I’m a little late to the blog party, but the guys here have asked me to write some of my experiences down. I think I’ll start with a bit of background from my first week here. This is my first ever blog so don’t judge.
So far working at BSBCC has been unreal. The people here are really friendly and welcoming and help you out wherever they can. Everyone has great english as well which helps me out.
The work for me has been primarily with the bears. They are set to open the centre on January 16th, so its been pretty full on getting everything set. Thankfully its only the soft opening as there is still so much left to do.
A day in the life of a volunteer begins at 8:30am. I head straight for the bear enclosures and begin with either food prep, or cleaning up after the bears. For such little bears they can produce an amazing amount of crap! Probably something to do with the 4 feedings a day. The amount at each feeding is determined by the bears size, or hopefully for the current bears, weather they are being prepped to step away from prepared meals to go back into the wild. When that happens, the keepers will reduce the porridge until the bears are only eating fruit out in the jungle enclosures.
Breakfast - Porridge. Usually about a kilo on average. The big bears like Amacco get one and a half.
Mid Morning - Fruit. 38.5kg of banana’s and 14kg of 2 other fruits that are changed every few days to keep the bears eating new things. Jackfruit, guava, watermelon, pineapple, coconut, durian, snake fruit, papaya, the list goes on...
Afternoon - Another 14kg! But of veggies this time. Again, changed everyday. So far i’ve seen pumpkin, beans, cucumber, spinach and jungle fern.
4pm - More Porridge!
Today started like most. Clean up duty and then the morning fruit feeding. I’m finding more and more the different personalities of the bears that aren’t yet ready to leave their cage, as you can see them eat up close. Most will simply wait their turn and gather as they please, however a few stick out to me.
I think Bermuda is the funniest. Today he gathered all his food into a pile, eating none of it until it was more or less all gathered. He then sat on his ass with all the food in front of him like some exotic sultan and feasted, looking at me every now and then with what I can only describe as apathy. Damai on the other hand is still very young, and happy to whip around jumping up, down and around to find the food. There is never a dull moment in the bear house!
Later we had the painstaking task of finishing Wong’s nature fish tank.
Its fair to say, there was no ‘conservation' that night….
Today I spent the morning in the bear house, and afternoon in the centre. After cleaning the cages I set about perfecting my first enrichment toy. On the first day I was there I took a hessian bag and placed bread with peanut butter in a line, folding it over about 4 or 5 times, with food in each section. I then rolled it up and tied it with rope, the idea being the bear would have to tear through each section to get at each line of bread. I underestimated the bears skill however, and the toy was destroyed within 5 minutes!
The main focus of enrichment activities is to make toys that the bears play with longer then it takes the keeper to make them. These hessian roles take about 5 minutes to make, very simple, but if they only last 5 minutes then its not as great.
Knowing this, I made a slight tweak.
After lunch, the odd jobs continued. I pitched in to get a small fence built around the new quarantine area for incoming bears - keeping out pesky tourists! Then we turned inside and continued the AV equipment set up, so visitors can watch some prepared videos and power points featuring Wong’s research and the centre’s history, before seeing the enclosures. Its going to be an early night after a long day!
Today was a half day for me. They say you should have a couple days break a week, but I’m only here for a short time so I figure a half day is plenty.
Only 2 days till the soft opening now, so I spent my afternoon memorising facts about the centre and surrounding forest. Likely I’ll have to take some visitors around so need to be relatively informed to avoid looking like a dick! Also need to seek out a laundry place as everything I have now is covered in mud/paint/sweat. Goal for tomorrow!
Today was the day before the soft opening so it was full on! I left Azzry and David to handle the bears today after food prep and pitched in with everyone getting the main centre ready. The printed boards went up, which wasn’t the best as it pissed down every time we started putting the glue on. But now they’re on, the entrance looks legit!
The majority of the afternoon was spent moving a large pile of scrap wood that was near the entrance to the centre. We had to load the ute 5 or 6 times with big and small pieces of timber which were covered in mud, nests of ants and a king scorpion. Pretty sketchy each time you moved a piece but thankfully no one got bitten!
Today was the day! The media arrived at 10 and everything went according to plan. There was speeches from Wong firstly, and then some of the other directors, fundraisers and the head of Sabah forestry.
Otherwise the rest of the day was spent talking to visitors about the bears and heading back to the bear house for the 2 afternoon feedings!
Hessian Bag Rope - platted strips into rope, bread and honey used. 10 minutes to make
Damai - 10-15 mins of activity. Hung from the basket. Would be more successful if hung lower so couldn’t sit and chew, but had to stand and claw. Used later without food as a chew toy multiple times.
Hessian Bag Roll - food folded 4 times into sections in bag and rolled. Bread, peanut butter and honey. 5 minutes to make.
Amaco - 10-15 mins of activity. Once through the binding rope and made a hole in the bag, was into all sections. Reduced time spent getting into food. Improvement made: Holes put in both sides and middle. Binding rope passed through all 4 sections and then bound.
Bermuda - spent the first 10 minutes lying on his back rubbing the toy on his head! After that the figure 8 knot used meant as he pulled the rope it tightened around the bundle. Meant he was still getting into the final sections a full hour later! Huge success
Tokob - straight into ripping at it. Took 25 minutes to get to all the food. The honey drizzled over the whole thing meant he was still interested in it an hour later. Carried it into his elevated basket and was still chewing on it an hour later.
Tyre Swing - Three tyres in a chain, bound by rope, hung from roof.
Mary Group - Used swing immediately, without food incentive.