Louisville Zoo Recognized for Top Honors in Exhibit Design (Media Release)

CONTACT: Kyle Shepherd
Direct: 502-238-5331  |  Media Only: 502-744-5639

Silver Spring, Maryland (September 14, 2012) – The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) today announced that the Louisville Zoo has received Top Honors in the AZA 2012 Award for Exhibit Design for the Glacier Run exhibit.

The award-winning exhibit is modeled after Churchill, Canada, a town on the edge of the Arctic wilderness where residents have learned to live in balance with nature. Glacier Run features seals and sea lions, a rescued grizzly bear family and three polar bears including Qannik, the wild-born orphaned polar bear cub that made national headlines when she was found alone on Alaska’s North Slope in 2011.

“This award is the highest honor for new exhibits, and the Louisville Zoo is on the leading edge of zoological exhibits in North America,” said AZA president and CEO Jim Maddy. “This exhibit demonstrates the Louisville Zoo’s innovation and dedication to the best in animal care and public education.”

“Glacier Run has exceeded our expectations, and our guests and visiting professionals are always surprised at the immersive experience of Glacier Run,” said John Walczak, Louisville Zoo Director. “We are proud to offer extraordinary spaces and enrichment opportunities for our animals as well as a place where visitors can have fun and learn about the arctic and some of the most important environmental stories of our generation.”

“We are creating world class, innovative thinking in Louisville and the experience that Glacier Run offers to visitors of the Louisville Zoo solidly lives up to that ideal,” said Mayor Greg Fischer. “Glacier Run is not only a huge addition to our city’s strong visitor attractions and quality of life it is a superb destination and environment for lifelong learning and adventure for people of all ages.”

Glacier Run was one of eight entries for the Exhibit Award. The exhibit has achieved its primary goals:

  • Create innovative enrichment for bears: The habitat allows bears to rotate through the two exhibits, 7 bedrooms, bridge transfer and under town tunnel to help further enrichment efforts. This unpredictability more closely mimics what the animals would experience in the wild, promotes their seeking behavior and helps keep them more engaged, active and inquisitive. The bears’ activity patterns are being documented for further study.
  • Increase visitor engagement and average stay time at the Zoo: Opportunities for visitor engagement in Glacier Run include interpretation programs presented by keepers and educators, video interpretation on flat screens and a Glacier Run “Radio Show” that plays on the audio system throughout the town. A seal and sea lion presentation at the 300 seat amphitheater takes place three times a day. The bear habitat includes two encounter areas with roll-up doors for twice daily demonstrations and a bridge through town where bears travel above the heads of guests. Visitor can also enjoy varied areas for up close viewing and a community center with artifacts that doubles as a classroom.
  • Create space and program resources to aid in the recovery of rescued animals: In addition to the rescue of Qannik, one sea lion and three grizzly bears were rescued from the remnant wild and now call Glacier Run home.
  • Additional design goals included inspiring visitors to increase their personal conservation efforts, increasing off exhibit space by 200 percent, adding at least one new species to the animal collection, providing the scientific information of climate change and increasing attendance and membership.

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The Louisville Zoo, a non-profit organization and state zoo of Kentucky, is dedicated to bettering the bond between people and our planet by providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for visitors, and leadership in scientific research and conservation education. The Zoo is accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM) and by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).