Sunday, June 24, 2012

What to do at Bears ... Not a Question but a Suggestion

I wrote this post in part over a month ago, but after seeing this sign last week at Wishbones former home, I am finally finishing it and posting it.   It hurts my heart that the Zoo didn't respect Wishbone enough to give him a natural place to live and for that matter die, so this coming into play now is painful.  That said, in order to move forward it must be done.  Question is what is their plan?  I can guess, but I won't do it here.  What I will do is post some suggestions.

A friend recently took a photo of the Detroit Bear Grotto's.  It appears that their Bear area was built at the same time as ours.  It has the same structure design and layout, concrete depression-era WPA (Works Progress Administration) style.  The Detroit Zoo has taken an upgrade much like what our former Bear Keeper Deb Cano had accomplished with the meadow grotto shared by the Polar Bears, expanded on it and made it wonderful.  

Detroit Zoo Bear Grotto 
Photo courtesy of Valerie Abbott
View her wonderful Animal Photos 

You can see by the photo that they have knocked down a wall (from what I've been told) to create a double wide landscaped space.  They used the exisiting structure and created a natural living space for these Animals.

I have never heard that there is anything wrong with the exisiting Bear area structure, so there shouldn't be an issue working with what they have.  Whether this idea would work or not, there are options to making the Bear Grotto's better without total demolition and rebuild.  

I'm going to borrow this paragraph from my previous post as its relevant and I like each post to read as a stand alone piece.

There are Zoo purists (I've come across on specifically)  that think Zoo's (SFZoo has been among the named), should demolish all these old buildings and build new state of the art exhibits.  Sure ideally all captive animals would live in sanctuary type settings, but realistically because of financial constraints and Animal residents, that really isn't a logical approach.  In my opinion as a Visitor,  upgrading and "sprucing" things up is.  I have voiced my opinion on upgrades while on my crusade to get Wishbone Grass (that's right, I will never stop mentioning this disrespect).  For the "sprucing" up and generally making older areas look better, I think the Zoo has made a good start with what they have done with the Anteater and Bobcat exhibits, now they need to work on the bigger blocks of concrete.  

What the SFZoo has is four grotto's that need upgrading.  One has an exisiting meadow, so basically three need the like.  They should (need to) figure out a way to utilize the meadow and Pike's grotto (and during the day the Grizzly Grotto) as the two living spaces for she and Ulu,  (they may need a better (upgraded) rotating system behind the scenes to make that happen).  Then knock down Ulu's exising wall with that of Wishbone's former home and make that one big landscaped grotto.  When that is done, they should (need to) move Pike and Ulu to that area and do the same, knock down the wall between the meadow and Pike and create a second double wide landscaped area.  Having two huge landscaped ares, instead of one small one limited to the neighboring occupants and three concrete ones is hands down a better living situation for these Animals.  And is doable in their lifetimes.

OR figure out a way to give the Polars access to the Grizzly Grotto and Gulch on a rotating basis.  That Grizzly Grotto that had grass goes unused from 11a-4p everyday.  Disgusting while two Polars are on concrete.   One Keeper wanted to make it happen in the lifetime of the female Andean Bear Annie and female Polar Andy, but that didn't happen.  Now Wishbone is gone.  Is your plan to let them all die having spent most of their lives on concrete, before you make changes?

First- Rig a new system so rotating all Bears between all Grotto's is doable.
Second- Crack that concrete and landscape!

From the stand point of visitor empathy and this photo, it would seem like a doable way to bring a natural home to these Bears and make for better public appearance.  Something should not be done just for the public, but when it can enhance the life of the Animal, especcially a captive one, it should be done.  I never hear anyone complain about the Big Cat area, and that area was once barren concrete like the Bears.  It was lanscaped at least Twenty years ago.  I wrote and posted photos about this here:

Contrary to the belief of the Zoo, providing a natural living environment (grass not concrete) is not Enrichment, its humane.  Oh, and concrete does not equal "a rocky ground".  Concrete = asphalt, not a natural surface.  I guess I never looked close enough to this sign, because the whole "rocky ground" thing, that must be a joke right?   Next thing you will be putting up a sign saying its also part of your Wellness program.  Good Grief!

I'd also like to see those stupid fences taken down at Ulu and Pikes place.  They were put up after the Tatiana event to deter escaping.  Laughable since they are only on the concrete grotto's.  If they were going to escape wouldn't they do so via the meadow as well?   I'd rather see glass like at Big Cats, so there isn't a constant stream of idiots invading the Bears space, both vocally and by gesturing and sometimes dangling over the barriers.  But this might be alot to ask for, so I'd settle for signs saying not to do this, at least for now.

Currently this sign is only at the Asian Rhino exhibit.  Why?

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  1. I couldnt agree more with the bear grottos quite easily renovated and your examples...perfect. My heart breaks every time I see Wishy's grotto and in my heart believe that he would have still been with us if he had had a soft surface to rest his joints and back. Andean Bears live in the wild on only soft grassy surfaces. The zoo lacks in signage by the bears. I'd like to see glass that can't be touched. Glass where we can enjoy watching and taking photos without fingerprints on the glass.

  2. @Lee- Thank you for your comment. ... I too definitely know Wishy would still be alive. Yes he was higher up in age, but had no other issues and was fully coherent mentally when they put him down. It is a crime that Management (current and past) has known about his bone/back/joint issues for years and never made any adjustments. In fact he had access to the meadow last in 2008 (I think my photo is dated) and he had problems then and they took him off that surface and death sentenced him on concrete. Its disgusting. The Director and Board Members live pretty well, Zoological Board Chairman David Stanton claims to be a supporter of the Animals and Enrichment and he lived here!i=808440139&k=2YGew

    while Wishbone lived on concrete. Inexcusable. ... Yes to glass all along the Bear Grotto Strip! Not Glass up to the barrier but at the area where the fencing is, so there is a distance and people can't bang on the glass. It would protect the Animals from being vulnerable and yes would help with photo taking, but the Animal safety would be great.


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