If you’ve found your perfect home in the city, there’s a high chance that the only wild animal you have ever seen has been on a nature documentary. Sure, you might have seen the odd squirrel scurrying around and you might pass a dozen dogs on the street each day, but these animals are incredibly different to those who live in rainforests and savannahs across the world. As some of us will never have the chance to trek through the Amazon rainforest or walk with elephants on safari, we are incredibly removed from the animal kingdom and the natural world. While we know that climate change and global warming is a threat to our livelihoods, we rarely engage with it – because it doesn’t affect us, right? Well, the sad truth of the matter is that all of the habits we have got into in the 21st Century are severely affecting our world and our future.
According to NASA, 97% of the scientists who work on matters to do with the earth’s climate believe that the actions of the human race have caused global warming. This is due to the fact that we constantly burn fossil fuels, and increasing the farmland we have to provide for an ever-growing population, and cutting down more and more trees every day to source our everyday products. In fact, deforestation is one of the causes of climate change that we can see before our very eyes. We can see forests that have been turned into barren lands, we can see clearings that used to be lush woods, and we can see animals who have lost their home. While this can be an upsetting fact, there are countless charities and organizations who are trying to stop this from happening. Thanks to this education, one group of workers knew exactly what to do when they spotted a bear desperately trying to signal for help in the forest…
Getting their attention
When you think about our position at the top of the food chain, our actions not only destruct the world around us, but they also help to rebuild it. During the course of our existence, humans have interfered with animals and changed their lives completely. We have destroyed their homes, we have got in the way of their families, and we have aided their road to extinction. However, we are also doing everything we can to rectify our mistakes. We are learning everything we can about these animals, and we use all of our power to ensure they do not go extinct. Because of this, these rescuers just couldn’t leave this bear behind.
A tragic scene
Although we are often made aware of the effect human life is having on the natural world around us, many of us do not know the true extent of this destruction. We are told to use more eco-friendly energy options, we are told to reduce our waste, and we are even told to fight for the rights of animals. But what is it all for? Well, one of the biggest effects on climate change is deforestation, and more and more trees are being cut down every single year for human usage. Deforestation is particularly brutal in Borneo, where the once-beautiful rainforests are now clinging onto the little space that they have left.
For our own benefit
One of the main reasons Borneo is being hit so hard is because it has huge areas of land that are seemingly ready for use – but this land is also covered in trees. Large companies looking to cultivate this area, either turning them into buildings or planting profitable rubber plants and palm oil trees. Once they have extracted these materials, they transport them across the world so they can be used in everyday products we use without a second thought. Sadly, this process does more damage than it does good.
Because we have grown used to having these oils and this rubber in our lives, companies are doing everything they can to up the ante and provide us with more. After all, this will provide them with more business and more money, and works in their favor. Yet, this has caused the deforestation to become out of control. These companies are no longer cultivating these materials in a sustainable fashion, and as more trees are being cut down, fewer trees are planted in their place. This has had a huge impact on the animals who live there.
A helping hand
While the sight of this deforestation and the news of homeless animals may fill you with sadness, you might be happy to know that there are people out there who are trying to stop this from happening. Most notably, the Jejak Pulang Foundation (JPF) and Four Paws International (FPI) are doing everything in their power to protect these animals and to keep their homes intact. They are largely doing their work in Borneo, where the problems are much worse than other locations across the globe. They know they need to make a difference.
A little context
Borneo is a large island in Asia and is known for having an extremely diverse ecosystem. It has some of the best beaches in the world to its name, but it also features rough rainforest and mountainous regions. However, this also means it is incredibly desirable to large corporations, and almost half of its forests have been destroyed in the past few years. This has severely affected the lives of Borneo’s incredible animals, including the sun bear.
A rare necessity
You might be familiar with the famous grizzly bear or the black bear, but the sun bear is actually rather different. For starters, they are extremely vulnerable in the wild and have been classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a species that are under deep threat. While their official name is the sun bear, these incredible creatures are often called honey bears – because they just love honey and honeycombs so much! Unfortunately, the number of sun bears in the wild has dwindled over the past few decades.
