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.
It has now been 2 weeks since the door leading from Linggam’s pen into the rainforest enclosure was first opened for him. What a transformation! To begin with he was cautious, timid even, when facing the challenge of going outside. Now when I see him he is relaxed, roaming freely around through the trees. A bear enjoying life in the type of place a bear should be.
Often when he is out, Linggam is very difficult to photograph, but here he very considerately came over to where I was, foraging for food.
It makes me quite emotional to see this; there is such a significant improvement in a relatively short time, even for an adult bear which has grown up in captivity. This is what rehabilitation is all about. There is a small but dedicated team here who are working incredibly hard to make things like this happen. The BSBCC is yet in desperate need of funding to make successful releases back into the wild happen, but I feel privileged to be here now as the project is starting to gain momentum and start to take these important steps. Lastly, I’d like to add that just a few days ago, 3 female bears -Cerah, Jelita and Lawa- also began to take their first steps into the forest. There is a post about it here by Shauna Tay, a fellow volunteer at the BSBCC.
I watched with a great big smile on my face today as my mate Linggam ate his breakfast “alfresco” for the first time. He not only spent much more time venturing out and exploring today (periods of 8,3,2,2,1,1,1,1 & 1 minute, respectively), but he also ventured further away from the security of the bear house, exploring hitherto unknown logs and bushes.
Linggam exploring his surroundings.
I now wait for tomorrow with some excitement to see how far he will go next. His food will be a little further out tomorrow and if I have time beforehand I’ll make some kind of a puzzle feeder to keep him occupied outside. More on Linggam’s progress tomorrow.
Linggam continues to do wellIt was day 4 for Linggam today. He left the door to his pen with his body held higher than on previous days and appeared noticably less anxious. During his first few minutes out there were several occasions when there was a loud noise nearby, on previous days he would have darted back in upon hearing them, though today he only flinched a little before continuing on with his business. As yesterday, his interest in the outside was very much correlated to the availability of food. Today however he spent a little more time outside. I observed him outside for durations of 7,5,2,4,2 & 1 minute respectively, over a period of 30 minutes… approximately 2/3 of the time.
Linggam is continuing to do well. He was outside for >75% of the available time today. He appears very confident in the area near the bear house. The next stage will be to place his food further away, in the forested area. I can’t wait to see how he does tomorrow!
I was monitoring Linggam today, his 7th day in the forest. Though he didn’t spend more time outside than he chose to yesterday, it was pleasing to see that he explored twice as far from his pen than he had done on previous days.
On another note, I checked on my dear Rungus in her pen today and found her swinging back and forth in her tyre swing. She is so adorable.
This afternoon I dd a session with the staff on the feeding habits of wild sun bears, based upon findings from Wong’s own fieldwork. Tomorrow I shall follow this up with a session on nutrition and the diet of captive sunbears.
Day 1, 12th April, was the beginning of Linggam’s adventure. After a year of being in the indoor enclosure with BSBCC, for training purposes, and who knows how many years before that in a small cage, he is finally ready to be introduced to the outdoor enclosure. The outdoor enclosure is a large patch of the forest that is fenced up for these newly introduced bears, making sure they don’t run off without us knowing that they have the ability to survive on their own. Many would expect that once the gate is opened for Linggam to enter the huge forest area he’d run at the first chance he could get. However, that’s not the case for many of these bears. They’ve been captive animals for most of their lives – all they know is their cage or pen. They don’t know yet that they belong out in the wild.
We placed various fruits all over the forest area, as well as on his ramp to encourage him to come down from his pen. He took several minutes to even take the nerve to sniff the ramp. I reckon he was just shocked by the sudden gush of nature’s smells that entered his pen. He would take a step out, take a deep – yet quick – sniff, then jump backwards further into his pen. This would continue for a while until at one point he actually kept walking down the ramp eating fruits, extremely cautious of course, and took his first step on the soil. It took 5 seconds until he went into mad panic. He started running back and forth underneath the gate, too frightened he didn’t find his way back up the ramp, and jumped 3 feet through his gate and safely back into his pen. After that heart-breaking incident, he didn’t try come back out. It’s clear there is some room for improvement!
