Asheboro, NC - After being gone from the North Carolina Zoo for nearly two years, Aquila, one of the zoo's two polar bears, returned to the zoo Wednesday night after a two-year stay at the Detroit Zoo.

Aquila, a 20 year-old-male, was moved to the Detroit in May 2011 while major renovations were underway at the zoo's polar bear exhibit. The zoo's second polar bear, Wilhelm, remains at the Milwaukee Co. Zoo in Wisconsin, where he was sent in September 2011, also as part of the exhibit-renovation project.

Aquila will have several weeks to adjust to being back in his new surroundings before the exhibit is officially reopened to the public May 15.

Aquila was born at the Louisville Zoo in 1992 and has spent much of his life at the North Carolina Zoo. Wilhelm, a 28-year-old male (better known as "Willie"), was born at the Copenhagen (Denmark) Zoo but came to the zoo when he and seven other polar bears were confiscated in November 2002 by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from a circus performing in Puerto Rico.

The $8.5-million expansion of the zoo's polar bear exhibit is scheduled to open in 2014.

"Polar bears, always one of the zoo's most popular animals, are iconic figures under severe threat from global climate change," said Ken Reininger, the zoo's general curator. "(We) hope the reopening of the polar bear exhibit will draw attention to this global issue and what each of us can do to help address it."

The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, John E. Skvarla,III, Secretary; Pat McCrory, Governor.