BUFFALO, NY - The Buffalo Zoo's polar bears will have the brand new home that zoo directors have been hoping for after all, thanks to a $750,000 package of assistance announced by New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday.
In September, the zoo announced that a $2 million shortfall in funding for the planned $14 million exhibit had put the project in jeopardy. A month later, the state dedicated $400,000 toward the goal, and Sunday's announcement means funding is complete and the zoo can go forward with its cutting-edge habitat for the popular bears.
The zoo was concerned that it might lose its bears due to the antiquated condition of its current facilities. The zoo has to meet standards set out by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the zoo's professional accrediting body. The current bear exhibit dates back to the 1890s with only modest changes over the past 120 years and, as a result, Buffalo's adult polar bears have had to be relocated to other zoos out of state.
In a statement released by the governor's office Sunday, Buffalo Zoo President Donna Fernandes said, "We are extremely grateful to Governor Cuomo for putting The Bear Necessities Campaign over the top and ensuring that the Arctic Edge exhibit will be built. We are thrilled that he recognizes the significance of cultural tourism to the area and the role that the Buffalo Zoo plays in bringing people to Western New York."
Governor Cuomo added, "The Buffalo Zoo is the most-visited tourist destination in Erie County, and supporting the Arctic Edge exhibit will help it draw even more travelers to Western New York. This project is accomplishing much-needed upgrades that will further cement the Zoo's status as a driver of tourism and economic activity throughout the region, and I am pleased that Luna and Kali will be able to continue their stay in Buffalo."
The new Arctic Edge exhibit will be an acre-and-a-half in size, replicating the snowy, frozen climate of the Arctic Circle. Two large exhibits will house the polar bears while three smaller enclosures will feature the arctic wolf, bald eagle and Canadian lynx to illustrate the diversity of species that have adapted to life in the frozen north. The landscape will include two large saltwater pools and natural materials. Underwater viewing will allow visitors to get an up-close look at the bears' swimming styles, natural behaviors and playful antics, according to the statement.
The project is also expected to create 228 construction jobs.