At the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, researchers have been tracking the glitter poop of its polar bears to gage stress levels.
While it’s an unorthodox approach to polar bear research, for the past two years, the scientists at this zoo have found an ingenious way to gage the stress levels of the polars bears at the zoo. They’ve been adding glitter, a different color for each polar bear, to ground horse meat.
As Stephen Petersen told CBC, “In the beginning, it was easier because we didn’t have as many bears so we didn’t need as many colors.” Petersen is the head of conservation and research at the International Polar Bear Conservation Center. Eight of the nine polar bears are fed different colors of glitter, from purple to red to gold.
The samples are collected to figure out how each polar bear is reacting to certain changes, whether it be introduction into the zoo or dealing with hormonal changes. This is one of the least invasive ways to test and monitor the bears, and the glitter is, of course, non-toxic and safe to consume.
Larger research is done on the fecal droppings when it is sent to facilities in Toronto and Cincinnati, Ohio so that the polar bears can provide valuable information for scientists.