Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/6/2010 (2628 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Three new polar bear enclosures, a navigable lake and new species such as moose, wolves, otters, sandhill cranes and mountain goats are part of the Assiniboine Park Zoo's tentative plans for a $90-million reconstruction that will take more than a decade to complete.
According to a conceptual plan developed by the Assiniboine Park Conservancy -- the non-profit organization in charge of improving and managing Winnipeg's largest park -- almost every exhibit and enclosure in the 106-year-old zoo will be overhauled by the early part of the next decade.
The first phase of the transformation will begin later this month, when construction begins on the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre. The $4.5-million project will see the zoo's existing bear exhibit transformed into a "transition centre" for orphaned, injured and possibly problem polar bears -- and a new research and education building rise to the west of the bear enclosures.
Construction on the conservation centre should be completed this fall, when the first of up to four polar bears -- most likely orphan Canadian cubs -- may arrive at the transition centre. The existing bear exhibit, which does not meet Manitoba Conservation standards for housing polar bears, will be improved with larger enclosures that will have dirt to allow the bears to dig.
The polar bears at the transition centre, eventually destined for other zoos, will not be on display to the public except via closed-circuit camera in the research and education building, which will be curated by non-profit organization Polar Bears International.
But open viewing may be allowed toward the end of the animals' acclimatization period in captivity, said Don Peterkin, chief operations officer for the Assiniboine Park Conservancy.
In 2012, the conservancy plans to begin construction on a new Arctic exhibit that will include three new polar bear enclosures that will afford the animals "20 times more room" than the zoo's existing polar bear enclosures, Peterkin said.
The plan calls for up to six polar bears to be housed at enclosures that will have hills to climb, swimming pools, an underwater viewing area for visitors and possibly a tundra-buggy viewing platform. The exhibit is slated to open in 2013 and will be connected to the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre.
The provincial government has pledged to provide the conservancy with $31 million to build the Arctic exhibit, which will also house muskox, Arctic foxes and caribou in the northeast quadrant of the zoo grounds. The exhibit remains in the design phase, said conservancy president and CEO Margaret Redmond.
The other new zoo exhibit areas, all organized by geographic region or ecosystem, are just concepts right now, Peterkin said.
"We'll work our way through the pieces one by one," he said of a prairie exhibit at the south end of the zoo, a Eurasian exhibit in the northwest and small tropical components in the centre of the zoo. "You need to lay out the whole property just to make sure you don't paint yourself into a corner."
Only the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre plans are set in stone, Peterkin said. Construction will begin within two or three weeks, he said.
The zoo will remain open throughout its decade-long reconstruction, Redmond added.