We are sadden to announce that Koko, the 3½-years-old sub adult female sun bear who lived at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre for three years, has passed away on August 17th, 2014. A post- mortem on Koko was carried out by Sabah Wildlife Rescue Unit Veterinarian, Dr. Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam on August 18th and found her lung suffered from serious infection. In addition, the post-mortem also found a durian seed obstructed in her esophagus. Koko’s death was due to respiratory failure caused by chronic lung infection and presence of the durian seed worsens her sickness.
Koko was captured by poacher in Keningau and kept as pet while poacher was looking for a potential buyer. She was then surrendered to Sabah Wildlife Department and sent to BSBCC on 20th February 2012. Koko was a precious, energetic and playful bear! She had a beautiful diamond shaped chest mark. During her early years at BSBCC, she integrated with Mary, Debbie, Ah Bui, Bongkud, Fulung and Damai. She usually play fighting with her bear friends, tearing the tree bark in search of termites, climbing trees, taking nap on top of the tree canopy and enjoying her life like a wild sun bear.
She is now in peace; her spirit will always be with the friends who saved her…
May you rest in peace Koko, you will be missed – greatly and eternally.
Text by Jaike Bijleveld
Photos by Chiew Lin May
Damai is a shy and sweet little girl of 2 years old who loves splashing herself with water. Besides the two sun bear cubs Loki and Sunbearo, she is the youngest sun bear in the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC).
When Damai was only 5 months old, she was found wandering at a car park before she was brought to the BSBCC.
In the first seven months or so, one of the bear care staffs showed her the jungle around the Sepilok Jungle, to get her familiar with the surroundings. To surprise of everybody, she started making a nest in a tree without a mother to show her how!
When she was about 1 year old, it became too dangerous for a human to walk with her in the jungle, so she moved to the indoor bear house. Usually this is also the age that people, who keep sun bear as a pet, start to realize that sun bears are wild animals and their huge canines and claws can and will be very dangerous. Next stop for a captured sun bear is often a tragic one: the cooking pot, the traditional medicine store or the black market.
In the wild, baby sun bears will stay with their mother until they are 2 to 4 years old, before they take off to live a solitary life. They learn all kinds of practical things to survive. Damai lost her mother too young, so she needs to learn these things from other sun bears, although she already proved that some skills depend on nature rather than nurture!
TIME TO MEET SOME OTHER BEARS
Now she reached the age that she is not so vulnerable anymore, so it was time to start an integration process with six other bears of her age: the females Mary, Debbie, Koko, Ah Bui and Bongkud, and the male Fulung. They all share four adjacent indoor cages, connected by sliding doors, but until two weeks ago the sliding door of Damai's cage was kept closed until the six others went to the outdoor enclosure at day time.
Because it would be too overwhelming for Damai to meet all six sun bears at the same time, one by one introduction was started for the first five days. Except Mary and Ah Bui, all of them where curious, started sniffing at her and wanted to play with Damai, but only Fulung succeeded. Not because Damai wanted to play with Fulung, but simply because it was not possible to escape strong and playful Fulung!
The playing of sun bears looks a lot like a wrestling match, with a lot of neck biting and clawing, but as long as there is no growling, you know it's just playing. Later, in the wild, the fighting skills they learn while playing are very useful when they get attacked by, for instance, a python or clouded leopard or other competitive sun bears.
In the following days, the number of bears integrating with Damai slowly increased, until after about 8 days the complete group could be with Damai at the same time. In the days that passed, it became clear that Damai is a girl that likes to be alone. Bongkud and Debbie manage to play fight with her for a few minutes, and Fulung still is record holder playing with Damai. The rest of the group is simply ignored or ignores Damai. But there is no aggression either, so the integration sessions can be called successful. After all, being alone is their nature.
NEXT STEP: GET READY TO LEAVE THE BEAR HOUSE
Before any sun bear can leave the indoor bear house to the outside forest enclosure, there is training required: fence training. Each forest enclosure has a fence with electrical wire (hot wire). This is necessary to make sure that non-integrated groups won't climb to each other's enclosure, or that any of the sun bears won't climb outside the enclosure where humans walk and dangers for the sun bear lure.
In the indoor bear house, next to the cages where Damai had her integration sessions, is a large training pen. With honey, porridge and fruit Damai was encouraged to come near the hot wire, with a very low voltage in the beginning. The first day, the same day of her first integration session, Damai touched the hot wire while licking the honey. It scared her so much that she immediately ran back to her own cage! The next day the same thing happened, and the three following days she had just enough courage to walk into the training pen before hurrying back to her own safe cage. It took a whole week and four more 'zappings' before Damai understood how to get the food without touching the hot wire and walk confident around in the training pen. At that point the integration area could be extended to the training pen.
This week she will be allowed to go to the outside enclosure together with the rest of her group to reach the final stage of her training: get her ready to release her back in the wild!
Special Moments with Mary, Ah Bui, Koko, Debbie, Fulung and Bongkud in the BSBCC Forest Enclosure Part 1
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Gloria Ganang & Chiew Lin May
On June 11th, 2013 Ah Bui and Mary spent their first few moments of freedom roaming, exploring, and playing around the forest enclosure. The next day, they were joined by Debbie and Koko. Soon after, the four sun bears were united with Fulung and Bongkud in one forest enclosure. At first they were curious about all of the tall trees around them. Tall trees! NOT a cage!!
These 6 sub-adult sun bears are now spending a lot of their time exploring, roaming, digging, resting, climbing, and foraging for food in the forest enclosure. They interact with their new environment by using their strong keen senses to experience different smells and sounds in the forest.
