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Cincinnati Zoo to add sea otters, upgrade bear habitat as part of ongoing renovation

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Courtesy of Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Artist rendering of the planned black bear habitat.

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is transforming "Bear Hill" into three new habitats and adding an animal that has never been displayed at the zoo before.

The "Bear Hill" area was built in 1937 and the zoo says it hasn't aged well. As part of the "More Home to Roam" building campaign, the area is being converted into three separate habitats: Bear Ridge, Sea Otter Coast, and an area for North American backyard wildlife.

"The lower grotto area, which will become Sea Otter Coast, features a massive underwater viewing area where visitors will get close up opportunities to see sea otters play, eat, swim, and engage in enrichment activities," says Thane Maynard, zoo director, in a release. "The upper areas will be redesigned to provide great homes for black bears and other species native to North America."

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Courtesy of Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
An artist rendering of the new sea otter habitat.

While the zoo has had river otters, this is the first time for sea otters, which are two to three times larger than their river counterparts.

Zoo Director Thane Maynard tells WVXU construction will be more involved because sea otters require saltwater habitats. "It will be really fun because sea otters are really active."

Bear Ridge and Sea Otter Coast are scheduled to open in summer 2023.

Among other exhibits that are part of More Home to Roam include Roo Valley, which opened in 2020, and a new elephant yard slated to open in 2024. There is also a new penguin enclosure and plans to upgrade the black rhino and giraffe habitats. The $150 million More Home to Roam projects are on track for completion in 2025, according to the zoo.