[Animals] Why do bears die early in zoos?


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"Zoos should ask their animals what do you like to eat? What foods keep you in the best health?" Charles Robbins, a professor of wildlife biology at Washington State University and founder of the only research institute in the United States to study bears, came to grips with this idea when, with the help of graduate students, he discovered his misconception of the brown bear as eating only salmon.


A female grizzly bear named Ginger is seen in an undated picture released by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Columbus, Ohio on September 11, 2015. Ginger, the oldest brown bear in captivity in North America, was euthanized at the age of 40 on Thursday afternoon due to severe conditions brought on by old age, the zoo said. REUTERS/Columbus Zoo and Aquarium/Handout via ReutersATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO SALES. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.


This happened in a previous study he conducted with his students in Alaska to observe the feeding behavior of brown bears as they ate salmon. The common perception at the time was that fearful grizzly bears ate salmon, fell asleep, then got up and ate more of it. Instead, they found them eating salmon, walking around And she spends hours eating small berries. Robbins and his collaborators discovered that brown bears reach their maximum weight when they eat a mixture of protein, fat and carbohydrates through salmon and berries.

The study revealed that unbalanced feeding of sloth bears is slowly killing them
The study revealed that the unbalanced feeding of sloth bears kills them slowly (Shutterstock)
Unbalanced food
Robbins has been studying the eating habits of bears for decades, and with a group of his graduate students began examining imbalanced diets for bears in zoos.

In a scientific study published in Scientific Reports on the diet of giant pandas and bears of all kinds, Charles concluded that bears, like humans, prefer food that mixes meat and plants, and that they need less protein than they are fed in zoos. .

In the press release issued by Washington State University on the third of October, Robbins confirmed that bears are not carnivores like cats and dogs that need a large amount of protein, and indicated that zoos feed all types of bears with large amounts of protein as if they were It is a carnivore, and that kills it slowly and leads to its early death compared to its wild counterparts.

In two separate experiments, researchers gave giant bears and sloth bears in different zoos unlimited amounts of different types of food to see their preferences, and their eating habits and preferences were recorded.

**For indoor use only*** Sloth bears favored fat-rich avocados and a few sweet potatoes and completely ignored apples (Source: Scientific Reports)
Sloth bears favored fat-rich avocados and a few sweet potatoes and completely ignored apples (Scientific Reports)
Bears' food preferences
In collaboration with researchers from Texas A&M University and the Memphis Zoo, they fed a pair of giant pandas to examine their dietary choices, and found that the giant pandas preferred carbohydrate-rich bamboo to protein-rich leaves.

Sometimes, pandas ate only bamboo, 98 percent of the time, throughout March. The researchers analyzed data from 5 Chinese zoos that have long-lived giant pandas and found that they prefer a diet rich in carbohydrates and low in protein.

In other experiments at the Cleveland, Little Rock, and San Diego zoos, sloth bears were given unlimited amounts of avocado, baked sweet potato, whey, and apples. The sloth bears chose avocados, which are 88% fat, and sweet potatoes, 12%, and completely ignored apples.

This proves that sloth bears in zoos prefer a diet rich in fats that contains low amounts of carbohydrates, which is similar to the composition of the diet of their wild counterparts that feed on termites, ants, their larvae and eggs.

This is very different from the high-carbohydrate food you eat in the zoo, and sloth bears whose home is in India live about 17 years in American zoos, which is less than their age in wild environments by about 20 years, and the main cause of their death is liver cancer.

The researchers found a similar pattern in previous studies of polar bears, which showed that polar bears in zoos typically eat high-protein diets but prefer the high-fat diet of wild polar bears if given the possibility.

And polar bears die in zoos 10 years before their age on average, as a result of kidney and liver diseases, due to inflammation of these organs resulting from many years of balanced food.

Ru Yi, a male giant panda, is seen behind a glass wall while eating bamboo inside an enclosure at the Moscow Zoo in the capital Moscow, Russia January 23, 2020. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina
Giant pandas preferred carbohydrate-rich bamboo reeds to protein-rich leaves (Reuters)
Bears know better about their food
The current study, along with previous studies, shows that bears in zoos, if given the ability to choose, will prefer foods that are similar or similar to the food of their wild counterparts. ‏

The researchers explain that the bears may have acquired these eating habits later, which allows them to spread in a large number of areas without competing with their carnivores, and allows them more and more food resources instead of being limited to eating high-protein meat.




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