Celebrating Seniors - Andean Bear

Still Sniffing

They may be geriatric for their species. They may both be grandparents. But the two Andean bears at the McCormick Bear Habitat are still active, even as they—and keepers—have made accommodations to age.

“For an Andean bear, once you get over your early 20s, you’re getting up there,” says Zoological Manager Mark Kamhout. At 29, Goliath is the elder of the pair. Having experienced some natural aging, he favors a low-impact approach to being active: swimming in the exhibit’s pool.

“It’s really good exercise and takes pressure off his legs,” says Kamhout. Animal care staff will place logs in the water, giving the bear some extra enrichment as he paddles. They’ll also toss in blocks of ice filled with fish or fruit to enhance his time in the pool.

The exhibit’s younger resident, Manny, is 24 and more spry. While both bears will forage the yard for fruits and other healthful snacks hidden away by keepers, Manny is more likely to climb trees for treats. But don’t get the impression that it’s all go, all the time. “They’re both bears—they like to sleep and take it easy,” says Kamhout. (Mid-morning and later in the day are the best times to see them active.)

While the bears’ breeding days are behind them, they both have a number of offspring—and even grandkids—distributed throughout North American zoos, including Smithsonian National Zoological Park. The bears are suitable for the bachelor life; in their native habitat of South America, males and females come together only to breed.

“They make a good pair,” says Kamhout. Even in their golden years.


by James Seidler • Originally published September 7, 2011

  Celebrating Seniors

Join us to celebrate all the zoo’s seniors! Sundays in September will be dedicated to special chats highlighting the exceptional care provided to the zoo’s elder statesmen.

September 4, 11, 18 & 25
Learn more about the celebration!