Improvements at our German sanctuary, Müritz
In our German bear sanctuary, Müritz we have recently launched some new enrichment measures with help from a Swiss donor, Erich Wick. Bear enthusiast Erich took leave from his life as a businessman and followed a long-time dream: to work as a bear keeper.
Erich spent four weeks helping the staff at Muritz and brought additional ideas to the enrichment programme. We know one of the most important things to consider when working with bears – and all other wild animals that cannot be released into the wild due to having grown up in captivity – is enrichment. This ranges from simple measures such as making sure that their environment matches their physical needs, to delivering their food in an exciting manner so they have to forage for it. Bears are naturally very skillful and cunning. Many of their abilities have deteriorated completely in their sad lives as zoo or circus bears. At Müritz our staff are making considerable efforts to continuously provide new areas for hiding their food and getting the bears to use their skills to find it.
It is amazing to see how easily bears can adapt to such tasks once they have figured out how to do it. Their instincts – often buried deep in the traumas of their former lives – awaken for everyone to see. These tasks help lead the animals back to their natural behaviour and free them from the behavioral disorders which can be common in captive animals.
Erich has built a raft, which has given the beasrs new options for playing in the water – which bears love to do. We have already seen some of the bears trying out this raft. We also hung a rope with food between two trees: an idea which kept the bears thinking and moving for quite a few days, fishing for the food. This challenge is similar to tasks they would encounter in the wild so we are really happy to be re-creating this habitat for the bears.
One of our most imporant tasks at the sanctuary is to keep the bears busy and living according to their needs and abilities.