Bearing down

GOWANDA – Students at Gowanda Elementary got an inside sneak peek into the new polar bear exhibit to be built at the Buffalo Zoo.

Architect Gwen Howard and Technician David Marcoux, a Gowanda graduate, from Foit Albert Associates in Buffalo gave a presentation to the third and fourth graders at Gowanda Elementary about the new arctic exhibit which will be constructed at the zoo. The exhibit will house the polar bear cub Luna as well as other arctic species.

Gowanda Elementary recently held a walk-a-thon to raise funds to donate to the Buffalo Zoo. Students, family members and faculty walked at Hillis Field and the school was able to raise $3,000 to be donated towards the project. Howard praised the students for their fundraising efforts.

“It’s excellent and we really appreciate it,” Howard said.

Howard and Marcoux both design other zoo exhibits and have designed the Arctic Edge area which will be completed in 2015. Luna, a female polar bear cub is currently five months old and weighs about 60 pounds. Howard said she enjoys playing in snow, and now water since warmer weather has arrived.

“She enjoyed being in her yard being in the snow. Now she enjoys being in her pool and learning how to frolic in deeper water,” Howard said.

Luna will be receiving another polar bear cub from Alaska as company. The male polar bear cub was found wandering in Alaska and will be learning behaviors from Luna at the zoo. Howard asked the students what should be in Luna’s new home. Many students said ice and that it should resemble her natural habitat. Howard explained Luna will have a home that in addition to the exhibit space where zoo visitors will be able to see her.

“There are a number of things that she needs in her house. Some of these things are the same things you need in your house because we’re just a mammal too,” Howard said.

The new polar bear holding area will have two cages and a den for her to stay in with a swimming pool in the middle. The zookeepers will have a restaurant style kitchen to prepare food for her and there will be a “life support system” which will filter salt water into the pools.

“It’s a really tiny space with a lot of equipment,” Howard said.

Luna’s exhibit will also be complete with rocks and trees for her to play on or hide behind. Her exhibit will be adjacent to the other polar bear exhibit with a pathway that will allow the polar bears to interact with each other. Viewing areas will allow visitors to see the polar bears swimming in water through glass panes. Glass panes will also be used to see the wolves exhibits under a viewing awning. Other animals included will be the lynx and the bald eagle.

“This exhibit represents the edge between the tundra and the forest,” Howard said.

The exhibit will also feature a learning center where visitors can learn about the various animals as well as how to prevent global warming.

“The temperature on the earth is warming up enough that the ice melts. What happens is the mother bear has to swim 30 miles to get fish,” Howard said. “Can you imagine you’d have to swim all the way to Buffalo just to catch a fish. Then you’d have to swim all the way back just to bring it to your baby. A lot of mother bears can’t make it.”

Howard told the students about various ways to prevent global warming. She suggested students can conserve energy by turning off lights, walking instead of driving short distances, recycling, encouraging parents to put on warmer clothes instead of turning on the heat, watching less TV or spending less time playing video games or planting a tree. Howard and Marcoux left the students with real blueprints for current projects at the zoo. Construction of the arctic exhibit has not started. It will begin following completion of the remodeling of the new zoo entrance.

Comments on this article may be sent to smcdonnell@observertoday.com.