A group of six staff members from Tradewinds Plantation Berhad visited BSBCC on November 3rd, 2017. Dr. Wong Siew Te brought them for a tour around the observation platforms to see the bears in the forest enclosure. This company has also adopted three of our sun bears under the My Bear Adoption Programme, named Jelita, Linggam and Simone. Adopting a bear is a great way to learn about sun bears while helping BSBCC meet the costs of rehabilitation. Funds raised by the adoption program are used to better the lives of all bears. Thank you for your visit and the support!
Dr. Wong explaining the sun bear's behavior in the forest.
Observing sun bears in the forest enclosure from the observation platform.
Dr. Wong receiving a mock-cheque from Mr. Charles Chow Kok Cheng, Senior General Manager of Tradewinds Plantation Berhad.
Text By Leonardo Jainih (Intern Student) Photo by Chiew Lin May
The primary goal of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) is to promote sun bear conservation in Borneo by creating the capacity to rehabilitate and release suitable ex-captive bears back into the wild forest again. In order to achieve this goal, one of BSBCC’s efforts or actions is by allowing the bears to explore and forage the beautiful forest enclosure around them. Building up a forest enclosure is not as simple as just putting up a fence as sun bears love to dig the ground and to climb over the fence. The fence cannot be too close to the tall trees in the habitat or the more adventurous chaps might be able to venture out into the wild. From rehabilitation program, it actually encourage the natural bear behaviour and reintroduce them to the forest environment. For example, they dig to find food such as earthworms, termites, ants and bettles, climbing trees to sleep, search for honeybees and feed on fruits. In August this year, some exciting for the bears (Cerah, Jelita, Susie, Kuamat, Lawa and Manis) to experience await them. They are all adult female sun bears aged from 8 to 9 years old except for Manis (14 years old). The bears had been waiting for their new forest enclosure (Pen K) after they were moved to the second bear house when medical check were conducted on them weeks ago. This process of releasing the bears to their new forest enclosure start with slowly open up the guillotine door for them to start their new chapter of life. Fruits such as papaya, watermelon, rambutan and honey dew were scattered around the ramp and on the forest floor. Usually, the bears will start sniffing their new environment and surely eats the fruits prepared for them. However, almost all the rescued bears at BSBCC had this one tricky habit which was trying to grab the fruits at the ramp and left at least their hind leg inside the den, as if to say, “I bet you would not close the quillotine door as long as parts of my body is still inside the den”. Cerah was the first bear to come out from her den and began her journey to the new forest enclosure (Pen K). She was hesitant to go outdoors at first, sniffing the air and fruits near the entrance to her indoor enclosure. However, after nearly a week with food laid out on a ramp, Cerah took her first official step out to the forest.
Cerah is sniffing and peeking out her new home curiously.
As expected, it took a while for the bears to venture, but after a few sniffs and a scan through the new forest enclosure as well, they became more curious and anxious. No one said that this was an easy task as there were few bears took about 6 months to finally stepped out from their den and foraging the forest.
Jelita and her friends are eating the fruits and sniffed their environment.
Susie and Jelita taking their time to step out to the forest enclosure.
Kuamut slowly taking her steps on the ramp.
Kuamut carefully climbing down from the ramp to the forest.
Susie taking her brave steps exploring the forest.
Cerah relaxing and laying down on dead wood during the day.
Cerah curiously observing the environment outside perimeter of forest enclosure.
Cerah is one of Jelita’s bestfriend and roommate. She is a clever and curious young lady-bear, who tends to welcome new faces with a friendly sniff. Whenever new enrichment activitiy is introduced, Cerah is not one to follow her stomach. Unlike Jelita, Cerah is always curiously to seek out and explore the new toys before finding the food, even if it is one of her favourite treats. That is why Cerah was the first one to come out from her den to the forest enclosure.
Cerah and Jelita digging the soil to look for foods such as ants and termites.
Finally, Manis was the last bear among all six bears stepped out from her den and start exploring her new environment with high curiousity. In the end, Manis get to shares her enclosure with five other sun bears (Cerah, Jelita, Susie, Kuamut and Lawa). Despite all of this she equally likes her own space and if she is not in the mood for company, she lets the other females know quickly to leave her alone. It can be concluded that this plan is a successful one as it took only a month for all the bears at Pen K step out to the forest enclosure everyday. In no time, they remembered how to be wild sun bear again by digging at dead wood in search of insects like termites and beetles, and exploring and roaming the forest in peace.
A faraway look in Manis’s eyes in the forest.
Manis went back to her den from foraging the forest.
