Text by Seng Yen Wah Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Mamatai is one of our adult female bear who is around 17 years old. The name Mamatai comes from the local Dusun language meaning ‘killer’ and she earned this name due to her previous aggressive attitude. Mamatai was originally kept in Sepilok before being sent to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo and she returned to Sepilok in November 2010 to join us here at BSBCC.
Mamatai is a gorgeous bear with her beautiful grey colour eyes. However, she has unusually short legs compared to other bears and she moves around very slowly. We never thought such a round bear could become an expert in tree climbing, however Mamatai has surprised us and is one of the few bear who has learned how to build a nest using tree leaves and branches. Despite the tree nest being small and messy, she enjoys resting up there. Mamatai is our resident ‘Yogi bear’, as she loves doing various yoga poses when she is resting.
Enrichments are an essential part of the rehabilitation process for our bears. People often ask “what are enrichments?” An enrichment is a ‘toy’ that we make for the bears in order to encourage their natural behaviours. BSBCC staffs and volunteers make daily enrichments for Mamatai including objects such as wooded swings, tyre swings, dead logs and many others. Mamatai really enjoys playing with the large variety of enrichments that we create for her.
On 14th August 2013 Mamatai and her friend (Wan Wan) were released into one of our forest enclosure ‘Pen D’ for the first time. Although Wan Wan and Mamatai had been close friends since they both arrived at BSBCC, conflicts soon developed and resulted in Mamatai being relocated into ‘Pen H’. Today Mamatai is a brave and independent bear who loves to spend her time resting on a large log in her enclosure.
Mamatai is a perfect example in showing the role that sun bears play in the forest. Many plants and trees rely on sun bears to disperse there seeds. The sun bear consume a variety of fruits and as they travel they leave seeds spread throughout the forest, giving the sun bear the title of the ‘forest planters’. Sun bears are also excellent climbers, able to reach heights of up to 60 metres and this leads to their role of ‘forest engineers’. Sun bears climb in order to harvest honey from beehives and use their claws and canines to tear the tree trunks leaving a cavity in the tree. This can provided nesting sites for other animals, such as hornbills and flying squirrel. Sun bears are also considered to be the ‘forest doctors’. They help trees to stay healthy by controlling the population of termite. Last but not least, sun bears are the ‘forest farmers’ as they love digging helping to mix the poor soil and the rich soil together and enhancing the nutrient cycle.
Although Mamatai is getting older she is still enjoying her life here at BSBCC, she continues to climb, forage and rest, building nests in the forest. The sun bear is a forest-dependent species and the forest is also dependent! Say NO to illegal logging and protect their natural habitat for them! They cannot speak but you can and the actions we take can help them to have the life that they deserve!
My name is Sara, I am 19 years old and from Stockholm, Sweden. I am in my final year studying animal care and I got the opportunity to come to Borneo and volunteer at BSBCC through my school as an internship/scholarship for five weeks. It is definitely a decision I don’t regret! This experience has been one of the most challenging things I have ever done, but also one of the best. The warm weather and humidity is not easy to handle for a Swede and combined with the work is sometimes hard. But knowing that I get to help the bears and take care of them makes it all worth it and after a while, you get used to constantly being sweaty and red in the face.
The work every day is usually very similar due to the set daily routines. We either work in the bear house or in the kitchen, which means cleaning cages or preparing food for the bears. Other than that, we feed the bears inside and outside, make enrichments for them or other activities such as collecting banana leaves for the bears. The enrichments consist of hiding fruit in leaves or fire hose with peanut butter or honey. This is good for the bears because they have to use their nose and try to find the food, encouraging their natural behaviour. This will help them learn to find food in the wild. We usually make enrichment every day in order to stimulate the bears and keep them entertained.
This is an enrichment we made that we named “bjornflotte” (bear raft) where we used bamboo and hid dog treats inside.
It is so much fun to watch the bears play with their enrichment and you can tell they appreciate it, which makes the work really rewarding. I have fallen in love with sun bears, even though I didn’t even know they existed before I came here. They are such incredible animals, they’re so playful, intelligent, and adorable. Have you ever seen a sun bear eat a coconut? It is the cutest thing you will ever see in your life. After a few weeks, I had learned their names and their different personalities and I feel like I have really gotten to know the bears. It is so tragic that the reason why there aren’t a lot of sun bears left in the wild is because of us humans.
Wawa, Dodop and Noah enjoyoing coconuts.
I am really impressed with the staff working at BSBCC, their dedication and everything that they do to help the sun bears. They really want what’s best for the bears and do everything they can to rehabilitate them and take care of them in the best way possible. Everyone is extremely friendly and helpful and they make work so much more fun. Right from the start we were welcomed into their team and it has been great getting to know everyone. They were always considerate when we weren’t used to the heat and needed breaks sometimes and they taught us everything we needed to know about the bear house and the bears, which was really nice. The staff and the bears are definitely what I will miss the most about Borneo, and I will be so sad to leave everyone.
Even though it has been tough from time to time, with the heat, the hard work and when I had the flu for a week, it has been the most amazing time and it was so worth it. The ups and downs and all I have experienced here have made me grow as a person and I know that I can handle more than I think. During my five weeks here, I have learned so much about animal rehabilition, this country with its culture and people and the importance of hard work. I am super grateful to my school for sending me here and to BSBCC for doing an amazing job for the sun bears!
I will miss everyone so incredibly much and I hope I can come back and visit soon! :)
My friend Emma from school and our buddy Brandon (the best buddy ever!)
Exciting for Christmas !! Christmas is a time of joy and spending time with loved ones. What is your wish this Christmas? Help us brighten up the lives of rescued sun bears with Christmas gift! It really makes the difference!!
We caught our mischievous Wawa smiling all the way as she enjoys in the forest with her bear friends! She is so happy to be free roaming in the forest !!
“I know I am free as I climb and play in tall treetops, the trees are tall, big and green! Play fight with friends! The wind blows through my sleek, black coat! Here in the forest, I am digging for favourite insects, looking for honey and beetles." This is where I truly belong- FOREST
Did you know that in the wild sun bears build a safe, comfortable nest to sleep in? Tree nests protect them from predators as well as serve as to be comfortable, safe places to sleep. This is one of the vital skills that their mothers would have taught them in the wild… Check out how one of our rescued adult female sun bear, Damai builds her comfy nest on tree!