SALT LAKE CITY — In just a few short months, two grizzly bears, a polar bear and a few sea lions will call Hogle Zoo’s new Rocky Shores exhibit home.
It is currently being built on the northwest corner of the zoo and is the largest exhibit ever created at the zoo. The state-of-the-art facility will give viewers spectacular underwater viewing, as well as naturalistic views of all the animals.
Planning for the project started in 2007, and with the help of a voter-approved $33 million bond in 2009, the facility has become a reality. Construction began in 2010, and the exhibit is scheduled to open by June.
“We are trying to basically mimic anywhere from Oregon on up to the mainland of Alaska,” explained Jeffrey Landry, the zoo's animal care supervisor.
Dozens of pumps filter more than 350,000 gallons of salt water to help create beach front property in the new Rocky Shores exhibit. In one area, sea lions and seals will play. In another will be Utah's only polar bear, Rizzo. The 14-year-old bear is being transferred from a zoo in Cincinnati.
The exhibit has an underwater viewing building that will put visitors nose to nose with sea lions and Rizzo.
“There are different types of glass that you can use,” explained Dan Smith, associate director of Capitol Projects. “We are using glass which varies in thickness, but also has a unique additive to it, which is called low iron, which gives it a more clear viewing opportunity, so you’re not seeing a tint of color. It’s a true clear viewing experience.”
Rocky Shores will also reintroduce grizzly bears to Utah. The Bear Meadows exhibit will soon house one male and two female bears. Their habitat will include a fresh water stream to play in.
"Hopefully, people can see them and get an appreciation," Landry said.
The zoo’s bald eagles will also be moving to the new exhibit.
The pools are full, crews are finishing up construction, and the staff is ordering all the food, including fish for an entire year.
Utah newest animal friends will start moving into their new home this spring, and everyone at the zoo will be ready.
"We have a pretty good schedule set up, probably starting in March, bringing the animals in, kind of staggering it a little bit and setting them up in quarantine. As the exhibits become ready, we'll start introducing them into the exhibits."
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc