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Why Polar Bears At This Canadian Zoo Are Shitting Glitter

For science.

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Researchers at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg are making polar bears poop glitter. For science.

There are nine polar bears at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Each bear is fed meat with a different colour of glitter mixed in.
Assiniboine Park Zoo

There are nine polar bears at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Each bear is fed meat with a different colour of glitter mixed in.

Here's what these tasty bear treats look like.

Dr. Stephen Petersen, head of the zoo's conservation and research department, told BuzzFeed Canada that his team uses the kind of nontoxic glitter you can buy for children's crafts. So it's perfectly safe for the bears.
Assiniboine Park Zoo

Dr. Stephen Petersen, head of the zoo's conservation and research department, told BuzzFeed Canada that his team uses the kind of nontoxic glitter you can buy for children's crafts. So it's perfectly safe for the bears.

And here's what the scientists collect afterward.

Assiniboine Park Zoo

"Instead of sitting there waiting for the bear to do its business or reviewing footage after the fact, we can have the keepers go out and find the piles of scat and pick it up, and we can identify it from the glitter," Petersen said.

The main thing scientists measure when they collect the poop is the bears' hormone levels. Another way to collect this information would be through regular blood samples, which would require the scientists to sedate the animals, which is a huge hassle for both the humans and the bears.

"With our orphaned cubs, we're really interested in that transition process as they go from being in the wild to being in captivity," Petersen said. "So we're measuring cortisol, which is a stress hormone."Petersen's team also measures sex hormones like testosterone in the bears' poop, which lets them track how the animals are maturing. The goal is to apply everything they learn to polar bears in the wild.
Assiniboine Park Zoo

"With our orphaned cubs, we're really interested in that transition process as they go from being in the wild to being in captivity," Petersen said. "So we're measuring cortisol, which is a stress hormone."

Petersen's team also measures sex hormones like testosterone in the bears' poop, which lets them track how the animals are maturing.

The goal is to apply everything they learn to polar bears in the wild.

Petersen said it’s too soon to share any results, but his team sure knows a lot about glitter now.

“We’ve learned a lot about what glitters work best, and how glitter is modified as it goes through the digestive tract of a bear.”
Assiniboine Park Zoo

“We’ve learned a lot about what glitters work best, and how glitter is modified as it goes through the digestive tract of a bear.”

Ishmael N. Daro is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto. PGP fingerprint: 5A1D 9099 3497 DA4B

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at ishmael.daro@buzzfeed.com.

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