See you in spring: bears fell asleep in the Moscow Zoo

December 19, 2021

The bears fell asleep in the Moscow Zoo. Several frosty days last week, when the outside temperature dropped below minus 10 degrees, served as a signal for the beginning of winter hibernation. The 29-year-old Kamchatka brown bear Rosa and her neighbor, the 26-year-old Himalayan bear Aladdin, have take to their dens.

“We make every effort to create conditions for our animals as close to nature as possible. The life cycles of animals are the same as those of their wild relatives. The Zoo prepares carefully for hibernation: this is a natural process for some animals and should not be interfered with. Winter sleep is necessary to survive the cold, as it is much more difficult to get food during the frost and snow season. For example, marmots, chipmunks, jerboas, hedgehogs, bats, gophers, raccoons, dormouse, brown and Himalayan bears hibernate. In the fall, they accumulate fat reserves in order to sleep safely for several months. During sleep, the metabolism slows down, so that these reserves are used sparingly. By the way, if the bears do not latibulize on time, they become aggressive and even dangerous from hunger and fatigue,” said Svetlana Akulova, General Director of the Moscow Zoo.

Preparations for hibernation for bears began in August. Then they were transferred to a more high-calorie diet so that they had time to gain sufficient body weight. The bears received fish every day — chum salmon and pink salmon, ate sweet fruits — pears, apples, grapes. With such a diet, the large bear Rosa reached 600 kilograms, and the smaller Aladdin reached 350 kilograms by the beginning of December. This is enough to hibernate for about four months without harm to health. During the winter, bears usually lose up to a quarter of their weight.

Zoologists also arranged the dens in advance. Soft straw was placed in the closed cubicles, the heating was turned off in the premises, and the temperature in the "bedrooms" became almost the same as outside. Usually, bears become less active, resting most of the day before hibernating. But this year Rosa and Aladdin walked around the enclosure up to the onset of cold weather.

During sleep, predators should not be disturbed by strangers, so only employees familiar to the animals can approach their dens. Visitors are also asked to be quiet. Information signs “The animal is sleeping. Come back in the spring" were installed next to outdoor enclosures. Any harsh sound, be it a door slam or loud laughter, can interrupt the bear's sleep. And having awakened ahead of time, the beast may not fall asleep again, and his biological calendar will break.

To prevent this, zoologists will walk around the bears' enclosure very carefully, almost noiselessly. They will check if the hibernation is going well. Also, video surveillance cameras are installed above the dens of predators. Experts can monitor the animals in real time.

Rose and Aladdin will wake up when warm and sunny weather returns to Moscow. They usually come out of hibernation at the end of March, but if the winter is long, the bears can sleep well through April.

In addition to bears, marmots fell asleep at the Zoo. From mid-August, the animals began to accumulate fat reserves and put things in order in their burrow (they removed the excess sand and old straw, insulated the sleeping chamber). To further protect the rodents from frost, zoologists covered the marmot burrow with a layer of straw. Jerboas will also spend the winter in a state of dormancy. They were placed in special wooden boxes and put into the refrigerator. The body temperature of the jerboa dropped to eight degrees, respiration and heartbeat became rare, the metabolic processes of the body slowed down. The white-breasted hedgehogs and the dormouse also hibernate. Raccoons, raccoon dog and chipmunks are preparing for winter sleep too.

However, not all bears of the Moscow Zoo hibernate. In the cold season, polar bears Khatanga and Tompa, as well as pandas Dingdin and Zhui, continue to be awake.

Other heat-loving animals were moved to internal enclosures. For example, you can admire meerkats, giraffes and zebras in the pavilion "Ungulates of Africa", the Seychelles, Galapagos and spurred turtles — in the pavilion "Birds and butterflies of the tropics".

Since November 1, the opening hours of the Moscow Zoo changed. Now you can walk around the territory and watch the animals daily from 09:00 am to 5:00 pm, entry closes at 4:00 pm. When visiting, you should not forget about safety measures: be sure to wear a mask and keep social distancing. In the pavilions, you will also need to present the QR code of the vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or issued after a negative PCR test, and an ID.


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