In this year of 2020 hit by the COVID virus our plans were disrupted and we had to adapt. I stayed in the rescue centre of Samboja Lestari in Indonesia from March to August 2020 where I supervised the finishing of the construction of the last forest enclosures and managed the dispatching of the bears in their new homes in groups of 2 to 12 individuals. I also edited a short film on the bears at Samboja.
One of our objectives for 2020 was to reintroduce a few sun bear cubs to the wild, as the rescue centre of Samboja Lestari had received 9 new cubs since September 2019. In January 2020 I visited a potential release site in the heart of Borneo and was about to visit a second site in March when the COVID hit Indonesia. Thereafter, it was not possible to travel freely in Indonesia anymore, let alone to transport sun bear cubs or have volunteers come to accompany the cubs in their return to the wild.
Now the cubs are too old and too habituated to humans to be able to be successfully reintroduced to life in the wild. They will unfortunately have to live in captivity. Sadly, one of the cubs died of a pulmonary infection in May 2020. Of the 8 remaining cubs, 6 are together in a large 1,3 hectare forest enclosure while the 2 smaller ones, Lucy and Alaya, are presently kept in an old inadequate enclosure for lack of any better place. My number one objective for 2021 will be to build a new forest enclosure for Lucy and Alaya as soon as I am able to return to Samboja.
In February 2020, we finished the construction of a 1 hectare enclosure in Central Kalimantan for 5 sun bears of the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI), and just when we were about to transfer the bears to their new home, it was put on hold because of the COVID. As I write these lines on December 1st, the bears have still not been moved to the new enclosure. I hope that the transfer will take place early 2021.
Despite the pandemic, the project to improve the welfare of the animals at the Wildlife Rescue Centre of Jogjakarta Indonesia is slowly making progress. In 2020, Sun Bear Outreach has sent more than 8000 euros to WRC while a long term Dutch volunteer on site is supervising the project. He has already done many improvements like the renovation of the macaque cage, the construction of a pool for the sun bears, the renovation of the prep room for the animal feeds, roofs and perches for the birds, etc… What remains to be done is the renovation of the eagles’ aviary and that of the binturongs’ cage.
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