Bears in Berlin Zoo, October 2001
Zoo entrance

Berlin Zoo is easy to find because it is just across the road from a major railway station called Zoologischer Garten. In case that is still too difficult there's a big sign on a building opposite the station exit:

To the Zoo

This Zoo contains specimens of all but one of the 9 species of bear.


Malayan Sun Bear - Helarctos Malayanus

This is the smallest of the bear species. As the name suggests, the bears are natives of the forests of south east Asia. The "sun" part of the name comes from the bright collar they have. The muzzle of the sun bear has evolved to enable it to suck up termites and other insects and to invade beehives in search of honey. Their feet and long non-retractable claws make them excellent tree climbers.

At this zoo there are three sun bears - father, mother and youngster. The young one is like a chimp, in the way he climbs trees, plays with an old tyre, etc. The mother got fed up with his antics at one point and pushed him over: the scene at bottom left shows it.

Sun Bears Sun Bear
Sun Bears Sun Bear

Spectacled Bear - Tremarctos Ornatus

These bears are also distinguished by lighter markings, this time around the face. Sometimes the marks look like spectacles but often they are just a mottling of the face. They only come from South America. They are mainly plant eaters but also eat meat. They are good swimmers and very good tree climbers. We watched one very large but agile bear climbing a tree, apparently looking for insects, as shown in the first photo below.

Spectacled Bear Spectacled Bear
Spectacled Bear Spectacled Bear

Brown Bear - Ursus Arctos

Brown bears were native to northern latitudes all around the globe but as they are the fiercest of bears (they include the grizzlies) they are incompatible with farm animals and their habitat has therefore been greatly restricted. There are many sub-species of brown bear. The ones in Berlin Zoo are European Brown Bears.

Brown Bear Brown Bear
Brown Bear Brown Bear

Asiatic or Himalayan Black Bear - Ursus Thibetanus

Asiatic Black Bears are native to much of southern Asia. They are good swimmers and climbers. They have a crescent-shaped yellow or cream area of fur on their chests, not unlike the Sun Bears but these are much larger animals.

These black bears have rather shaggy collars. The pair at the bottom seem to have adopted a black cat. We visited them several times over two days and the cat was always there!

Asiatic Black Bear Asiatic Black Bear
Cat with Asiatic Black Bears

Sloth Bear - Melursus Ursinus

Sloth Bears live in the forests of India and neighbouring countries, including the island of Sri Lanka. Their muzzles and tongues are such that they can act like vacuum cleaners to suck up termites, their main food.

Sloth Bear Sloth Bear

Giant Panda - Ailuropoda Melanoleuca

The Giant Panda used to be classified separately from bears but is now known from genetic studies to be related to the other bears. It is not related to other smaller animals called pandas, such as the Red Panda (see our Amsterdam Zoo page) which is a type of racoon. The Giant Panda is native to China and unlike all other bears it feeds almost exclusively on bamboo shoots and leaves. It does not like water and is unable to walk upright on two legs.

Giant Panda Giant Panda

Polar Bear - Ursus Maritimus

Confined to the north polar regions, polar bears are the most recently evolved species. They descended from Brown Bears only about 100,000 years ago. Of all bears they are the best adapted to water. At least one of the polar bears in Berlin Zoo is an excellent swimmer, as our final animated photo sequence here attempts to show.

Polar Bear Polar Bear
Polar Bear Polar Bear

Teddy Bear - Ursus Teddycus

Teddies often visit the zoo, invariably bringing humans with them. A variety of fine specimens are available for adoption in the zoo's gift shops.


Missing Bears?

So which is the one species of bear we did not find in Berlin Zoo?


Links to the web sites of the two Berlin Zoos

Berlin Zoo (as shown on this page)
Tierpark Berlin at Friedrichsfelde

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