Black Bears (Selenarctos thibetanus)
of the seven bear species can now be seen at Glasgow Zoopark. Though
bears are large cousins of dogs, they mostly take a very varied
diet with little meat. Asian Black Bears are much smaller than polar
bears - weighing not much more than a heavy human - and are very
wide ranging from Iran to Japan in the wild. They forage for nuts
and fruit, and are good climbers, and have plenty of opportunity
for such activities in their large wooded "foraging enclosure".
Here patience (and binoculars!) may be needed to observe them, but
will be rewarded by a rare opportunity to watch a wild animal in
semi-wild conditions. In winter they often go into a state of lethargy
- not strictly hibernation - so please understand if they do not
emerge much before the spring from their comfortable indoor accommodation!
and Blackie Bring Politics to Bear
four bears, two arrived from Dudley Zoo in 1998. Sooty was
born in 1985 or 1986 at Dudley Zoo. Together with her friend, 'Blackie',
another female, they resolutely fought with the other two females
at Dudley, at every opportunity, so had to be kept separated.
had, here in Glasgow, four female Black Bears rescued from Loch
Lomond Bear Park in 1984/5. Most were middle-aged, at least, at
that time, having arrived mature in the early 1970s. Two died of
old-age-related disorders (severely arthritic spines, for example)
over the past five years, which created the room for the Dudley
and Blackie arrived here in 1998 and settled in well. To
date we have only occasionally mixed them with our original bears,
preferring to put one pair in one large enclosure, the other pair
in the other, and they seem quite happy with this. This summer,
though, we are going to try to integrate the four bears together,
as we think this might be more interesting for them and us, once
the initial skirmishing is over.
enclosures (one of which is nearly 1.5 hectares in area and packed
with trees and other vegetation) were never designed to be used
in the manner we currently use them. They were designed so that
the house and top enclosure were in use during the day, when there
was plenty of activity with visitors, staff, etc., and consequent
interest for the bears. Then, in late afternoon when it became quieter,
they would be given access to the larger, planted enclosure, where
they could (happily, we hoped) occupy themselves. We hadn't anticipated
bear politics of the type we have encountered.
could be expected to live until she was forty if she was lucky.
Any age past twenty-five is good though. She eats almost anything,
being an omnivore, though we try to feed a balanced diet using all
the extra bits and pieces as enrichment items to be scattered through
the undergrowth to keep her occupied.
Honey Tree is a "V-shaped" vertical tree, with two trunks, the top
of the right fork has had a space hollowed out allowing a plastic
bottle filled with clear honey to be placed. The honey drips through
a tube from the plastic bottle.
to encourage the bears to climb and investigate, and also stimulate
their sense of smell.
three times a week (but at irregular intervals) clear honey is put
into the plastic bottle at the top of one of the trunks. A secure
lid prevents any bear short-circuiting the system by wrenching out
bottle and honey in one go. Instead, the honey drips out near the
top of the trunk requiring a bear to climb and hang on, using all
four legs, in order to get at the honey. The great advantage of
this arrangement is that it requires a high energy output by the
bears (exercise and effort) for a low calorific return (not too
addition, food such as apples are put at various points on the tree,
also to encourage climbing, and eggs are occasionally placed in
the hollow top of the left fork.
are highly intelligent, exploring animals.
the wild bears forage a great deal. Here we use SCATTER FEEDING
- the keepers scatter tasty morsels through the undergrowth to
encourage the bears to go exploring.
of their food is fixed to WOODEN PEGS on the tall platform
at the top of the enclosure - bears have to climb to get such
is regularly hidden in a ROCK PILE, and in several narrow
pipes, embedded vertically in the ground. The bears use various
techniques to extract apples or other food from these, such as
spearing them on their claws or scooping them up the edge of the
top enclosure contains a POOL which the bears clearly enjoy
splashing about in.
the valley enclosure, the bears have constructed several NESTS,
some on the ground - one is under an upturned tree stump - and
some up trees.
there Room for Bears in Today's World?
humans have to decide.
Asian Black Bears are in danger from us in all parts of their
range and are now rarely seen in the wild.
India adult bears are often killed because of attacks on sheep or
cattle, or so that their cubs can be trained as performing bears.
the Himalayas and elsewhere, many bears are killed annually to satisfy
Eastern demands for their meat, bile and bones (supposed to be valuable
medicines) and so that their paws can be turned into highly expensive
soup. (Sometimes US$850 a plate in Japan).
Japan hundreds of Black bears are killed every year. Partly this
is because of the damage the bears do to trees (peeling the bark
off), and because they sometimes attack humans. But Black bears
may well be extinct in Japan by the end of the 20th century.
are unlikely to survive into tomorrow's world without human protection.
Here's how YOU can help them:
the National Federation of Zoos, who are co-ordinating captive
breeding programmes of endangered species.
conservation organisations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature
Bears - A Solution?
years at Glasgow Zoopark, we have been disheartened by the hair-loss
each summer of one of our Asiatic black bears.
bear, every July and August, lost most of the hair from the shoulders,
over her rump and stomach to midway up her hind legs. We have been
investigating every possibility: diets, management, ecto-parasites,
etc., to no avail. We received an e-mail from a Thailand Bear Reserve
concerning a bear with similar "symptoms", asking if we could
help. Apparently, bears in this condition have been observed in
Canada also, in the wild.
chance, we think we may have stumbled on the solution.
afternoon from 4pm onwards our herd of Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs
start scratching and rubbing themselves furiously against walls
and posts. They are being pestered by midges, a minute and notorious
version of the mosquito - the bane of the summer tourism industry
in the Scottish Highlands.
year our bear and a female companion have remained, night and day,
in a 1.5 hectare, thickly planted "foraging" enclosure. She
has regained nearly all of her fur. We think this is because she
is able to alter her location in her enclosure. On "midgy days"
she can move to a breezy area, or climb a tree.
repeated rubbing, skin becomes dermatised, as with our bear. If
no ecto-parasites are present at any location on the bear, which
is the case, midge attacks of a susceptible individual could, perhaps,
cause sufficient irritation as to create this condition.
previous years this bear and her companion remained in - or near
- the dens in the main house. The enclosure was mainly a flattish,
grassy, sheltered paddock - ideal now we have become aware of this,
for Bear Enclosure
Bears Historically in Scotland
Bongo bear from Italy
Black Bear Enclosure
Bears:Their Status,Conservation & Welfare in Captivity