Our animal care team are often asked what their favorite part of their job is. While each person has a preference, this has to be one of the best. Following their lunch, Inukshuk and Henry chose to stay and relax with Kearin and Austin. We call this type of interaction a Zen session, where the bear chooses to stay and be calm with the team, without any expectation of their behavior. Sometimes, it gets so relaxing that the bears fall asleep, which is exactly what happened with Inukshuk.
Zen sessions are a valuable tool for building a calm and trusting bond between the bears and the staff. It is important for the bears to understand that they are not always required to eat, shift or take part in training sessions when the staff are present. By simply spending time with the bears, without any interaction, it can help to reduce anticipation or anxiety around situations when the staff are nearby.
This type of session has also proven to be particularly helpful in alleviating the stress of transport, for any new bears that arrive in our care. Transportation can be overstimulating and full of unknown smells, locations and people. Zen sessions provide an environment for the bears which is quiet, calm and in their control, which helps them to relax and be able to get to know the new people who will be caring for them.
We are fortunate and very grateful to have such a dedicated animal care team, who go above and beyond everyday to ensure that our bears live a fulfilling and enriching life. We are also very grateful to the network of polar bear care professionals, who share their knowledge and skills, in order for us to continue to learn and develop our animal welfare practices.