The Bearest Loser

Nikki loses weight, will get the girl

By Jim Iovino
|  Tuesday, Jul 7, 2009  |  Updated 9:17 AM EDT
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Animals in the News

Jessie Cohen/Smithsonian Institution

The classic "before" shot: Nikki the spectacled bear at his heaviest.

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It's never easy being the new kid. Nikki the spectacled bear was no exception.

He might have been the laughing stock of the Smithsonian National Zoo when he first arrived. Nikki, you see, was one rotund bear.

He couldn't walk more than a few steps before having to stop to catch his breath. His handlers couldn't find his tail under his layers of fat. If he wore shoes, Nikki wouldn't have been able to bend over to tie them.

He weighed a whopping 500 pounds. Big for a bear? You better believe it. The average male spectacled bear weighs up to 340.

Zoo nutritionists knew they had a large problem on their hands, but they also had a plan -- Omnivore Chow.

Ah yes, the NutriSystem of the animal world. A combination of this slimming chow and the bear's natural food sources (everything from fruits and nuts to honey and insects) helped Nikki get on the right track, according to the Zoo. His handlers even kept track of each other, making sure no one slipped an extra biscuit here or there to the hungry bear.

The result of all that hard work? Nikki eventually lost 110 pounds. That's quite an accomplishment -- for bears and humans.

So Nikki's svelte, he's active, and now he's gettin' the ladies.

Nikki apparently has been keeping tabs on Billie Jean, the newest female spectacled bear, ever since she entered the exhibit in February. With his newfound physique and the return of his mojo, zoo officials are going to give him a chance to strut his stuff.

The pair will be officially introduced to each other soon so that they can, well, do whatever two frisky bears do in trees and caves and stuff.

Congrats, Nikki, you've earned it.

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