The Polar Bear Project

The Polar Bear Project Home Page


Other Donation Options: Order "Binky" Fred Machetanz Prints or Vintage Binky the Polar Bear T-shirts featuring iconic Binky and his shoe.

Update for Summer 2016: Phase I of our Polar Bear Project will be operational this summer! The buildings were tented and heated this past winter to finish the mechanical and electrical work. The interior animal partitions, exterior fence work and holding area pool are all being completed this spring and summer. We will post project updates on Facebook, Twitter and our website at THANK YOU to everyone who has participated in and contributed to Phase I of this project. Your efforts are making this a reality!

Contacts: Development Director at

Patrick Lampi (Executive Director) at

Photo above: The Polar Bear Transition Center is outlined in yellow.

Polar Bear Project Overview:

The Polar Bear Project is being designed by the Portico Group, an award-winning architectural firm located in Seattle, Washington. Watterson Construction of Anchorage will be the general contractor on the project. The $8 million project will be built in two phases. Phase I is devoted to the Polar Bear Transition Center, a dedicated facility to care for polar bear cubs coming from the North Slope. Phase II focuses on the expanded natural substrate (yard) and water feature with an elevated public viewing area. Our goal is to break ground on Phase I in 2014 and complete the Polar Bear Transition Center in the fall of 2015 to help celebrate the Anchorage Centennial. 

Phase 1: The Polar Bear Transition Center

  • Funding Goal for Phase I: $1.87 million. We have this phase 75% funded ($1.4 million).
  • The Transition Center will:
    • Provide a dedicated facility for the care of orphaned, abandoned or injured cubs coming from the North Slope
    • Be equipped with video monitoring capability
    • Provide holding den space for up to 6 polar bear cubs at a time
    • Provide a maternity den for resident polar bears
    • Update our current facility to today’s standards by adding a natural substrate area
    • Increase our ability to participate in research projects that may benefit the wild populations of polar bears
      • The zoo has a history of working with wildlife agencies, zoological facilities, universities and organizations to further the scientific knowledge and behavioral study of our animals. We are collaborating with the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Clean Seas, Cincinnati and Memphis Zoos and the University of Alaska Anchorage on polar bear research.

Phase II will be the more "public side" of the project, estimated at $6 million. Phase II will add the following elements to complete the project:

  • Add a braided water stream feature
  • Give the bears distance viewing opportunities
  • Feature an elevated walkway for unencumbered views of the bears
  • Double our capacity for adult bears - 3 females and 1 male
  • Triple the size of our polar bear habitat by adding 24,000 square feet

Why Begin This Project Now?

This is the first major expansion project on an animal habitat at the Alaska Zoo in 15 years.  We have been busy working on infrastructure projects such as the animal infirmary and commissary which serve all of the permanent and temporary residents of the zoo. This is a good time to move forward on this project for polar bears because of:

  • Increased global interest in polar bears
  • Increased behavioral choices for our polar bears by offering natural substrate areas and the ability to be separated. This would update our current facility to today's standards.
  • Add a new genetic line to captive polar bears if our bears produce an offspring
  • Increase capabilities to conduct research
  • Increase the zoo's capacity to four adult polar bears, three females and one male

"The Alaska Zoo is an incredible asset to the citizens of Anchorage and to Alaskans, along with being a top destination for visitors" ~ Mayor Dan Sullivan

"Not only would this expansion provide an improved facility for the education of the public on Arctic ecosystems and polar bears, it would also improve the zoo's ability to care for orphaned cubs and provide new research opportunities on captive bears that may benefit their wild counterparts" ~ Elizabeth LaVerne Smith, Acting Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service