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A Bear Care Triumph: Raj and Baloo’s Remarkable Journey

At Johnsons of Old Hurst Zoological Gardens, we are thrilled to share an extraordinary milestone in our ongoing efforts to promote wildlife conservation and provide the best possible care for our animal residents. Our two male sloth bears, Raj and Baloo, now live together in harmony after an initial period of separation. This achievement is not only a testament to our team’s dedication and expertise but also a significant accomplishment!


Rare Residents in the UK

We are currently the only zoo in the UK to have sloth bears! These unique and fascinating animals are native to the Indian subcontinent, and their presence in our zoo is a rare and valuable opportunity for visitors to learn about and appreciate this unusual species. Sloth bears are known for their distinctive long claws, shaggy fur, and the special relationship they have with their environment, particularly their diet of insects and fruits. Having Raj and Baloo at our zoo since November 2021, provides an exceptional educational resource and allows us to make a contribution to species conservation efforts.


The Journey to Harmony

When Raj and Baloo first arrived, it was clear that integrating two adult male sloth bears into the same enclosure would be a challenging task. Raj came to us from Ziln Zoo in the Czech Republic and Baloo came from Berlin Zoo in Germany. Like all bear species, sloth bears are generally solitary by nature but this is primarily due to limited food supply in the wild.  In a captive environment where competition for food is not an issue, they can often  harmoniously share the same space, but initial interactions can be aggressive as they establish dominance. Initially, Raj and Baloo engaged in several confrontations, displaying their strength in an effort to size each other up. It was a tense time for both the bears and our dedicated staff, who monitored their interactions closely to ensure the safety and well-being of both animals.


However, our team employed a carefully crafted strategy to ease the bears into a shared living space. This process involved reducing the number of barriers between their living spaces, until we eventually let them outside in the main enclosure together. Our goal was to create an environment where both bears felt secure and could establish a hierarchy without serious or continuous conflict.


A Testament to Teamwork

The patience and perseverance of our zoo team paid off. After a few clashes, Raj and Baloo began to show signs of mutual tolerance. The aggressive posturing subsided, and the bears physical interactions changed from fighting to wrestling and general play behaviour as they explored their shared enclosure together. Today, they live in harmony, an often difficult achievement for two adult male sloth bears. They have been seen sharing watermelons together, playing and even touching noses with one another!


This success story would not have been possible without the unwavering dedication and expertise of our staff. We owe a special thanks to Douglas Richardson, whose experience and insight were instrumental in this process. His knowledge of sloth bear behaviour and his innovative approaches to animal management were crucial in ensuring the successful integration of Raj and Baloo.


We also want to extend our gratitude to the entire zoo team, whose hard work and commitment to animal welfare made this possible. Their efforts have not only improved the lives of Raj and Baloo but have also provided our visitors with a unique opportunity to witness the complexity of the introduction and the positive outcome of our sloth bears living together peacefully.


Looking Ahead

As we celebrate this important achievement, we remain committed to the continued care and well-being of Raj and Baloo. Their journey from rivals to companions is a powerful reminder of the impact that dedicated animal husbandry efforts can have. We invite all of our visitors to come and see Raj and Baloo, to learn about their story and to be inspired to support wildlife conservation.


At Johnsons of Old Hurst Zoo, we will continue to strive for excellence in animal care and conservation, creating a safe and enriching environment for all our residents. Thank you for your support and for joining us in celebrating this remarkable milestone.

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