Our hope is that one day they will confidently walked out and be ready for the wild forest but this is not an easy task. It really requires a huge amount of resources if it is to be done successfully. Therefore, it is very important to help them to remember how to be bears again so that they can survived in the wild without our help.
Tropical rainforest are the sun bear's main habitat. They are tree lover and can climb extremely well. Many of the features are specifically adapted for a more tree-dwelling lifestyle. Example the long, curved, pointy claws and they can rotate their arm just like primate do. However, sun bear faces many challenges for its survival, including destruction of forests and commercial hunting. Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) would like to help and conserve sun bears.Please help us save them.Watch this video to discover what we do know about this amazing and special sun bears in their natural habitat.
Malayan sun bear (Helartos malayanus) need a diverse tropical rainforest to survive. They are forest dependent species. BSBCC forest enclosure highlight the needs for animals better prepared for living in their natural environment. One of the primary goals of the BSBCC is to rehabilitate and release suitable orphaned and ex-captive bears back into the wild, providing an improved long-term living environment for captive bears that cannot be released. The BSBCC forest enclosure is an old growth forest with full-grown trees and lianas. Over the past many months, we have observed good progress on Cerah and Jelita display their wild behavior and stand a better chance to freedom in the wild. They are an arboreal bear species. They spend a lot of their time foraging for food, resting, digging and climbing on tree canopy at BSBCC forest enclosure. They play a vital role as seed dispersers in their forest ecosystem as when they eat the fruits contain seeds. The seeds will be carried long away from the parent tree or scatter the undigested seeds in their faeces with a way to spread out and grow in new places. The importance of seed dispersal is for the continuation of plant and species life. Sun bears are opportunistic omnivore. Cerah and Jelita forage by using their claws to dig the decayed wood searching for natural bear food such as termites and beetle larvae. They have to forage a lot each day in order to meet their energy requirement. They are good at skimming through the forest enclosure with their nose and paws to find any kinds of food in the forest. Jelita like to sit on the ground with her body straight up and held the food with her front paws and licked it. They are feeding on fruits both on the ground and in the trees. Sometimes, their black fur makes them not easy to be spotted when they are foraging on the dark forest floor at the forest enclosure.
Cerah the sun bear use her strong jaws and teeth to open coconuts!
Cerah and Jelita enjoying their morning snack.
Decayed wood was the most common type of feeding site for sun bears to search of termites, beetle larvae and earthworms.
Sun bears are good tree climbers because that is where they can find their food. In the forest enclosure, Cerah and Jelita climb like a wild sun bear. They are excellent climbers and are thought to sleep in trees. It is lucky to saw the interesting behavior of the sun bears climbing up the trees. They usually spend most of their day sleeping and sunbathing on the tree or forest floor in the forest enclosure. After napping, they spend much of the time foraging for food.
Both of them climb like a wild sun bear in the BSBCC forest enclosure.
Jelita rolled her long tongue out when it yawned.
Here are some of photos showed the Cerah and Jelita difference resting/ sleeping postures.
Jelita taking a nap after finish the corn on tree !!
These trees will provide bedding sites for sun bears. Those branches also make a nice place to build a nest for resting or sunbathing during the day. Cerah and Jelita enjoy exploring the natural environment at BSBCC forest enclosure.
A sun bear's nest found in tree at BSBCC forest enclosure.
Cerah and Jelita enjoy exploring the natural environment at BSBCC forest enclosure. While studies of sun bears in the wild indicate they live solitary existence, most likely due to competition for food but Cerah and Jelita are best pals. They will share food, comfort and protect each other together. Cerah have strong sense of curiosity. She will stay alert and avoid with presence of human and surrounding sound in the BSBCC forest enclosure. She will quickly climb trees to seek shelter and safety. BSBCC forest enclosure is a perfect dwelling place that the rescued sun bears can roam freely by day and night. Cerah and Jelita has learned from experience and developed technique in survival skills. Observed them venture and acclimate to life in the forest. This showed a positive sign of independence and given the sun bears the best chance of survival in the wild. Both of the sun bears are fascinating in the forest enclosure. Watching the change of both of the sun bears grown healthy and adapt well in the forest is undoubtedly one of our greatest pleasures.
Cerah and Jelita like to play together in the forest enclosure.
Help us spread the words about the forgotten species – the sun bears! Together we can make a difference!!
