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dan pearlman Designs Polar Bear Exhibit at Hannover Adventure Zoo


dan pearlman has designed the new polar bear exhibit at the Yukon Bay theme world at Hannover Adventure Zoo.

The 26, 500 square metre new polar bear exhibit 26, 500 square metre area is part of the Yukon Bay exhibit opened in May 2010, representing the Canadian wilderness.  

The fundamental visitor education concept for all the animal enclosures at Yukon Bay is based around three components: unexpected proximity to the animals, dynamic signage and educational feeding demonstrations.

concept art by dan pearlman for yukon bay hannover zoo

Yukon Bay’s polar bear enclosure consists of an 1, 500 square metre area planted with vegetation, natural and artificial rock formations, sand, gravel and pine mulch as well as a 900 square metre saltwater basin with a wave generator and stocked with fish.   The stall building, caretaker area and technical zone encompass 450 square metres, the one-story building hidden away under the hilly outdoor exhibit with its front side integrated into the landscape.  yukon bay at hannover zoo

The area is themed as an old Canadian harbour settlement and the landscape design includes a concealed trench between the forest and enclosure.  Visitors can view the southern part of the enclosure from the deck of a shipwreck and observe the polar bears “eye-to-eye”

Behavioural enrichment

Care has been taken to consider the behavioural enrichment of the animals in the design:

•    Water depth goes up to 3.5 metres and the pool is home to sea trout.
•    Rocky crags and a floating buoy provide opportunities for play. 
•    Located on land are various feeding hatches that open automatically at different times of day.
•    Sand baths, areas with pine mulch and gravel zones are used for burrowing and grooming.
•    Feeding boxes are hidden in the artificial rocks and electronically operated by caretakers from inside the stall. 
•    A frozen block of consumable treats for the animals can be attached to the floating buoy, which can be pulled in along a track via a crank-operated cable winch.

yukon bay at hannover zoo


The polar bear enclosure is only accessible through gates and safety locking mechanisms. Sliding gates hidden from direct view are monitored via cameras.

When needed, a wheeled loader can be driven through three-metre wide access gates.  Both enclosure sections can also be linked via a retractable bridge that extends over the dry trench.

polar bear swims at yukon bay hannover zooThe separation of the enclosure into two parts is required both for breeding as well as for altering the polar bear groupings within the separate enclosures.   A caretaker passageway runs parallel to the animal passageway between the two enclosures.  

When the sections are linked, the animals can dive underwater through a sliding gate built inside the harbour crane. Caretakers can feed the animals from the crane boom during narrated shows.

For medical examinations and treatment, a special cage is available for constraining the animal without having to place it under general anaesthetic.

The stall building includes a mother and cub zone, designed as a cave, which allows staff and visitors a view of the newborn cubs.

Landscape design

The exhibit uses plants from the polar bear’s natural habitat, the Yukon Territories in Canada. Existing trees were where possible retained when recreating the forest of coniferous evergreens and North American deciduous trees.   Plant species were also chosen for their robustness to their new environment with resistance to damage from browsing, damage or frequent urination or salt water.


Although the water surface area of the penguin, seal and polar bear exhibit is 60% larger than its predecessor, the water usage for the compound has decreased 80%.  Thanks to sustainable technologies, 3, 100 cubic metres of saltwater can be completely circulated within one to two hours. Water quality suitable for fish stocks and underwater visibility of approximately fifteen metres is maintained by speed-controlled pumps, large particle filters, protein skimmers, ozone disinfection, additional gravel bed filters with a UV system, backwash water reclamation and saltwater replenishment with PH value control.

yukon bay at hannover zoo

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