Have yourself a bear-y little Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, where zookeepers helped out Santa and his elves on Tuesday 19 December, by delivering some festive surprises to the Zoo’s newest residents, three brown bears, as well as preparing a special treat for the Zoo’s reindeer.

Brown bear enjoying Christmas presents at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

The three European brown bear sisters (Ursus arctos arctos), who moved to the UK’s largest Zoo in November, discovered that keepers had decked out their enclosure with a six-foot Christmas tree that was covered in delicious decorations and surrounded by brightly wrapped boxes of treats.

Baubles made of colourful peppers, pineapple rings and slices of orange hung from the festive tree, and keepers hid fish inside their beautifully wrapped gifts, to create a yuletide bear banquet.

Perfect for panto season, the recent arrivals were given the names Snövit, Askungen and Törnrosa when they were born at Kolmarden Zoo in Sweden, which translate as Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. The young bears have joined 24 year-old female brown bear Wellington, who will also be there to enjoy the delicious, seasonal surprises. 

Brown bear at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo enjoys an early Christmas treat

Team leader Donovan Glyn said: “At this magical time of year, it’s been a real gift to us to get to know our three new, young bears, and so it’s lovely to be able to treat them to a special Christmassy banquet.

“European brown bears are well equipped for foraging for food, and so the various festive treats, like fruit and fish, scattered around the Christmas tree are not only lovely presents but also create a great game of hide-and-seek for the playful young bears.

The Zoo’s reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) also received an advent treat, to prepare them for their busiest time of the year. A special Christmas tree, covered in carrots, had also been prepared by zookeepers for reindeer Hella, Cedar and Chestnut.

Reindeer at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Donovan continued: “We all know that it is about to be the busiest season of the year for reindeers, so our team of keepers prepared a colourful, carrot-coated tree for them, although I suspect they may have been more interested in the branches than the baubles!”

The public can visit ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s brown bears and reindeer any day throughout winter except for Christmas Day itself, and with hundreds of acres to explore, it’s the perfect way to walk off those mince pies. 

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