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I am very happy to announce that my little sun bear, Jelita, made specially for the next BSBCC fundraiser has won a Golden George Award - the "Oscar" of the teddy bear world! I entered her in the competition in the hope that she might engender more awareness of Sun bears - and she did me proud! I was stunned and thrilled to bits when she won the "naturbär" category............and i have to say that the trophy is quite something - two kilos of solid bronze, and heavy to hold when you are shaking with emotion and excitement! The Golden George competition is run in conjunction with the Teddybär Total show in Münster, Germany - a two day event which attracts exhibitors from all over the world. And there I was there with my bears, but wearing sun bear t.shirts - a copy of Forty Wild Life Heroes open on my table (at the appropriate section) and telling anyone who would listen about "our " bears :) And the nicest thing happened on saturday morning......the show organiser took the Bürgermeisterin (Mayoress) of Münster around the show, after she had opened it.............came to my table, introduced us and then told her that I not only make bears but campaign hard for REAL bears - how nice was that? Result is that she went off clutching a flyer inviting her to our fund raiser.........YAY! anyway - Jelita is one of the prizes in our June fundraiser - and she comes with added allure........"Oscar - winer". I hope she raises lots for the BSBCC...........oh - but I get to keep the trophy !
This is Jelita - 35cm tall, and made of Schulte (BEST quality) alpaca, with a needle-felted muzzle and paw pads.
I created her as my contribution to the next BSBCC fundraiser ( in June), but in the meantime decided to try for a bit more publicity for Sun bears................and entered her in the Golden George competition (one of the teddy bear world's most prestigious). And, to my immense delight, she has been nominated!!!!!
After 4 years of idea developing, planning, and more than 3 years of hard working from many people, I am proud to present you the sun bears that we rescued at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre!
Although not all of our bears are in the forest enclosures, we are working hard to train them so that they can adapt their new life in the forest enclosures soon. These sun bears feed a lot on natural food items such as termites, and ants, in the forest enclosures. Both sightings and scat analysis conformed this observation.
Today I have a great day seeing Cerah, Jelita, and Lawa the sun bears destroying decayed wood to feed on termites, climbing on tree to feed on ants, and digging on soil but do not know what they were after. What I know that they were having a lot of fun, chasing and playing with each other in the dense forest floor!
Thanks to you all and your kind support; Thanks to all the Bear Action Team volunteers who help us built this and built that; Thanks to all the husbandry volunteers who help us clean cages, prepare bear food, make enrichments, and take good care of our bears; Thanks to all the BSBCC staff, especially Wai Pak, and all the LEAP team, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre team, for making the life of our bears better; Thanks to Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department, and LEAP to be the partners of this project;
WE DID IT BECAUSE OF YOU!
Finally, thanks to Peter Yuen for helping us took these photos of our bears in the forest enclosure. Now everyone can see sun bears in the forest!
The independent women (sun bears la..) of BSBCC – Cerah, Jelita, and Lawa – were let out into a newly secure forest enclosure (Enclosure C) last week . They’ve previously been out into Enclosure D on a regular basis and have all become confident to outdoors. On the 20th of April we had fixed Enclosure C where the fence were damaged by fallen branches that was much larger and with more new trees, vegetation, and smells for them to discover.
Enclosure C- fills with big and small trees and thick vegetation- prime sun bear habitat.
Some background knowledge about these three ladies; all sent at different times from Lok Kawi Zoo in Kota Kinabalu. Their ages range from 4-5 years, with Lawa as the dominant one in the group. Cerah and Jelita are the best of friends (which is surprising as bears are usually solitary animals) and absolutely adore each other’s company.
Lawa pocking her head out of the door while Cerah and Jelita exploring the new forest enclosure.
On Day 1 Cerah and Jelita had gone out happily into this big patch of forest. However Lawa stayed back in the pen – still building up the courage to go out as this was a whole new area. For their 2 o’clock meal of fruits, we had scattered them all over the outdoor enclosure to encourage them to eat out in the forest, where they should, rather than in their pen. This is also done to encourage foraging – a very important skill for a wild bear to have.
Step by step, Jelita exploring her new forested home.
Jelita and Cerah always hung out side by side with each other.
While Lawa hung around in their pen, Cerah and Jelita decided to be rebels. They didn’t come back in for their 4 o’clock porridge meal, yet decided to keep on exploring outdoors throughout the night! Although this was not planned, it’s actually a great thing as they would be able to find places for themselves to sleep outside, and also have the opportunity to build their own nests. We had left their pen door open for them to come back when they were ready, and sure enough they were sitting there with open arms for their breakfast in the morning.
Lawa finally step foot on the forest enclosure!
