Sunday, June 2, 2013

Polar Bear Grotto Construction Has Begun!

This post is a follow-up to this post (which should be read first for back story on the situation that is the Bear Grottos).  It is full of information and photos.

This post was written on June 24, 2012.  In the wake of a year long crusade to bring grass to Wishbone's home (Andean Bear) and his death as a result of being forced to live exclusively on concrete (cement), because the Zoo could not find it in their cold hearts to let this Bear live on a natural surface.  I guess its true, they are only making an attempt at "Wellness" now.  RIP Wishbone.

I saw an idea that I wanted to post in hopes like other things I write, the Zoo would pick-up on and move on, to make the lives of the Polar Bears better.   Something they failed to do for Wishbone.

I suggested they remove the wall between and make the two concrete surfaced Grottos, one large landscaped area.  It would essentially take two things as I noted in that post.  First- Rig a new system so rotating all Bears between all Grotto's.  Second- Crack that concrete and landscape!   I sent this post to Sally Stephens, Chair of the San Francisco Animal Control and Welfare, who sits on the panel of the monthly Joint Zoo Committee Meeting.   Read my next post for more information on what that is.

Four days later at the June 28th, 2012  Meeting:  ... excerpt from Meeting Minutes:

> Committee Advisor Stephens stated that a member of the public had contacted her regarding the bear grottos. With only two polar bears and the grizzly bears the suggestion was made to knock down the walls between two of the grottos to make a larger space. Stephens asked if there were any plans for the grottos. Peterson commented that there have been discussions along this line of combining the two end grottos. A structural engineer is looking at the feasibility as well as increasing the pool size in that area. Bocian commented that a transfer cage is being built which would allow moving the bears back and forth between the grottos. <

So, four days later and only when called out on it, they claim they are "in the process" of doing such about it.   <cough>   IF this was something they had in the works, they would have patted themselves on the back and paraded it out, just like the million times we had to hear about the new playground.

I am not a believer in coincidence.  This much like my suggestion to Director Peterson that the Zoo adopt Winter Hours has become "their own" within days of my suggesting it.  I don't really care as long as it gets done.

Note that this was a year ago and the transfer system had yet to be used prior to the construction (if even now).  Otherwise we would have seen more Grotto rotation in play.  ... I surely HOPE this system was not an untruth and that it, not only was built, but is now being used to allow Ulu access to a pool while this construction takes place and Pike access to grass during the same time.  Because heaven forbid they actually rotate the Polars to the unused and landscaped Grotto that the Grizzlies do not use during the day.  That all said, I also hope this doesn't take years like the Rhino exhibit renovation did, because Ulu is waiting for her new home to be built!   THIS is more important than the Playground!  Do Not Fail these Polars! 

Ulu listening to the construction in her home
and waiting to go back there.

Like I said, I hope the Polars are being rotated and Ulu isn't forced to sit in the farthest corner all day, everyday until this project is finished.   When this project is finished and with the new caging system, both Polars should then be able to rotate between the double wide Grotto, the Meadow and Pike's current concrete home (which should be landscaped next).
Although I missed the capture, it was a joy to actually see part of the wall fall to the ground!  I will be interested in seeing how they secure and cap the end of the wall when done.  I will really jump for joy when that awful un-natural surface of concrete is broken to bits and re-surfaced with landscaping like the current meadow.   Hopefully THAT is part of the plan, because otherwise this is useless.

Note to Zoo, if you expand the pool, well even if you don't, please build it up to look natural like what was done in the Grizzly Grotto.

construction from the side, 
long view of first and second Grottos

straight on view of wall coming down

Seriously, if I hadn't made this suggestion I believe the Zoo would have let Wishbone's Grotto languish with the sign of  "re-design", indefinitely.  OR thrown some wood chips down and tried to bring in another Bear they could force to live on concrete.  Its actually surprising to me that this is finally getting done.  Although I did question in a recent post when this would happen, maybe that got the ball rolling?  

> Not long ago someone relayed a blurb in an internal Zoo email in regards to the future Bear Grotto plans.  ... The part that struck me about what I was told was a quote from the Zoo's illustrious leader Director Tanya Peterson.  After sharing the future plans she added, "This was made possible by the passing of the Spectacled Bear."   Nice Tanya, Nice.   I'm sure Wishbone is looking down glad he was able to help you out by dying.  You're probably waiting for the Polars to die too before you do anything to get those animals off concrete.<


  1. Thank you for your tireless efforts in getting grass underfoot for the precious Polars, Ulu and Pike. It's been decades that they have lived on concrete. It's heartbreaking to see that Wishbone suffered and died due to years of living on concrete. If you hadnt pushed this, the zoo wouldnt have begun this new renovation. I only hope they do this properly and timely so that the Polars can enjoy this asap. They are precious and loved by many. They have been wonderful ambassadors for the zoo. Ulu and Pike are sweet and patient, let's hope the zoo does the right thing and gives them the comfort and enjoyment they very well deserve. Wishbone has been gone a year now...I believe they zoo would have left that exhibit empty if you hadnt crusaded as you did. Hey Ulu and Pike, I look forward to your precious smiles in your updated grottos SOON!!!

    1. @Lee- Thank you for your comment and endless support on my efforts. I too believe the Zoo would have left the Polars living in on concrete the rest of their lives if not for things I have written. They might have tried to throw a patch of grass in Wishy's old area and tried to get another Bear, although I think that after they killed him, they probably thought better of my crusade and knew that it could have saved his life. ... Let's hope they take care of Ulu and Pike and are rotating them while this construction is going on.

  2. A friend of mine had trouble posting a comment, so I am doing it for her. My apologies to her for the time delay. I appreciate you taking the time to read my words and comment.

    > Anonymous- Zoo leadership must place a high priority in providing their resident animals with enclosures, grottos, meadows, pools etc. which closely resemble what would be found in their natural environments.

    These animals are captive. While there is an argument for supporting zoos because without them many species near extinction would already have disappeared from this planet, these animals are utterly dependent on zoo leadership to provide the highest quality of care which obviously includes appropriate environments. By appropriate I do not mean "bare minimum" or "adequate", smoke and mirrors terms; I mean the closes approximation of what their environments would be if they could live naturally and free.

    While zoo leadership weighs profit vs. expense, and looks always to entice the public to pay entrance fees to visit the animals, the number one priority must be the animals who the zoos are obligated to cherish, respect and care for. <

    1. @Anonymous- Thank you for your comment. I agree and sadly the best leadership is not in place at the Zoo. Those in authority (and i've called them out by name in many posts) think they are doing a bang up job and they just aren't. This list is long on things that are wrong there, and I've gone on about them in detail. Still not many seem to care. Its almost unbelievable that this construction is being done in Ulu and Pike's lifetime. ... You mention "bare minimum" and such, which is exactly what the Zoo apparently strives for. Their former VP Bob Jenkins was quoted once about the Bear living on concrete by saying "that's what they are used to" !!! AS well one of their recent PR campaigns ironically had the word "mediocore" in the text. ... You are absolutley right in regards to the priority MUST be the Animals and sadly they are not. The Zoo doesn't get that if they take care at home (not opening new exhibits, but upgrading the existing and old) just as many Visitors will come. They obviously don't listen when Visitors complain about the way some of the ANimals live.


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