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Getting to know you....

One of the nicest stages – and sometimes one of the most heart-in-mouth moments – is when we start moving the new bears in their recovery cages closer to each other in preparation for guiding them into groups. 

You can almost bet on who will match and who will not and, it was no surprise to Senior Bear Manager Nic and our bear team when gorgeous Watermelon (now Wilfred) and Poodley (now Haribo) "met" for the first time. 

Interested clucking and sniffing from both before Wilfred put a friendly paw through the bars of Haribo’s cage as if to say “hi, good to meet you properly at last”. To think that just a few months ago these bears were flattened to the bars of their relentless crush cages on the farm and now they are “growing” in physical strength, and in consciousness of all the good things their new lives bring. 

Some bears will take a while – as Nic says, “The grumpiest bears have been Laetizia and Karaflas, who will behave aggressively and growl at whichever bear they happen to be next to.” Well who can blame them really? 

In between all this neighbourly interaction, Nic and team have been trying out new enrichment smears and scents for the bears – generally they love exactly what we don’t – with their favourite being something local to China called “stinky tofu”. 

If you imagine drains that haven't been cleaned in a long, long time, you’ll get the picture. Although most love it – even rubbing their heads in it like demented cats with catnip – Haribo, Tanja, Laetizia and Gypsy don’t. And none of them like mustard or curry paste this week so we'll be putting those on the back burner from now. 

Varying their enrichment is essential to their transformation as they “learn to be bears”. In the wild, they would forage and sniff around at things which give them pleasure and things that do not. Like us, bears are incredibly “individual” animals – while some love citrus fruits, others don't. While some are banana bears, others are not – but I've yet to meet a bear that doesn’t like grapes (although elderly, opinionated Franzi prefers hers peeled!). 

The final from Nic’s report is that our gorgeous brain-damaged Rupert is failing every recall this week. This news makes me smile because the weather is cool and balmy and perfect for a bear who has decided he’d like to stay out under the last rays of the autumn sun. Maybe he’s not so daft after all! Here's our lovely Rupert in his favourite pose:

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