Workers at Hogle Zoo are busy are putting the final touches on Rocky Shores. The three and a half acre exhibit is scheduled to open next month and will house sea lions, seals, river otters, three young grizzly bears, and of course, Rizzo the polar bear.
“We hear she’s quite the swimmer. We’re excited because this water - we have the ability to cool it, so in July and August ...Where she is now they can’t cool the water so she doesn’t swim much in the summer because it’s hot water.”
That’s zoo spokeswoman Erica Hansen. She showed Jessica Gail around the new facility which includes a waterfall, underwater viewing area, even somewhere for visitors to watch zoo personnel do demonstrations with the animals.
She says getting to this point has been a long time coming: “It’s an $18 million project that was paid for in part by the '08 voter bond.”
Even before the bond was passed Hogle Zoo Associate Director Brad Parkin explains the zoo was set on getting another polar bear.
“We made a decision after losing our last polar bear in '03 not to reintroduce polar bears at Hogle Zoo until we had a proper home for them to live at the zoo. We knew that Rocky Shores was in our master plan and we simply instead of putting another bear in our then 50 year old bear exhibit we wanted to hold off until we had a proper and much better home for the polar bear.”
Getting Rizzo to Salt Lake City was no easy task. A doctor from Hogle made the trip to Cincinnati to pick up Rizzo and travel with her to her new home. Since then, Rizzo and her caretakers have spent her first few hours in Utah getting acquainted. James Weinpress is a zookeeper in Rocky Shores and says the staff is wasting no time in working with Rizzo and her new grizzly friends. “We’ve seen her eat some herring...She’s been very happy to get some specialized meat that’s made for her. She eats a little bit more than the grizzlies. She also likes her fruits. You'll see her eat lots of grapes and apples. Those seem to be her favorites.”
Rocky Shores opens to the public June 1. Just a few months after that the zoo will embark on another construction project called African Savanna. That will mark the return of lions back to Hogle zoo.