How Polar Bears Will Keep the Elephants Warm at the Oregon Zoo

Illustration for article titled How Polar Bears Will Keep the Elephants Warm at the Oregon Zoo

Zoos are weird places. You have fake safari next to fake tundra next to fake rainforest—all separated by a glass and concrete and a few feet of space. At the Oregon Zoo, a new energy plan manages to both subvert and perfectly embody the zoo's artificial ecology: The excess heat from the polar beat habitat will keep Asian elephants warm.

Advertisement

The new heating system, which the zoo is calling a "slinky" because of its shape, is an underground geothermal loop. Excess heat from the zoo's polar bear exhibit will be absorbed by the fluid inside a coil of pipes ending underneath the 32,000-square-foot Forest Hall, where Asian elephants are housed in an indoor "forest." This, along with a few other energy tweaks, are supposed to cut Forest Hall's greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent.

On one hand, this seems like an ingenious technical solution—a win-win for the comforts of the polar bear and the elephant, not to mention the zoo's energy bill. On the other, it reveals just how deeply artificial a zoo is, where the weather of the "Arctic" is directly tied to that of the "forest." A manmade energy cycle connects two manmade climates, linking two animals who ordinarily don't even belong at the same latitude. [Oregon Zoo]

Advertisement

Lead image: Oregon Zoo

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

burningman1228
Burningman1228

"On the other, it reveals just how deeply artificial a zoo is, where the weather of the "Arctic" is directly tied to that of the "forest.""

You say that as if the weather of the Earth's Arctic is NOT directly tied to the weather of the Earth's forest, when, in fact, we have seen that a loss on glacial ice has a direct effect on other locations around the globe. I would say this system actually makes the zoo more Earth-like.