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Public opening next week of redesigned home for Houston Zoo black bears

2 rescued bears move into new habitat ahead of public opening

(Photo credit: Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo)
(Photo credit: Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo) (Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo)

HOUSTON – The Houston Zoo is expected to open to the public a redesigned home for its two North American black bears next week.

Zoo officials said Belle and Willow got their first look at their new home Monday. Guests will be able to experience the world of the bears and get nose to nose with them through a brand-new glass wall beginning Friday, Aug. 31.

The Hamill Foundation Black Bear Exhibit is the first project to be completed thanks to donor support of the "Keeping Our World Wild" centennial capital campaign, zoo officials said. The expansion more than triples the space for Belle and Willow to explore.

WATCH: North American Black Bears move in to expanded habitat at Houston Zoo

Zoo officials said the expanded habitat was designed to give the 5-year-old black bears the highest quality of life. It also includes engaging features throughout, such as a water feature, climbing structures and ample shade.

(Photo credit: Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo)
(Photo credit: Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo)

Belle and Willow came to the Houston Zoo in 2013 from California, where they were being fed by patrons of a restaurant and appeared to be orphaned, zoo officials said. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rescued the two bears and asked the zoo if it could offer them a home.

Zoo officials said the Houston Zoo saves bears in the wild by participating in state protection planning in Texas.