Polar Bear Check Up: Voluntary Blood Collection

October 3, 2019

Animal Care staff working with polar bear in exhibit

For the first time in Lincoln Park Zoo history, a polar bear voluntarily participated in blood collection!

Male polar bear Siku chose to participate in a blood draw, which allows Animal Care and veterinary staff to regularly monitor his health without the added stress of anesthesia. This voluntary behavior can also enable the zoo to participate in critical research studies across the Polar Bear Species Survival Plan® and Association of Zoos and Aquariums population, benefiting overall care in zoos and polar bear conservation efforts in the field.

In order for blood to be drawn, the polar bear must learn a sequence of behaviors. First, they must be comfortable with the space, then learn to lay down, become familiar with the paw door, learn to put their paw through the opening, understand how to stay still, and become used to being touched by veterinary staff and, eventually, a needle.

With all of those steps, it’s hard to believe Animal Care staff began working on this behavior with Siku only a year ago! Talini is also trained on this behavior and is no stranger to many of these steps, as she voluntarily participated in her own x-ray a few months back.

Siku and Talini are not the only Lincoln Park Zoo residents that participate in their own health care. The eastern black rhinos and seals at the zoo have also voluntarily participated in blood collection, ensuring that vet visits or exams, when necessary, are as stress-free as possible.

Check out the video below to see Siku’s successful exam!

Video Courtesy of Allison Kao, Manager, Behavioral Husbandry and Enrichment