Thursday, December 8, 2011

New sloth bear undergoes quarantine exam

Posted by: Martin Ramirez, Mammal Curator


A month after arriving to Woodland Park Zoo via FedEx from Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas, 7-year-old, female sloth bear, Tasha, underwent her quarantine exam on Tuesday. At Woodland Park Zoo, the quarantine exam is the last major step in the process to clear a newly arrived animal out of standard 30-day quarantine and prepare them to move into their exhibit.

Dr. Darin Collins, the zoo’s director of Animal Health, inspects Tasha's teeth. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.
Tasha received a full physical examination by our expert Animal Health staff that included blood work, radiographs and weight—essential baseline data that we keep on file to reference as we track an animal’s health over their lifetime.

Close up of Tasha's claws. Sloth bears dig out insect mounds with their long, sharp claws. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.
Weighing in at 215 pounds, Tasha received a clean bill of health and has been approved to begin introductions to her exhibit and her new mate, Randy, the zoo’s 14-year-old male sloth bear.

The zoo's Animal Health team completes Tasha's quarantine exam. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.
Tasha was relocated here under a breeding recommendation by the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for sloth bears. SSPs, administered by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), are cooperative breeding programs to help ensure genetic diversity and demographic stability of endangered species in North American zoos and aquariums. Tasha has never had any offspring so her genetics are particularly valuable to keeping the sloth bear gene pool diverse.

Woodland Park Zoo last had sloth bear cubs in 2004. They have since moved to other AZA-accredited zoos. Photo by Dale Unruh/Woodland Park Zoo.
While keepers will have their hands full introducing Tasha to Randy and getting the bears acquainted and comfortable together, another big project is in the works for sloth bears at the zoo. Woodland Park Zoo is currently designing a new, naturalistic exhibit complex for sloth bears, Malayan tigers, Asian small-clawed otters and tropical birds. The $19.6 million exhibit project, part of the zoo’s $80 million More Wonder More Wild Campaign, will replace the 60-year-old infrastructure that critically endangered tigers and Asian bears currently inhabit at the zoo.

Sloth bear at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
With the new exhibit design, we’ll bring visitors closer than ever to these bears, while also providing the bears with more than twice the space to accommodate multiple generations and to give the bears novel enrichment opportunities that bring out their fascinating adaptations and natural behaviors. In the new exhibit, sloth bears will use their sense of smell and dexterity to retrieve food hidden in digging pits. They will eat marrow from bones they break open in a specially designed bone-breaking pit, slurp grubs out of logs and put their vacuum-like eating style to work at a keeper-assisted feeding demonstration.

Sloth bear foraging. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.
A new home for sloth bears that engages and inspires zoo visitors is especially important as Woodland Park Zoo’s sloth bears are ambassadors for their endangered counterparts in the wild, native to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Their survival is challenged by fragmented populations, deforestation and the bear parts trade. Sloth bears are very rare in zoos, with fewer than 50 currently living in North American zoos.

Draft artist’s concept rendering. Courtesy of Studio Hanson/Roberts.
We hope to unveil more of the plans for the new tiger and sloth bear exhibit project early next year. Stay tuned here for updates and learn how to get involved in the project at http://www.morewonder.org/.

2 comments:

  1. I'm really looking forward to seeing Tasha in the exhibit and I'm especially pleased about the future new exhibit for some of the Asian animals.

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  2. Megan in WallingfordDecember 20, 2011 at 10:17 AM

    Oh, I was really hoping you'd put in a feeding demonstration! That was one of the coolest things I'd seen at the National Zoo, once I could be dragged away from the pandas.

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