Keepers in Sun Bear Forest at the San Diego Zoo have finally had the opportunity to handle the sun bear cub, now 86 days old (see Suzanne’s previous blog, Sun Bears from Sepilok). I am happy to report that they have determined that the cub is a male and appears very healthy. Today the cub was pulled for the third time and weighed in at 11.5 pounds (5.24 kilograms), demonstrating a robust increase from its weight last week of 11 pounds (5.02 kilograms). Staff reported that the coat is clean, the body feels solid, and there appears to be the beginning of the fleshy jowls common to sun bears.
The cub exam itself is the effort of several people working in concert. This morning, keeper Daniel’s job was to soothe and evaluate Marcella, the dam, who is able to observe her cub throughout the process. Daniel fed Marcella peanut butter and other snacks and kept her calm as other staff weighed and measured the infant. Keeper Kirstin held the cub while team area lead Lisa wrapped a measuring tape around the cub’s abdomen and neck to record girth. I recorded these measurements on a data sheet. During the exam, the cub was calm and quiet and snuggled close to Kirstin.
We were unable to handle our first Bornean sun bear cub for such exams, because Marcella was such a nervous and protective mother. This time around she is more relaxed, and is tolerating these procedures well. Each time she is progressively calmer, as is the cub. After the two bears are reunited, Marcella checks in on her offspring, licking him and vocalizing with a friendly clucking sound. After less than five minutes, she left the cub alone in the den and looked around for more to eat.
The data provided by such exams will allow us to better understand the growth and maturation of the sun bear. No data currently exists on this topic. This will provide a framework for comparing future such cubs. Since we can’t compare the growth of this cub to other Bornean cubs, we can compare these cub’s measurements to those of the three panda cubs born here. So far, this cub appears to be quite a bit heavier (by about three-quarters of a kilo) than our panda cubs of the same age.
Stay tuned for further updates from the sun bear den!
Suzanne Hall is the senior research laboratory technician for Giant Panda Conservation Unit of Applied Animal Ecology/CRES.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Comments are currently closed. Pinging is not allowed.