Our Wellington

News | 6 April 2021

Wellington Zoo’s unbearably cute Behind the Scenes Experience

We’re giving you the behind-the-scenes scoop on the new Behind the Scenes Experience at Wellington Zoo with Sasa, the 14 year old Sun Bear.

Sun bear in green grassy enclosure at Wellington Zoo.

Sasa was already waiting impatiently outside the door when we arrived for our Behind the Scenes experience. She knew she was about to get lots of treats and some serious human attention

After a quick health and safety run down, we were taken into Sasa’s indoor den where her Keepers perform their daily health check-ups on her.  It’s a cosy space with heat pumps, little hammocks and lots of places for Sasa to nest and nap and she is free to come and go from here as she pleasesAnd since Sasa is an omnivore, it smells fresh as a daisy. 

Sun bear behind mesh sticking out tongue to touch finger of a zoo keeper.
The first thing you’ll do is make a little snack for Sasa by shoving kibble and fruit into a bamboo shoot. Fun fact – Sasa loves flies, which we found out when she caught one with her long tongue from the other side of the mesh like a giant furry frog. When we gave her the bamboo shoot she ate the fruit out of it in a similar way
A white bucket lid with pieces of fruit and kibble sitting on a silver bench next to two cut up bamboo shoots.

Sasa’s claws are so sharp, she can puncture a coconut with them to get to the milk. That’s why you won’t actually get to touch Sasa during your visit, but you’ll only be a few feet away behind some mesh.  

Without directly touching her, the Keepers have trained Sasa to respond to simple commands and hand gestures so they can do their daily check-up. Sasa understands when she needs to lift up her paws, stick out her tongue, turn around and even when to open her mouth so they can check she is looking healthy as a horse (or bear). Just like the stereotype, Sun Bears love honey so to make sure her sweet tooth isn’t giving her trouble they often brush her chompers. You can see the Keeper telling Sasa to open her mouth in the photo below.  

Sun bear behind mesh bars opening mouth wide for zoo keeper to check its teeth.

Ever wondered what kind of moisturiser bears use? If Sasa’s paw pads are a little dry, they moisturise them with the same moisturiser that you and I would use! 

Sasa has a huge personality and loves to show off for people. If she’s in a particularly good mood, you might even get to feed her some fruit on a stick and get up very close and personal. The Keepers will even offer to take a photo of you, so keep your phone nearby.  

What Sasa lacks in eyesight, she makes up for in her amazing sense of smell, which is why her nose is so big. If you happen to be wearing a scent, have freshly washed hair or even deodorant, she’ll probably give you a sniff – just look out her nostrils flaring in your direction. 

Sun bear stretching under wooden shelter on top of hill in zoo enclosure.

We could have stayed there forever hanging out with Sasa, but our time was up. We waved our goodbyes and she stuck around to keep catching flies in her den. 

To meet Sasa yourself, head to the Wellington Zoo website and book your own Behind the Scenes Sun Bear Experience.