Join our zoo community

Buffalo Zoo Arctic Edge Review

Discussion in 'United States' started by blospz, 12 Oct 2015.

  1. blospz

    blospz Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    17 May 2010
    Posts:
    1,386
    Location:
    Hagerstown, MD US
    The Arctic Edge exhibit at the Buffalo Zoo is the new gem of this small establishment. Although they may not have designed one of the best polar bear exhibits in the country, if I were to compare it to photos of the other two zoos' polar bear exhibits that opened this year, this comes in first place. There are some exhibit flaws here and there, but it's definitely a great step in the right direction for this zoo.

    The entrance to this area is just off the right of the new entrance into the zoo. It's a bit sad to look straight into this area and then see the outdated, cramped elephant exhibit right across from it. The area begins with a window into the first polar bear exhibit (more details on that exhibit later). Right next door is a nice sized, mesh enclosed exhibit for a pair of bald eagles. They have an artificial tree with a big nest in the middle of the exhibit. A huge improvement from the temporary cage they were put in for the past year.

    The pathway into the exhibit has a new nice graphics on its walls, one showing the history and photos of the bear exhibits at the zoo. On the left side is the first polar bear exhibit and on the right is the gray wolf exhibit. The first polar bear exhibit is definitely smaller than the second one next to it. It's a bit deceiving to look into this exhibit straight on as the hill in the center blocks off the back sight lines. So it's a little to difficult to get a feel how big this exhibit actually is. However, the pool is a good size and has a reverse raking so the deep end, 10 feet deep or so, is in the back and the shallower section is right by the glass windows. Luna, the youngest female polar bear, has a blast in this exhibit. I don't think the smallness of this exhibit hinders her at all. She is in love with interacting with guests at the window. They actually put her in the second exhibit later in the week and she had a tough time with trying to interact with guests in deeper water. This exhibit also has tall grass, pine trees, and some purple flowers to give it a summer tundra look.

    The gray wolf exhibit is the weakest exhibit in this section. Although there are quite a few windows for visitors to view into this exhibit, it leaves absolutely no privacy for the wolves unless they decide to venture into their indoor holding area. The size of the exhibit is a bit too small for its inhabitants as well. Old rockwork from the old grottoes is used in the exhibit, but they should have incorporated a cave for them.

    To connect the two polar bear exhibits is a cave area where visitors can peak into windows for the den areas. The second polar bear exhibit is quite big and I feel its space equal the combination of the old two polar bear grottoes and brown bear grotto. This exhibit has a pool with a shallow end in the back and deeper section in the front. Although the exhibit may lack some special underwater viewing, compared to zoos that have tunnels these days, I enjoyed not having the windows be completely emerged with water. It's fun to be at eye level of a polar bear's body above the surface and it only takes a little crouching to see them fully emerged under water. This exhibit is a bit tricky to view if you want to go to different vantage areas. The underwater windows are on the main path and in order to wrap around the rest of the exhibit, you need to go into the polar bear interactive center and circle around to the other side of the exhibit. If you want to return to the underwater area, you must got back to the main entrance and you cannot go back into the polar bear interactive center as they are exit doors only. However, on the other side of the exhibit is a window overlooking the side of the pool and land area. You can wrap around and see the exhibit through mesh and an inukshunk right in front of it. The other window looks into the the grassy side of the exhibit and the best spot to see the polar bear coming out of its indoor holding area. The exhibit is more landscaped and also has a hill area in the center. On my visit, Anana, the older female polar bear, was in this exhibit and would continue to be here until her quarantine was completed later in the week. Seeing dirty photos of Anana for the past month, I believe she is enjoying the natural substrate in her exhibit.

    Before going into the polar bear interactive center, on the left of it is the Eurasian lynx exhibit. You mostly have to look through the mesh to look into this exhibit, however there is one main viewing window and then smaller windows looking into the exhibit when you're in the polar bear interactive center. This exhibit is much better than their old enclosure, providing them more space to roam and more vertical space, limbs in the center area, as well.

    The polar bear interactive center was nicely done and has so many educational graphics on how people can help save the polar bears and their environment. Being excited to actually see the animals, I admit I did not take the time to read all the informative signs. However I did take many photos to look back on the area in the future. There is a stuffed polar bear and seal in a glass box in the center of the building. It also features a quaint gift shop themed specifically for Arctic Edge.

    With the zoo's intention of renovating their reptile house and possible add an Asian section, hopefully this exhibit will allow money to help these projects get off the ground. Although the exhibit is landscaped to look realistic in a warmer months, it will also be exciting to see it in the winter with the help of Buffalo's predictable weather of SNOW. It definitely should be a highlight to visitors for all seasons of the year.
     
  2. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    1 Dec 2007
    Posts:
    15,050
    Location:
    Abbotsford, B.C., Canada
    Thanks for the great review! Buffalo Zoo has certainly improved in the past dozen years, with Otter Creek, Sea Lion Cove, Rainforest Falls (indoor tropical jungle), new entrance and Arctic Edge all being very good additions. There is nothing outstanding but for a medium-sized zoo in a cold-weather climate it is great to see steady improvement. I remember the Reptile House to be fairly poor and so a renovation makes perfect sense and will make the zoo even better.

    The downside is that there is arguably the worst great ape exhibit (gorillas) and the worst elephant exhibit anywhere in the nation and I'd be stunned if the zoo maintained elephants in its long-range plan. It makes sense to send its two female elephants away or to at least announce that the zoo will no longer keep elephants after the current occupants die as there is a history of the two not getting along with others of their kind. The gorilla exhibit is head-scratchingly awful and one of only three such enclosures in possibly the entire western hemisphere with zero outdoor access for the apes. Franklin Park and Brookfield are the other two, although there has been a rumour for years that Brookfield intends to construct an outdoor gorilla exhibit.
     
  3. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    11 Jan 2015
    Posts:
    904
    Location:
    Changzhou, China
    Copenhagen's Chimp enclosure is all indoors. It is obviously not very good, but I think the ape's welfare is still very high. Seeing this exhibit really reinforced my belief that family groups and regular breeding enrich great apes far more than any physical objects.

    On thread, this complex sounds really good. How much of Buffalo's collection is geared towards species that will do well in winter? I love cold climate zoos that focus on artic/alpine species with just a few pavilions to add some variety.
     
  4. blospz

    blospz Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    17 May 2010
    Posts:
    1,386
    Location:
    Hagerstown, MD US
    Animals that have adapted to the colder months are polar bear, gray wolf, Eurasian lynx, bald eage, sea lion, N. American river otter, reindeer, Amur tiger, snow monkey, bison, and snow leopard.

    Animals that have access to outside should they decide to go out: lion, serval, zebra, hyena, and Rocky Mountain big horned sheep.

    They also built an indoor South American rainforest for visitors to go into to warm up during the colder months.