|by Laura MacNeil||State Parks, Zoos, Switzerland, Bern||3|
Bern, Switzerland, is creating a new downtown park for its resident bears. The capital city is expanding its landmark Bear Pit into a one-and-a-half-acre BearPark, which is set to open in October 2009.
The new bear terrain will extend from the current enclosures (which have been in the same location since 1857) down to the banks of the Aare River. It will include bear-friendly landscaping, such as two forested areas, three caves, and a large pool in which Pedro and Tana, Bern's two resident Pyrenean brown bears, can swim and play.
Visitors will be able to watch the bears, for free, 24 hours a day through clear fences from all four sides of the park. The expanded terrain will allow Pedro and Tana some privacy—but the city promises to provide "technological equipment" to help visitors locate the animals if they become hard to spot.
Until the debut of BearPark, Pedro and Tana can be seen in their more modest open-air enclosure every day from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the summer, during which time they accept gifts of bear food that are available for purchase from bear guards.
Bern's relationship to bears can be traced back to the city's birth: The city founder, Berchtold V von Zãhringen, is said to have killed a bear on the peninsula where the city now stands. The capital's name comes from Bãr, which is German for bear, and the animal graces the Bern's coat of arms.
Video: See a kid feeding one of the bears of Bern: