Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Housewarming Party

This evening Irish Woman and I actually got a babysitter and went to a housewarming party for some new neighbors.  Of course, these neighbors are apex predators, live at the Louisville Zoo, and have claws that look like they could flay a porcupine in one swipe.

Tonight was the opening party for the Glacier Run exhibit at the zoo.  Irish Woman has been working as part of the fundraising board at the zoo for years to help pay for it all.  This was a nice way for her to show me what all of the late nights, weekends, and trips to the store for supplies have bought.

This new exhibit is the replacement exhibit for the zoo's old tiger, polar bear, and seal exhibits.  After tearing down the 1960's era swimming pool exhibits, new habitats that more closely resemble actual terrain were constructed.  The big phase of the exhibit, the bear enclosures, is almost complete, and will be open to the public on April 26.

The zoo lucked out and was able to get a polar bear to replace the one they shipped out several years ago.  The new bear seems to be getting used to her new digs, and is being trained to let the keepers hand feed her so that she can be checked out every day.

In addition to the polar bear, last year a couple members of the zoo staff made a round trip to Montana and retrieved a mother bear and her two cubs that were going to be euthanized as nuisance bears.  The cubs are between six and eight months old now and are between 200 and 300 pounds by the look of them.  They are much more curious than their mother, who for the most part just laid down in the corner and glowered at passersby.  Then again, she is a truly wild bear who has been brought into captivity.  Her one interaction with me was to puff herself up and make a rush at the plexiglass window.   In related news, I now know exactly how fast a grizzly bear can move 20 feet.  I also know that in the event that a bear in the wild wants to run me down and use me as a pinata, I am hosed, armed or not.

This cub was much more gregarious than his mother, and spent the 20 minutes or so I watched him slowly demolishing a fish-cicle.

One of the cubs is a male, and I overheard one of the supervisors at the zoo saying that they hope to use him as a stud to other zoos.  Since he was born in the wild, his DNA isn't present in any of the breeding programs, so as long as he's healthy, he should be very useful in that respect.  The zoo expects to be able to keep the cubs until they are 3 to 5 years old, at which point they will probably be transferred to another zoo.

The bear habitat is modeled after an Alaskan mining town, and the bears have areas on both sides of the main street, as well as an overhead walkway that allows them to be moved from one place to another easily.  There is a large pool for them to swim in, with a HUGE window that will allow visitors to watch how graceful a polar bear can be in the water.  There is also a classroom that will be used to teach visitors and school groups about the bears and other arctic wildlife.  There are rumors of overnight campouts for kids at the bear enclosure.

Next to the bear area is the seal and sea lion exhibit.  The polar bear can actually see the seals swimming around, which to me is like putting me next to an all you can eat pizza buffet and not letting me partake, but the deep and wide dry moat between them should keep seals from becoming snacks.  There is a nice, shady seating area to watch the seals from, as well as another large window so that you can watch them swim underwater.

We are really looking forward to taking Boo and the other kids to see this new exhibit.  We're lucky that Irish Woman's work at the zoo lets us see some things behind the scenes, but just taking the kids and wandering around the zoo is one of my favorite things to do in Louisville.  I think this new exhibit is going to be one of our favorites.

1 comment:

On a Wing and a Whim said...

Sounds awesome! Congrats to Irish Woman for all her hard work paying off!

Ah yes, a brown bear can run at 35 mph. The worst part is - when they're loping along at roughly 25mph, they don't look like they're moving that fast. The brain doesn't want to see something that big moving that fast, so it tricks you into thinking it's smaller and moving slower... not that different from watching a C-17 on final approach.

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