Here’s a theory to test over the next couple of years: If you need to raise millions of dollars, get an irresistible polar bear cub on your side.
That, or something like it, is the winning strategy of the Buffalo Zoo as it enters the home stretch in its $18 million campaign to build its proposed, and necessary, Arctic Edge habitat. The zoo needs to raise the final $4 million and, in pursuit of that laudable goal, it enlisted the services of Luna, almost certainly the cutest 3-month-old polar bear ever to draw breath.
In addition to Luna and her ursine peers, the new habitat will be home to bald eagles, waterfowl, arctic wolves and Canadian lynx.
It will replace the century-old polar bear exhibit at the Delaware Park zoo, giving its inhabitants more-natural lives and, equally important, keeping the zoo in the good graces of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the accrediting agency for zoos.
Completing the project is also what will allow the zoo to keep Luna, return her parents from zoos they are now visiting and acquire any other polar bears it might want. If the fundraising effort goes according to plan, the 1.5-acre exhibit will open in 2015.
“We have been so gratified by the community’s ongoing support of the zoo, and we are turning to you once again to help us meet our final goal,” said Donna Fernandes, president of the zoo. “We’re about 80 percent [there], but we need the community to help us with the last 20 percent.”
The community has, indeed, been generous with the zoo, with which it has a close relationship. Much of that is because the zoo has shown itself to be worthy of the public’s trust and affection, and much of that is due to Fernandes. Under her direction, the zoo has made many improvements over the years, including the Rainforest Falls exhibit, which opened in 2008.
Fernandes was tempted away from the Buffalo Zoo in 2005, when she was hired to lead the Chaffee Zoo in Fresno, Calif. It was Buffalo’s good fortune, and Luna’s, that her West Coast adventure didn’t last long. Four months after leaving, she returned to Buffalo and it’s been full speed ahead ever since.
This is an important project for the Buffalo Zoo, and it deserves the support of the entire Western New York community. Pledges can be made at the zoo’s website, www.buffalozoo.org.