Aerial view of the “Polar Bear Museum” (Sapporo Marayama Zoo)


Location: Sapporo Maruyama Zoo (札幌市円山動物園)


    • English:  1-3 Miyagaoka, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 064-0959, Japan
    • Japanese:  〒064-0959 札幌市中央区宮ヶ丘3番地1

Telephone:  +81 11-621-1426

Website contact form: (note this is Sapporo City’s form, you will need to specify that your enquiry relates to the zoo).


Exhibit:  Polar Bear Museum


Lara (female).  Born in captivity 20 November 1994 in Beppu Zoo, Japan.  Arrived at Sapporo 9 May 1996.

Lira (female).  Born in captivity 21 December 2014 in Sapporo Maruyama Zoo.

Denali (male).  Born in captivity 9 November 1993 in Salt Lake City Zoo, Utah, USA.  First arrived at Sapporo 2 May 1995.


Following an inspection visit on 4 July 2006 ACRE reported in its Japan Polar Bear Report that this Zoo had the smallest polar bear enclosure in Japan.  They also mentioned that Denali spent most of his time in that enclosure continuously pacing up and down.  While most of the Zoos featured in that report have not improved it is pleasing to report that Sapporo has.

A new polar bear building, which took around two years to build, was completed in October 2017 and opened on March 13, 2018.  The total cost for the project was just under $30 million (2.3 billion yen).  In addition to polar bears the exhibit also houses seals.

The Zoo’s website says “One of the highlights of the new facility is the underwater tunnel. The polar bear and seal pools are separate, but you can see them swimming together”. Somewhat controversially, the seals and polar bears can see one another in their respective pools with a see-through panel between them.  Arguably this is more stressful for the seals than for the bears!

The facility has been built to meet the Manitoba Standard and  those of the of the American Zoo Aquarium Association (AZA).  Interestingly the Zoo’s website states that the decision to do this was “In order to promote cooperation with overseas zoos”.  Not, tellingly, to promote the welfare of the bears.

The total area of the Polar Bear Museum, including the public viewing area, is 2,300㎡ (25,000 sq. ft.).  The main enclosure is 1,400㎡ (15,000 sq. ft.) including the 150㎡ (1,600 sq. ft.) pool.

The pool has a maximum depth of 3.7 metres (12 feet) with a volume of around 500 tons of water.  A smaller pool in the off-exhibit area (described as “sub-release area” on the Zoo website) covers 25㎡ (270 sq. ft.) of the area’s total 145㎡ (1,560 sq. ft.).  This pool has a maximum depth of 1.8 metres (6 feet). 

Source: Zoo website, Bear Conservation research and ACRE Japan Polar Bear Report (download here from our server).


  1. Captive breeding is intended
  2.  Whilst a huge improvement on the old facilities the new exhibit still provides far less space than our recommended minimum of of at least 8,000 square metres (2 acres) per animal.
  3. The bear do not have clear panoramic views being houses in walled structures.

 We do not have  information on the feeding, exercise, medical and enrichment regimes at the Zoo.

Return to Captive Polar Bear Directory

Page updated 19 September 2021