See Kim’s previous post, Reindeer Baby Boris.
Back home at the San Diego Zoo’s reindeer exhibit in Polar Bear Plunge, keepers set up a “howdy pen” where Boris could continue to gain coordination and strength. We use howdy pens to create a safe and secure place for our young animals to go to if needed. We also developed a daily routine for Boris. In the morning, Boris left his howdy pen and followed us into the exhibit. The reindeer exhibit at the Zoo is lushly planted, steep, and large—great housing for the adult reindeer to navigate but tough for little Boris. We noticed in the late afternoons, when things were quiet, the curious adult reindeer (mother included) made their way down the hill and into Boris’ pen to investigate, sniffing him and helping themselves to his food and water. These were the first signs that the herd was accepting Boris.
The reindeer exhibit is next to our polar bear management yard (dubbed Polar Bear Park). The two exhibits are separated by a fence that the animals can easily see through. The curious polar bears have a bird’s-eye view of the reindeer herd. To them, Boris might appear to be a small chocolate mousse (moose)! On Boris’s first day out on exhibit, the bears lined up against the fence, straining to check out the new resident and huffing at him each time he ventured close to the common fence. We were proud to see that Boris’s natural instinct of fear and flight was on track, and he bolted away each time a bear barked at him. Despite his good instincts, we felt it was important to provide extra protection for him and a little less temptation for the bears. A temporary cloth barrier was put up on the lower half of the fence between the two exhibits to minimize contact. Although they can still smell each other, activity between the two species has mellowed.
After a few days of exploration, Boris began to enjoy his visits to the large reindeer exhibit. Each day as we cleaned, Boris played joyfully, bouncing and spinning around the pines and tearing through mud puddles. Boris became more coordinated and gained confidence. Exhausted after his romps, he followed us back to his howdy pen for a well-deserved rest.
Kim Weibel is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Check back soon for Kim’s next post about Boris.