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Despite long lines, future of popular polar bears TBD

Chris Caya/WBFO News

"Lunamania" is driving attendance way up at The Buffalo Zoo. President Donna Fernandes says the polar cubs Luna and Kali are doing well, but the bears' future in Buffalo remains up in the air.

Fernades says attendance is up by 17,000 over 2012. The crowds started arriving in March when Luna went on display. Then three weeks ago, Kali, an orphaned cub from Alaska, arrived. The president says the lines have been "amazing."

"I've never seen lines before to see an individual animal. There have been lines to get into the Zoo, but not lines to see an animal. People are so enamored with the two of them splashing in the pool together, rolling around, wrestling, that people who haven't been to the Zoo in 20 years are coming back to see them," Fernandes says.

But to keep the bears, the Zoo needs to build a new exhibit. With less than a month to go in the fundraising campaign, Fernandes says she's "living on pins and needles."

"We're at $16.2 million. We're hoping to hear some news about any state funding within the next couple weeks because we have to get to $18 million before we bid the project," she says.  

If the goal is met on time, Fernandes says construction of the new exhibit could start after Labor Day. In the meantime, she says the zoo and federal regulators are discussing alternatives that would allow keeping the bears in a temporary exhibit in Buffalo beyond this summer. 

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