Walter Family Arctic Tundra

Walter Family Arctic Tundra inspires visitors to contribute to the conservation of polar bears.

Walter Family Arctic Tundra, located at the northern-most end of Lincoln Park Zoo, is a part of The Pride of Chicago campaign, a $135 million capital campaign which provides funding for new zoo initiatives. Opened November 17, 2016, this expansive exhibit is strategically designed for polar bears, a carnivorous species threatened in the wild due to human impacts such as climate change, which rapidly melts sea ice. Polar bears’ adaptations to the arctic environment make them dependent on the sea ice for survival, thus creating the need to conserve this species. Walter Family Arctic Tundra can support a breeding pair and their potential cubs. Guests enjoy a redesigned split-view of both water and land, an immersive sensory experience complete with squishy flooring imitating damp shoreline soil and a tactile ice wall complementing the commercial ice machine keeping the polar bears cool within the exhibit. A 10 square-foot training wall gives guests a glimpse into the positive reinforcement training methods used by Lincoln Park Zoo’s keeper staff to promote animal welfare and provide enrichment. Lincoln Park Zoo is dedicated to helping polar bears both at the zoo and in the wild by actively participating in their care and conservation.

Fast Facts

OPENED: November 17, 2016
DONATED BY: The Walter Family, as a part of The Pride of Chicago campaign
SIZE: (Outdoor exhibit) 11, 483 square feet (Viewing areas) Four viewing areas totaling 2,225 square feet
LOCATION: Northern-most end of Lincoln Park Zoo near Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove and Regenstein African Journey

Exhibit Features

  • Expansive exhibit that can be divided to accommodate the arrival or separation of polar bears, including cubs.
  • Strategically designed rock formations to reflect the terrestrial nature of polar bears.
  • 49,000 gallons of running water from a waterfall, pools and winding stream to elicit natural diving and hunting behaviors.
  • Digging areas and a commercial ice machine for additional enrichment.
  • Exhibit design promotes animal choice: indoor and outdoor access available to polar bears.
  • Behind-the-scenes there are four large holding rooms and a denning area with a plunge pool intended as a place in which a female could rear her potential cubs before they navigate the outdoor exhibit.

Viewing Area Features

  • Four distinct viewing spaces enabling guests to make lasting connections with these impressive animals, inspiring conservation actions to protect polar bears in the wild.
  • A redesigned, split-view window, gives guests a simultaneous look into the exhibit’s terrestrial and aquatic spaces.
  • An immersive, accessible experience:
    • Squishy floors imitating the damp shoreline that polar bears navigate in the wild.
    • A tactile ice wall that teaches guests about the importance of sea ice for polar bear survival in the wild.
  • An up-close view of the polar bear training wall where guests will learn about positive-reinforcement operant conditioning conducted by keeper staff to provide enrichment for polar bears and promote their welfare, as well as showcase polar bears adaptations to visitors.
  • Green roofs on all compatible areas.

Featured Wildlife

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