Walter Family Arctic Tundra exhibit – Lincoln Park Zoo (Lincoln Park Zoo)


Location:  Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Address:  2001 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614, United States

Telephone:  +1 312-742-2000

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Exhibit:  Walter Family Arctic Tundra


Talini (female).  Born 22 November 2004 in captivity in Detroit Zoo, Michigan, USA.  Arrived at Lincoln Park 3 March 2018.

Siku (male).  Born in captivity at Toledo Zoo & Aquarium, Ohio, USA 3 December 2009.  Arrived at Lincoln Park 26 October 2016.


Lincoln Park Zoo was founded in 1868 and is the fourth oldest zoo in North America.  It is a free admission zoo and covers a 35-acre (14 hectare) site.

The Walter Family Arctic Tundra opened on 17 November 2016 and is considerably larger than the previous polar bear enclosure, which formed part of the The Robert R. McCormick Bear Habitat.  The new exhibit covers an exhibit area of 11,483 square feet (1,067 square metres) and includes a stream, a waterfall and dive pools.  When flowing the total volume of water is nearly 50,000 U.S. gallons (almost 190,000 litres) of water.

The on exhibit area is 8,383 feet (779 square metres) and the off exhibit area 3,100 feet (288 square metres). The habitat has a number of viewing areas including one allowing keepers to demonstrate trained bear behaviors for guests. The exhibit is designed to replicate the arctic landscape with an ice cave powered by an ice machine, artificial rock work for climbing and natural landscaping. There is a 42 feet barrier between visitors and the exhibit.  Wherever possible green roofs are incorporated, comprising tree, shrubs and sedum trays.

The exhibit is located at the north of Lincoln Park Zoo and has been designed to support a breeding pair of polar bears  and their potential cubs. There are four public viewing areas including a split-view of land and water, and a “squishy” floor to imitate damp shoreline soil. There is also a tactile ice wall complementing the commercial ice machine that helps keep the bears cool within the exhibit.

Donated by the Walter Family, the Arctic Tundra is part of the Pride of Chicago campaign, a $135 million project to advance Lincoln Park Zoo’s reputation as an immersive home for wildlife; an inspiring and free experience for guests; and a leader in conservation, science, and learning.  The total cost of the exhibit was $15.3 million.

Key features include:

  • Ability to be divided to accommodate the arrival or separation of polar bears, including cubs
  • Rock formations and running water including a waterfall, stream and pools to elicit natural diving and swimming behaviours
  • Digging areas and a commercial ice machine for additional enrichment
  • Indoor and outdoor access to allow the animals to choose whether or not to be on public view
  • Off exhibit there are four large holding rooms and a denning area, with a plunge pool, to allow for the birth and early weeks of life of cubs.

Source: Lincoln Park Zoo


  1. Captive breeding of bears
  2. At 1,067 square metres the exhibit currently reaches the Manitoba Standard of 500 square metres of dry land for 1 or 2 polar bears, plus at least 150 square metres for each additional bear, but is small for a modern facility.

Lincoln Park Zoo was asked to supply additional information on their polar bear exhibit and on their feeding, exercise, medical and enrichment regimes.  They declined to comment.

More Information

The zoo published the video below, introducing the new exhibit and featuring Siku, on 11 November 2016.

Return to Captive Polar Bear Directory

Page created 29 September 2021