The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens is extremely excited to announce the re-opening of the Florida Black Bear Habitat and Bear Awareness Exhibit. This comes after more than two months of closure following Hurricane Irma. Central Florida Zoo hosted a grand re-opening event on December 2, 2017 to celebrate the occasion.
The Central Florida Zoo opened the new Florida Black Bear Habitat and interactive Bear Awareness Exhibit on August 1, 2017. A little over a month later, Hurricane Irma swept through Central Florida. While staff worked tirelessly to ensure not a single animal was in harm’s way during the storm, facilities and gardens were damaged during the storm. However, the biggest affect was the continued flooding experienced for months after the storm. The Zoo sits on a natural wetland, and as nearby Lake Monroe continued to flood, so did the Zoo’s property. This resulted in closure of the Florida Trek, which experienced several feet of floodwaters.
Robert Buss, Director of Facilities, explains that the flooding was so severe after this storm due to the amount of water in a short amount of time, “In 2004, the Zoo flooded due to the three major storms, spread out over a few months. After Hurricane Irma, nearby Lake Monroe and the St. Johns, which spill over onto the Zoo’s property during floods, reached similar levels as in ’04 in the course of just a few days.”
It has taken months for this wetland to slowly drain, and now the area is dry enough to open to the public once again. “We’re very excited to be able to open this exhibit to our guests once again,” says Dino Ferri, CEO. “We greatly appreciate their patience as we waited for Mother Nature to take its course. We were anxious to open once again as well, as we know this exhibit serves an important function in our community as a source of bear awareness education.”
The two young black bears, Guignard and Ella, will be on exhibit for limited viewing hours effective immediately. Due to the flooding, the bears were pulled off exhibit, and now that they’ve returned they must acclimate once again to their space.
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