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Polar bears make a splash at Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo's Wild Canada

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Coming face-to-face with polar bears, tracking otters gliding through the water and watching caribou prancing delighted guests at the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo the day before the public unveiling of its newly renovated exhibit.

Wild Canada opens to the public with a grand opening on Dec. 1 at 11 a.m., but members got a sneak peek at the new space on Thursday.

“I think its amazing Calgary Zoo put in the time and effort to give the polar bears the exhibit they so deserve,” said Amy Robar who was visiting with her toddler Felix.

The area is home to the zoo's newest members, male polar bears Baffin and Siku, who were both orphaned as cubs near Churchill, MB then lived in Winnipeg's Assiniboine Zoo before moving to Calgary earlier this year.

“We’re taking the bears that aren’t going to survive in the wild and caring for them in captivity. Then we get to message stuff (to the public) about why they’re here… which is climate, which is human-bear conflict,” said Colleen Baird, Director or Animal Care Health & Welfare.

The area is home the zoo's newest members, polar bear brothers Baffin and Siku, who moved to Calgary from Winnipeg's Assiniboine Zoo earlier this year.

The project took 26 months to create and cost $42 million more than 1,000 donors, including all levels of government.

INTERACTIVE FEATURES FOR BEARS

Polar bears last lived at Calgary Zoo in 1999 but the new habitat looks very different from the old one. It spans over two acres with interactive features for the polar bears.

 

“(There's) lots of natural trees, lots of changes in elevation, three different pools the bears can access as well as three bear-operated water features they can play with,” said Patrick Thompson, Animal Care Manager of Wild Canada.

 

The space opened with two polar bears but zoo staff said there is room for more polar bears if more need homes in the future.

Habitats for many of the other Canadian critters are also updated.

The zoo aims to enhance the conditions for the animals and the experience for guests.

“Really surprised our favourite is the otters... they’re up close and we’re really enjoying all of this,” said Darcy Courtland who was at the zoo with her one year-old son Ohlan.

“I’m excited to be able to explore this and share it with him.”

To celebrate the opening of Wild Canada the zoo is offering combo passes allowing guests to see the animals in the day and the Zoo Lights in the evening.

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