Text by Bellinda Raymond (Intern Student)
Photos by BSBCC
Kudat is a 7 years old adult male sun bear, who was named after a district in the northern part of Sabah. Before he was sent to Kudat district, he came originally from Tawau district. Kudat was kept as a display in a private mini zoo together with a female sun bear named Panda. At the private mini zoo, both Kudat and Panda were on display as ‘black panda’. Later, they were surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department and BSBCC in 2013. At BSBCC, Kudat enjoy his new environment and began to explore the forest around him.
Kudat’s last friend was Panda which is in year 2013. Although sun bear is a solitary animal when they are in the wild, BSBCC encouraged a healthy positive social behaviour among the bears at the centre. At BSBCC, sun bears are integrated according to their body size, personality and age group. Bears integration is encouraged in this centre to bring out the positive behaviour development among the bears such as defensive skills and learning from each other through socializing. The number of cages in the bear house is very limited too where for now it only can accommodate up to 40 bears. Therefore, integration is also one of the ways to save up space in the bear house where the bears are integrated so that they can be in groups.
The first step in integration is integrating the bears cage by cage. The bears will start to sniff around their new environment especially when there is a new bear next to their cage. After that, integration body contact will be carried out where the sliding door between the two cages will be opened and the bears will start to meet each other.
In July 2015, Kudat started to be integrated to a group consisting Julaini, Rungus, Ah Lun, Panda and Chin. Kudat is integrated one by one from the group before they can be in one big group together. The integration of Kudat started off with the bear that is the dominant in the group. Kudat is integrated with Ah Lun first. When Kudat placed next to Ah Lun’s cage, Kudat started to become curious and keep sniffing around. He climbed the cage to have a peek of the bear next to his cage. As soon as the sliding door is opened, Ah Lun went into Kudat’s cage first. When Kudat and Ah Lun met, they took some time to get to know to each other. After they feel confident about each other, they started to play with each other.
After Ah Lun, Kudat is introduced to Chin. When she met Kudat, she was curious at first. Kudat and Chin sniff around their new environment and even sniff at each other.
Besides Ah Lun and Chin, Kudat is also introduced to Julaini, a male sun bear who has the same age with him. Kudat is friendly to Julaini when both of them met each other. Both Kudat and Julaini immediately play when they met! The way they play is a bit aggressive compared to Ah Lun and Chin. Maybe it is just a way of male sun bears play with each other? Kudat and Julaini played nonstop and continue to wrestle.
Finally, Kudat is reintroduced to his long lost friend, Panda! The integration between Kudat and Panda does not make us worry when they were integrated because Kudat and Panda are best friends!
Rungus is the last bear that being introduced to Kudat. Amazingly, Kudat also shows positive reaction to Rungus when they were integrated. Like the other bears in the group, Kudat played with Rungus too! Rungus is the female bear in the group that is most interested to Kudat and they played together and ignored the other bears!
The integration between Kudat and all the bears showed positive integration except for Chin. When Kudat and Chin were integrated earlier, they played in a friendly manner. However, after some time Kudat and Chin started to become aggressive and they fighted. Kudat and Chin were then separated by cages. We tried to integrate Kudat and Chin again, but there are still aggressions occurred between them. This means that the integration between Kudat and Chin is negative. We concluded and decided that Kudat and Chin cannot be integrated to each other. Despite this, Kudat’s integration with Julaini, Rungus, Ah Lun and Panda shows positive result.
Kudat’s integration with the other bears is still on going. Hopefully, their integration can be successful in the end. When the integration is successful, Kudat, Julaini, Rungus, Ah Lun and Panda will be in one group and will step into the forest together.
Text by Joanna Buckingham (Volunteer BSBCC)
Photos by Chiew Lin May
Given the space constraints and the growing population between bear house 1 and 2, integration of bears into groups is a large focus for BSBCC. Integration not only allows more of the curious bears to experience the limited outdoor forest enclosures but also lets the bears learn skills off each other that they would have normally been taught by their mother's in their natural wild habitat of the Bornean rainforest.
One of the bears currently in the integration program is the 7 year old Panda. Panda's journey with BSBCC began with a rescue mission from a mini zoo in 2010 along with Kudat. Both had been mislabelled as pandas in the Kudat region and thus their names bearing testament to their previous life.