An incredible sighting
Because there are so few sun bears in the wild, catching a glimpse of them in their natural habitat is almost impossible. However, in early 2018, a group of volunteers and researchers with the Jejak Pulang Foundation (JPF) stumbled across one in the rainforest. The group were overwhelmed to see one of these beautiful creatures in the flesh, but they could tell that something wasn’t quite right. Their friends at the Four Paws Institute (FPI) wrote about their experience on social media after the event to tell their story.
As soon as the group laid eyes on the bear, they knew that something was wrong. They had a hunch, and they could tell that there was something unusual about the situation in front of them. The team members were strolling through the forest as they would any other day when they spotted the sun bear in front of them. However, instead of running away from them or attempting to intimidate them, the sun bear did something rather strange and rather odd. It seemed as though she was waving at them.
A strange situation
Many people fear encountering a bear in the middle of the forest, and for good reason. Bears can potentially be very dangerous to human beings – that is simply their nature. They’re much stronger, and can easily take down even the strongest man. So it would be understandable to want to get away from a bear when you see when. But this group of volunteers didn’t run for the hills. Instead, they looked closer at the bear.
Approaching with caution
The team took in the scene in front of them and had to make a decision. Did they approach the bear? Or should they walk away and leave it to it? As they debated their options, they took another look at the bear and could see that she was in distress. Before too long, they realized just why this was. The group had actually stumbled upon an illegal rubber plantation in the middle of the rainforest and had done everything they could possibly do to protect their plants from pesky animals.
Caught in a trap
As the team from JPF looked around the surrounding area, they could see that the illegal plantation workers had covered the floor with traps and snares to catch any animals who happened to wander into their area. It just so happened that the bear was walking through this area when she was caught in a trap, and she could not move. Her paw was trapped in the snare mechanism, and she had absolutely no way out. The team did not know how long she had been there but knew they had to help.
Waving for help
As they looked at the poor bear, they knew exactly why she had been waving in the first place. She was trying to get their attention so they could free her. Immediately, the team jumped into action and did everything they could to save the sun bear – who they later called Belia. They untangled her from the snare, they helped her pass safely past all of the other traps, and then they transported to their animal medical facility, where they looked her over for any more less-obvious injuries.
Traps and snares can cause a lot of damage to animals – even hurt them fatally. Although in some environments running into a bear can be a pretty frightening thing, they should be able to run around free in rainforests. It’s their natural habitat, and they don’t pose a threat here. The only reason these traps were placed was to keep them away from those illegal plantations. What’s been done here is essentially like coming into someone’s home and taking over.
The Four Paws International Facebook page kept their followers and their fans up to date with Belia’s progress – but the initial medical assessment wasn’t good. Because the snare had trapped her paw so heavily, it could not be saved. Although the medical team did everything they could to keep everything intact, they eventually had to make the tough decision and amputate part of her paw. The surgery went without a hitch, and Belia was later bandaged up in the hope that she would make a full recovery. However, there were no guarantees.
Breaking our hearts
As soon as people read Belia’s story on the FPI Facebook page, hearts were broken across the world. They read her ordeal with tears in their eyes, and they began to wonder about the world around them. People couldn’t believe that areas like this existed, and they couldn’t understand why anyone would set traps in the rainforest. Yet, there was one question on everyone’s lips… Would she survive the ordeal? As more and more people started to question her health and her chances, the FPI gave an answer. In their eyes, her age would determine her chances of survival.
Claire LaFrance, the communications director at Four Paws International, decided to answer the question that had been asked so many times on the animal website, The Dodo. What were the chances of Belia surviving her traumatic ordeal? To all of the people wondering, Claire put them out of their misery. In her eyes, Belia would have a good chance of survival! This is because experts have estimated that Belia is around two years old, which means she is still very young and still has chance to thrive.
