At thw zoo: Rise and shine

The bears at Malcha are emerging for summer.

bear 248.88 (photo credit: Stuart Winer)
bear 248.88
(photo credit: Stuart Winer)
It's that time of year, now that spring is in the air, when the bears at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo poke their noses out of their cave and prepare to begin a summer of activity. Throughout the winter the bears have been cuddled up together in their cave, staying out of winter's way. With the weather improving and the temperature rising, they have emerged leaner than they were before but ready for the warm months ahead. Brown bears, which can grow to be quite large, are considered to be of the same family as grizzly bears. The zoo has four bears: Albert, Shoshana, Eissa and Shahar, the youngest. Albert weighs in at more than 200 kg. Although the bears all respond to their names, they are still very dangerous. Keepers never enter the enclosure with the bears or even pet them. The bears are now at their skinniest. During the course of the summer they will eat about 20 kg a day each, building up body fat for the coming winter. During the day they play with the various pieces of equipment arranged around their enclosure, most of which will dispense seeds for them to eat if they are clever enough to figure out how they work. The bears also enjoy being fed by the keepers and will happily jump into their private pool to retrieve fish or other treats the keepers throw to them. Bears were once very common in biblical Israel and feature in many a story from the Old Testament, the Mishna and the Talmud. Syrian Brown Bears can be found all over Asia but, due to hunting and the diminishment of their natural habitats, bears are now extinct in Israel and remain only in captivity. Strictly speaking, bears don't hibernate. Animals that hibernate, such as squirrels, and certain snakes and bats, remain almost motionless during the winter and their body temperature drops significantly. Bears become very drowsy during the winter, but they move around a little and their body temperature remains normal. One legend about bears that is true is that they have a sweet tooth. Although they eat fruit, vegetables, fish and meat, a bear's favorite delicacy is honey - in particular on bread or in honey cake. So great is their craving for the sticky treat that when keepers administer drugs and medication to the bears, they coat them in honey and let the bears take care of the rest. The bears are active most of the day. When they aren't feeding, they play with each other or just lounge around in the sun that they have waited so long to enjoy.