June 23, 2018
The Great Plains Zoo celebrated the grand opening of its newest exhibit, Fortress of the Bears, today. The $2.7 million project features four Brown Bear cubs, along with enhanced viewing and educational opportunities for the Zoo’s more than 300,000 annual visitors.
“When our guests come to the new Fortress of the Bears, they’ll be able to experience the land where the densest concentration of Brown Bears is found – southeast Alaska,” said Elizabeth A. Whealy, President and CEO of the Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History. “In addition to Alaskan art and cool totem poles, a playground and interactive ‘dig boxes’ for the kids, visitors will see Zookeeper training demonstrations with the Bears, and can watch these amazing animals up-close while they play in their pond or roam the meadow habitat.”
Beginning today, visitors can now see the Brown Bear cubs, named Juneau, Sitka, Kodiak and Katmai, play and interact with each other in their new pond and lush meadow. Not only does the new exhibit add enriching habitats for the Zoo’s Bears, Fortress of the Bears creates interactive opportunities for the whole family, including a playground and a field research station for children. A new training demonstration window also will give visitors the chance to view behavioral training that Zookeepers do every day with their animals. With Bears, this includes allowing guests to see how Zookeepers get them to present a paw or open their mouth as part of a routine health exam, or to learn to give themselves a shot, with the animals effectively learning to participate in their own medical care. The project also provided for spacious new living quarters for the Bears to stay overnight.
With the addition of Fortress of the Bears, the Zoo continues to move briskly through a number of enhancements and projects outlined in the 2007 Strategic Master Plan, including:
• the Asian Cat exhibit, which opened in 2008, offers panoramic views of Snow Leopards, Amur Tigers and Pallas’ Cats.
• the Hy-Vee Face-to-Face Farm, formerly called the Children’s Zoo, was transformed into the colorful and fun Hy-Vee Face-to-Face Farm in 2009. The exhibit offers kids up-close feeding and petting opportunities.
• Rare Rhinos of Africa, which opened in 2010, is an immersive and interactive experience that engages and excites visitors about Africa, Rhinos, and conservation. The project also created more spacious indoor and outdoor habitats, breeding center, and improved holding for the Rhinos.
• “Monkeys, Magic and More,” completed in 2013, added a Snow Monkey exhibit, the state-of-the-art KELOLAND Education Center, plazas, and outdoor Flamingo habitat, and reshaped the entrance to better serve the Zoo’s growing attendance. In 2015, the Zoo received “Top Honors” in Exhibit Design from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums for the Snow Monkey exhibit.
• Fundraising has begun for a new Lion habitat that will offer a natural setting with multiple charismatic Big Cat species. The exhibit will enable visitors to see a pride of up to 10 Lions and cubs, and will provide a breeding facility for an important species that researchers believe could be extinct in the wild in as few as 30 years.
The Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., with the last admission at 6 p.m. Visit the Zoo online at www.greatzoo.org, or call 605-367-7003 for more information about the Zoo and Museum.
The Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering a greater understanding of our natural world through education, conservation, recreation and discovery. The Great Plains Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) – a leader in wildlife conservation. Less than 10% of animal institutions in the United States have met the high standards for AZA accreditation.
Love this zoo! Great place to get a walk in and the animals are everywhere! The museum/indoor part is very educational too. Has a lot of shade for when it's hot out. Very clean. Friendly staff.Taylor F.
We love to visit the zoo. They have great outdoor exhibits and lots to do inside as well. Great for kids and adults.Robin A.
Lots of great exhibits and animals to see! Fun gift shop and learning center.Stephanie N.
The museum gives you a break from the sun on hot summer days and has a great selection of animal exhibits from around the world. The zoo keeps growing and adding new animal habitats or improving existing ones. Membership offers reciprocal benefits to other zoos around the country.Bill T.