Day 2, 3, 4 and 5 went on pretty much the same except that Cerah and Jelita actually returned for their evening meals rather than staying out all night. Day 6, Lawa finally stepped foot into the outdoor enclosure at 2pm. All three of the ladies are outside in the wilderness tonight. Hopefully with more observations, they’ll be in the queue to be released out into the wild – for good.
That little block dot in the middile of the photo was Lawa- the Bornean Sun Bear.
Recap from Part 1: Cerah is a female sun bear. Cerah means "bright" or "clear" in Malay language.
Two weeks after Cerah was confiscated and sent to Sepilok, Sabah Wildlife Department confiscated another pet female sun bear cub. We named her "Jelita," meaning "Lovely" in Malay. Jelita was few months older and larger then Cerah. She probably a year old on August 2007.
During that time, I was still conducting my fieldwork for my doctorate studying on wild bearded pigs and sun bears in Danum Valley Conservation Area, with logistic based in Danum Valley Field Centre, Sabah. The field project, Bornean Sun Bear and Bearded Pig Research and Conservation Project, started on early 2005 and lasted until 2008. During this three years period, I frequently visited Sepilok on a 5 hours' road trip where Cerah, Jelita, and other confiscated sun bears were housed. This is a photo album of the first medical checkup for both Cerah and Jelita.
The moment that we all have been waiting for are finally here. After all the sun bears were settling down in their new home, the next challenges for us would be the electric-fence training, integration of different bears, and the introduction of the bears to the new forest enclosures were something that will happen over the next few days. These processes are all crucial and important parts of the “bringing the sun bear a better home.”
On April 9, we first introduced the young female group to the hot wire (electric fence) training pen so that the bears could learn to avoid the hot wire in the forest enclosures and will not escape. This is also the day when Annemarie Weegenaar from AAF have to leave us to go back for the moon bears in China. It is like the fellowship of bears slowly leaving again. Separation is always sad. However, we understand that the moon bears in China needed Annemarie's cares and loves for the moon bears. The training session went well, although slow. Of the 4 young females, Jelita was the champion of all who first understand the message of the hot wire and later feel much comfortable foraging in the training pen and avoid touching the wire. The other bears- Cerah, Kuamut, and Lawa, pretty much followed Jelita but felt less adventurous to wonder around the hot wire training pen and spend most of the time in their own dens relaxing in the bear basket and playing. They never seem to complain much although the den is concrete floor and iron bars wall, maybe this is what they grow up with and get use to- without touching the real soil and without nurture of the forest.
Jelita in the hot-wire training pen- checking out the surrounding.
Jelita found some insects in the logs and start breaking the wood to find potential food items.
By now we mixed these four young female up. They occupy 4 dens/cells where they can move freely as they wish. We give them and other bears plenty of enrichments such as leaves, browse, logs, ice block, kong toys, Aussy balls, coconuts, water bath, etc. to keep them busy. During the hot wire training session that last most of the day, we open the doors between their dens to the training pen so that they can come in and out of the training pen as they wish. We want to make the bears have a positive experience with these training so that they eventually learn to avoid the hot wires surrounding the enclosures and hence discourage them from climbing the fences in the forest enclosure when they go out one day. We do not want to push them to do something that they are feel less comfortable to do. We work according to their clock.
Jelita foraging on teh decayed wood for termites.
On April 12, three days after their training, we decided to let this young female group out to their forest enclosure. We open the door of the den for the first time. We thought today will marked history for the captives sun bears at BSBCC because the forest enclosure is the second items beside the new bear house that we all have been working hard for them. The moment that the bear step out from their den and put their feet on the forest's floor will be a historic moment for sun bear in BSBCC and sun bear as a species-a big step forward to save the species. However, what happen in the next few hours to the next few days after the doors of the bear's den opened was something that we did not expect - Only Jelita show interest of the outside world by sniffing the forest air over and over again. She made one step on the ramp that connect the den to the forest enclosure and hesitate to wonder any further. For the rest of the three girls - Cerah, Kuamut and Lawa, they preferred to enjoy their basket nap and stay put in their spacious den.
Jelita pocked her head out to check on the outside world.
Jelita sniffing the forest air- she was almost there to enjoy the forest.
It is understandable why these four bears hesitate to come out to the forest enclosure. First they are still young (> 3 year old) and sense of wariness to the new environment still very strong. In the wild, they would still be accompanied by their mother who give them security in term of protection and food. Second, perhaps they grow up in a small space and confine to cages pretty much all their life and feel more comfortable in their new house now than the outside world. Nonetheless, we are sure that they will come out from their den one day to enjoy their forest, their home.
The three other girls prefferref to stay put in their den and relax...