South American Bears Make Themselves at Home in Phoenix

By Nathaniel Lee, Miguel Montanez, Arun Mohan, Evan Myers and Ethan Palm
June 25, 2014

The only type of bear to inhabit South America also resides at the Phoenix Zoo.

The Andean bear, an endangered species, is just one of the more than 1,400 animals on exhibition.

Caretaker Shawna Farrington uses a special technique to work with the zoo’s Andean bears: classical conditioning. She carries a bell with her every day, using it mainly to call the bears in for food and bring them to their night house for sleep and checkups.

The bears receive chow, chopped pieces of fruit and other treats in paper bags. The bags make the food easier to throw, and reminds the animals of an animal carcass.

The bell is also used during playtime. The bears get different toys on a regular basis. The changes keep them excited and curious -- which is good for zoo visitors.

Changes to the bears’ environment also help keep them comfortable. They feel freer, which in turn cultivates a more positive attitude and relaxed movement.

The Phoenix Zoo has boosted security in the exhibit by upgrading fences with hot wire. It keeps visitors and bears at a safe distance. The bears’ ability to climb made the previous fences a hazard.

Tickets to Phoenix Zoo start at $10 for ages 12 and younger and $20 for ages 13 and older.