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Sandakan, Borneo: Day 5http://12miles-out.tumblr.com/post/613476637/sandakan-borneo-day-5
By SayLin Ong
Day 5 - Husbandry has become pretty routine for us now that we have gotten used to the way things are done here, its just a slight difference from what we are used to at the Night Safari. It was my turn to head out to chop branches for the bears with Mark. After getting enough branches from within the centre, Mark and I took a good walk out of the centre to collect shoots from a recently fallen banana tree. The bears seemed to love them quite a bit, having fun shredding and chewing them up, maybe its because banana shoots are especially succulent. (and of course making husbandry especially tedious picking up shredded leaves the next morning, but thats okay!) David and Daniel are the two permanent staff at BSBCC. Despite the slight language and maybe cultural barrier, I think the 3 of us really enjoy working with them. They’ve been extremely friendly and understanding with us.
We improved on the enrichments that we had for Day 4, making the wooden blocks longer so that the grouped females have a chance to share the enrichment. Lawa, however, was simply too dominant for the rest and dominated the enrichment. We have to figure out out how to include Manis in the enrichments and reduce her pacing behaviour. Despite the best efforts of keepers at zoos and conservation centres, some animals are still less responsive to enrichments. Mark and I also noticed how much stronger the males were, with Bermuda easily breaking up his wooden block to get to the honey.
I’ve written about how the bears are so aware of their claws and put them to good use. Here is a picture illustrating just that. The claws of these bears are very much like extended parts of their digits, never hesitating to grip confidently even onto such narrow grills. It is most unfortunate that some of the sun bears in the pet trade have had their claws cruelly removed. These bears not only suffer from excruciating pain from such a crude operation, but are doomed to life in captivity. Without these powerful claws, they would never be able to forage for food or climb trees to escape from predation.
I also observed how they evolved to have such thick muscular necks. While tackling the enrichments, they especially relied on this particular method of biting onto items tightly and thrashing their heads about. Very much an attempt to break of dislodge any item. Enrichments given to the grouped bears also revealed to us their individual heirachies. Sun Bears are naturally solitary animals. However, they tend to establish heirachies in captive environments, understandable as they feel the need to fight over resources.
The 3 of us enjoy watching the bears fussing over our enrichments, just like how we did back in Night Safari. Even the workers know this, making it a point to let us watch the bears in action. Its great fun watching the bears facing up to the challenge for their prized treats, knowing that they have something to think hard about, making their day that bit more interesting.
We signed up for the night trek offered by Sepilok Nature Reserve. I must say that it was an awesome experience. Felt very much like walking into a scene in Jurassic Park or Avatar. The giant trees in the reserve had caught my eye since day 1, but staring at them directly from below was very much awe-inspiring. The crickets made a sound unlike any other I’ve heard, not in Singapore, not in Australia
And the mysterious hue of purple in the background casted a eerie silhouette upon the trees, completing that magical feeling. It was extremely exciting watching the 4 or 5 Giant Flying Squirrel flights in the air. I never expected them to actually glide so graciously, almost in slow motion.
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