The N.C. Zoo in Asheboro opened its newly expanded polar bear exhibit last week. More than three years in construction, landscaping and animal introductions, the $8.5 million habitat triples the size of the zoo’s polar bear exhibit and features greatly increased land space for the bears as well as a stream flowing through its center. State-of-the-art educational graphics and interactive computers tell the story of polar bears and their threatened status in the wild due to the loss of ice packs that provide their hunting grounds. The exhibit also features an indoor gallery with more educational graphics and television screens as well as glass viewing panels overlooking the exhibit and an artificial ice cave. Behind the scenes, the expanded facilities include larger and improved holding facilities for the bears and a special den for a mother with cubs. Zoo supporters across the state feel a sense of ownership in the place. Like much of the work that goes on at the park, the new exhibit was paid for with a combination of state funds and private donations raised by the N.C. Zoo Society. During three years, schoolchildren collected 3,276,238 “pennies for polar bears” – nearly $33,000 – to help with the project. Watch a video of Patches, one of the zoo’s two polar bears, enjoying the new habitat here.