Day 2, 13th April, was the second attempt. We set everything up just like before. He repeated what he’d done the day earlier, as he would take a few steps then reverse back in over and over again. Eventually, he made it to the bottom of the ramp and touched the soil again. It’s extremely sad to know that this may be the first time he’s ever stepped on soil. After a few minutes of eating the nearest fruits he fled back into his pen, overwhelmed with all his five senses working harder than ever before. He still has very far to go, but this is without a doubt his first step to an even better quality of life.
Day 3, 15th April, Linggam made great progress as he stayed out of his pen longer than he had the previous days. He was still extremely cautious and aware of everything around him, but he wasn’t as hesitant to step onto the ground this time. However, you could see the pattern – the more food around him, the longer he’d be out; the less food around him, the less time he’d be out. There was a gradual decline in minutes with each time he came out of his pen. Our next step: place a food puzzle outside. It’ll be a motivation and challenge for him to stay in the outdoors. Let’s hope the next few days he’ll find it easier to take a few more steps. After all, each step is one more step to overcoming his fear.
Linggam is a very handsome, 6 year old male bear with a gentle and friendly personality. He was first brought to Sepilok as a cub (only 3.5kg) in August 2004 after being found at a logging camp at Kampung Pinangah. After a stay at Sepilok Linggam went to Lok Kawi Zoo. He was transferred back from Lok Kawi due to reported aggression problems (though that has never been observed here) and lack of space. Since coming here he is noticeably healthier though perhaps slightly underweight. Linggam is currently undergoing training and this week was finally able to go out into the forest enclosure.
I was watching him discretely while he took his first tentative steps out into the natural world. The transition to a wilderness environment is challenging for an adult bear which has grown up in a world of iron and concrete, but as I observed him it was obvious to see he was constantly thinking, calculating the safe distance to go from his doorway. Some might criticise him for not just running off outside and climbing a tree, but it is this caution he was demonstrating that keeps bears away from hazards in the wild. His approach did not surprise me; he seems the most pensive of bears, when I reflect upon howe he interacts with his enrichment items.
I look forward to observing him over the coming days and weeks to witness his discovery of the wonderful piece of rainforest habitat he now can call home. Watching a bear simply “be a bear” is an incredible thing to do.
Natalie has started to eat some more solid food. She gets 2 trays of rice a day, just like the other bears. The only difference is that her tray has only about 1/4 the typical serving. Awww, baby! She looks so adorable when she tucks in to her rice porridge with her little paws resting either side of the tray. She also gets several servings of milk, served like some posh coffee with chocolate flakes, only her warm drink comes with dog biscuits!
Last month was a busy but a fruitful month for all of us in BSBCC. At first we have Ah Lun and Julaini come to our centre. Then, we accepted Kudat and Panda. We were pretty much nonstop on rescuing these caged sun bears until recently we having another three bears which add up to 19 bears in our centre! The three latest rescued sun bears I mentioned above are Gutuk, Linggam and Toby. They are all males but come from three different age group: old, mature and young cub. Gutuk and Linggam used to house at our facility (the old bear house at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre) before BSBCC was set up in 2008. They were sent to Lok Kawi Wildlife Park few years ago due to lack of adequate space and resources to taking care of more bears. However, things are different after the setting up of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. With the establishment of BSBCC, we have our state of the art new bears house and another state of the art forest enclosure. This is time to rescue more caged sun bears and let them have a better living environment especially in the forest enclosure.
As for Toby, he was just rescued by the Sabah Wildlife Department recently from a pet owner and was housed in Lok Kawi Zoo temporary before he was sent to us. Now Toby is the youngest bear in our centre!
Within a month, BSBCC's resident bears increased from 12 to 19 bears. For me, this does not increase our burdens, but a chance for us to keep our promise to provide a better living condition to those captive sun bears. This is just the beginning for BSBCC, its still a long way to free our bears and let them live in their nature home. So, let’s us work together and witness our growth!