Sunset Zoo is preparing to receive two sloth bears as its Expedition Asia project nears completion.
In mid-June, two young sloth bears, Molly and Tess, will move from Idaho Falls Zoo to Sunset Zoo, the Idaho entity announced Monday.
The cubs were born Dec. 12, 2019, at the Idaho Falls Zoo. Each about one pound at birth, Molly now weighs 200 pounds while Tess is a bit smaller at 170 pounds. Sloth bears are medium-sized among bears and will reach full adult weight of 300-350 pounds when they are about 3 years old.
While the bears will get here this month, the public won’t actually see them until next year, said Sunset Zoo director Scott Shoemaker.
Shoemaker said the bears will be kept off-site while workers wrap up construction on the zoo’s Expedition Asia project. The project includes construction of three new exhibits for tigers, sloth bears and leopards, an elevated overlook pavilion and a new path that will be accessible to disabled people.
Shoemaker said the project experienced some delays “because of COVID obviously,” but it is on track to finish in early November.
“This project has been a long time coming,” Shoemaker said. “We’ve been at this project for almost six years. We’re pretty excited to see this almost come to fruition.”
However, Sunset doesn’t plan to open the area to the public until April 2022. Shoemaker said the animals likely would be acclimated by December or January, but the zoo doesn’t want to open the exhibit for the first time during the winter.
Shoemaker said it’s been at least four years since Sunset has displayed sloth bears.
“It’s obviously very exciting,” he said. “We wouldn’t be doing the project if we didn’t think we needed sloth bears at the zoo.”