Welcome to Viktor and Mirna!

After ten years of pressure from the public Viktor and Mirna have been relocated from their cramped concrete cage in Split to a new 5,000 square metre enclosure in Kuterevo. Viktor and Mirna are enjoying their new home so far, but they still have a long way to go before they re-discover their natural bear instincts. Meanwhile they are able to take long swims in the pool, play with (and break!) all the trees in the enclosure, and take naps in the tall grass. Mirna is 31 years of age and therefore is often found resting in the shade, sleeping for many hours during the day. On the other hand Viktor, weighing 250kg, is always on the hunt for fruit and eats more than me at Christmas- (so food donations are greatly appreciated)!

 

In celebration of Viktor and Mirna’s arrival and the completion of the new enclosure, an ‘opening day’ was held on the sixth of June, with people from Croatia and abroad coming to the village for the event. Everyone then retreated into the shade for some traditional food and entertainment. Photos of previous volunteers working on the enclosure were also available for viewing on the day. The exhibition highlighted the hard work done by hundreds of volunteers from over thirty different countries!

 

A BIG thank-you to all those who have donated their time or money to the refuge! None of this would have been possible without Kuterevo volunteers (scouts, workcamps, individuals, EVS and SCI volunteers…), local majstors (Šiljo, Josa, Ive, Želio, Ujkič, Vedran, Mira, Vesna, Nikonila, Tomislav, Nina…), the animal welfare organisation Four Paws, generous donations from visitors, Zoo City and Algoritim, and support from Aktionbarenkinder and municipality…

 

… but we won’t stop here! The ‘Land for Bears’ campaign is still running and we hope to aquire some more space for (future) bears in need of a better life! This fundraising campaign is coming from a great need for new enclosures and reconstruction of old enclosures – we have to collect money, materials or tools because at the moment we have nowhere to host new orphan cubs.

Summer has just started in Kuterevo, and more than 50 volunteers has started to work on a new area for a future enclosure!

On behalf of the Kuterevo bears, we thank you for your support and we hope to see you soon in Kuterevo!

Rebecca

Bears, myths and realities – exhibition in Toulouse, France

Some countries count many bears on their territories, many others have only few left, or none. France is one of these countries where bears have not been welcome for centuries, and where the few still living there (about 20, shared with Spain in Pyrenees mountains) make a lot of troubles, at least in people’s minds and newspapers.

But while bears have almost disappeared from forests and mountains, they still keep a very strong place in people’s (French and others) life and in collective imagination, through myths, legends and believes of all times. Stories based on real facts (like bear symbol of renewal because of winter sleep and spring awakeness), reality influenced by stories (bear demonized in narratives and killed through vast hunting campaigns), the history of bears and people is rich and complex… and totally fascinating.

Since last October and until the beginning of August, the Natural History Museum of Toulouse, France, presents a very interesting exhibition about this relationship between bears and people “Bears, myths and realities”. On our ways through different projects and lives, two of Kuterevo volunteers managed to meet in Toulouse to visit this exhibition.

Following bear tracks in dark corridors, the visit lead us through several rooms: from myths… to reality.

Tales and legends from all over the world, etymology of the word “bear” in different languages, symbols and believes related to bears in various cultures, coats of arms, traditional celebrations… step by step, the exhibition takes the visitors through history, and shows how the bear has been a spiritual guide, a magical figure, a creature so close to humans that they could breed together, how he has been admired, hunted and tamed. And how, in a modern world which doesn’t give much space to him, like to any kind of wilderness, people keep looking for tenderness and reassurance with the bear, with the stuffed figure of the Teddy bear.

Natural and biological facts follows cultural aspects, taking visitors to another kind of reality: presentation of the eigth species of bears is completed by information about bear conservation and coexistence with humans.

The visit is beautiful. One regret: it stays a museum. Lots of information, very interesting facts, great pictures and drawings, everything well documented… but at the end, the feeling that something is missing: perhaps a call to take action, to see more than facts and to think about what can be done.

But the last quote of the visit will as well be the conclusion of this article:

By killing the bear, his parent, his fellow creature, man has for a long time killed his own memory and more or less symbolicaly killed himself.

