we would radically transform these old exhibits and provide for better animal welfare, better animal conservation and more sustainable exhibits in terms of energy and water, and we’re living that promise,” Dr. Don Moore, the zoo’s director, said.
Almost half of the zoo’s campus is being renovated. Some of the completed projects include the elephant habitat, which is now four times larger and has softer surfaces for the elephants to walk on.
“We’re always exploring how this expanded habitat is impacting their life,” Moore said. “We actually just concluded a four-year study looking at it — we’re looking at sleeping patterns, movement patterns and so far, we’re seeing really positive results.”
The renovations have been great for the animals — and will also benefit people visiting the new zoo.
“With all three of these projects together, they’ll be able to touch rhinos, get up really, really close to chimps at the glass and get very close to our polar bears,” Moore said.
While work is being done to expand their habitat, polar bears aren’t living at the zoo. The “Polar Passage” is scheduled to open by 2020.
Oregon Zoo demolishing last vestiges of the old polar bear area; by 2020 a new area “polar passage” takes its place. @OregonZoo #Koin6news 2008 bond paying to rebuild 40% of zoo campus & habitats. pic.twitter.com/cAbAhSJGF2— Kohr Harlan (@kohrhKOIN) October 16, 2018