Bear weight management: a diet reduction plan for an obese spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus)


  • Karen J. Lisi Smithsonian Institution
  • Tracey L. Barnes Smithsonian Institution
  • Mark S. Edwards California Polytechnic State University



Spectacled bears (Tremarctos ornatus) are agile climbers and many aspects of behaviour in the wild are related to procuring food.  In captive situations obesity can result from reduced activity and offering food in excess of energy requirements if food is not presented in a way that encourages increased foraging time.  In December 2006, a fifteen-year-old male spectacled bear was received into quarantine at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoological Park. During the quarantine examination, nutrition staff manually assessed body condition and at 222.5 kg, the animal was deemed grossly obese with a body condition score of 9 on a 1–9 point scale.  A weight reduction plan was developed with a goal of gradual and continual weight loss at a rate of 1.0% of initial body weight (BW) per week, with a maximum of 2.0% and a minimum of 0.5% of initial BW/week to reach an initial summer target BW of 170 kg in 6–8 months.  Once the initial goal was achieved, seasonal target BW ranges were further refined over the following 12 months, resulting in a total weight loss of 77 kg (35% of initial BW).  Throughout the process keepers noted a marked positive increase in physical activity and associated behaviours.  The male was successfully introduced to a newly acquired female spectacled bear and mating occurred during June 2009, with two genetically valuable cubs born in January 2010.

Author Biographies

Karen J. Lisi, Smithsonian Institution

National Zoological Park

Tracey L. Barnes, Smithsonian Institution

National Zoological Park

Mark S. Edwards, California Polytechnic State University

Animal Science Department




How to Cite

Lisi, K. J., Barnes, T. L., & Edwards, M. S. (2013). Bear weight management: a diet reduction plan for an obese spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus). Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research, 1(2), 81–84.



Evidence Based Practice