ABC 2009-SAN FRANCISCO, USA
Success – says it all. Thanks to the delegates, speakers, presenters, and our fabulous volunteers, sponsors and supporters ABC '09 was a great success! For more conference photos check out the FORUM page. Also, you can download the ABC '09 Program and Proceedings plus the poster presentations, and some papers.
On Thursday afternoon Nov 5th we opened our registration desks to welcome 85 delegates from around the world. It has become a Bear Care Group tradition that our registration lasts for hours as old friends and new visit with each other around the tables, going through their goody bags, while choosing their favorite cement bear poo paperweight to take home! Nope, not kidding! Thanks to our extremely creative and industrious goody bag coordinator Deb Cano [San Francisco Zoo] each delegate was gifted with a bear poo paperweight.
The conference opened at Friday morning's EggBreaker Nov 6th - sponsored by Polar Bears International - with two awesome Key Note Speakers; Robyn Appleton and Siew Te Wong. Robyn thrilled the audience with her adventures in the dry Peruvian desert untangling the mysteries of wild spectacled behaviour. Wong inspired delegates with his videos and telling of the little known arboreal behaviours of the sun bear, the chimpanzee of the Bornean rainforests. Next up was the Behavior-Based Bear Husbandry 101 Workshop [moderated by Jason Pratte, Zoo Atlanta] which lay the ground work for the theme of the conference, defining behaviour-based bear husbandry in four presentations that included husbandry, enrichment, training, and problem-solving put in by Val Hare [Shape of Enrichment], Jason Pratte [Zoo Atlanta], Gail Laule [Active Environments], and Else Poulsen [B&E Solutions]. In the afternoon we visited the California Academy of Sciences and enjoyed an engrossing presentation by American black bear rehabilitator, behaviorist, and author Ben Kilham. During lunch we mingled with bear skulls and bones on exhibit and interpreted by museum staff, and Tony Colonnese retired San Francisco Zoo bearkeeper. On our return to the Crowne Plaza Hotel delegates were treated to a typical western American dinner – the Taco Bar - while visiting booths at the Bear Book and Art Den where they could do a bit of Christmas shopping for books and DVD's authored and signed by attending delegates, and for photography and crafts created by our artisan delegates; all well orchestrated by coordinator Lydia Lefebvre [B&E Solutions]. After the festivities, we broke into problem-solving sessions lead by experts in veterinary bear care, cub rearing, human resources, and behaviour management including Heather Bacon [Animals Asia], Brigitte Mercier [consultant], Gail Hedberg [zoomom.com], Judy Willard [consultant], and Gail Laule [Active Environments]; and wild bear behaviour videos presented by Ben Kilham [benkilham.com], and Steve Stringham [Bear Viewing Association].
Poster presenters were on hand throughout the conference to discuss their work on such relevant topics as; i/ chronic, progressive hair loss among captive Andean bears [Hali Anderson, San Diego Zoo], ii/ the integrated roles of wild versus captive studies of bear behavior [Steve Stringham, Bear Viewing Association], identifying motivational factors underlying stereotypic pacing in a female Malayan sun bear [Joan Rog, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo], and three posters by Mindy Babitz [Smithsonian's National Zoological Park] iii/ sloth bear enrichment and training, iv/ a keeper's point of view of deslorelin contraception use with sloth bears, and v/ an investigation of sloth bear cub development.
