New polar bear exhibit at Winnipeg zoo will help make it “self-sustaining”

Here’s a development I’m sure you’ll find surprising: the July opening of the new polar bear exhibit at the Assiniboine Zoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba, expected to draw huge crowds this summer, will coincide with a substantial hike in entrance fees.

Kaska and Aurora, courtesy Assiniboine Park Zoo.

Kaska and Aurora, courtesy Assiniboine Park Zoo, Winnipeg.
Aurora is the cub orphaned in Churchill last year when her mother was shot.

Starting July 3, the fee for adults will increase from $10.24 to $18.50, not including GST. Said a CBC News report earlier today:

“Officials said the admission prices are being adjusted to “reflect the industry standard across zoos in North America” and bring the Winnipeg zoo closer to being a self-sustaining facility.

“Our job was to build a world-class and increasingly self-sustaining facility that allowed the [Assiniboine] Park and Zoo to be dramatically less dependent on tax dollars,” Redmond said.”

So, that’s why having polar bears in zoos are a good thing. Didn’t I say that last year? See the whole story here, more comments below.

In a previous post, “Zoos use myth of disappearing polar bears to breed them in captivity,” I made the following comments:

Using the argument that polar bear might decline to worrisome numbers decades from now to justify starting a captive-breeding program for the bears now is absurd.

Last year, there was a similar story in the Washington Post (April 9, 2012): “Zoos want to import polar bears to save the species.

To “save the species”? But wait, don’t zoos need the money collected from paying customers to stay in business these days? And how do zoos make money? Why, by having exhibits that people clamor to see!

There are several ways to get polar bear cubs for display: trade with other zoos, breed existing bears in captivity or accept the donation of cubs captured in the wild. For example, here is the outcome of that Churchill attack I reported on earlier this fall, as reported in the Winnipeg Free Press (November 19, 2003):

“An 11-month-old female polar bear, orphaned after its mother was shot following the attack on two people in Churchill earlier this month, will find a new home at the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre (IPBCC) at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

The province said today the decision was made following a lengthy discussion between research scientists, the Town of Churchill, the Assiniboine Park Conservancy and Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship.

“Providing this cub a second chance at life in the IPBCC is the best possible outcome in this situation,” said James Duncan, director, Wildlife Branch, Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship in a statement.

According to this CBC account about that orphaned Churchill cub at the Assiniboine Park Zoo (November 4 2013):

“The zoo plans to display all three bears, and possibly one more currently being held in Argentina, in a new exhibit titled Journey to Churchill beginning in the summer of 2014.

Sounds to me like zoos want to cash in on the great marketing draw of polar bears – and especially, polar bear cubs — which I would guess might be second only to pandas as money-makers for a zoo.

This is a big turnaround from the days, not so long ago, when folks protested over large carnivores being kept in captivity – when activists successfully pressured zoos to get rid of such exhibits.

See the rest of that post for details on the huge success of the former polar bear exhibit at Vancouver’s Stanley Park Zoo.

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