River Safari, a river-themed wildlife park, has
unveiled details of the new home of Singapore’s beloved polar
bears, Inuka and Sheba. The 1,400 sqm habitat will be three and a
half times the size of the existing one, featuring indoor and
outdoor areas from which the public can see the great white
carnivores, and pools for the bears to swim in.
The polar bears’ new home will be housed
within River Safari’s Frozen Tundra exhibit, which aims to educate
visitors on the importance of glaciers and semi-frozen freshwater
ecosystems, amongst the most threatened of the world’s biomes.
The polar bear dens and indoor areas will be climate
controlled, with temperatures that simulate the Arctic north.
Three viewing elevations will be available for visitors, including
the popular underwater view, and visitors can admire the
animals through windows cut into frozen rocks.
Modelled closely after their natural habitat, Inuka and Sheba’s
new home is part of WRS’ commitment in upgrading these bears’
living space. In 2006, the Animal Welfare and Ethics Committee
(AWEC) decided that it was in the polar bears’ best interest for
them to remain in Singapore. This decision was reached after
considering the animal’s ages, their familiarity with their
keepers and environment, and the uncertainty of whether other
facilities would be able to provide the same high level of care
that Inuka and Sheba are used to. It was also at this time that
WRS started the conceptualisation of the Frozen Tundra exhibit, to
further upgrade the polar bears’ habitat.
to the Arctic Circle, polar bears are the world’s largest land
carnivore and adult males can weigh up to 650 to 700 kg.
Classified as vulnerable by the IUCN, the bear occupies a narrow
ecological niche and preys almost exclusively on seals. Polar
bears hunt mostly on ice floes in winter months and retreating sea
ice due to global warming has resulted in the diminishing of their
hunting grounds and food sources. If global temperatures continue
to rise, polar bears may become extinct across most of their range
within a hundred years.
Some of the innovative
features of Frozen Tundra include “ice rocks” where the polar
bears can soak in the coolness of “freezed” rocks and also an ice
cave where both Sheba and Inuka can retire to, so as to enjoy a
polar siesta. The new habitat also incorporates a large freezer
unit able to produce huge blocks of ice as enrichment for the
bears. Natural substrates, trees, and also pools and streams will
be incorporated, to provide the bears with a rich and varied home.
As construction begins on the Frozen Tundra
exhibit, the polar bear enclosure at the Singapore Zoo will be
closed from 30 August 2010. Inuka and Sheba look forward to seeing
everyone again in 2012 with the opening of River Safari.
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