The Black Bear Study | WWF

The Black Bear Study

Posted on 19 August 2014    
A camera trap
© Tobias Schmid
When I arrived in Bhutan, I spent a few days in the capital Thimphu before I moved to the Central part of Bhutan, Bumthang, were I would spend about half of my time in Bhutan.
The first day at the office I was introduced to all the staff and I had a discussion with my boss from the WWF side and also with my boss from the Government side. I was handed out a programme of all the research activities that they have planned to do, so I told them that the topics concerning baseline studies on different animal species would interest me very much. We agreed on a few topics, such as a Human-Black Bear Wildlife Conflict study. So the day after this discussion I asked the leading researcher which kind of activities they have planned for this topic and he told me that nothing has been worked out yet. Together with the Head of the Information and Data Management Section, Yonten (who is a good friend now), we started to work out an idea and design an experiment with which we could prove some presence-absence data and even calculate some density estimates. So after presenting it to our boss, getting the approval for conducting the study, we started planning for the schedule to go to the field. I told my friend that it would be recommendable to go to the field as soon as possible as the bears will start to hibernate by the end of October. For me the departure could have been two days after the approval as I was really impatient. So first we had a training on ARC GIS for a few days and then there was a “Putscha” (a religious ceremony) and we ended up going to the field by the End of September (that was my first lesson on setting different priorties in life besides work, which is a not very commonly spread attitude in Switzerland).
We then went to set up the camera traps at different locations, into areas restricted for tourists and into lush forests in the park. When we entered the northern and higher parts, I got sick (probably some kind of altitude sickness) and I had to return home to lower altitude (as this is the only cure) to get healthy again.
After 2 months we went back in the field to collect the cameras and on the first day (a Tuesday) at 11am after we collected the first camera my friend, Yonten told me that he had to go home as his wife and baby had to go to the next valley to a monastery as some bhuddist relicts were displayed there and that the wanted to bless their child there. So there I stood, surprised that somebody leaves work a 11 am somewhere in the field to drive his family to see Bhuddist reliques as he told me that his wife was not such a save driver. At the beginning I was not able to understand that behavior but I then realized that my own background (“First priority is work” mentality in Switzerland) made me think that something is wrong with leaving work for his family, except for life threatening urgencies, but then I realized that this difference in priorities actually made more sense then ours.
Very longs story short. Throughout the working experience in Bhutan I have observed behavior unknown to me, but exactly this behavior showed me how much my own environment has shaped the way I think and that there is more then one way of living.

And we even caught some bears on camera…
A camera trap
© Tobias Schmid Enlarge

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