It’s an exciting time of year for Ecomuseum zoo keeper Nicola Fleming — the black bears have finally awoken from their winter hibernation.
Fleming has come to rely on the prediction of spring based on the bears’ behaviour, rather than those groundhogs everyone else often looks to.
“Spring is here — the bears are never wrong,” Fleming said. “Bears always know what they’re talking about.”
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Fleming has been the bears’ keeper ever since they arrived at the zoo four years ago.
Juno is an orphan found in Manitoba who was unable to care for herself, and Genie was born in captivity in another zoo.
The bears’ origins are reflected in their personalities, especially Juno’s.
“She’s got lots of energy — she’s the adventurer; she’s always the one that starts the playing between the two of them,” Fleming said. “Genie is a little bit more laid-back.”
Keeping the bears and other animals in captivity is an expensive endeavour, especially given how larger animals like Juno and Genie are fed up to 20 litres of food per day.
That’s why for the Ecomuseum Zoo has undertaken a fundraising campaign for the past four years.
The zoo’s executive director, David Rodrigue, has been humbled by the generosity shown by charitable foundations and private citizens alike.
“We have raised close to $6 million in the last four years, which we’ve completely reinvested back into our infrastructure,” Rodrigue said.
The investments include a $1.4 million upgrade for the sea otters’ area, which will increase the aquatic animals’ quality of life.
According to Rodrigue, nearly 60 percent of the zoo has been renovated and Ecomuseum will continue fundraising to complete the ongoing improvements.