Able to adapt
According to experts, animals who are younger in age have a better chance of adapting to changes in their physical makeup, and they hoped that Belia would be able to survive without part of her paw in place. To give her the best chance of survival, her rescuers decided to keep her in an outdoor enclosure so she could get used to her new form, and try to incorporate a new way of walking and eating into her everyday life. They wanted to give her a safe space to do this, before releasing her back into the wild.
A quick recovery
The researchers soon realized that they had predicted correctly because Belia immediately started to adapt to her new paw and deal with her injuries. In fact, she took no time at all! Just eight days after she was brought into the center, Belia was able to move around and complete all of the tasks needed for survival. The researchers could tell that she was ready to leave the outside enclosure, so the doctors gave her one last once-over before making their way back into the rainforest with Belia in tow.
Without a claw
Belia is now forced to survive in the rainforest without one of her claws. Survival out in nature can be difficult enough, even without traps to pose a danger to the rainforest inhabitants. And sun bears are dependent on their claws to help them climb trees and open hollow logs, searching for termites. Now Belia would have to adapt to her new situation, and do all these things without what was damaged by the trap.
Back into the wild
Just a few weeks after the Four Paws Initiative shared their story of Belia, they posted another update – she was ready to be returned to the wild! They confirmed that Belia had been able to adapt to her new paw with ease, and was ready to take on the world by herself. She was ready to come out of the enclosure and roam about the rainforest the way any wild animal should. They also noted that they released Belia in the same place they found her, but some people were still concerned…
Many of the people who read Belia’s story were happy to hear that she had been returned to her home, but they couldn’t help but wonder whether the location was safe. What if she found herself caught in another trap? Well, the Four Paws Initiative noted that they had put a measures in place to ensure that didn’t happen again. They put their own camera traps in the forest, which means they could keep an eye on Belia and the other sun bears without harming them or the environment around them.
Going after the trappers
The organization may have helped Belia tremendously, and possibly saved her life, but their work did not end there. Not only did they set up a donation page for the bear, so they could provide her with further care, but they also went after the people who set those traps. Along with the police, the staff of Jejak Pulang have been looking for more traps, and trying to locate the trappers – while increasing security around the area.
The Four Paws organization has been doing a lot of good work to help bears around the world. In the Republic of Kosovo, for example, they were given exclusive rights to keep brown bears, and they’ve built them a sanctuary, just for bears. These bears can run around safely and enjoy their habitat without being afraid of anything like traps or hunting. And they can do it all in a secure area with ponds, hibernation caves, and plenty of room to move around.
Mankind is the species that rules this earth. But this also poses a responsibility on our side, to take care of nature and its inhabitants. It’s not only our job to save the rainforests, but it’s also our job to take care of the animals living in nature. We need to make sure they are kept out of harm’s way, especially harm that might be caused by other people. This is why these groups of volunteers are so vital to the world.
The future danger
The sun bears have become an endangered species because of the endless poaching in the Bornean rainforests. Large portions of these rainforests are also being turned into farmlands, all in order to get our hands on materials like rubber and palm oil. But the sun bears’ population has becoming dwindled over the past few years, and this kind of behavior on our side – especially when traps are being set up – might lead to the future extinction of sun bears, along with other species.
A happy ending
Thankfully, Belia’s story is a happy one, and she has since made a full recovery and is living her life to the fullest in the Bornean rainforest. Yet, this is a one in a million story, and there are still countless animals out there who are suffering at the hands of humans. It’s thanks to organizations such as the JPF and the FPI that these animals can be saved, but we also need to make a conscious effort as humans to stop deforestation and to save the animals that live in these areas.
While this story ended in a relatively good way, things could have been completely different for this sun bear. If the group of volunteers hadn’t run into the bear, or if they didn’t realize it was calling for help, it probably wouldn’t have survived being trapped in that snare. So it’s lucky that these people were able to realize something was wrong before they kept going, otherwise this story wouldn’t have the happy ending that it did.