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Hogle Zoo welcomes Rizzo: first polar bear in 9 years

Hogle Zoo welcomes Rizzo: first polar bear in 9 years


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SALT LAKE CITY — It's been nine years since Utah has had a polar bear, and it's fair to say there was a lot of excitement when Rizzo arrived at the Hogle Zoo Tuesday morning.

The 600-pound polar bear came on an all-night flight from the Cincinnati Zoo.

"She's been doing great. She's very tolerant of what's going on, very curious of what's going on," said Dr. Nancy Carpenter, Hogle Zoo's associate director of animal health.

Moving Rizzo to Utah was a major process. Months of paper work and coordinating took place to ensure her successful transfer. She also had to be trained to walk into a crate so she could board an airplane.

‘People just don't see animals moved, and they don't know how the zoos get animals," Carpenter said. "And so to actually see a bear show up at their work place has been quite fascinating."

A couple of DHL employee thought it was so fascinating, they stopped everything they were doing to watch what was happening.

"I've been here 11 years and never saw a polar bear," said Chester Norwood. "I mean, (I've seen) snakes, turtles, but nothing like her."

After arriving at DHL, Rizzo was loaded onto a horse trailer. She then made her way down I-15.

Once at Hogle Zoo, employees moved quickly to get Rizzo into her new home. She will stay in a temporary enclosure for about 30 days for what's called the "quarantine period." Then she'll move into Rocky Shores, which will open to the public this summer.

Among the amenities in Rizzo's new home: a state-of-the-art swimming pool. One of the coolest features it provides is an underwater observatory, where Rizzo can say hello.

"It's going to be thrilling for people to see her, not only like this, but to watch her under water through glass," said Craig Disnmore, Hogle Zoo's executive director.

But before Rizzo can swim in the water, she'll need to get used to it. She'll also need to get used to her new trainers, who are anxious to work with her.

"We'll just start with the basics: ‘Hi, we're your new trainers and with us comes treats,'" said animal keeper James Weinpress.

Like a pro, Rizzo was already accepting treats from the trainers Tuesday morning — a good sign she settling in. By the time she moves into Rocky Shores, she should feel right at home.

"We think she is going to do just fine," Disnmore said. "The real thrill is going to be when we put her into the new habitat for Rocky shores, and that will happen just a little before the opening on June 1."

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