By SayLin Ong
Sandakan, Borneo: Day 3
Today was our first real day at work. Reported to BSBCC on an empty stomach and started off with husbandry work. There is this certain therapeutic feeling I get when I go through the routine of husbandry work. I can’t explain that, and the others can totally understand me. I am especially satisfied because its been a while since I quit the Night Safari, and I’m happy to be scrubbing, dy-sening(soaping) and squee-geeing the dens with my ex-colleagues once again. We got to know the bears individually and learnt of their backgrounds. I think we all have personal favourites now.
We then proceeded with food preparations. I am glad that all 3 of us are experienced in food prep and husbandry, and I’d like to think that we did pretty well, finishing up husbandry quite promptly. Wai Pak has asked for feedback on their husbandry standards in comparison to the Night Safari. I think our one mistake was to automatically proceed with husbandry exactly the way we did back in Singapore. Hopefully in a few days time, we can try to stick to their methods and give some feedback.
We then proceeded with food preparations. It looked almost like a lovely buffet spread. Each feeding tray consisted of mainly porridge together with other ‘garnishes’ such as fruits, dog pellets and honey. I was curious to know why their diet was quite different from what they would have in the while.
This is afterall still phase 1 of the project and the bears are not ready for reintroduction into the wild. A steady supply of local wild fruits is extremely difficult to find. Therefore until the bears are confident enough to roam their outdoor enclosures, such a diet is more than adequate for them. This is a ‘recipe’ that many other zoos and conservation centres use as well. Animals with a constantly full stomach will naturally be more satisfied and less stressed, thus the reduced occurrence of pacing behaviour.
The afternoon was about making enrichments. Mark and Yuru did an excellent job with their experience from Night Safari.(Mark has some pictures) I helped with the upgrading of the outside forest enclosures, sawing and nailing together pieces of wood to erect makeshift fences to protect the bears from accidental electrocution by the fences.
As always, it was always satisfying watching the animals respond to our enrichment ideas. Mark had fun climbing the dens to help tie the enrichments in the dens.
If I’m not mistaken, this is a female named Lawa, the most dominant of the 4 females in her shared dens. We observed how she tediously clung on to the metal grills as she used her long claws to dip into the holes that we drilled.
These holes were manually drilled into the wooden blocks and stuffed with tasty peanut butter, apple or banana puree and their favourite honey. It was most amusing watching her eat with such finesse, ‘finger’ lickin’ good indeed!
We also met a very interesting English lady by the name of Annie, or affectionately known as Grandma Annie. She looks to be at least 60, and has been traveling to Sandakan for the last 12 years to volunteer in Sepilok. She met SiewTe 6 years ago and is now very much emotionally attached to the bears now. It is heartwarming to witness such passion from a senior lady from so far away, despite her eccentric way of talking that we weren’t used to.
I’m looking forward to the coming weeks after our good start. Sunday tomorrow, which really doesn’t mean much here, because caring for these animals is a 24/7 job! We’ll be bringing our laptops to work tomorrow to help with admin work and writing out protocols for Wai Pak. Till tomorrow folks…