When Nikki the spectacled Bear came to the National Zoo in December 2006, he looked more like Winnie the Pooh than Smokey the Bear. At 500 pounds, Nikki was so obese that animal handlers had trouble locating his tail underneath layers of fat. The weight took its toll on his physical activity as well. After a few steps, Nikki would have to stop and catch his breath.
Luckily, the National Zoo is one of a handful of zoos with an animal nutrition team. After assessing the situation, nutritionist Karen Lisi came up with a step-by-step diet plan to help Nikki shed the pounds within a year. And it worked. By the summer of 2007, Nikki had lost 110 pounds and was looking like his handsome self again. The 17-year-old will soon be paired with a spirited female, Billy Billie Jean, giving this story a two-fold happy ending.
For more, check out our recent story on the the zoo's nutritionists,