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Text by Roshan Guharajan and Vennesa Venda
Photo by: Amy Scott, Marieanne Leong, Ng Yen Fern.
The new volunteers at the BSBCC (Amy Scott, Vanessa Venda, Marieanne Leong, Ng Yen Fern and Roshan Guharajan) have been tasked with surveying the trees in Forest Enclosure C. BSBCC Project Manager Ng Wai Pak needed this done to have an idea of which trees were being actively used by bears when they are let out into the forest. We were definitely excited at the prospect of working on this new project. As a few of us were forestry and wildlife students, we hoped to gain some invaluable experience from this venture.
Wai Pak started out by briefing us on what exactly he wanted done. Sun bears leave distinctive claw marks on the bark of trees when they ascend and descend trees. We were taught how to identify these as well as measure tree girth and record canopy cover and ground vegetation. Each of us was given a specific task. Before we started the field work, one of us even suggested that the surveying would take a day at most. However, after the first two hours in the forest we had only managed to survey 20 trees (there were over 100!!). Although it was tiring, it was indeed a rewarding experience. Seeing all the claw marks on the various trees lifted our spirits as the bears in the forest enclosure were doing what sun bears do best: climb. These bears that were once living very sedentary lives in cramped conditions are now behaving like their wild brothers and sisters outside the forest pen. Besides the claw marks, we came across spots where the bears had been digging as well as a bedding site in a hollowed out tree trunk.
Being out in the forest proved to be a breath of fresh air after spending most of our time in the bear house. Besides the many leeches and biting ants, we were blessed enough to see rhinoceros hornbills and giant squirrels. One of the bear keepers, Daniel, also came out to the forest to assist us once in a while. It was spectacular to be able to see nature on its own, and within three days of measuring and analyzing, we were finally done. And it was back to husbandry again… A well spent three days and we bet the bears missed us!