IFAW Russia: Orphan Bear Diaries, April 1, 2010
The following was submitted by Marja Kingma, International Fund for Animal Welfare volunteer currently working from IFAW's Orphan Bear Rescue Center in Bubonitsy, Russia.
April 1, 2010 – 08.00
It’s nearly time for breakfast. The bear cubs are learning to eat from bowls instead of drinking from bottles. It’s not easy. The bigger ones, sisters Nota and Nadya are already used to it, but the smaller ones Borya and his sister Lena and Veles are struggling.
Veles didn’t get it and sent the bowl flying, covering the floor and himself in porridge. He cried out loud; Svetlana explained to me that they do that, because they can smell the food, but can’t find it!
Lena is still drinking from the bottle; she is not interested in bowls yet. It is my task to feed her. She was hungry this morning and drank two bottles. She is about 35 cm long and weighs in at about 3 kg.
Nota and Nadya weigh something like 4 kg, but it’s all muscle. They are really strong- it’s sometimes difficult to get them off my boots, or off each other; they do have scraps amongst themselves.
Once I had fed Lena I tended to Borya who had his paws in his bowl. I had to stop him from doing that, by holding his paws down on the ground while he was eating. When he was finished I wiped his paws and snout and put him in the adjacent compartment. He promptly tried to climb out again.
Later today the cubs will have a bath to wash off the porridge.
Bottle-feeding was a first-time experience for me; bear bathing (not to be confused with bear baiting) is another one.
First the cubs are being fed as usual- then they rest a bit and after that it’s time for their bath. A big washing bowl, warm water and lots of cloths for drying off are brought in. One by one the cubs are put in the bowl; Nota and Nadya first. They don’t yet realise how much bears love water and struggle to get out of the bowl. So the one who gets washed first is Svetlana instead of Nota. Valentin holds the cubs tight and Svetlana washes them as best she can.
Lena seems to be the one who understands best; she sits very still and Svetlana can wash her properly. And I dry them all off!! The only time I am allowed to hold the cubs and every one of them. After a quick wipe with a cloth I put them back in their box/den. It’s all over in less then ten minutes, but it was wonderful!