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Worst Polar Bear Exhibits in the US

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by hudson111, 12 Apr 2021.

  1. hudson111

    hudson111 Well-Known Member

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    In your opinion what do you think the worst Polar Bear Exhibits are?
     
  2. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member

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    Well there are only 23 polar Bear Exhibits left to choose from:
    Alaska Zoo
    San Diego Zoo
    Brookfield Zoo
    Lincoln Park Zoo
    Louisville Zoo
    Maryland Zoo
    Detroit Zoo
    Como Park Zoo
    Kansas City Zoo
    Saint Louis Zoo
    Albuquerque Zoo
    Buffalo Zoo
    Seneca Park Zoo
    North Carolina Zoo
    Columbus Zoo
    Toledo Zoo
    Oregon Zoo
    Pittsburgh Zoo
    Memphis Zoo
    Hogle Zoo
    Point Defiance Zoo
    Henry Vilas Zoo
    Milwaukee County Zoo

    There are a few here obviously not amongst the worst, such as Detroit and Columbus. Other than that, I don't think any stick out as obvious candidates for the worst habitat for the species.
     
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  3. Nix

    Nix Well-Known Member

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    There all really nice to be honest
     
  4. hudson111

    hudson111 Well-Known Member

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    I would say that Milwaukee's is not very good.
     
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  5. Westcoastperson

    Westcoastperson Well-Known Member

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    SeaWorld San Diego has one of the worst I have seen. I know they stopped holding Polar Bears but last I was there the keepers sounded like they had intentions of returning one of their female Polar Bears if it successfully had cubs.
    I have never seen SeaWorld Orlandos but it looks worse considering it's smaller and indoors.
     
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  6. Echobeast

    Echobeast Well-Known Member

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    I mean, would it really be all that better if they were outside in Florida weather all year? ;)
     
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  7. NSU42

    NSU42 Well-Known Member

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    From this list, I have seen 12 of the exhibits that still hold polar bears. To me, Milwaukee County would clearly stand out as the worst. If I had to choose a second, it would probably be Toledo. I wouldn't really characterize Toledo as bad though, just not as good as the others.
     
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  8. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member

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    I've only seen three of them, so that's why I haven't shared a worst. Columbus has an incredible Exhibit, while both Saint Louis and Brookfield have rather average Exhibits. They're nothing special, but very adequate habitats.
     
  9. hudson111

    hudson111 Well-Known Member

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    I agree with your Miwaukee Opinion, but I actually think that Toledo's should be in the top 5 as their enrichment and display to people are one of the best in the country
     
  10. SwampDonkey

    SwampDonkey Well-Known Member

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    SeaWorld Orlando looked really interesting, and the space is kept cold year round since the area is all enclosed, but it was a really small space for bears.

    However, they don't exhibit polar bears any longer, they stopped a while back. I am not sure how long ago, I know for a fact that when I was there in September it was just being used for seals. I believe it was a few years ago, however.
     
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  11. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member

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    Toledo has also done extraordinarily well with breeding polar bears, so that might want to be taken into consideration.
     
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  12. hudson111

    hudson111 Well-Known Member

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    I completely agree
     
  13. birdsandbats

    birdsandbats Well-Known Member

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    Who knows how much longer some of these zoos wild hold Polar Bears, though. I am willing to bet Milwaukee won't have any Polar Bears in five years.
     
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  14. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member

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    Besides Milwaukee, are there any others you'd expect to become polar bear-less? Possibly Seneca Park, being the only small zoo left housing these bears. And I'm guessing there aren't any zoos trying to phase in polar bears right now? I honestly wouldn't be surprised if many end up taking the Saint Louis route and housing a single, rescued bear- even if breeding comes to an almost complete halt.
     
  15. birdsandbats

    birdsandbats Well-Known Member

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    I don't know that any others will lose them so quickly but I suspect in a few decades the species will be completely gone from US zoos, other than perhaps a few rescues.
     
  16. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member

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    I'm almost certain there will always be rescues in US Zoos, and I wouldn't be surprised if the amount of rescues kept goes up if breeding has stopped- unless polar bears went extinct, which is a real possibility for the next 50 years.
     
  17. NSU42

    NSU42 Well-Known Member

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    I would completely agree the Saint Louis and Brookfield exhibits are nothing more than average and mirror what many other zoos have done. I was actually a bit disappointed when I first saw Brookfield's because it was brand new when I visited that zoo and already seemed like it was on the small side. That was just my impression of it though. Many of the remaining exhibits that I have seen have a lot of similarities with these two in my opinion.