On Saturday morning Nov 7th two workshops were conducted. The Polar Bear Workshop [moderated by Bill Winhall, SeaWorld] included these exciting topics; i/ noninvasive fecal hormone monitoring for assessing reproductive activity [Terri Roth, Cincinnati Zoo], ii/ The Polar Bear Sustainability Alliance [Bill Winhall, SeaWorld], iii/ milk composition from free-ranging polar bears in Svalbard Norway [Gail Hedberg, San Francisco Zoo], and iv/ targeting enrichment to stimulate wild behaviour patterns in captive polar bears [Karen Cain, Alaska Zoo]. The Andean Bear Workshop [moderated by Robin Appleton, Spectacled Bear Conservation] was opened by Robyn as she presented information, photographs and videos of wild spectacled bear behaviour which has never before been presented. Next, David Morales [Queens Zoo] interested delegates with his work on Andean bear conservation outreach in Latin American. Additional timely topics presented were ursidae contraception [Brigitte Mercier and Sally Boutelle, AZA Contraceptive Center], spray foam cleaning procedures for animal care areas [Steve Delmonico, Unisource Facility Supplies], and a social networking site for international bear rehabilitators was unveiled by Iris Mazurek, World Society for the Protection of Animals. The San Francisco Zoo hosted the afternoon events which included behind the scenes tours of the new Grizzly Gulch, the African Lion House, the Giraffe Barn, and a spray foam cleaning demonstration. Else Poulsen [B&E Solutions] gave a public presentation in the zoo's Great Hall on Smiling Bears – A Zookeeper Explores the Behavior and Emotional Life of Bears. Our host Tanya Peterson [San Francisco Zoo Executive Director] warmly welcomed delegates to a festive gala dinner also in their Great Hall during which Lory Palmer skilfully coordinated the very popular and successful silent bear auction. On our return to the Crowne Plaza Hotel delegates were back into problem-solving mode, attending alternate sessions from Friday evening.
On Sunday morning Nov 8th sessions began one hour later than the first two days with gallons of coffee to accommodate our now sleep deprived delegates. We started off with the Asian Bear Workshop moderated by Jill Robinson founder of Animals Asia. Jill gave the dynamic key note address at BIERZS 2007, and now in this opening presentation she updated us on the progress that Animals Asia is making in China and Vietnam on eradicating the bear bile farming practise, and in their rehabilitating husbandry of rescued Asiatic black bears. Following this, Gina Moon and John Walker [moonbears.org] introduced the audience to the horrors of bear bile farming in Korea. Nicola Field and Heather Bacon [both from Animals Asia] spoke educated us about the integration of rehabilitated Asian black bears into social groups, and the veterinary management of bile farmed bears. Mindy Babitz [Smithsonian's National Zoological Park] completed this workshop giving presentations on two topics; how the National Zoo ensured the successful birth of a sloth bear, and helping a sloth bear cub with poor coping skills. We heard from Mindy that Merlin the elderly, iconic sloth bear at the National Zoo has just passed, and we give the staff at the National Zoo our condolences, Jason Pratte [Zoo Atlanta] gave an entertaining and totally doable ‘how to' presentation on how to train a bear to do blood draws.
After a delicious Farewell Lunch, John Beecham [World Society for the Protection of Animals] moderated the American Black Bear and Brown Bear Workshop which he opened by giving the first presentation on the best management practices for rehabilitation and release of orphaned bear cubs. This lead into an excellent series of rehabilitation presentations on the following subjects; British Columbia's pilot grizzly bear rehabilitation project [Angelika Langen, Northern Lights Wildlife Society], a post-release study of rehabilitated grizzly bears [Ryan Barnett, University of Aberdeen], handling and human exposure as factors in the rehabilitation of orphaned and injured black bear cubs [Meghann Cant, University of British Columbia], and the successful black bear rehabilitation, release, and research in the most densely populated state in the USA, New Jersey [Tracy Leaver, Woodlands Wildlife Refuge]. All of the Coffee and Stretch breaks were sponsored by the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the AAZK, who had held two very successful bake sales. After the final Coffee and Stretch, three dynamic presentations were given to close the conference. Those topics included; a practical application of behavior-based winter denning husbandry procedures at Fortress of the Bear [Christine Fenwick, Fortress of the Bear], the roles of mutual trust and respect during close encounters with wild bruins [Steve Stringham, Bear Viewing Association], and an introduction to the North American Bear Center [Donna Andrews, North American Bear Center].
The Bear Care Group would like to thank the Crowne Plaza Hotel staff, the California Academy of Sciences staff, and the San Francisco Zoo staff for their wonderful, warm western hospitality. Finally, we want to acknowledge our team's Most Valuable Player, Kent Hedberg – our fabulous IT guy!