Zoo will celebrate International Polar Bear Day

Special events including a parade of plush toy bears will take place Saturday

Prague Zoo will mark International Polar Bear Day on Saturday, Feb 24, with a parade of plush animals.

Visitors who come to the zoo with a plush polar bear toy can enter for a symbolic price of Kč 1. There will also be games planned, and lots of information at a stand at the polar bear exhibition. The zoo’s bears Tom, Berta and Bora will receive gifts that will be handed over to them during a special meeting with Czech commentary.

Visitors who would like to attend the parade but lack a plush polar bear can buy a toy at the Information Center at the main entrance to the zoo.

From 10 am to 1 pm there will be games and an information booth in the polar ear area. The plush parade begins at 12:15 pm at the educational center.

The polar bears will get their gifts at 12:30 pm.

International Polar Bear Day is actually Feb. 27, but the zoo celebrates these types of events usually on the closest Saturday so more people can attend. International Polar Bear Day is organized by the conservation group Polar Bears International to raise awareness about the impact of global warming and reduced sea ice on polar bear populations.

People are encouraged to reduce their carbon output by turning down their thermostat, driving less, or installing energy efficient insulation.

Polar bears are classified as vulnerable, meaning the wild population is facing significant threats.

In the long term, Prague Zoo plans to create a new habit for the polar bears. Plans were unveiled in July 2017.

The Arctic Pavilion will have three parts for polar bears, seals and northern species of birds. The polar bear exhibit will have female and male runs. Its main attraction will be an underwater tunnel that allows visitors to watch polar bears as they swim and dive. The total cost will be about Kč 150 million.

The current space for the polar bears dates back to the zoo's early days. “During the past 80 years, the view of what the polar bears need has completely changed. The existing space that was built in the 1930s is totally unsatisfactory. It is also oriented to the southeast, so the sun is very bright. This is absolutely bad for polar bears,” zoo director Miroslav Bobek said when the plans were announced. The new pavilion will face north.

In the new space, visitors will be able to see the polar bears in the summer, while currently, they stay mostly indoors in warm weather. The new pavilion will stand in an area that is not now used.

In September 2017, Prague Zoo was named the fifth-best zoo in the world by travel website TripAdvisor. The ranking is based on visitor reviews. The zoo took fourth place in 2015 and seventh place in 2014; no ranking was published in 2016.

Attendance in 2017 was just short of the record and the second-highest ever. Some 1,445,126 visited, only 3,227 visitors behind in the record year of 2016.

In April 2017, the zoo welcomed its 60 millionth visitor since it opened on Sept. 28, 1931. In the early years, there were around half a million visitors per year, and that rose to 750,000 in the 1950s. The 25 millionth visitor was in 1975. Attendance dropped after 1989 and was low for more than a decade after that. It crossed the 1 million mark for the first time in 2005, after modernization following the 2002 flood.

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