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Case study of seasonal effects on a captive female polar bear's behavior

Status Complete
Seeking Researchers No
Start Date 09/01/2005
End Date 06/30/2006
Funding Source N/A
Funding Amount
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Last Updated 07/05/2008 01:25AM
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Faculty
  Gwen Lupfer

Student Researchers
  Jacquelyn Rother

Abstract

This research is part of an ongoing year-long study looking at the activity of Ahpun, an 8-year old female polar bear exhibited at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage. Less than 100 zoos worldwide exhibit polar bears, and the Alaska Zoo is one of them. Polar bears tend to experience more problems when confined than many other animals. In the late 1800s, captive polar bears only lived one to five years. Gradually, research and education has improved zoo exhibits so that they now live into their mid-20s. However, environmental discontent is still evident which may be partly due to the large territory polar bears inhabit when living in the wild. Polar bears are known for displaying stereotypical behaviors in captivity such as repetitive pacing. To assess seasonal variations in abnormal behaviors, she was and will continue to be observed through 20-minute instantaneous sampling observations, 2-4 times per week. These are combined into monthly summaries of behaviors categorized as either active, inactive, or abnormal (i.e., pacing). At a time when polar bear natural habitat is being severely impacted by global warming, research and education on caring for captive polar bears will become increasingly important.

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