Panda's time was finally up and it was decided that she would be integrated with an established group of bears around her age who currently enjoy pen D, Julaini the male of the group and the two females Ah Lun and Rungus. Integration into this group began in February 2015 introducing Panda to the most aggressive of the group first Ah Lun. This is to ensure a successful match as integration of bears who are normally solitary can take a long time. If the dominant bear doesn't accept the new bear then it would be wasted time to familiarise Panda with the other bears if ultimately she would always be rejected by the "leader". It is all a bit high school!
While the BSBCC team began the group integration from February 5th, the integration work is still continuing several months later demonstrating the patience and time needed to group the bears. As part of my volunteer program, I got to observe one of Panda´s integration sessions in July 2015. I noted quickly that while Panda is large for her size due to a previous diet of a daily chicken in the mini zoo, she doesn't use that to her advantage as she is much more interested in playing with the other bears. It was great to see Julaini and Panda played with each other with playful barks and bites on the back. Both take turns using their strength to pull the other down. Bear playfights reminded me of growing up with my three siblings while sometimes it looks too rough, the bears know their limits and know when to bark in a way to demonstrate that they have had enough or the playing has gone too far.
During my observation, Panda and Ah Lun played in their cage while Julaini alternated between watching from the hammock or resting between the cages. It is a good sign when bears are happy to rest while the other bears are in their cage as it shows that they are happy to be in each other´s presence. Also another good sign is if the bears are happy to share food.
It was also decided after an unsuccessful integration with another group that Chin would be introduced to this group. Chin perhaps learning from the previous experience always displays her dominance. Chin was introduced last during my observation as the team know that Chin will show these traits. When Chin was introduced into the third cage, giving the bears more space in case the dominance went too far, she was quick to growl and bark and pull back her nose to show her teeth when she approached the other two cages. Panda showed interest in playing but Chin was more interested in ensuring that no one came into the cage she was occupying and sat firmly in the doorway. Ah Lun showed some signs of fear as Chin ended up in the doorway holding the other three bears in one cage and not letting any of the bears play with her or enter the other cages. Chin was quite interesting to watch as the noises they are make are quite unusual and can grow from low growls to barks like a dog. Chin also shows her dominance by standing up.
Panda and Chin´s integration into the group continues at BSBCC and demonstrates the time, patience and expertise of the BSBCC team. Supporting BSBCC will ensure my bear friends like Panda will have the time dedicated to her to ensure that she integrates into an accepting bear group and get to experience the outdoor enclosures.
Text by Shelly Smith
Photos by Chiew Lin May
Following up on the indoor integration of the Mary and Natalie groups, today we saw the culmination of the exercise – the whole group outside sharing one forest enclosure!
By regularly allowing the indoor socializing and ‘wrestling parties’ these bears so love, the bear house team ensured the two groups remained on friendly terms.
Finally the time had come to test their ‘friendliness’ outdoors, where controlling a tense situation or fight would be impossible. A few of us entered the forest enclosure to scatter loads of fruit which would serve to distract from conflict, and fill tummies, hopefully creating a contented environment. Having only fed and observed from the feeding platform into this forest enclosure, I felt a little like being in someone’s home without their permission!
Then the bear keepers opened the bear house doors while we waited expectantly at the feeding platform, anxious to see who would be the first to arrive in the pen. It took a good 5 minutes before we finally saw Fulung and another of the Mary group trundling along, calmly foraging on the scattered fruit. We had another wait until we saw any of Natalie’s cronies come to investigate the main area of the forest enclosure. Slowly Rungus, Natalie and Julaini began to familiarise themselves with the change of environment. Fresh alliances were forged and tree trunks were explored. Curiosity ruled the day.
Late afternoon found Natalie relaxing under her new favourite tree with a new found favourite friend – Bongkud, while Ah Bui sunned her tummy as her latest cohort Rungus dug for termites. Debbie showed off her climbing skills and Fulung continued his endless search for tasty snacks.Fortunately the day passed wonderfully uneventfully.
Introduce the ten sun bears that share in one forest enclosure:
The bears all headed indoors for their much-loved evening meal; Julaini had chosen to stay indoors during this change of routine, which was probably fortunate as this young male could be a rough playmate with Fulung at times. While Natalie and Bongkud like to stay outside forest enclosure.
The next day proceeded to be just as peaceful and without any incidents. This must be a world first - successfully integrating ten bears into a single forest enclosure.
