On Sunday the 10th of January the LWRC team welcomed its first group of animal loving volunteers for 2016 from all corners of the world for one very special reason, our Bear Project.
The LWRC currently houses 20 bears (19 Asiatic Black Bears and 1 Malayan Sun Bear). When the LWRC and WFFT team first arrived in 2015, many of the bears lived in very poor conditions after years of insufficient care, it became a priority at the center to improve the welfare of these animals and to provide them with a much better life. From from this simple notion the LWRC Bear Project was born!
The LWRC and WFFT put out the call for volunteers to help us with this 3-week beariffic project to help us give all of our bears the lives they deserve. Within a week we had filled all ten volunteer positions.
The task before our new team was simple, to build our new bear park taking our bears from concrete to grass; the team had a huge task ahead of them. One large bear enclosure which was previously inhabited by three elderly bears who did not utilize the space was divided into three individual bear fields with two other adjoining enclosures prior to the arrival of the volunteers. Our volunteer team joined by our local Laos staff needed to construct many multi-level concrete towers, re-seal pools, manufacture climbing structures made out of recycled timber from old enclosures, as well as construct tunnels and various other enrichments. On top of this we also needed to paint the new bear dens and fences and to build a bamboo wall to give the bears more privacy from zoo visitors. Through all of this work we still had dozens of animals that needed feeding and enriching each day and we only had three weeks to get this task done.
The week before our bear project started the LWRC team rescued two adult male bears. Joe was a pet dumped at a temple where he was living in a small rusting cage unable to touch the ground, sitting presently on broken mesh. His owners abandoned him at the temple when he became too old and aggressive- the sad story of so many bears across Asia. Teddy, the second rescued bear was found in a police raid of a suspected drug trafficker’s home where he was kept as a status symbol in a dirty concrete bunker in layers of his own mess. These two latest rescued bears gave even more incentive and placed even more pressure on our volunteers to get our bear park ready!
First thing on Monday morning our new and now much bigger LWRC team hit the ground running!
Construction was coming along well and the team quickly became skilled in providing the bear necessities for our bears to enjoy their new life. Our volunteers became painters, master brick layers, concrete mixers, carpenters, as well as sculptors. The volunteers were busy at work with a variety of jobs including cleaning out old pools and resealing them, digging the foundations for all of our new structures, and hauling concrete and dirt. The team is off to a flying start and we are ahead of schedule and almost ready for our first two groups of bears to move into their new homes. Our volunteers and staff are still powering through the tasks and we are sure they can keep it up! The team need to make sure they do because the bears are always watching the team working away making sure it meets their standards!