By LAURI GROSS
Beginning in mid-to-late July, visitors to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo will discover brand new bear habitats that put humans in close viewing contact with bears in four new exhibits known collectively as Susie’s Bear Hollow.
“We anticipate opening Susie’s Bear Hollow in the coming weeks,” Dr. Chris Kuhar, Executive Director of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo said in late June. “There is no set date but we will open it as soon as construction is complete and the animals are comfortable in their new home.”
Construction began last summer on the new exhibits that will be home to Andean and sloth bears, species that are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In addition to being nearly triple the size of the former bear exhibits – which were 50 years old – the four exhibits in Susie’s Bear Hollow are designed to enhance guest viewing and animal care efforts. Susie’s Bear Hollow is part of the Zoo’s Wilderness Trek.
With more complex habitats for the animals, features of the 18,600 square-feet Susie’s Bear Hollow include climbing structures, elevated resting areas and dig pits to provide opportunities for the bears’ natural behaviors as well as future reproduction of these keystone species.
New viewing areas will allow guests to get nose-to-nose with the bears. An immersive treehouse, centered in Bear Hollow, will allow guests to have nearly 360-degree views of the new habitats. A separate viewing area will allow guests to get up-close views of animal care staff conducting training for bear health and husbandry monitoring.
Dr. Kuhar explains, “We have two sloth bears onsite and ready for the exhibit completion. We have identified a male Andean bear that we hope to arrive in time for exhibit opening. We are working on identifying a female Andean bear. We’re looking forward to opening up a new and dynamic space for our sloth and Andean bears and sharing more information on our animal care efforts through the new habitat features like the training area.”
The $8.5 million Susie’s Bear Hollow project is supported by $3.5 million from the Cleveland Zoological Society including a leadership gift from a long-term donor.
Of course, Susie’s Bear Hollow is not the only new development at the Zoo. Just in time for World Giraffe Day which is recognized annually in June, a new Massai giraffe arrived at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo from New Jersey’s Turtle Back Zoo. The new giraffe, named Rocket, is a seven-year-old male who joined Cleveland’s female adult giraffes Jada and Jhasmin. At about 16 feet tall, Rocket is the tallest giraffe in Cleveland’s zoo, and he’s still growing.
The Zoo’s new residents also include Tighee (pronounced ty-gee), the first bison calf ever born at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Visitors will find him, and the rest of the Zoo’s bison, in the Zoo’s Wilderness Trek. Tighee is also the name of a Shoshone Chief and all funds generated by the bison naming opportunity that concluded earlier this summer will go to the Eastern Shoshone Buffalo Program that helps conserve the remaining bison.
And, don’t miss the Zoo’s Asian Lantern Festival on select days through August 27. The festival features live acrobatic performances every hour on the Fifth Third Bank Stage and a variety of culturally inspired cuisine at the MetroHealth Asian Food Market. There are Instagrammable moments and large-scale displays, including a nearly 40-foot-tall giant lantern, walk-through tunnels and a 150-foot-long Enchanted Garden Experience presented by CrossCountry Mortgage. On select nights, guests will be able to drive through the festival in their personal vehicles. This drive-through experience is presented by proud partner Serpentini Chevrolet. Asian Lantern Festival is a separate ticketed event that provides entry to the Zoo when the event begins each night. Regular Zoo admission does not provide entry to the Asian Lantern Festival. Visit ClevelandMetroparksZoo.com for more information.
Zoo set to unveil new exhibit called Susie’s Bear Hollow
By LAURI GROSS