In the beautiful first days of spring, young moon bear Tieu Long celebrates by rubbing himself all over a shrimp paste-encrusted log at our Vietnam sanctuary and we caught it on camera.
The strong scent of the fermented shrimp paste – or mam tom – is a classic part of Vietnamese cuisine, but often divides opinion. It’s like blue cheese or durian but arguably even more stinky. Some people love it, while others can’t stand it. This is apparently true for bears too, and Tieu Long is definitely a mam tom lover.
But there’s more than just pleasure involved. Items like this shrimp paste covered log are all part of the bears’ daily enrichment programme, designed to mimic the stimuli they would enjoy in nature. An important part of Animals Asia’s enrichment work is sensory, which includes touch, smell, taste, sound and vision.
In nature, bears would constantly be coming across new smells, the smell of other animals on the same path in the forest, the smell of food, the smell of trees and plants, and much more besides.
For inquisitive young bears like Tieu Long, items like this are a real treat.
Bear and Vet Team Director Vietnam Annemarie Weegenaar said:
“One of the smears the bears particularly like, and in some cases dislike, is shrimp paste. You can smell it even before you get to an enclosure and there are certain individuals who will choose rolling in shrimp paste over eating their most favourite food like apples.”
“For Tieu Long, we drizzled shrimp paste over one log in a pile and obviously he enjoyed a good rub in the smelly liquid. Most of our bears have a real sweet tooth so would generally favour licking up things like yoghurt drizzles or plum sauce, but not much else gets a reaction out of our bears like shrimp paste.”
Happy Moon Bear Monday here’s hoping you have a wonderful day that keeps your senses well and truly working overtime.