An Update From The Great Orangutan Project - The Sun Bears Get New Dens!

An Update From The Great Orangutan Project - The Sun Bears Get New Dens!

Posted by Leanne Sturrock on 27th Feb 2017

We recently spoke to the team at The Great Orangutan Project to find out the latest news from the site in Borneo. The project’s general manager, Natasha, was kind enough to keep us in the loop with goings-on at the site with the following information; specifically, regarding the construction of some new dens for the sunbears…

‘In 2016 we had three new sun bears arrive, bringing the total at the centre up to 15. We were already struggling for space for the bears, as we have young males in the enclosure on the hill that can't make use of the outside space as they have proved to be very wily escape artists. We have long thought that the lower enclosure should be able to keep them contained, but do not want to mix male and female bears together. Captive breeding in sanctuaries is rarely an advisable option, as all sanctuaries are already struggling for space and funds, and new animals are being rescued on such a regular basis it makes little sense to fill up precious space by having existing residents make babies.

Construction in Borneo

Therefore, towards the end of 2016 we began construction work on a new set of night dens within the existing lower enclosure. The eventual goal is to split this outdoor area in half, letting the males have one side and the females remaining on the other. Volunteers have been a huge help throughout this construction project, as there have been many tonnes of cement required (all mixed by muscles and spades of course) and a huge amount of materials needing to be moved from the tool yard down to the construction site. Figuring out the logistics of a given building task is almost as challenging as actually doing the construction work!

This week saw the completion of the new set of night dens. The next step is to convince the existing group of female bears to head over to the new block to start to spend their nights there. We are then planning some major repairs of the old night dens, before moving the females back in there and bringing the boys down from the hill enclosure. The 3 newest and youngest bears are currently being held in quarantine - there are 2 males ready to join the bachelor group, and 1 female to be mixed with the adult females. It is usually easy enough to mix young bears in with other youngsters, or even with adults. The adults seem to display a lot of patience towards younger bears, and the introduction of youngsters tends to inspire even more play behaviour in the adults. We are looking forward to these new integrations, as well as getting the boys outside for the first time in months!’

Maintenance of bear den

Elsewhere, the team were able to give us an idea of their goals for 2017. Despite conservation efforts being ever-on the increase, the sad reality is that a number of animals will continue to be surrendered on the doorstep of centres like the one at The Great Orangutan Project, which is why more must be done to care for the animals already there (and, of course, to support the team of local staff who generously put in the time and effort to assist.)

The first major goal for 2017 is to repair the existing night dens at the project, as well as putting the finishing touches to the large new enclosure intended for the pigtail macaques. These projects require plenty of assistance, and volunteers will play a vital role in allowing these aims to come to fruition.

Building macaque cage

Of course, in addition to the hard work on construction and maintenance, there will always be a need for enrichment and feeding/cleaning activities for the animals at the centre. The Great Orangutan Project hopes to see more volunteers joining their efforts this year, as sadly the number of animals needing urgent protection is ever-on the increase.

Finally, the team behind the project hopes to release a group of longtailed macaques onto the island area that has been used for prior releases throughout 2016. As well as macaques, the team are radio-collaring and releasing slow lorises from the project site into the surrounding Kubah National Park. The Great Orangutan Project hopes to continue its efforts, improving the skills of the post-release monitoring team along the way and therefore ensuring the best outcome for the animals involved.

The Great Orangutan Project is subject to 15% off until the end of February, so head to the project page now to find your place on this fantastic conservation project!


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