Michel Pastoureau, L’ours, histoire d’un roi déchu.

Amélie

More about the exhibition.
More about bears and people on this blog.

Bears of the world – the Sun Bear

For the second article, after the moon bear, we would like to say something about the sun bear (Helarctos malayanus).

Very little is known about this bear, and since probably it’s the rarest, it may disappear before we could know more about it. It lives in tropical rainforests of the Southeast Asia, from Bangladesh till the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, where the food is available year-round and for this reason it doesn’t hybernate. Its name comes from the golden patch on its chest, but it is also called“Malayan bear”thanks for its geographic location or “honey bear”due to its love for honey.

It’s the smallest bear in the world (when it is born it weights around only 300g, and bigger males can reach 1.50m length and 65kg weight) and is very adapted for climbing: has very long (longest than any bear) and sharp claws, with which it can even open coconuts, and its soles are naked. It spends most of its time on trees and for these reasons in Malaysia it is called basindo nan tenggil which means “he who likes to sit high”. If disturbed, can let himself drop to the ground and then run away.

It is omnivorous, eating a great variety of food, but the main part of its diet is composed by bees, insects’larvae and honey, which it eats with its 25 cm tongue, and fruits, especially figs. Another curious fact about this bear is that it has very large canines and a straordinary bite forces (in relation to its body size), and the scientists still are not sure what is the reason, but the most accepted theory is that it often opens tropical hardwood trees in pursuit of insects.

Despite its small size, it is known to be the most aggressive bear, and it is said to attack people without reason. The fact is that it can show territorial and aggressive behaviors in habitats where food is a limited resources (like in Borneo rainforests), and the male bears compete for access to female bears.

In nature just tigers, leopards and pythons can be potential predators. If it does get attacked, it has loose and wrinkled skin around its neck, so it can turn around and attack predators that bite it on its back!

INTERACTION WITH HUMANS

Main threatens to sun bear is habitat loss usually due to palm oil and rubber industries: deforestation, clear-cutting for plantation development, unsustainable and/or illegal logging practices and human-caused fires are seriously endangering the natural forests it needs to survive.

Where jungle is less threatened by these practices (in Thailand almost all forests are protected), hunting is the main danger for this bear: killing sun bears is strictly prohibited under national wildlife protection laws throughout their range, but is largely uncontrolled and the illegal trade is still very powerful.

Even if less than the Asian black bear, sun bears are also poached for their gall bladders (i.e., bile) used as a Traditional Chinese Medicine, and killed for the meat, especially bear-paws which are sold as an expensive delicacy. Other motivations for killing bears include: preventing damage to crops, subsistence use, fear of bears near villages (for example although few sun bears exist in India, villagers there still kill considerable numbers).

Due to its small size, there is a big trade for cubs, for being used as pets: little bears are taking away from the forest, after killing their mother to prevent hunters from getting harmed. These cubs once they grow may become aggressive and dangerous so, as a result, there are many young orphaned and captive sun bears living in small cages and substandard conditions with no present hope of returning to the wild.

Although the number of sun bears living in the wild is not known, it is suspected that its global population has declined by > 30% over the past 30 years (3 bear generations).

Until deforestation of Southeast Asia forests will continue this bear (and many other forms of life) will be threatened. The main cause of this destruction is for making room to palm plantation, from which will be extract the palm oil, a product used in a lot of different ways in a lot of products from shampoos to chocolate to cleaning products (also including natural and organic products).

Many well-known brands (like Colgate, Kraft, Nestlè..) use it, and often is hidden under different names like vegetal oil or stearic acid. So what can we actively do? We as consumers have the power to decide what to buy and what not, sending a clear message to these companies. All the simple decisions that we make every day can make a big difference!

For more information about the palm oil industry and and its impact you can check the next pages:

http://www.saynotopalmoil.com/palm-oil.php

http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/forests/palm-oil

And if you want to learn more about endangered sun bear, tiger and elephant, take a bit of time to watch that:

IUCN state: VULNERABLE

Population trend: DECREASING

Teo