    While I think that the breeding record at Toledo is commendable and the enrichment they do is excellent, looking at the exhibit, I still think Toledo is towards the bottom of the list. If I had to hazard a guess, I would bet most, if not all zoos on this list are providing enrichment for their bears that is very similar/on par to Toledo. With the standardization within the industry, many zoos have copied what made Toledo so great. In terms of display, I would agree the human side of the experience is very unique as only San Diego has a similar set up with the big, long windows running the length of the exhibit. The ability to see the seals swim underneath the polar bears is also a great experience for visitors.

    However, the exhibit itself is definitely on the lower end of the scale. It is largely concrete with very little natural substrate for the bears (I am aware of the dig pit off-exhibit). In the past 10 years, the majority of the zoos on this list have built large exhibits with open fields, varying terrain and substrates, and good size pools that make Toledo's look old. If you go back 10+ years to when many zoos were still exhibiting their bears in exhibits that look like Milwaukee, then yes, Toledo is far superior to them. That no longer holds true when taking into account those that remain.

    I think this is best shown by @snowleopard's two reviews of the Toledo Zoo that were ten years apart. His opinion on the Polar Bear habitat changes significantly over that time as he saw many newer habitats on his travels that raised the standards at other zoos. I actually probably view the Toledo exhibit more favorably than him.

    From 2008:

    From 2018:

     
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  18. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member

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    I think that @NSU42 has done an admirable job by using my quotes from 2008 and 2018, as now that I've toured hundreds more zoos and aquariums, then clearly the Toledo Zoo exhibit for Polar Bears doesn't look nearly as impressive. Just in the summer of 2019, while traveling through Europe, I saw Polar Bear exhibits such as this grassy meadow at Ouwehands Zoo in the Netherlands:

    [​IMG]

    Or a couple more grassy meadows at Dierenrijk in the Netherlands:

    [​IMG]

    Or the incredible pair of Polar Bear exhibits (with wave machines!) at Hannover in Germany:

    [​IMG]

    Or a Polar Bear forest (!!) at Monde Sauvage in Belgium:

    [​IMG]

    I've visited 21 out of the 23 zoos listed by @Neil chace , but I have not seen all of the Polar Bear exhibits at those zoos because there have been many new ones built in the past decade. That's a good thing! :)

    Here are some of my random thoughts:

    Alaska Zoo - I have not visited this zoo
    San Diego Zoo - decent exhibit that holds up reasonably well
    Brookfield Zoo - built after my visit but appears outdated already!
    Lincoln Park Zoo - built after my visit and a bit of a disappointment from photos
    Louisville Zoo - was in its finishing touches in 2010, but there is way too much mock-rock
    Maryland Zoo - grassy, adequate exhibit but too small
    Detroit Zoo - excellent and one of the best, but could use more natural substrate
    Como Park Zoo - very good, but too small
    Kansas City Zoo - too much mock-rock and too small
    Saint Louis Zoo - revamped grotto that is disappointingly tiny from photos
    Albuquerque Zoo - too much mock-rock and the desert climate is not ideal
    Buffalo Zoo - built after my visit. A decent exhibit but nothing spectacular
    Seneca Park Zoo - I have not visited this zoo
    North Carolina Zoo - built after my visit and it looks excellent from photos
    Columbus Zoo - built after my visit and it looks like the best in the United States
    Toledo Zoo - good in 2008, but disappointing in 2018
    Oregon Zoo - opens this month!
    Pittsburgh Zoo - way too much mock-rock
    Memphis Zoo - ditto
    Hogle Zoo - small, disappointing enclosure
    Point Defiance Zoo - 40 years old and perhaps the worst exhibit on this list (getting revamped)
    Henry Vilas Zoo - decent exhibit with some grassy sections
    Milwaukee County Zoo - very badly outdated and tied with Point Defiance as the worst

    Having seen some large, grassy bear meadows at zoos in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, along with photos of places such as Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland and Yorkshire Wildlife Park in England, many Polar Bear exhibits in American zoos suddenly look mediocre. A lot of them have underwater viewing, which can be spectacular, but the land areas are often tiny and full of mock-rock. Perhaps my #1, all-time favorite Polar Bear exhibit would be when I saw 11 bears in a series of exhibits at Canada's Assiniboine Park Zoo. Here are some photos:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Westcoastperson

    Westcoastperson Well-Known Member

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    No, it wouldn't but the general height and size of the room they were in was unacceptable.
    Ok, I didn't know if they held Polar Bears anymore so thank you. But still, for the time, it was a really bad exhibit for Polar Bears.
     
  20. SwampDonkey

    SwampDonkey Well-Known Member

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    Totally agree, it was way too small and basically all concrete and a pool.