Baylor Bear Habitat Continues Remarkable Care for University’s Bears During COVID-19 Pandemic

April 20, 2020
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By Jonathan Hill, senior brand integration specialist, Baylor Marketing and Brand Strategy

WACO, Texas (April 20, 2020) – Amid the shelter-in-place mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic, diligent student caregivers in the Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat, a Class C Zoo, have maintained world-class supervision and protection of the University's black bears, Judge Joy and Judge Lady. With the Habitat's ordinary operations already regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture, the standards for sanitation and cleanliness of all areas continue to require a tremendously high level of attention. The caregivers not only adhere to all USDA requirements and recommendations, they strive to surpass them, especially during this global health crisis. "Throughout all recent adjustments to our operating procedures, the gold standard of care we proudly provide Judge Joy and Judge Lady has remained constant and steady," said Dakota Farquhar-Caddell, associate director of student activities and Robert L. Reid Director of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce, who supervises the team of student caretakers. "Additionally, in support of our education and conservation mission, our team has been able to offer a variety of virtual educational programming to engage the community during this time when visitors can't physically visit the Habitat." While many recent measures taken by the Baylor Bear Habitat address specific precautions due to the coronavirus, many are longstanding safeguards that protect the bears, caregivers and public visitors. Ongoing requirements call for any caretaker who works with Joy and Lady to hold a food handler license and to have undergone at least a year of training and regular evaluations before participating in the daily care responsibilities. Additionally, all produce and meat that make up the carefully curated diet for the bears are delivered weekly to ensure freshness and quality. Some recent precautionary measures added for daily operations around the Bear Habitat include:
  • Closing the Habitat to the public
  • Suspending all behind-the-scenes tours and educational field trips
  • Limiting access to three caretakers inside the Habitat at once, with each maintaining safe physical distancing
  • Requiring all caretakers to don face masks and gloves before entering the Habitat and to dispose of the gloves as they exit
  • Wearing standard-issue Habitat coveralls when interacting with the bears, allowing for easy laundering afterward and helping to ensure minimal chance of transmitting harmful contagions during the interaction
  • Routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (food preparation areas, switches, door handles, etc.) and additional sanitization efforts throughout
  • With the recent news that Nadia, a Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo, tested positive for coronavirus, the caretakers have instituted enhanced monitoring of the behavior and health markers of the bears. Twice a day, caretakers note any observations or potential changes in the bears' behavior, building a ledger to assist in gauging health and well-being with the hopes of early detection of any potential coronavirus-related health markers. The day-to-day routine for the bears is largely unchanged, with Joy and Lady continuing to receive regular training and enrichment sessions. "I remain inspired and encouraged by the well-being of our bears and the deeply embedded sense of calling our student caregivers possess for caring for God's creation," Farquhar-Caddell said. "It is a tremendous act of service on all fronts."

    To learn more about Judge Joy, Judge Lady, the Bear Habitat caregivers and virtual educational programming, follow the social media channels @baylorbearhabitat on Instagram and Facebook and @bubearhabitat on Twitter.

    ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 18,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.