July 29, 2017

Being like Sun Bears for a Day or Two

Being like Sun Bears for a Day or Two

A Malayan sun bear is having a grand old time at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center in Sabah. Photo Credit: BSBCC

Youngsters love animals and they love getting down and dirty outdoors. So what better way to engage them in environmental causes than by combining these pursuits?

That’s what the annual Environmental Education Race (EERace) in Sabah has set out to do. Organized by the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) under the aegis of the Sabah Forestry Department, the initiative seeks to engage secondary school teachers and their students in a host of participant-centered learning workshops, team-oriented outdoor activities and environment-related assignments.

This year the days-long event series featured tasks set by staff at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center (BSBCC), which hosted it. Among the tasks, participants had to envision being captive bears, the better to be able to empathize with their plight.

Participants were asked to stay in small cages so they could experience what it feels like to be captive bears in zoos. Photo Credit: BSBCC

To start off, participants had to divine the contents of rubber balls, which are used in enrichment activities for bears at BSBCC. Treats are stuffed into these balls and bears need to tease them out through a small hole with their long claws and tongue. Then, some participants were locked, briefly, in small bear cages so they could experience being confined to such cages for the benefits of visitors in zoos.

Participants were likewise tested in their creativity by having to create treats for bears using yummy ingredients like ginger leaves, fruits and dollops of honey.

“At the end of their activity at BSBCC, the participants were asked to answer a simple question, to test their understanding on the whole activity they went through – related to sun bear’s conservation,” the organizers explain. “It was great to see all of them enjoyed their time at our centre. We look forward to more exciting activities on next EERace!”

Such initiatives can go a long way towards raising awareness among young Malaysians of the issues facing the nation when it comes to wildlife conservation and animal welfare. May they long continue.

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