Today, a dream became reality, and now these 6 sub-adult sun bears are confidently roaming and exploring in the forest. Once the door was opened, all of them went out into the forest immediately. They are extremely adventurous and already attempting to climb trees and logs. The bears are happily enjoying living amongst the tropical rainforest, each in their own special way. Ah Bui, likes to dig in the soil and search for food while others prefer to use their sharp canines to rip open trees and find their favourite snack. They rummage through the forest smelling around decayed wood and dead logs in search of any interesting insects and invertebrates.
When the bears are not spending their time resting or sunbathing on the forest canopy they are sharpening their tree climbing skills to help them catch termites and other forest invertebrates.
They’ve also become good playmates and will play, chase, hang out, and climb trees together in the forest.
It brings great satisfaction to see the 6 young sun bears freely roaming in the forest enclosure. They’ve all made such great progress, and are beginning to take on characteristics and natural behaviours of wild sun bears. Adapting to the forest is not easy, but once they begin to explore, things will get better.
The sun bear is one of the most mysterious bears of the jungle, and plays such an important role in maintaining the ecosystem and equilibrium of the forest. Major threats to sun bear include habitat loss and poaching. Sun bears are classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) aims to conserve sun bears through education, rehabilitation, and research with hopes to improve the welfare for captive orphan sun bears. Please help us spread the word!!
Here are a couple of photos of Mary, Ah Bui, Koko and Debbie explore in the BSBCC forest enclosure.
Text by Gloria Ganang and photo by Siew Te Wong
Koko, a female sun bear yearling has been joining Mary and Debbie (both female sun bear yearlings) for almost a month now. Koko came into the BSBCC earlier this year on the 20th February. She was transferred to Mary and Debbie’s den a month after her arrival which is after her quarantine period. Although it was a new environment for Koko at the beginning to share dens with other bears, she did very well gradually adjusting herself and getting along with her new mates. Koko connected with Debbie almost instantly during their first encounter with each other. Debbie, being the playful one among them is such an essential work out pal for Koko. They would tease, climb around and play chase with each other besides sharing their enrichment toys.
It took a while for Mary to familiarize with Koko until they finally mingled. Mary is the less playful one. However, Koko would often try to get her attention by giving her quick bites or taps on her back. This encourages Mary to respond back very quickly from the distraction and they usually would end up rolling around and show each other “who’s boss”!
Having an additional member in the group would keep the yearlings equipped with better and fun daily activities. They also keep each other warm during cold nights and rainy days by staying close to each other inside their artificial nest. We hope for the best for these sun bear yearlings throughout their growing period at the centre. Koko, Mary and Debbie are here because they have been confiscated from individuals who took them away from their natural habitat. They might end up growing up in small cages as house pets or even killed for their body parts. Help our sun bears by spreading the words on their threats!
Text by Gloria Ganang and Siew Te Wong
Photos by Siew Te Wong
Koko's quarantine period has ended two weeks ago. A health check on her was performed late last months and the results showed that she is healthy and free from any disease. Today we started the first step of the integration and introduce her to our sun bear cub/yearling group. She was transferred to a new den next to another two sun bear cub/yearling, Mary and Debbie around 11.30 am.
Koko's original den is located at the opposite site of the hallway from the youngsters. We use two pieces of plywood to make a corridor and lure Koko with honey to her new den. The process was much easier than we thought.
Hi, I am Koko. What's your name?
Debbie was so excited and there were interactions going on between her and Koko. Koko also get pretty excited and displayed a dancing move as she reacted to the company of Debbie from the next cage. However, Mary didn’t show much reaction towards her new neighbor. It might take some time for Mary to get used to an additional bear around her.
Koko seemed pleased with her new transfer, wandering and sniffing around her new cage, checking out the enrichment that was prepared for her.
Best of all, she has now got new friends to interact with after a long period of isolation.
Text and photos by Siew Te Wong
On the night of Feb 20th, BSBCC received another new rescued sun bear from the Sabah Wildlife Department Wildlife Rescue Unit. This female sun bear yearling (1-2 year old bear), that we named "Koko" is the latest rescued sun bear by Sabah Wildlife Department and sent to BSBCC.
Koko appeared to be healthy and in good body condition. She was calmed on the night she arrived at the centre. We place her at a temporary cage for the time being until her new den is ready in few days. The next day after recovering from the stress associated from the transportation, Koko seems to be a bit feisty when I approached her. However, she got a good appetite and took all the food we gave her.
I called the Koko's owner Robert from Telipok this morning to understand more about the story behind Koko. Apparently Koko was captured by a hunter (poacher) originally from Keningau on a hunting (poaching) trip early last year. Koko's mother probably being killed by the poacher and Koko was kept as pet at the same time looking for a potential buyer. This is a typical story of almost all rescued sun bear in BSBCC. Robert heard from his friend about a sun bear cub for sale. He paid RM350 for Koko and realized that she is no longer a small, cute cub. He later seeks advice from his friend who works with the Sabah Wildlife Department. The wildlife department staff convinced him to surrender Koko to the Sabah Wildlife Department. They sent Koko to SWD's Lok Kawi Zoo last weekend and the zoo sent her to us on Monday night.
With 25 rescued sun bears under the care of BSBCC, the urgency of building another new bear house is escalating. At the moment our capacity is only for 20 sun bears. This is the 2nd sun bear cubs we received in approximately one month time and we do not know how many sun bear will be rescued and be sent to BSBCC in the near future. We can only be glad that we are here to help these animals and never happy to see they end up at BSBCC. We have to stop all illegal activities such as poaching, killing, eating, and keeping sun bears. Please help BSBCC to achieve these goals.
Read more on how you can help us and the sun bears: