The best enrichment for the bear cub is another bear. Romolina and Logan spend more time learning how to be in a beautiful friendship, and to be happy, agile sun bears after all that they have been through in the past.
Little Romolina arrived at BSBCC on July 7th, 2018. She was found in a small cage where she was kept as a house pet and probably stolen from her mother.
Time has flown! Romolina is growing well and had many developments over the two months. She enjoys new freedom after the rescue and put her past behind her. Please helps us spread the words that sun bear should stay in the wild and no one should have the desire to have a wild animal as a pet.
Day 7: Little Romolina learns how to get the BEST out of life!
With the love and care from her lovely bear team, she starts learning how to trust and be a wild bear again. Thank you for our amazing APE Volunteers - Tara, Imogen and Sienna making the Bear Ball for her!
Text by Ng Kang Yew Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Hi I'm Ng, a typical Malaysian who lives in a big city known as Petaling Jaya, and also working as landscaper.
Many of my Friends used to travel out of the country to enjoy their vacation time and explore new places. As our leave is so limited, no wonder most of us like to spend this precious time to take a leisure tour and take fancy photos. Hmm. But me, I was looking for some different. What if I was able to contribute some of my time towards helping society? Wow. A hero dream huh? With this idea in mind and great opportunities in front of me, I came across the Sun Bear Programme.
I'm not that strange to Sun Bears as a I have visited ones before in a local zoo. The memory of them is still very vivid; a little sun bear put in a bare steel enclosure and he is all alone. This was my very first experience with a Sun Bear.
Back in Nov 2017, my friend and I come across an eco film fest in Publika, where we had the chance to watch a film from Dr. Audrey as well as talk to her afterwards. She suggested for us to have a look into the Sun Bear Centre, and yes, both of us signed up to the program.
“Do you have a chance to cuddle or pet the Sun Bear?” I believe this question will always be the top pick QnA for every single volunteer who wants to work with Sun Bear Programme.
Unfortunately, it is a no within this Sun Bear Programme to have contact with any of the bears both for volunteers, and even permanent staff in the bear house. We give no chance to have any body contact with bears. This measure is not cruel, but back with a very solid reason. These bears are meant for wild. Therefore, it will be more appropriate to leave them alone, to learn and be independent and free from human disturbance. We are not to build relationships with bear, who are meant to be released back to wild once they are fit and ready.
What we experience in the Sun Bear Centre is amazing. You have no idea how the staff dedicate their time and effort to ensure this little fragile bear, is eventually able to live within their natural settings and teach them the basic skill to sustain their life in the wild. From day one, we are already asked to remember those tricky names for each bear. You know what? For me they all just look the same. And to be honest, I couldn’t even recognise each of the bears until the end of the programme.
As a volunteer, you should honour yourself as a bear carer. You not only clean their poop, wash the cage, prepare the food, feed them with dedicated diet meal as if you were a mum, you also have to make them enrichments ,or so pet toys, that aim to enhance their skill and stimulate their natural behaviour. The satisfaction that arises when the bear starts to explore and play with your enrichment, is tremendous. And you can tell they are happy with it. I got my opportunity to make two enrichments for the bears and it feels amazing when these bears spend time with your enrichment. Their cuteness will sure dissolve your heart.
The staffs over the Sun Bear Centre are awesome too. You sure do get entertained by them because they will pop out with many spontaneous jokes in no time and thus lighten your days. They have been so helpful the whole time as well. If there are any questions and assists needed, they will help you selflessly. There are too many stories to share and I really am thankful for everything they have done for us to make us as part of their family.
So, will you spend your next vacation for a cause? You choose it.
Text by Seng Yen Wah Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Romolina has just finished her 30 day submission to quarantine! She is settling in well at BSBCC. A full body check-up has been conducted by Dr.Nabila Sarkawi who is a veterinarian from Sabah Wildlife Department. Based on the growth condition of her teeth, we found out she is an estimated age of six months instead of four months old. This is because some of her current teeth which have grown through recently, are now permanent and her adult teeth. Romolina was found alone in the forest before being kept as a pet at Romol Village, Sapulut, in the interior division of Sabah, where she lived her life in a small cage. She was rescued by Bob Hartley and Virgil Joon Gunting, who had found out that a villager was keeping Romolina as a pet. They intended to rescue her so they negotiated with the villager who agreed to hand the young cub over to them. The villager said that he/she had kept Romolina for a duration of roughly three months and fed her sausages, porridge and fruits. The improper diet caused Romolina to have a smaller body size. Now that she is being fed a proper, nutritious diet in the care of BSBCC and she now weighs 8.8kg.
Romolina seems to be attached to humans. When the caretakers are not around, she will suckle and vocalize to seek comfort and safety. Romolina had lost her mother bear, therefore we now have keepers as her surrogate mother. What can the surrogate mother do? Keepers will spend time and play fight with her. Play fighting could teach her how to defend herself. Defence skills is one of the most important survival skills for the bear’s natural rainforest habitats, which can protect themselves from predators. Besides the companionship from the keepers, Romalina has also been introduced to many types of enrichments to use throughout her days. Enrichment is a common name for the bears TOYs which can stimulate the action of natural behaviours that we would observe in non-captive Sunbears. Romolina is having different enrichments from day to day! But, her favourite toy is the warm, soft and comfy towel! Romolina is a detailed explorer. She will spend a lot of time exploring the enrichments made for her. Thanks to the care taker, Jeniur who made her a circle platform. She loves to sleep up there. Before sleeping Romalina will adjust and fidget until she finds the perfect spot to fall asleep and snooze like a baby!
Romolina is a curious bear who explores her environment through continuous sniffing. She loves milk and also loves to keep the milk on her body, by soaking her body in the milk tray. But she does not enjoy her body being too wet and fur remaining damp. Romolina is a good climber. She always climbs up and down to search and explore her environment. She is always very observant to her current surroundings and will keep checking and watching events that happen around her.
Romolina has lacked a mother’s love since young age, which makes her feel insecure. The way to help her is integrating her with other bears; making a bear friend can allow them to learn from each other and spend time together. The best enrichment of a bear is another bear! We are looking forward to the integration between her and her bear friend Logan, and hope they will get along well. The cute and lovely friendship is already starting to form between these two little bears. Please stay tuned for the updates to the start of this wonderful friendship! With the help of her friend Logan, the care of keepers and the love from you all, we hope Romolina will grow to into a real bear!
Text by Jessamine Thong Jiah Kher Photos by Jessamine Thong Jiah Kher, Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
HI WORLD!~~ (with a very high pitch voice) hahhaha Ok… that’s a bit annoying, sorry…
Anyways, hi! I’m Jessamine Thong who is taking a Diploma in Animal Health and Production programme in the University Putra Malaysia Kampus Bintulu, Sarawak (UPMKB) and I’m here to share this my journey of undergoing an internship in BSBCC.
To be honest, I had no idea bears even existed in Malaysia before working with BSBCC and right on the first day, the friendliest team of bear care coordinators fed me all the facts on sun bears, and I was quite lost, but well, we learn don’t we?
So, my internship lasted for 2 and a half months and well, it was unexpectedly wonderful! Sun Bears! Wow! Why not?! They are Beautiful! But what really made BSBCC beautiful is how the staff and volunteers really care. Let’s get on with my adventure shall we? Well, if you’re undergoing a volunteer programme or an internship, the centre would always assign a buddy to you! Having a buddy is a wonderful idea as it feels like you have someone that can be close to you when you’re new. They would be like an additional family member that you never knew of! They’ll teach you, guide you and take the fullest care of you during your time there. So who’s my buddy? Well, it’s the legendary senior bear keeper DAVID TAHIR. He taught me a lot from the first day I came, until the day I left. From cleaning cages to making creative enrichments, there’s just nothing he can’t do. Best buddy ever!
I had learnt a lot thanks to you David, my buddy!
What did I like most, during the whole internship? Well, if I had to choose… it’s definitely going to be building enrichments! Yup, building is so much FUN! And the feeling of achievement after you have finished and knowing that the bear really enjoyed their new play equipment, there were just no words to describe the joy that I felt.
Well, I love building things and thanks for involving me on building these wonderful enrichments!
There was lots of events going on during my time there, and one of the favourite was of course, SUN BEAR DAY (16 May 2018) – Making a lot of enrichments and also getting involved in giving visitors a good old hands-on experience in making these enrichments.
Bjorn Hala – ‘Bear Home’ This is actually a house where the staffs and volunteers live during their time here. This brings me back to the first day I’ve arrived. Andy, the ‘manager’ of Bjorn Hala: I’m so sorry that my bag was super heavy, I’ve no idea what made it that heavy but thanks for helping me with it! And also the Bjorn Hala family, thanks for welcoming me warmly, and make me feel at home.
-Bojrn Hala Family portrait – From the left, Mizuno, Andy, Wawa, Becca, Jasmine, Jessamine and Jeniur
- Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre Family – Dr. Wong’s and his wonderful team of ‘Sun Bears’
Some bears in BSBCC
All the bears and people I have met here, as well as all the love and care they shared, the food they fed, the unexpected experience they gave me, are unreplaceable and memories I will hold forever. Thanks for taking me out on so many adventures and this unforgettable experience. That’s quite all from me. Curious on what made my internship so unique? Just come here and experience what I had, what all the other volunteers and interns had, then you’ll know, why it’s gonna be one of the best part of your life. Trust me, there will be no regrets!
Little Romolina is a six months old female sun bear cub who was kept in a small cage as a house pet at Kampung Romol, Sapulut, Sabah.
The owner claimed that they found the cub alone in the forest and he had kept her in his house. We believed that Romolina’s mom was killed in order to take the cub from the forest. Bob Hartley and Virgil Joon Gunting got knowledge about this cub and quickly helped save her from the villager by negotiating with him to hand over the cub. She was immediately handed over to the Sabah Wildlife Department then sent to BSBCC and placed into quarantine on the same day on July 7th, 2018. During the arrival, she was tiny and weighed 5.95 kg. She was suffering from severe malnutrition. The owner fed Romolina rice, cereals, sausages, fruits and no milk was given to her. She was also being confined in a small cage which restricted her growth. The name “Romolina” was given by the person who rescued her. She was named after the Romol village where she was rescued from.
Romolina is the youngest female sun bear cub at BSBCC. She is kept under close observation around the clock by bear care staff in quarantine.
She was subsequently found to be malnourished and showed signs of stunted growth. Consequently, her claws and teeth appeared too big for her tiny body as a result from an unbalanced diet.
Little by little she has grown to know that she is in a safe place. She adapted really well to her new environment.
During these two weeks she has gained more weight. She has a good appetite but is choosy in accepting a diet of fruits and vegetables. She loves watermelon and Honey!
Little Romolina enjoys playing with enrichment toys.
The enrichment plays a vital role in encouraging Little Romolina – to be a sun bear again! She gets really curious and stands on both her hind legs then gets excited about it! Romolina will use her long sharp claws to tear and destroy the enrichment. She always shows curiosity in new toys and treats where she will learn to dig, climb and destroy the enrichment!
She learns climbing too. She will climb up to the basket or sleeping platform or when there are treats around. As a sun bear cub she will spends most of the day sleeping on the ground or hammock platform.
She is just enjoying her new found second chance of freedom.
Poor Romolina had been kept confined in a cage alone for a long period. It can be seen that she has a habit of sucking her front left paw or rubbing her back near care takers, and she vocalizes to seek comfort and safety. She shows more attachment to humans and appears tame. She needs special care and attention. She should still be with her mother learning how to survive in the forest.
Slowly, Romolina will learn to trust the new environment and put her past behind her. It was truly a blessing when watching Romolina grow more confident and healthy. Please speak up against the illegal pet trade and protect them from extinction!
Text by Sofia Lundegårdh Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
My name is Sofia Lundegårdh, I am 18 and from Sweden. For my entire life I have known that I want to work with animals, which is why I chose to study animal care and am now in the final year of my 3 year education. It was only recently that I found more interest in animal rehabilitation, so when I got the opportunity to volunteer at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre thanks to a scholarship from my school I was so happy I almost could not believe it. Therefore, as part of the internship that is included in my education, I travelled to Borneo for 5 weeks together with my classmate Jonas. It was my first time ever going to Asia and working in such a warm and humid climate, which took some time to get used to after coming directly from the snow in Sweden. Sometimes it got tough, but the staff was great at making sure that were okay and considerate when you needed breaks. In the end, knowing that what I did was to help the bears made all the work very rewarding.
The daily routines at the BSBCC consisted of cleaning cages and preparing food for the bears which was given to them both inside the bear house as well as the outside forest enclosures. One of my favourite things to do, however, was making enrichments. Every day all the bears had to be stimulated to keep them entertained and encourage their natural behaviours to help them learn about the forest. Enrichments were usually made out of whatever materials we had available such as leaves, sticks and fire hoses and filled with hidden treats like peanut butter or honey. But we also got the chance to test our creativity and make something bigger and more advance, in my case a hammock and a ramp! Later watching the bears play with whatever you gave them always made me happy, but I also began noticing the different behaviours and characteristics between individuals. Before I came here I did not know much about sun bears, but their charming and unique personalities made them the most wonderful animal that I have ever worked with. It saddens me deeply that their backgrounds are filled with so much trauma caused by humans after having been kept as pets under horrible conditions.
As I slowly got to know the bears, I also got to know the staff of the centre. Everyone has been so friendly, welcoming and helpful from the very start, and working next to them has taught me a lot about animal rehabilitation as well as given me insight into the operation of the work place. I also found it incredibly inspiring to see how passionate, dedicated and caring for the bears all the keepers are.
