Nesting with sun bears
One of the great benefits that we have as animal care professionals is that we get to watch the animals in our care for an extended period of time. When doing this, you can learn every animal’s individual personality, their likes and dislikes, along with how their problem-solving skills differ from others. One of the things that we all love to watch is the sun bears getting ready for bed. With a lot of the animals, such as the cats, we need to provide them with a nice comfy hay bed that has been nicely made up to perfection by the animal care team. This is because the cats and some of the other animals will not make their own beds, no matter how nicely we ask them to. Sun bears are a different story.
The Zoo’s pair of sun bears, Xander and Sabah, love to make themselves a nice comfy bed that is just right to their own specifications. One of the greatest forms of enrichment for them is to provide a nice large pile of hay/browse/leaves for them to utilize. Xander is more of a get-it-done, and get-it-done-fast kind of guy. He likes to just grab a handful of material and make a large fluffy pile for himself. Sabah, on the other hand, has some exacting standards when it comes to her bed. She will carefully select the proper amount of material, inspect it closely, and then place it carefully. Lots of times she will end up moving a pile that she has just placed because it probably wasn’t just right. This process will normally take from 30 to 60 minutes each night. Some of the most fun times to watch is when Xander feels that a large chunk of Sabah’s bed is the missing element from his bed. In this case, he will just go over and grab it, and take it back to his bed. While he is using this wonderful new material for his bed, Sabah will normally come up, while his back is turned, and return the favor by taking a large piece of his bed to repair hers. He isn’t the only one who takes what he wants, as she will also do this to him on days that he doesn’t. There is never any aggression or even communication while this is going on. They are just going about their business. This process can sometimes go on for quite some time, regardless of how much extra hay we give them, and is quite humorous to watch. In the morning, while we are cleaning out their night dens, we will always sweep up their beds into a pile so they can repeat the process that evening.
Assistant Curator of Mammals