North America’s superstars
Ursa International was awarded the design of Roger Williams Park Zoo’s (Providence, Rhode Island) new Polar Bear and surrounding exhibits project in early 2005. This on-gong project is seen as the beginning segment to the zoo’s North American collection and thus includes other biomes and habitats beyond Polar Bear tundra, but it is Polar Bear that take center stage in their 20,000 s.f. habitat.
The exhibit attempts to present the Polar Bears in a tundra setting, where the viewers vista extends beyond the confines of the exhibit and across the nearby lake, giving an realistic impression of the vastness of the Arctic realm. There are several other, close-up opportunities as well, where the visitor can stand next to the Bears nose to nose on dry ground, and in the Interpretive Building, completely submerged in the 90,000 gal. pool.
The Exhibit theme involves our notion of “home”; the place where we live, and who we share our home with, the other animals that live in North America . There are many types of homes, both for humans and for animals and they are depicted along the 800 l.f. trail, including log cabins, igloos, eagle nests, prairie dog tunnels and Ice caves. The exhibit will also interpret the conservation success stories due in part to scientific research conducted at Zoos and wildlife partners, bringing the Bison, Bald Eagle and Red Wolf back from the brink of extinction. The Polar Bear is presented as one species that is currently not threatened, yet due to pressures on their environment we are beginning to be concerned for their well-being, and there are things we can do today to help prevent the Polar Bears decline.
The Wildlife Heroes theme emerged in the planning of the companion species, where each had a time that they were gravely endangered, and have now come back from the brink. Companion species in the exhibit include Bald Eagle, Snowy Owl, Arctic Fox, Red Wolf, Prairie Dog, Bison, Pronghorn, and Harbor Seal. New holding buildings are included for each species. The Polar Bear holding includes four standard dens plus a maternity suite as well as two exterior off-exhibit yards for long term management of this species at the zoo.