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Big move for ‘The Browns’ – Part I

Tuesday was Senior Bear Manager Nic's birthday - and the day of the big move. Brown bear Caesar and Tibetan browns Benji and Poupouce were being prepared to be transferred into their new specially designed enclosures which would cater to their different characteristics, compared with the moon bear type enclosures where they currently live. Substantially larger than the Asiatic black bears, Caesar, Benji and Poupouce have a propensity for digging - especially in the colder weather. Caesar, as you may have read in a previous blog, was a master at this and dug for China, often proudly surveying her "den" after an afternoon's work, which would fit six grown men.

As safety was such a concern, the design and construction of the new enclosures has taken months, but finally the three bears were moved over to what we affectionately call their "bunkers". Projects Director Boris, and assistant Robin, who had worked so hard and professionally on the whole aspect, meticulously checked and re-checked the integrity of the gates, bars and locks – and then checked them again just to make sure. And then we were ready for the move.

Caesar was first - and Bear Manager Donata and our bear team skilfully tempted Caesar into the transport cage and drove her off on the back of the truck to her new den. Once unloaded, her cage was fixed to the gate of the den and, as the door opened, she shot into her new home both slightly stressed with the move, but eager to explore her new surroundings. The den had been beautifully enriched with banana leaves, fruit, bamboo feeders - and a coconut which she pounced on with her huge brown paws and crushed within seconds. I casually remarked to Belinda our Bear Manager that Caesar could probably do that to a human head if she had the chance – and Belinda squashed my joke flat saying she'd read that this was indeed how some brown bears kill people in the wild. So much for the advice you read about lying down and protecting your head if you run into a grizzly!

The coconut was gone in 2 minutes - very impressive. Then it was on to her water bowl – lying on the floor and swatting great paw-fulls of water which sent it cascading through the bars and out to us in the corridor of the house. Caesar also began to emit short hooting sounds intermittently as she somewhat nervously familiarised herself with her new home. These were rather low vocalisations, but with a velocity which made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Again I wouldn't much fancy meeting her on a dark night!

Then it was Tibetan bear Benji's turn. Dear sweet gentle Benji – until he is moved. And then a tyrant kicked in as he angrily swatted at anyone who came anywhere near the moving cage. The coconut was jumped on several times but lay there intact - so perhaps if you met a bear like him in the wild you'd stand a chance if you lay on the ground.

Benji's sibling, Poupouce, was also cautious and took over an hour to move. She had Donata pulling her own hair out as she tried to tempt her in to the transport cage with an array of goodies, until finally peanut butter smears did the trick. Well, why wouldn't they all be nervous........ perhaps their minds regressed to the past where life really wasn't so good?

Finally they were all peering out at us from their new dens, familiarising themselves with the inside and preparing for the big release the next morning into two incredible enclosures with swimming pools, platforms, toys - and of course bunkers to hunker down whenever they wanted. As she breathed a great sigh of relief, Nic was heard to comment that this was her best birthday present - and she's right....they don't get better than that.

To you all, our excellent Animals Asia family, I'd like to say a huge and heartfelt thank you for the "Browns' new home". Nic also sent a message thanking everyone involved in what was truly a group effort. To read Nic’s comments click here.

Please check back on Monday for the next part of this unique occasion – and see the first pictures of these lovely brown bears exploring their great new outdoors! Until then, have a lovely weekend.

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