- Padfoot the Painting Ocelot
- Unique jaguar makes public debut
- Jaguar gets new smile thanks to Valley team
- Rhinoceros Hornbill Chick
- New Jaguar on Exhibit!
- Zoo Babies! Black Footed Ferrets
- Positive Effects for Andean Bears
- Learn More About Phoenix Zoo Animals
- Budgett's Frog
- Poison Dart Frogs
- Patagonian Cavy
- All About the Desert Tortoise
- The Turkey Vulture
- Meet the Phoenix Zoo Meerkat Family
- The American Bald Eagle, Our Nation's Symbol
- Ruppell's Griffon Vulture Facts
- Facts About the Common Raven
- Undulated and Laced Moray Eels and the Coral Reef
- Giant Vietnamese Centipede
- The Phoenix Zoo's Asian Elephants
- When It Comes to Bird Beaks, Size Does Matter
- Petting Zoo at Harmony Farm
- Wild Dogs
- My Arts Community
Positive Effects for Andean Bears
An Enlarged Exhibit and a Progressive Enrichment Program - Positive Effects for Andean Bears (Tremarctos ornatus) at the Phoenix Zoo
Bears in captive settings have often demonstrated that large naturalistic environments tend to stimulate natural behaviors and reduce stereotypic activity (Criswell, Fuller). Stereotypic behaviors can be defined as any prolonged, repetitive behavior that the animal would not normally display as part of its normal repertoire. With this in mind, the Phoenix Zoo planned a bear exhibit with the behavioral needs of the animal in mind, and in 1997, opened a 1.5 acre Andean bear exhibit featuring two sister cubs. The large space was maximized by giving the exhibit a unique shape with multiple water features, plants, climbing structures, and both built in and variable keeper implemented enrichment. These methods created a habitat where no stereotypic behaviors were noted in the female cubs as they grew to adulthood. It was assumed that the exhibit design was mostly responsible for this.
In 2005, one female was shipped to another zoo for breeding and the Phoenix Zoo acquired a 22 year old male, "Willie". He was to be paired with the remaining female, named "
This exhibit provides options for promoting natural behavior, such as multiple climbing opportunities, primarily used by the female, with a fabricated tree, log climbing structures, and elevated rocky areas. These above ground spaces have a positive affect on the Andean bear, as they are excellent climbers. Keepers take advantage of the water feature by placing large, frozen treat items in the water. Floating items, such as boomer balls, rotten logs, and empty beer kegs add to the water interaction. Live fish in both ponds provide hunting opportunities, while natural, non-toxic algae growth in the streams offer browse foraging. The male has been observed slapping at the surface of the water to stun fish before consuming them.
Enrichment opportunities are provided on a daily basis for our bears. The use of claws and teeth are always kept as an objective, so enrichment focuses on the bears being able to investigate an item, tear at it, or manipulate it at will. Items that the bears never tire of are large rotten logs to tear apart (honey or other food items can be placed inside). Various types of feeders and feeding devices are used, and browse is placed around the exhibit daily to encourage nest building, as this is an important behavior to practice for Andean bears.
The exhibit also allows for privacy from large crowds. This aspect is important to the bears well being, as well as privacy from the other bear. There are multiple areas for retreat from the public, if needed. The bulk of the shade plants were placed near the perimeter fence to facilitate hiding. Although the public has a 360 degree viewing radius of the exhibit, heavy planting creates a good barrier along certain sides.
Our female, having spent most of her life in this exhibit, appears to be a fairly calm individual and displays an even, low-stress temperament, with no stereotypic behaviors ever observed. She appears to dominate the space shared with the male, which he appears to accept with little confrontation, as there are many opportunities for him to utilize the space away from the female.
Spectacled bears present a challenge to display. They can be a somewhat shy, and often remain inactive during the hot summer months of the American Southwest. They are also a smaller species of bear that can be difficult to spot, especially while camouflaged in the shady areas of the exhibit. Zoo visitors often comment about the lack of viewing opportunities of the bear exhibit. However, many visitors do not realize the size of the exhibit and that they can walk the perimeter around it. When bears are sighted by zoo visitors, they are frequently displaying natural behaviors, or interacting with each other, the exhibit, or enrichment items. Many comment that the size, set up, and natural display make the exhibit one of their favorites. (The bears are found to be most active early morning and late afternoon.)
Although this exhibit is now 11 years old, it still is considered innovative and continues to meet the needs of our bears. The effect of the larger space available has evidently been positive for the bears. It can be surmised, through keeper observations and visitor satisfaction, that this larger space addition is the key to an increased quality of life for the bears. The exhibit itself offers the best kind of enrichment any zoo has to offer - appropriate space and design options suitable for the needs of an individual species or taxa.
Works Cited: Altman, Joanne D. "Effects of Inedible, Manipulable Objects on Captive Bears". Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 2.2 (1999):123-132. American Association of Zookeepers Website: www.aazk.org. Johnson, L. Minimum Husbandry Guidelines for Mammals: Bears. Association of Zoo's and Aquariums Website 1997:1-4. http://members.aza.org/departments/ConScienceMO/HusbandryGuidelines/documents/Bears.pdf. Criswell, Andrew R., and James L. Fuller. "Learning Adaptation in Caged and Enriched Environments: There's Nothing Like a Change of Scenery". International Bear News 15.2 (2006): 25-28. Poulsen, E., "Applying Modern Husbandry Techniques to Resolve Chronic Behavioural and Physical Problems in Two Captive Andean Bears". Bear Taxon Advisory Group Workshop, 2001. Poulsen, E., Willms, E., "Eradicating Baldness and Pacing in Two Captive Andean Bears". Animal Keepers' Forum, ISSN 0164-9531, American Association of Zoo Keepers, Inc. Ed. S. Chan. April 2001, 165-172.