Undergraduate Honors Thesis Projects

Date of Award

Spring 4-20-2023

Document Type

Honors Paper

Degree Name

Zoo and Conservation Science-BS


Biology & Earth Science


Dr. Calinger Yoak

First Committee Member

Dr. Calinger Yoak

Second Committee Member

Dr. Grooms

Third Committee Member

Dr. Acker


Sloth Bear, Diet, Zoo, Human Care

Subject Categories

Higher Education | Zoology


Wild sloth bears (Melursus ursinus) display seasonal diet preferences for insects and fruit during the dry and monsoon season respectively. To potentially utilize as a method for reducing abnormal behaviors and improving animal welfare, the purpose of the study is to survey zoos with captive sloth bears and determine if zoo-housed individuals display seasonal diet preferences. From May 18th, 2022 to March 2nd, 2023 data was collected on Priya, a sloth bear from Idaho Falls Zoo, and her preference for fruit and insects. Temperature, season, fruit choice based on sugar levels, and insect choice based on texture of exterior were investigated as potential drivers of diet preference. Analysis determined there was no significant difference in preference of insect or fruit between fruit used (P = 0.317), insect used (P = 0.355), temperature (P=.167), and season (P = 0.150). Overall, insects were selected most of the time (75.9%) followed by fruit (20.7%), and neither fruits nor insects (3.4%). Potential factors such as Priya’s baby Jagger and the selection of fruits and insects could have an impact on the individual’s preferences. Further studies that replicate the study with more subjects, a greater time frame such as multiple years, and the replacement of fruits and insects with more natural options could provide a more supported conclusion on captive sloth bear preference. If significance is determined with more data, applications towards the effect of seasonal diet as food enrichment towards mitigation of abnormal behaviors could be studied.

Licensing Permission

Copyright, all rights reserved. Fair Use

Acknowledgement 1


Acknowledgement 2