Sandakan, Borneo: Day 4http://12miles-out.tumblr.com/post/604238339/sandakan-borneo-day-4
By SayLin Ong
I woke up to a minor scare this morning.. Couldn’t find the cat in the living room of our wooden house. She would usually be meowing away in the morning, and be at her most affectionate of moods(unlike now). I was relieved to find her curled up with Mark, sleeping away blissfully. I tried to go back to sleep, only to be woken up by what sounded like gun shots outside. There must have been at least 5 shots fired. We were told that our neighbours all had guns and hunted occasionally…
Husbandry today was more thorough than yesterday’s. We made sure to scrub the cement walls properly this time.
The powerful back legs of the Sun Bears allowed them the freedom of putting their front limbs to good use, this meant they spent a lot of time ‘stepping’ against the walls too.
The dreary weather lifted in the afternoon, allowing us to conduct more enrichments for the bears. I finally witnessed Om stepping out of his den. He is visibly still lacking the confidence to venture out too far. He’d rather forgo his food reward than risk being too exposed. WaiPak entered Zone D to encourage Suria to come out though. Suria, being a young Sun Bear, was more adventurous and confidently roamed the outdoor yard. She has yet to understand the seriousness of the electric fence though.
While I was helping WaiPak, Mark and Yuru once again did a great job with enrichments. They improved on yesterday’s design and increased the difficulty level for the bears. The idea was to simulate their natural environment, presenting them with challenges that forced them to ponder over how best to utilize their specially adapted claws and long tongue. Our challenge was to construct durable enrichments that would keep the bears stimulated for long periods of time.
We continued to suspend the wooden blogs with food smeared on it since the Sun Bears responded well yesterday. WaiPak had a brilliant idea of dripping honey down the suspend ropes. Its amazing how the bears were so conscious of their long claws. If we had nails that long, I’d expect us to be clumsy and overly careful not to break them.
It is interesting to witness the individual personalities of each bear, how they reacted to conflict and competition. Some would stand their ground to fight, some would hestitate, others would back away without question.
While enrichment and socialization brings about more stimulation for the bears, I can only hope that such an arrangement in captivity will not encourage relatively more aggressive behaviours than their wild counterparts. This reminds me of the accusations that some scientists have for Jane Goodall’s research in the past. Their claim was that her observations of violence amongst chimps was inaccurate as it is only understandable that animals compete over limited resources, be it a forest reserve or a captive environment. Wild animals outside of a reserve might face less competition and behave differently.
Well, whatever it is, the current arrangement is still more favourable than having bears isolated in individual dens.