Statement of Purpose
- Polar Bears & Conservation
- Climate Change
- Drilling and Mining
- Other Human Interactions
- About the Polar Bear
- Polar Bear Cubs
- Polar Bear I.Q.
- Polar Bear Fur
- The Sea Bear
- More Facts
- Adaptions to Cold
- Polar Bear Prey
- Home Range
- Bears in Motion
- Inuit & Polar Bears
- Bear Attacks
- Polar Bears in Zoos
- Myths & Misconceptions
- Hunting Seals
- Hibernation Facts
- Bathing Habits
- Sleepy Bears
- Name That Bear!
- Walking and Running
- Feasting Bears
- Polar Bear Evolution
Polar Bears in Zoos
The earliest known captive polar bear was housed by Ptolemy II, king of ancient Egypt (285-246 B.C.), in his private zoo in Alexandria.
The Romans probably also kept polar bears. In 57 A.D., Calpurnius wrote of bears pitted against seals in a flooded amphitheater.
Harold the Fair-haired of Norway was the first European king to keep captive polar bears. A hunter presented him with a mother and cubs in 880 A.D. King Harold was so overcome that he rewarded the man with an ocean-going ship filled with wood.
Some of the earliest maps led not to the Far East, but to sources of polar bears and white falcons.
Viking hunters captured polar bear cubs after killing their mother. After skinning the female, the hunters would spread her pelt on the snow, then easily catch the cubs when they came to lie on it.
Early rulers in Denmark, England, Germany, and Damascus kept captive polar bears.
In 1874, America's first zoo opened in Philadelphia. Its bear pits, where people could look down on live bears, were its most popular attraction.
Today, a number of zoos around the world house captive polar bears. A heartening number of these bears now live in well-designed exhibits far removed from the concrete cages of the past. Modern exhibits include rushing waterfalls, chilled pools stocked with trout, drifts of manufactured snow, and gravel pits where the bears can dig.
A growing number of zoos also now offer enrichment activities which are designed to help reduce a well-known problem with captive polar bears: their tendency to pace back and forth, swim in set patterns, or otherwise display repetitive (stereotypic) behavior.
To help reduce repetitive behavior and improve the lives of polar bears in zoos, Polar Bears International funded a landmark, two-year study conducted by well-known animal behaviorist David Shepherdson, Ph.D., of the Oregon Zoo. The largest behavioral research project ever conducted in zoos, the study involved 20 zoos in the U.S. and Canada. The study showed that some zoos were able to reduce stereotypic behavior by 95%.
"This is truly ground breaking news," says PBI President, Robert Buchanan.
At the conclusion of the study, PBI shared the results with the zoo world at the 2004 International Polar Bear Husbandry Conference to ensure that the findings benefit polar bears worldwide.
Sources, historical information on captive polar bears: Lords of the Arctic by Richard C. Davis (Macmillan Co., 1982) and Polar Bear by Downs Matthews (Chronicle Books, 1993).
Additional german informations can be found here.