Today was Sun Bear Day at Zoo Atlanta, and the zoo put together activities to raise awareness about the world’s smallest bear. You know I’m always down for a day celebrating bears, so I went to the zoo to check it out myself.
About Zoo Atlanta
Zoo Atlanta is one of the oldest zoos in the United States, started in 1889 with a traveling menagerie that had gone bankrupt. Today, Zoo Atlanta is involved in field conservation programs for wildlife in the state of Georgia and around the globe. Zoo Atlanta’s most significant investment in wildlife conservation is in Giant Panda conservation, but they share the love with their smaller bear residents, the Sun Bears, with the beary special Sun Bear Day events.
Sun Bear Day
The Sun Bear Day activities at Zoo Atlanta shine a light on the world’s smallest bear. The zoo’s two sun bears, Sabah and Xander, were a little slow to wake up to their festivities, but they really got moving once the keepers put out some food and enrichment for them to explore and discover throughout their habitat.
The sun bear is the least studied of all the bear species; they’re solitary and elusive, and when scientists have been able to put tracking collars on sun bears in the wild, these clever bears have been able to remove the collar.
These bears are so-named because of their distinctive yellow crescent-shaped spots on their chests. Each bear’s sun spot is different, and that’s the easiest way to tell them apart. Today I learned how to tell apart Zoo Atlanta’s two sun bears — the female bear Sabah has a circular spot that looks like an O and the male bear Xander has a U-shaped spot.
Sun bears love honey, and in their home of Asia they are often referred to as Honey Bears. Their massively long tongues are great for getting into bee hives, eating termites from logs, or licking up honey from the zoo observation window.
Sun bears live throughout Indonesia and Malaysia, but their population is rapidly decreasing due to deforestation by unsustainable palm oil plantations and logging and poaching, often being traded as pets or being hunted for their gallbladders and paws. This is a huge issue not only for the bears but for their habitat as a whole as they are an umbrella species, a keystone species, and an indicator species that plays an important role in the forest by keeping insect populations in check, creating habitats for other species, increasing soil nutrients as they forage, and dispersing seeds.
A few ways you can help combat these problems are: knowing which companies use sustainable palm oil by using the free Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s palm oil app; looking for the Forest Stewardship Council logo when buying paper products; and not sharing videos of humans interacting with wildlife inappropriately.
Sun Bear Day Activities
The Sun Bear Day activities at Zoo Atlanta include:
- A special Sun Bear Keeper Talk by a member of the Carnivore Team
- Fun puzzles so you can test your skills and see how you compare to Xander and Sabah
- A game to teach you which products use sustainable palm oil
- A Sun Bear Day Animal Tales storybook reading and activity
- An opportunity to purchase an exclusive Sun Bear Day button (100% of proceeds directly benefit the Bear Trust International)
The Sun Bear Day activities at Zoo Atlanta are included in your admission. Festivities take place May 16, 2019 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., though you can celebrate the world’s smallest bear by visiting the zoo year-round.
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What’s your favorite animal at Zoo Atlanta? Let me know in the comments!
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