By Mark Rusliteochew porridge raid
Finally got down to some enrichments today! So far the enrichments we came up with involved a lot of claw and tongue action (haha!), since captivity limits the use of these two vital body parts of the sun bears. We’re going to have to think of something different the next time.
The first one we had was a log, with manually-drilled holes that we stuffed with popcorn, honey, banana, raisins, etc. The intention was to give it to the group of adult females, but we gave Manis a headstart - she’s the least dominant, so she gets left out quite a bit by the rest. It’s natural in the wild when animals have limited resources, and they have to compete for them.
We all have a soft spot for Manis because she’s developed some mental problems from her time in a zoo - her stereotypic pacing behaviour has instilled itself so deeply in her psyche that even the best enrichments fail to distract her. We gave her 5 minutes alone with the enrichment, then set loose the other 3 bears. Suzie, the most dominant one, pretty much hogged the log and its hidden treats by herself, leaving the others some leftovers and occasional quick, stolen snatches when she wasn’t looking.
Our second was a long piece of bamboo which already had holes on its sides: it was reused from a previous enrichment. We stuffed raisins and popcorn within its hollow and gave it to Bermuda, one of the males. I’ve already mentioned the jarring contrast in strength between both genders, and not surprisingly he tore its side easily and got to the treats. No challenge at all!
There are two groups of females at BSBCC. The first week I thought telling apart the individuals in each group would be impossible, but today I realised I could do it for the adult female group. Saylin was saying that we all have our own personal favourites, which we all quickly denied. But I think the truth is that no one wants to reveal they have any: we’re trying (or rather, pretending) to be egalitarian!
The bears here get fed porridge twice a day, and since bears are opportunistic feeders, they eat just about anything - popcorn, raisins, bread, you name it. - and it won’t really have adverse health effects if kept in low quantities. The joke today was that if these bears are eventually released in the wild, they’re going to find the nearest popcorn stand, or teochew porridge stall…. and may God bless the people there.
It’s going to take a bit of work to wean them off these human foods, especially porridge. But that may be a while - BSBCC still needs donations for Phase 2: the visitor centre. Only through the construction of Phase 2 can the organisation be self-sustaining and then have adequate funds to channel into its rehab programs. Help spread the word!