Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Unveils New ‘Bear Hollow’ Habitat in Summer 2023

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Construction to begin this summer will improve and expand tropical bear habitats in Zoo’s Wilderness Trek

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo today announced a new project to dramatically improve and expand tropical bear habitats in Wilderness Trek to create Bear Hollow. The four new habitats, which will open in the summer of 2023, will be almost three times larger than the old spaces and will enhance visitor viewing and animal care efforts with Andean bears and sloths.

Bear Hollow will completely transform the old 50-year-old exhibits with much larger and more complex animal habitats. New features will include climbing structures, raised rest areas and digging pits to provide opportunities for natural bear behaviors as well as future breeding of these keystone species.

“Our Andean and sloth bears are incredible ambassadors for their vulnerable counterparts in the wild,” said Dr. Chris Kuhar, executive director of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. “The new Bear Hollow will be transformational for our guests and, more importantly, for our bears, and will provide our zoo with future opportunities to play a part in sustaining these important species.”

A new glass view will allow guests to come face-to-face with the bears and an immersive treehouse, centered in Bear Hollow, will allow guests to have a nearly 360-degree view of the new habitats. A separate viewing area will allow guests to get a close view of animal care staff who provide training on bear health and livestock monitoring.

Andean bears and sloth bears are listed as vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Cleveland Metroparks Zoo works to help conserve Andean bears in the wild through our Andean Bear Conservation Alliance (ABCA). ABCA works with national parks, government agencies and other conservation partners to protect Andean bears and their habitats, including studying bear populations in 37 protected areas in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Through the ABCA, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo conducts research and training, helps create and implement bear monitoring programs, and supports the development of Andean bear conservation plans.

Bear Hollow’s four distinct habitat zones will be interconnected, providing bears with more complexity by providing variable areas to live similar to the award-winning designs of Daniel Maltz Rhino Reserve and Rosebrough Tiger Pass. Behind-the-scenes upgrades will also include multi-story sleeping areas to better support nesting bears.

Construction on Bear Hollow begins next month and will open in early summer 2023. The approximately $7.7 million project is being supported by $3.5 million from the Cleveland Zoological Society, including a donation leadership from a long-term donor.

About Andean bears:

Andean bears can reach 4 to 7 feet in length and reach 2.5 to 3 feet tall at the shoulders. Males are generally larger than females and can weigh up to 340 pounds. Andean bears are the only bear species native to South America and the only remaining relative of the prehistoric short-faced bears. They are also known as Spectacled Bears due to the whitish/cream fur surrounding their spectacle-like eyes.

Andean bears live throughout the Andes in South America, from Venezuela to Argentina. They require large, relatively undisturbed habitats and are more arboreal than temperate bears and are known to build nesting platforms high in trees for feeding and resting.

About sloth bears:

Sloth bears can reach a length of 5 to 6 feet and a height of 2.5 to 3 feet at the shoulder. On average, they weigh between 200 and 300 pounds. Sloth bears inhabit the lowland rainforests, scrublands and grasslands of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.

The sloth bear’s name comes from its resemblance to the 3-toed sloth and its ability to hang upside down from tree branches. The sloth bear has a grey/white snout which acts as a vacuum cleaner by sucking up termites, ants, bees or grubs from trees. Their coat is black, long and shaggy. Their ears are relatively large and their long, curved claws make them good climbers with a keen sense of smell that helps them locate food. In addition to consuming bugs and insects, they also consume a diet of fruits (mango, fig, ebony), flowers, and honey.

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