Obviously this is not ideal, much more space is required. But it shows how well the competent bear staff know their bears - to manage factors like age, sex, character traits, and hierarchies within established groups - to pull this off so smoothly in the limited space available. Congrats, guys, it was a great privilege to be involved in this venture!
Now Bermuda can have his turn out in the forest:-)
Text by Shelly Smith
Photos by Chiew Lin May
As the BSBCC presently only has 3 outdoor pens large enough to accommodate several bears at the same time, some seriously strategic ‘bear shuffling’ has to occur in the bearhouse in order to get the right bears into the right cages for the outdoor exit ramps.
There are 2 existing groups that need to be integrated so they can occupy one outdoor pen instead of two, freeing up the second outdoor pen for Bermuda, a large mature male who is eagerly awaiting his outdoor sessions.
The two groups are ‘matriarchal’. The’’ Mary’’ group consists of 6 sub adult bears – little Mary, Ah Bui, Debbie, Koko, Bongkud and young male Fulung. 2nd group is Natalie’s group of four, with Natalie, Ah Lun, Runggus and young male Julaini.
Bear etiquette dictates that a polite introduction is by way of curiously sniffing through an interconnecting gateway - if no sign of aggression is seen, then the gateway is opened cautiously by the bear keeper, and one bear may proceed into the adjoining cage where the sniffing procedure progresses to a stage of playful paw inductions. Hereafter it is quite permissible to raucously cavort around the cage and wrestle in the hammock (or other enrichment provided) until one or both bears are completely exhausted. Suckling on a bear’s ears is a privilege for best friends only.
Integration started on the 9th September by daily introducing one bear from Mary’s group to the Natalie group bears, one bear at a time over an hour or so. These introductions over the week went amazingly well with no hint of aggression as each bear learnt the smells, stature and behaviour of the others, in spite of two females being on heat during the process.
However, there came a turning point when the two young males were introduced. All went smoothly at the beginning of the session with 7 of the bears occupying 3 interlinking cages, playing and rough-housing with great abandon. Fulung, the young male from Mary’s group, has a wound that he continuously scratches at and thus it cannot heal. Julaini, the young male from Natalie’s group, curious to see if this could be meat, took a bite, with the ensuing fracas becoming quite violent, and intervention needed.
Lesson learnt! - since then Fulung’s would is treated with medication so he no longer smells like a meal, and all bears taking part in integration sessions are fed copious amounts of fruity treats, so tummies are full and everyone’s content beforehand.
All 10 bears will continue to mingle for a period every day under the watchful eyes of the bear team until they are deemed ‘’suitably merged’’ to enter the outdoor pen together. Bermuda can then finally be moved up the chain of linked cages to the outdoor exit of forest enclosure, and experience the freedom of the natural forest again!
Text and photos by Chiew Lin May
On March 13th 2013, Ah Lun and Julaini stepped foot into the forest for the first time. These 4 sub-adult sun bears are now spending their days roaming, foraging, and digging in the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) forest enclosure.
Now Natalie and Rungus are confidently roaming the forest. Once the door is open both of them will go out immediately. They are enjoying their freedom. They have large trees to climb, decayed wood/logs, soil to dig in, and a natural forest to explore. Through the forest enclosure they look for a comfortable place to take a rest. They are doing well and spending the rest of their days getting used to the sights and sounds of their new environment where they are learning what it takes to live like wild sun bears.
Natalie is an excellent climber, and spends much of her time in trees foraging for her meals, insects, by using her long, sharp claws. Natalie is a great leader. She is very independent and has taught herself how to climb high up in the trees. Additionally, she loves to be outside. Rungus likes to makes a mess by scraping off all the soil or decayed wood she can searching for termites, beetles and other invertebrates. Ah Lun and Julaini surprisingly have shown some confident roaming in the forest enclosure already. Ah Lun prefers to spend her time alone, playing happily in the forest enclosure. It took Julaini a while to come out of his door and take a few steps. He was extremely wary of his new surroundings. He sniffed and foraged around the entire place.
It has been very heart-warming to see them grow in confidence and strength, as they become used to using all four limbs and climbing high up in the trees. All these things encourage natural, wild behaviour. They are all making great progress.
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) is in a wonderful location for true rehabilitation as the forest has huge trees sun bears love. Seeing this forest dwelling species digging and climbing happily in the forest all day long is extremely motivating.
