About the Zoo | Employment | Volunteer | Press

Bear Rotation

Variety is the Spice of Life: 
Animal Rotation at Glacier Run

The natural world offers variety…naturally. If you went on a safari you might see a giraffe or a lion or an elephant. You might not get to see them when you had hoped or even in the order you had hoped. Animals in the wild simply don’t adhere to predictable schedules that we humans love. That is the direction the zoo world is heading with modern animal exhibits and Glacier Run is no exception. Built to be an exhibit where animals rotate in and out of exhibit spaces at unpredictable times, Glacier Run is much like the award-winning Gorilla Forest and Islands Exhibit.

Seals and Sea Lions are exhibited together in their 108,000 gallon saltwater pool, but the grizzly and polar bears are exhibited in rotation. Why? At the end of the day it is about keeping it fresh for these highly anticipatory and smart creatures,  “Rotation gives them lots of variety,” says Supervisor of Animal Training Jane Anne Franklin. “We don’t put them on a schedule because bears are anticipatory. They pick up on any routines very quickly and start anticipating events like feeding times if we don’t change things up a good bit.  Non-scheduling more closely mimics what they would do in nature – and that helps keep them active and curious.”

Three sets of bears  —  #1 grizzlies -Inga, Otis and Rita,  #2  polar bear - Qannik and #3 polar bear - Siku (and eventually a possible 4th group of Qannik and Siku when Qannik is a bit older) will be rotated through Glacier Run’s spacious indoor and outdoor areas offering the bears (and Zoo visitors) variety and Franklin and the team of keepers additional training time.  Franklin explains that  “rotation gives us an opportunity to have quiet training sessions with them where we are teaching and observing and just spending time with our animals building trust.”

You may wonder what the bears do when they aren’t on exhibit. One of the philosophies here at the Louisville Zoo is that we build our behind-the-scenes (or bedroom) spaces to be comparable in size to the exhibit spaces. That means that all those spaces are an extension of each other in the animals’ eyes” stresses Franklin. “Our human perception sees outside as being the place the animals want to be, when maybe they really prefer to spend some time inside with similar activities and just hanging out watching us perform our daily care duties” adds Franklin. The animals get the same high quality enrichment activities to engage them in their bedrooms as they do when they are on exhibit.

So just remember – if you don’t see the animals you think you’re going to see at Glacier Run – come back again and again.  It will likely be different every time.