The students get to have a little fun while learning in Cambodia! One of our trips took us to the Free the Bear Sanctuary where we learned about Sun Bears and Moon Bears. Some of the bears had been rescued from traps that have taken their paws. Others were freed from being pets to humans. All are well taken care of and are thriving today.
The students were taught to identify the different kinds of bears. The Sun Bears were smaller and had short fur. The marking on their chest resembled a U while the Moon Bears were much larger and had a chest marking of a V. The Sun Bears were very playful, often chasing one another and climbing around their pen. The Moon Bears were very lazy and didn't move much, making spotting them rather difficult.
The students were also able to prepare food for the bears. Some made toy balls filled with peanut butter and other treats for the bears. There were also bamboo sticks filled with jelly and nuts and treats. Four students were given the task of chopping potatoes and fruits that would later become the bears' meal. The students made the food, then walked around the enclosure and tossed them in for the bears. The bears were very eager to receive the treats from us.
The bears weren't the only residents of the habitat. We also were able to meet a couple southern serows, monkeys, gibbons, pythons, leopards, tigers, otters, and elephants. We found that the only animal that received a live animal for food was the python, but that was necessary due to the animal's cold blood.
We also noted that a couple of the bears and one of the gibbons were missing legs. In some countries in Southeast Asia, it is common for the paws to be removed for medicinal purposes. There is also the problem of bear bile being harvested; many die due to complications from healing from gallbladder infections or poor treatment of extraction. Today, Free the Bear works to end bear farming and free the bears that are being farmed for the bile. They also work to save those that were traded as pets. Though these bears will not be able to return to the wild, they are kept well fed and entertained at the sanctuary.
To say goodbye to the bears, the students played a game of hide-the-food in the enclosure. First, all of the bears were removed from the enclosure. Then, the students took the food and scattered it around, putting some in their play pen area and other bits and pieces hidden in random locations. It was like an easter egg hunt but with food! We tried our best to keep the pesky monkeys away from the food and once we all were safely out of the fences, the bears were released back into their pen. We watched as they sniffed out all of the bananas and beans and flowers. It was a fun experience for all of us to learn about and feed the bears that have been rescued.