Zoo grizzlies moving into new habitat Centene helped fund

After a mama bear became a problem in Montana and was put down, wildlife officials were tasked with finding a new home for her two cubs.

Marcela Manjarrez-Hawn, Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for Centene, checks out the new grizzly bear habitat at the St. Louis Zoo.  (Photo by Jessica Machetta)

Huck and Finley are in quarantine for now, but will soon move into a brand new $11.1 million habitat, complete with a waterfall, rock bluff, ponds and other things bears love, like grass and dirt. A wading pool is supported on one side by a thick glass wall, that lets visitors, as Zoo President and CEO Jeffrey Bonner says, be “nose to glass with these incredible creatures.”

The Centene Grizzly Ridge exhibit is the last project to be completed from a 2010 initiative to raise $120 million for improvements (fundraisers actually raised $134 million). One of the largest donors was Centene, based in Clayton.

“Centene’s purpose is to improve the health of the community one person at a time,” said Marcela Manjarrez-Hawn, Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for Centene. “The charitable foundation provides support to initiatives and organizations that improve the quality of life and health of our communities.”

“Part of that is making contributions to things that foster community involvement,” she said. “The St. Louis Zoo is a perfect example of such an organization. It is one of our regions most beloved landmarks.”

Manjarrez-Hawn lauded the St. Louis Zoo as one of the nation’s top wildlife, conservation, research, and education centers, and the more than 1,000 volunteer staff members.

“This is latest in the zoo’s efforts to responsibly showcasing some of the world’s most beautiful creatures,” she said. “We look forward to the opening of this newest exhibit, and we look forward to bringing these beautiful animals back to St. Louis.”

Centene Grizzly Ridge opens to the public Sept. 15.

The cubs’ story

The sibling cubs, a 104-pound yearling female grizzly bear and a 123-pound yearling male, were captured near Ferndale in northwestern Montana July 15, 2016 when their mother was removed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Service.

The female is now 250 pounds and the male is 350 pounds. They are currently at the zoo in quarantine, a period designed to prevent the introduction of transmissible diseases to zoological collections and to provide acclimation. They will soon move into Centene Grizzly Ridge.

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