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Lincoln Park Zoo's Seals Will Get More Room and Shade With Exhibit Rehab

By Mina Bloom | February 4, 2016 2:05pm | Updated on February 5, 2016 10:37am

LINCOLN PARK — Arguably the most popular exhibit at the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Kovler Seal Pool, is about to get a makeover.

Starting early next week, crews will begin the renovations, which include doubling the size of the deck space, adding more shade for the seals and adding artificial seaweed, which will give the water "more complexity," according to Dave Bernier, general curator for the Lincoln Park Zoo. 

"The changes won't be major structural changes to the pool, but they're going to help us when we work with the seals," Bernier said. 

The deck, which is made of rock, will be enlarged. [All photos Courtesy/Lincoln Park Zoo]

The renovations will make the exhibit more comfortable for both the seals and the zoo workers. Doubling the size of the deck will give the seals and the workers more room, and expanding the shade sail — a request by the United States Department of Agriculture — will provide more relief from the sun, Bernier said.

The zoo is also planning to add somewhere around 50 pieces of artificial kelp, or large seaweed, to the pool so seals can swim through a more "complex" body of water. Visitors in the under-water viewing area will also get the added benefit of a more visually interesting exhibit.

"It'll be more motion for viewers," Bernier said. "Instead of looking through the water, they'll be able to see this kelp going off into the distance."

The zoo also wants to add lighting to the back of the pool, which would be incorporated into ZooLights, the zoo's annual holiday event series.

During construction, which is expected to last up to three months, the seals will be off-exhibit in another zoo building.

The Kovler Seal Pool dates all the way back to 1879, when it was first constructed for sea lions and known as the Kovler Seal Lion Pool. 

Though a zoo spokeswoman couldn't say how many visitors typically stop at the exhibit, Bernier said it was easily the most visible exhibit since it's located in the main area near the west entrance. Both Bernier and the zoo spokeswoman said it was one of, if not the most, popular exhibit at the zoo.

Bernier said the exhibit has only been renovated one other time in his 25 years at the zoo. In May of 1999, the exhibit was renovated to replicate the animals' natural habitat, according to the zoo's website. 

"Whenever we can make space that's more usable for animals, it's definitely a win for everybody," Bernier said.

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