When designing a modern animal enclosure, we start by carefully studying the natural behaviour of the animal that will live in it. What does the animal need? Can it retreat out of sight if it wants to, for example? Animals native to tropical rainforests require access to heated indoor enclosures as soon as it gets too cold outside. We also try to stimulate the animals’ natural behaviour by surprising them with various forms of behavioural enrichment. In this edition: behavioural enrichment for inquisitive sun bears.
Sun bears are known to be excellent climbers. They are also good diggers and surprisingly strong. On top of that, they are curious and inquisitive by nature and—for bears—are very active. As such, you could say that the furnishings of their accommodation needs to be “vandalism proof”.
In Arnhem, the bears can dig several metres deep, but then encounter a sturdy fence. They can also climb several climbing trees in the enclosure, which are connected by tree trunks as natural cross-links. Great care has been taken to ensure that the bears cannot escape their enclosure through the trees. There is also a water feature in the enclosure where the bears can cool down in hot weather and quench their thirst. One part of the enclosure features boulders that the bears love to turn over in search of insects and other tasty treats. Their extraordinary strength is once again evident: with one tap of a front leg, they effortlessly roll over a rock that an adult human would struggle to lift.
Sun bears are also known as honey bears because they love honey. In the wild, sun bears are regularly seen raiding bee nests high up in trees searching for honey. The animals get some honey from time to time in our park, too, but we are careful not to give them too much. Like humans, sun bears can become obese if they are fed too many sugary foods.
To further stimulate the natural curious behaviour of these omnivores, zookeepers cut fruit into small pieces and mix in lots of mealworms and other healthy treats. They spread this food throughout the enclosure, especially in more hard to reach places between the rocks or high up in the trees. This keeps the bears busy looking for their meal. A lick of honey here and there in a tree trunk or branch is the icing on the cake. The bears usually look for the honey first before tracking down the rest of the food.
In late November 2021, the sun bears received an extraordinary form of behavioural enrichment: a giant pumpkin weighing 635.5 kg with a circumference of 4.65 metres! The grower had cut a square hatch out of the front to collect the seeds for the next harvest; this also gave the bears an entryway to get to work inside the fruit. Finally, a little honey was spread strategically on and inside the giant pumpkin to guarantee success. The fruit was so big that it had to be moved into the enclosure on a pallet using a forklift truck. After some curious sniffing, one of the Malayan sun bears soon had its head and upper body inside the pumpkin. Not long after, another decided to enlarge the access hatch with its sharp claws to share in the treat. Within an hour, the giant fruit had been hollowed out, and several holes had been made in the hard skin. The bears seemed to have the time of their lives with the interesting and edible giant toy!
All members of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) participate in various European b…
14 February 2022
At 9 am on Friday, 19 November, a giant pumpkin weighing 635.5 kilos and a circumference of 4.65 met…
19 November 2021
25 July 2019