2/19/14: Poloncarz Joins Buffalo Zoo for Ground Breaking of Arctic Edge Polar Bear Exhibit

Modified: January 23, 2015 2:58pm

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County Investment of $3 Million Spurs Development of New State-of-the-Art Home for Polar Bears

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined by Buffalo Zoo President Donna Fernandes, members of the Buffalo Zoo Board of Directors, and elected officials at the Buffalo Zoo as ground was broken on the new Arctic Edge exhibit. Erie County invested $3 million in capital funding for the project, the largest governmental contribution to the exhibit, which will house the Zoo’s polar bear cubs and other arctic species in a climate that replicates the Arctic Circle and which will replace the antiquated bear pits that had been at the Zoo for well over a century.

“This groundbreaking represents the fulfillment of a promise made to the Buffalo Zoo, a promise that Erie County would play a prominent role in keeping polar bears here in Buffalo. Today, that promise is kept and we begin building a new future for the bears, and for the Zoo,” said Poloncarz.  “As I said in my ‘Initiatives for a Smart Economy’ address, building a strong region means investing in our area’s quality of life, and these investments will not only create a modern habitat for the bears but will greatly increase tourist visits to the Zoo as people come to see life on the Arctic Edge. I thank all the governmental partners, the private sector, and the public who invested in this new exhibit.”

More than 60,000 square feet in size, the $14 million Arctic Edge will provide expansive living quarters for the Zoo’s two star polar bears, Luna and Kali, while also creating exhibit space for Canadian lynx, arctic wolf, and bald eagle habitats. The landscape will replicate the arctic features these species are accustomed to and will include two large pools, complete with underwater viewing, to allow visitors to see the polar bears as they swim, play, and go about their lives. An educational Arctic Conservation Center will underscore threats to the polar bear population as well as ways people can help. Arctic Edge is slated to open in fall 2015.

Buffalo Zoo President Donna Fernandes added, “I thank County Executive Poloncarz for the support he has shown throughout this process and for all that Erie County has done to secure the polar bears’ future here at the Buffalo Zoo. We are thrilled to have them as a partner going forward as we build a destination that will draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to learn about the Arctic and observe these incredible animals in a state-of-the-art exhibit.”

The current bear pits at the Zoo, which were constructed before 1900, are not in compliance with standards adopted by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (“AZA”), the Zoo’s accrediting body, which had forced the relocation of some bears to other zoos. Demolition of the bear pits began in November, 2013.

In addition to the $3 million in Arctic Edge funding provided by Erie County, the Zoo secured $1.085 million from the City of Buffalo, $776,000 from the NYS Environmental Protection Fund, $750,000 from the NY Works Program, $400,000 from the WNY Senate delegation, $400,000 from the WNY Assembly delegation, $150,000 from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, and $15,500 from the Buffalo City Council.