The enhanced exhibit gives visitors exciting access to the big white fluffballs

By Kate Hogan
March 29, 2010 09:16 PM

Knut who? On Friday, the San Diego Zoo is opening its newly-enhanced Conrad Prebys Polar Bear Plunge, an interactive exhibit that lets visitors get up close and personal with its three mighty polar bears, 9-year-old siblings Kalluk and Tatqiq, and pal Chinook, 15.

“We’ve redesigned the exhibit to share with guests the challenges polar bear are facing due to drastic changes to their habitat,” San Diego Zoo director John Dunlap tells “We want our guests to experience the beauty and playfulness of our three polar bears while learning why the animals are threatened and what humans can do to ensure their survival.”

The revamped exhibit includes a 850-square foot snow den for kids to explore, plus an actual Arctic research helicopter that’s been used to study the mighty creatures. At the “How You Measure Up” station, guests can stand next to true-to-life polar bear statues, check fully-stocked fridges to see how much a polar bear eats in a day (hint: it’s a lot!) and even get on a scale with family and friends to see how many people it takes to equal just one polar bear’s weight.

But the focal point of the Polar Bear Plunge is the experience wall, where guests will literally meet the creatures. Several times each day, keepers will open the large glass barrier panels and interact with the bears through a wire mesh wall, just feet away from the visitor viewing area.

Designed to hold the weight of a male polar bear – 1,700 lbs. – the mesh wall will give slightly when a bear presses on it, safely and excitingly bringing the creatures closer to onlookers. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn more about the majestic species, and Zoo staffers hope it will raise awareness about their threatened status – while giving guests some time for fun, too.

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