By Hiu Yeat Har
March 9, 2012
Estee and I have gone through our third day of volunteering work. We were much more efficient than the previous day after knowing the routine work. Finally, we have time to take a closer look at the sun bears observing them just few feet aw...ay from us. We notice that the bears have powerful claws. Besides using them to climb up and down, the bears also use them to grip on a targeted object. Once an object is locked, it can never get away from the bear claws. We also learn how strong their arms are. Humans can never have the strength equivalent to a sun bear. When walking on the floor or soil, they only depend on its bear pads which are hairless. Sun bears are also 'powerful coconut breakers'. All these bear facts fascinate us, and we would like to learn more about them whenever we can in the days to come.
Having breakfast at the Sepilok Cafeteria with other volunteers and Wai Pak (one of the full-time staff at BSBCC). The second guy on the right of the picture is Rushan is leaving today, so we are having a farewell meal with him. He is from KL and will be heading to Minessota for his master degree in September. We are all glad to know him coz he is extremely friendly, helpful and funny. We will miss him.
Yesterday, Tao and I took a day off to visit Labuk Bay. It's about 28km away from Sepilok where we work. We took a taxi (cost us RM 100) and reached there to catch the 9:30am feeding time. The wetland area is in the oil palm estate itself. Compared with Klias Wetland in KK, I had a closer encounter with the proboscis monkeys, Oriental Pied Hornbills and Silver leaf monkeys. To tell the truth, I appreciate wildlife more than any stage in my life now. They are simply beautiful and their existence adds more colors to our world, and I think we should try all we can to make sure their survival is not threatened. Our existence lies in their hands and not vice versa.
The bears had corns today. When an ear of corn was thrown on the top of the cage, it didn't get through the holes. But it didn't upset the bears at all. They climbed up the cage and used their claws to pull the corn through the holes easi.ly. Then they used their claws again to grip on the fresh corn tightly and shear the husks with their teeth. Most ate it on the floor but one enjoyed its delicious snack in its own basket. A few lay on the floor and used their forearms' claws to hold the corn while munching it with their teeth. It's fun to see how bears shear a fresh ear of corn. I found that the more time I spend with the bears, the more I feel they are human like. I somehow feel sad to see them living in captivity and not able to enjoy a care free life like us. And so I ask myself what rights do we have to take their habitat and life away?
Wong took us to attend a talk given by Dr. Pilai Pooswad from Thailand on Tuesday night. Dr. Pilai is an internationally recognized hornbill expert and she is also the only hornbill conservationist in South East Asia. She builds, modifies and repairs hornbill nesting areas for the hornbills to breed, converts the hornbill poachers to hornbill research assistants and collects years of data to find out if her effort has increased the population of hornbills in the designated areas. After listening to her talk, I wonder how can we not admire a woman and her team who devote their lifetime to create a community-based conservation? How can we not support their work and thier passion trying to maintain the balance of our ecocystem so that we can have a better place to live in?
The new bear house has many 'secret' doors. If I'm not mistaken, each cage has 5 doors. There is one door leading to the forest enclosure, the other two are for the bears to go in and out from cage to cage if both are open, the bigger door is for the convenience of the staff either to clean the cage or for other 'human' purposes. There is only one door which I am not sure what it is used for and haven't had the chance to find out yet. It is placed within the bigger door itself. In fact, there is also another opening which is more like a 'window' where we slide the food tray in and out during meal time. In my view, all these doors allow the bears to have more space to move around and also ensure the safety of the staff whose bear friends may get rough sometimes. Spending an average about six hours each day in this new bear house is like spending my time at my own house taking care of all the family members and handling all the house chores. It's my second home now. Its sight, its smell and its sounds evoke every sense of my mind and I know deep down my tears will give away the day when I leave the place and the bears behind.
The project manager of BSBCC Ng Wai Pak gave two talks about providing enrichment for sun bears and orang utans. Volunteers from both Orang Utans Rehabilitation Center and BSBCC attended the talks just the past Thursday and Friday afternoo...n. I have never heard of enrichment activities for animals before this. I have never learned in my text books about the importance of providing either artificial or natural environment or programs that can help to create mental stimulation and encourage natural behaviors for the animals in captivity. To be frank, I have never been raised to understand animals need a good quality of life as we do. I have never been taught the physical and the psychological well-being of the animals should be our concern. In fact, the ignorance about all living things on the earth has inflicted many pains, fears and deaths to the animals. And therefore, it's time to change. It's time to give ourselves a chance to know 'who' they are and what they need.