Skip to main content

Construction alert: Last chance to see sloth bears

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

We’re about to break ground on phase one of our all new tiger, sloth bear and otter exhibit complex, and that means we’re coming up on the final weekend—Sept. 15 – 16—to view sloth bears Randy and Tasha at the zoo before construction begins.

Sloth bear at Woodland Park Zoo. Construction for a new exhibit complex begins Sept. 17, 2012. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Once construction begins the week of Sept. 17, we’ll be closing off the area where the sloth bears live now and they will remain off public view until both phases of the construction project are complete, which we anticipate will be in 2014.

The new exhibit complex will transform a 60-year-old portion of the zoo into a state-of-the-art, 2-acre complex with dynamic new homes for several species of the Asian tropical forest—Asian small-clawed otters, sloth bears, tropical birds and Malayan tigers.

Asian small-clawed otters. Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara Zoo.

When phase one of the major new exhibit complex opens in May 2013, visitors will meet a new addition to the zoo—the Asian small-clawed otter—and enjoy a new children’s play area. We’ll continue fundraising and then constructing phase two of the exhibit, which will feature sloth bears and Malayan tigers, and aim to open that in 2014.

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

In the meantime, Randy, our 16-year-old male sloth bear, and Tasha, our 7-year-old female, will remain at the zoo together but will not be visible to the public during construction activity. Randy and Tasha were paired up by a breeding recommendation from the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for sloth bears, an Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ program that seeks to maximize genetic diversity, with the goal of ensuring the long-term survival of the population and the health of individual animals. SSPs also involve a variety of other collaborative conservation activities such as research, public education, reintroduction and field projects.

Sloth bears—native to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka—are an endangered species. Fewer than 10,000 remain in the wild. Their survival is challenged by fragmented populations, deforestation and the bear parts trade. Sloth bears are very rare in zoos, with fewer than 50 currently living in North American zoos.

Artist rendering of new sloth bear exhibit at Woodland Park Zoo.
In the new sloth bear exhibit at Woodland Park Zoo, you’ll see, hear, and smell the lively bears as they interact with state-of-the-art enrichment opportunities throughout their new home. They’ll use their sense of smell and dexterity to retrieve food hidden in digging pits, crack into marrow as they break open bones in a specially designed bone-breaking pit, slurp grubs out of logs in their dry ravine landscape and put their vacuum-like eating style to work at a keeper-assisted feeding demonstration.

We’re currently raising funds to make this amazing new exhibit complex possible, and your help is appreciated! A gift of any size helps make a new home for these animals a reality. Through our Get Your Paws on Our New Exhibit promotion, those who donate $1,000 or more to the Asian Tropical Forest initiative will get their name on a decorative paw print tile featured prominently at the entrance to the new exhibit complex. 

To order a paw, or to follow the progress of the More Wonder More Wild comprehensive campaign, go to