I really do not want to go home yet, but these 5 weeks have gone by way too fast. I am so grateful for my school sending me here, as this experience has been one of the best things I have ever done in my life, and though I am sad to leave I also made so many great memories. To the staff of BSBCC, thank you all so incredibly much for everything you do for the bears and for everything you did for me during these 5 weeks. I am already planning my next visit here, as I definitely want to come back in the nearest possible future! Lastly, I would like to share a quote from Jane Goodall that I was shown by Dr Wong. It has meant a lot to me during my time here and will continue to inspire me for the rest of my life, so I hope that it might do the same for anyone else who reads this: “Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help, shall they be saved.”
Text by Yu Endo Photos by Yu Endo & Sumira Muis@APE Malaysia
My name is Yu Endo and I’m from Japan. I volunteered at BSBCC for 4 weeks and learned many things about sun bears. I learnt alot about environmental enrichment, this is an account of what I learnt and how we thought of and ultimately used the enrichment at BSBCC.
I was surprised at how often we came up with new ideas for enrichment; we brainstormed different ideas for enrichment every single day. I was interested in using enrichment not only to reduce stress but also to enhance the sun bear’s natural behavior. For example in the photo the enrichment was designed so that the bear will rip apart the logs looking for peanut butter, this mimics behavior that the bear would have in the wild.
I also noticed how we used the enrichment differed depending on the individual. After observing the individuals behavior we tailor made the enrichment to suit its personal needs. After the enrichment was introduced we evaluated how effective it was by observing how the individuals interacted with it, this helped us to ensure that the enrichment was effective in achieving the desired behavior.
In addition to enrichment, I experienced a variety of things, talking with Mr. Wong, helping training the sun bears to return to the forest and so on. I really enjoyed observing the sun bears; they are very interesting and fun animals!
I’ m not good at English, but staffs at BSBCC helped me many time. Thank you very much! It was a very good experience for me. I hope to visit BSBCC again in the future.
Text by Seng Yen Wah Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Logan has just finished his 30 days in quarantine and will be five months old in this June.
He was found at Lokan River, Kulu-Kulu Village, Sandakan, Sabah. His owner reported that he had seen Logan and his mother in an estate and claimed that Logan was left behind when he was following his mother crossing a river. He seemed tiny and his left front paw showed an injury which was covered in maggots and all hair was gone. The owner said he took Logan home and kept him in a small metal cage for around three months and fed him milk and porridge mixed with chicken.
On 19th of May 2018, Logan’s owner surrendered him to the Sabah Wildlife Department and he was assessed by their veterinarian, Dr.Nabila Sarkawi at the BSBCC. It was diagnosed that his left paw is malformed due to the injury which caused him the loss of the first phalange (bone section) of his thumb. Logan has grown up a lot since his arrival and his body weighs now is 12.4kg. He enjoys every food that is introduced to him. So far his favourite food is honeydew, banana and milk.
Due to his left paw being malformed Logan has difficulty climbing. He very much enjoys every time he gets to climb but getting down is a challenge. He loves to explore his environment and the keepers always can find him in different spots such as on his hammock, the hanging platform, the big platform or resting on the log. Getting into the basket is a big challenge for him since he is still small and the basket is high. However, he likes to climb into the basket for resting or playing with the towel while his keepers are busy cleaning his den.
Logan is showing up on the hammock!
Logan is sitting on the big platform hugging a log. It is so cute!
The best resting spot!
The towel is one of Logan’s favourite toys and it makes him feel warm on a rainy day.
“Good Night, World!” - Logan
In the wild, a bear cub will stay with its mother between two and three years. But Logan has no mother beside him and feels insecure at times. He cries, howls and makes ‘Guk-Guk’ sounds to seek comfort and attention. The keepers spend time to play fight with him and teach him some of the pertinent skills such as defence skills. Logan loves spending time with the keepers as he is a playful and active bear. In fact, he is the one who initiates the play fight most of the time.
“Play with me! I am LITTLE but I am STRONG! See my canine. Roar! ” - Logan
Apart from that, keepers offer him lots of enrichment and different types of food. He loves digging and does not mind getting dirty. His body appears amongst many small pieces of wood and he loves to sit in the water container to look outside. He is a curious little bear.
This is a Gunny Hammock made by the keepers.
Logan is playing with banana skin on the Gunny Hammock.
He does not mind getting dirty!
Logan loves to explore.
Keepers introduce him to natural based enrichment.
He seems to like it a lot!
The log hose is bigger than him!
His favourite enrichment – Aussie Dog Ball!
He is curious about everything!
“I am so agile!” - Logan
Logan has a long way to go. He is brave and we hope he will gain more courage, confidence and strength. We believe he can make it! The forest is his home and he will be back in the wild sooner rather than later. His doughty spirit keeps him going on his journey to becoming a real bear!
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” – e.e.cummings