Is there a bear in there?

Perth Zoo’s family of Asian Small-clawed Otters were perplexed to find the scent of a Sun Bear in their habitat. 

This new and exciting scent was thanks to an innovative and sustainable enrichment activity devised by zoo keepers. 

Freshly-used Sun Bear hay bedding is collected daily and replaced – but rather than throwing the used hay away, keepers incorporate the materials into a scented-enrichment activity for another species. 

The Sun Bear scented hay was recently recycled and  scattered throughout the otter habitat. The strange and unknown scent piqued the otter’s natural curiosity, and encouraged their foraging, nesting, and investigating behaviours. 

Perth Zoo senior keeper, Marty Boland, said: “Otters are known to be very inquisitive and will explore anything new in their environment with high energy and excitement. 

“Scented enrichment is particularly important for an otter because the smell of another animal will encourage them to mark their territory. 

“Otters have scent glands all over their body and like to rub themselves on different surfaces, like grass or logs, throughout their habitat to mark their territory.

“So, the possibility of another animal in the vicinity will encourage them to embrace this territory marking instinct, much like they would in the wild.

“After they’ve investigated the hay, they will also then use it within their own nests – it’s certainly keeps them busy and entertained.”

Enrichment activities like this provide our animals with an ever-changing habitat, ensuring a new challenge is presented each day. 

Our expert animal keepers and welfare specialists research the behaviours of a species and create unpredictable environments for the animals in our care. 

Based off this research, daily enrichment activities are incorporated into each animals’ daily lives, ensuring they are getting species specific stimulation.