IFAW Russia: Orphan bears fitted with satellite collars
The following post was submitted by Marja Kingma, International Fund for Animal Welfare volunteer currently working from IFAW's Orphan Bear Rescue Center in Bubonitsy, Russia.
March 29, 2010
It was an early rise this morning, because I was going to help put with the first feed of the day, at 7 AM. They are being fed four times a day, with ever increasing intervals as the day progresses. The last feed is at 10 PM.
Valentin and Svetlana had prepared the porridge, which the smallest three cubs drink from bottles. The other two cubs are slightly older and bigger and already eat from bowls. The porridge consists of semolina with milk, eggs and vegetable oil. They get anything between 300 and 600 grams per feed, depending on their weight. The bigger cubs are about 30 cm long; the smaller ones are the size of a Jack Russell terrier, or a normal size teddy bear.
I had never bottle-fed a bear cub (and it was a very long time ago since I last bottle-fed a human baby), so it took a little practice and all the time this little cub was scrambling for its food as if it had not eaten for days!
I finally got the hang of it and then was told that they we going to switch to bowls today! In fact they were given both. It is quite difficult for cubs to switch from having their heads up when feeding from a bottle and keeping it down when eating from a bowl. Of course the porridge got everywhere but in their mouths. They just don't know what to do with the bowls and end up with porridge all over their faces.
The last feed was quite a happening, because Sergei was going to take some hair samples for their DNA. One person would divert the cub's attention, by holding a bottle with porridge in front of its nose and Sergei then snipped off a bit of hair.
Even though it can't have hurt, the cubs were screaming on the top of their voices; it was mayhem, but within 15 minutes all DNA was taken and all were fed as well and so peace and quiet settled on the bear house once more. The radio collars fitted yesterday work well; there's data already and it is being processed by a software programme that was installed today. It was really interesting for me as non-scientist to witness how this works in reality.
March 28, 2010
The IFAW Orphan Bear Rescue Center in Russia has 7 bear cubs at the moment. Two cubs that had been hibernating at the centre were fitted with satellite/radio collars on the day of 'Verba', the feast of the willow catkins. This happened under the eyes of two camera crews from a Russian and a French TV channel.
The bears were roused from their 'den', a small wooden box and immobilized. Under the effect of the anesthesia, the collars were fitted.
One of the bears clearly did not like having this thing around its neck and frantically started to shake its head and to walk around, although stumble is a better word for it. After about 10 minutes it ran off into the woods.
The following day the biologists picked up a signal near the enclosure and they found the two cubs at the very top of a high spruce tree. They seemed OK. It is a real tribute to the work IFAW and the Pazhetnov family does, if you know that the cubs were brought in last year severely undernourished and one of them with dis-functioning hind legs.