Here are a couple of photos of Natalie, Rungus, Ah Lun and Julaini roaming, digging and climbing trees at BSBCC forest enclosure.
Keep up to date on Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre news by visiting our website www.bsbcc.org.my
Text and photos by Chiew Lin May
Bongkud has another new buddy and playmate, Rungus. Rungus is a 5 year old sub adult female. Rungus’ name is the name of an ethnic group who live in the Kudat district of Sabah. She was kept at the Victory Mini Zoo Farm in Kudat, Northern Sabah and arrived at BSBCC on the 12th November 2010.
On the 26th February 2013, Bongkud was integrated with Rungus. Once the gate was opened Rungus went into the next cage where Bongkud was located. Rungus sniffed Bongkud and was very curious. After two minutes, both started to play fight together!! Bongkud has a smaller body compared to Rungus, but this was not a problem for Bongkud and she got on very well with her new friend. Both of them kept chasing each other around and standing up on both hind legs before rolling together to show who has more strength. Their claws and canines were also shown. Tired from play fighting, both had a rest and were gasping for breath. Sometimes Bongkud would climb up high to avoid Rungus who was biting her on the neck. It was very interesting when they were play fighting inside the basket for about thirty minutes. Rungus was always looking very cool and peaceful. At the end of the day, the integration was a great success. Rungus was the one who showed the most dominance.
Bongkud and Rungus will integrate for two to three hours. As usual, both of the sun bears will play fight, chase each other, roll and climb around together. So far their interactions are positive and finally they are become good playmates.
These are the pictures that show how Bongkud and Rungus play fight.
Text and Photo by Tee Thye Lim
At Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), the confiscated orphan sun bear will go through the electric fence training before they release into BSBCC forest enclosure. This is a very important phase where the bears will take their first step onto the forest floor after they have been keep in the cage for a long time.
Some of the bear may take 1 day to enter into forest, some of them may take 1 week, and some of them even spend more than 1 month to put four of their feet on the soil.
On 5th March 2013, the guillotine door which connected from our BSBCC bear house to the forest enclosure has been opened to let the sub-adult sun bear group - Natalie, Rungus, Ah Lun and Julaini to access to the forest.
As expected, the "Group Leader" - Natalie, is the first one who lead the group to explore the condition around the guillotine door. But none of them step into the forest on the first day.
On 7th March 2013, Natalie still "checking" the surrounding by letting out her feet at the guillotine door. Sometimes they will attracted and feel curious to the macaques who roaming near to the forest enclosure.
12th March 2013, this is the day where most of BSBCC team members have been waiting for !!
10:28am, Rungus, walking down from the ram to get the food and honey. Excitement, precaution, and curiosity were all shown on Rungus face and her movement.
She started to explore the surrounding by sniffing around and straight went inside the forest without waiting for Natalie, Ah Lun and Julaini !!
2.30pm, the "Group Leader" - Natalie, started to get confident to step out again. She try to get food which scattered in the forest enclosure. Slowly, she step on the forest floor, alert to everything surrounded her. Natalie found a dead wood just near to the guillotine door and she digging on it for around 10 minutes before she went into forest to meet with Rungus.
Have a look at the photo to check out what are Rungus and Natalie doing for the first day stepping out into forest !!
Text by Wai Pak Ng
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre received the 20th rescued sun bear on 12th November 2010. This bear is a female adult sun bear that was kept in the Victory Mini Zoo Farm, Kudat, Northern Sabah.
Last month, Ms Reanne Potter and her husband from Australia visited Sabah including this mini zoo . They saw this sun bear and other animals kept in a very inhumane way at the local mini zoo. The couple felt very sorry to the animals and tried to help them. At first, they found Free the Bear from the internet and communicate with them. Eventually, the news was forwarded to us. Without any delay, BSBCC made a report to Sabah Wildlife Department and a rescue operation was carried out by the Wildlife Rescue Unit.
I would like to express greatest appreciation to Ms Reanne Potter and her husband who carried out their social responsibilities and care to our wildlife. Special thank you to Free the Bear for the networking and cooperation. Also, I would like to say a big thank you to the Sabah Wildlife Department for their swift respond and action.
BSBCC is glad to receive our new sun bear and named this female as Rungus, which is the name of the tribal people who lives in Northern Sabah. As usual, Rungus will be living in our quarantine area for a month before we could move her to our new bear house to start her rehabilitation training.