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Breakfast With the Keepers: Interview with Polar Bear Keeper

The Memphis Zoo AAZK Chapter is hosting its first-ever "Breakfast with the Keepers" on April 26. The first breakfast event will focus on polar bears. The morning of this event, guests will enter the Zoo before it opens and travel down to Northwest Passage. Once they reach Northwest Passage, they will enjoy a catered breakfast and a special keeper chat where they will get a chance to speak one-on-one with a polar bear keeper. 

One of the most unique parts of this event is that guests will help choose which enrichment the polar bears will be getting that day and watch as one of our polar bears comes out to enjoy all of its toys and treats. I asked one of the polar bear keepers, Jen Conrad, some questions about herself and her job. -- Caitlin Miller, zookeeper

Jen Conrad, Northwest Passage, sea lion, zookeeper, Memphis Zoo
Jen Conrad is a keeper in Northwest Passage.

What are Haley and Payton's favorite toys?
I would say that Haley's favorite is the green, pill-shaped toy, and Peyton's favorite is the 55-gallon barrels. He loves to throw those around.

polar bear, enrichment, frosty the snowman, plastic frosty the snowman, Memphis Zoo
Even plastic Frostys are an excellent source of enrichment. Participants in Breakfast with the Keepers will get to help choose what form of enrichment the polar bears will have on April 26.

What are some of the polar bear's favorite foods?
Haley really loves capelin. They're one of the smaller types of fish that the polar bears are fed. She always eats them first. One of Payton's favorite foods is definitely his shank bones, which are large beef bones. They both also really like melons. 

What is something that most people wouldn't know about our polar bears?
Haley's mother's name was "Aurora," so when Haley was born, her keepers wanted to keep with the astrological theme, and named her after Haley's Comet. When Payton was born in Chicago, they had a naming contest, and the winning name was Payton, after another beloved Chicago Bear, Walter Payton. 

Haley the polar bear, polar bear, Memphis Zoo, Haley's Comet
Haley, our female polar bear, was named after Haley's Comet. Haley's mother was named Aurora. 

What is something that many people may not realize about polar bears in the wild?

They can swim for days at a time!

Jen, what's your favorite breakfast food?

What is the best part of your job?
I really enjoy having the opportunity to make connections with each animal and learn their history and personalities. 

What is your favorite memory of the polar bears?
I really loved watching Payton when we got our last snow. He came out onto the exhibit, saw the snow and started rolling around in it. He even rolled onto his back and rubbed his back around in it with his feet in the air. He loved it!

Payton the polar bear, polar bear, Memphis Zoo, Walter Payton, Chicago Bears
Payton, our male polar bear, loved the snow in January and February 2014.

Why do you think people should come to this event?
The money we raise from Breakfast with the Keepers will go back to conservation and help animals in the wild. Also, visitors will get to see the bears when they are at their most playful, and watch as they come out to explore the exhibit. Guests don't typically get to see the polar bears as they come out to find their enrichment because the bears go out before the public makes it back to Northwest Passage. 

Posted by Zoo Info at 1:43 PM

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