The polar bears in Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo are so glam rock, they’re literally pooping glitter. CNET reports that, for the last two years, zookeepers at Assiniboine have been feeding their bears different colors of glitter in order to differentiate between each bear’s feces. Zookeepers say the sparkly droppings allow them to track the health and happiness of each polar bear.
CBC News explains that zookeepers use the same regular non-toxic glitter you can find at any art supplies store. They did some research to identify the safest possible glitter for bear consumption and chose a color ranging from a dark purple to a shiny gold for each bear. Currently, eight of the nine polar bears at the zoo regularly consume glitter with meals of ground-up horse meat. Samples are collected from the time bears are first brought to the zoo until they reach sexual maturity.
Zookeepers say you can learn a surprising amount about a bear’s wellbeing from a little bit of sparkly poop. In addition to using the fecal matter to identify current health issues, researchers are performing a longitudinal study on the bears’ ability to acclimate to zoo life. They track stress hormones in fecal samples, observe bear behavior, and then attempt to draw conclusions about both the animals and their own care-taking strategies.
"We want to know, are we doing it right? Are there ways we can improve?" Stephen Petersen of the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre told CBC News. “To really have a science based way of saying, well this really worked for the bears or, this really didn’t.”
Glitter—is there anything it can't do?