Video by Chiew Lin May
“Yummies for the bear tummies!”
What does sun bear eat?
Sun bears are opportunities omnivores, consuming on a variety of fruits, termites, insects, invertebrates, small rodents, and honey. Kina, the sun bear using her long, sickle-shaped claws to climbing tree and opening up termite nests.
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Text by Jerome Visperas Esteva
Photos by BSBCC
My name is Jerome Visperas Esteva, and I currently work at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre as a Ticket and Shop assistant.
The reason why I am volunteering at the bear house is to gain more information about the bears. I am curious to learn about their daily routine and I want to experience how to feed them, make their daily enrichment and clean their cages (where the bears sleep at night).
This is actually my first time working in the bear house. I found my first day at the bear house was a bit hard adjusting to a different routine. To be honest it needs a lot of energy to do all the work here. The daily tasks include :- cleaning the bear cages, preparing food for the bears, feeding inside & outside(forest enclosures), completing the check of the electric fences, making enrichment, etc.
My mentor/”buddy” was Mizuno who is one of the senior bear keepers. He taught me a lot about the safety and the bears behaviour. I am extremely grateful for all the information he shared with me.
I have gained so much experience and learnt so much during these two weeks. I want to say THANK YOU to all the staff at the bear house for helping me during my training program.
Text by Pradeep Gunasegaran
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Diana is the 33rd rescued sun bear that came to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) on July 2013 as an adult. She was initially living at View Top Resort in Tawau, Sabah where she was exhibited to the visitors in a small concrete cage with another male sun bear that goes by the name of Ronnie. When she arrived at BSBCC, she was in a poor condition as she had a hole on her right snout and bald spots on the back of her head. It is suspected that she had these issues due to confrontation with Ronnie as they were kept in a small cage together. Besides that, she also had unhealthy gums due to diet that only comprised of rice and banana.
Due to Diana’s condition, she constantly needed special care from the Bear Care team to ensure that continues to improve with BSBCC. She was initially a sensitive bear and was always making her displeasure known by giving out warning sounds at the presence of humans. Regardless of her reaction to the keepers, they always provided her with different types of environmental enrichment to ensure that she had a better living quality with us. As she slowly became more comfortable with her new environment, she would spend her time being on the ground most of the time but when it is time to take a nap, she would never fail to climb into her favourite basket that is placed in the pen.
However, a year into staying with BSBCC, the injury on muzzle and the dental problem did not improve. Since 2015, she was constantly brought onto the surgical table to address these issues. With the help of multiple veterinarians from Sabah Wildlife Department, Wildlife Rescue Unit and others from within the region came together to help Diana. As Diana was diagnosed with periodental disease (gingivitis, dental calculus, gingival recession, and tooth fractures), she underwent multiple tooth extractions. Today, Diana is only left with one canine tooth on the upper jaw while her teeth on the entire lower jaw have been extracted out. Due to this, her lower jaw has been shrinking and she has to go on a soft food diet. She was also intelligent to choose fruits that are only ripen as they are softer for her consumption.
In May 2017, Diana was transferred to quarantine section in order for her to continue receiving special care from the Bear Care team. As Diana got healthier here, she was then slowly introduced to other sun bears as well. She was first integrated with a young group of sun bears, Soo, BJ, Kina, and Sika. Among these four bear, Diana loved playing around with Sika and Kina. At the beginning of year, Soo, BJ, Kina, and Sika were transferred to the Bear House to continue with their rehabilitation process. It was then when Diana was introduced to Phin, a gentle adult male sun bear. Diana continues to love playing with environment enrichments that are provided for her and sleeping in her basket. She loves environmental enrichments that in cooperates the use of gunny sack. She would play with it and when she is tired, she would use it as a blanket when she sleeps in her basket.
Today, Diana is estimated to be 14 years of age. She is still being provided the best care that she can get from BSBCC. If you would like to contribute to Diana’s medical expenses, you may do it by clicking on ‘Healthy Sun Bear’ that is on this webpage:
Video by Chiew Lin May
Day 15: All she wants is loved and care Don’t miss out on a sweet Little Betung story! See how Little Betung progressed in her two weeks of the rehabilitation process. She is one of the victims of the pet trade. She was neglected for five months and kept in a small cage. When she arrived at BSBCC, her condition was emaciated, malnourished and growth stunted. Our team worked around the clock to build her strength. It is hard to imagine the life she endured before her rescue by Sabah Wildlife Department. Betung’s fighting spirit makes us reminded that she should be with her mother and free in the wild. She took every opportunity to be a bear cub!
She needed emergency veterinary care. Please buy a gift to help Little Betung the love and care she needs to recover - A healthy balanced diet, medical care and enrichment toys to keep her stimulated both physically and mentally. You can show LOVE by adopting Betung. Please share her story!
Everything was stolen from her by humans. Keeping sun bears as pets are “Illegal”. Please do not keep and support sun bear as a pet – Give back a life where they belong!
Adopt Betung: https://www.bsbcc.org.my/share-bear-adoption.html
To donate - https://www.bsbcc.org.my/donate.html
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
On 26th August 2020, BSBCC received their third rescued cub of the year. It is not a proud number and all these rescued sun bears underlying problems are the same. How much more pain and trauma must the bears have to endure? We cannot imagine a bright future for sun bears if this poaching and illegal pet trade continues at this rapid rate. They are being threatened!
Rescued at an estimated five months of age, the story reported the cub was found by a villager’s dog and she was ‘wandering alone’ in the orchard at Kampung Betung in Ranau district. She was a tiny little cub – no teeth yet. She was taken and kept as a pet for about five months in a chicken wire mesh cage. She was fed with Lactogen milk powder only. The villager was willing to surrender Betung to Sabah Wildlife Department. Wonder what happened to her mother…? A mother will risk their own life in their cub’s defence and would never abandon their cub at that young age. Little Betung would still be constantly with her mother.
Her weight was 1.4kg and she was in a poor condition, growth stunted, underweight, super weak, malnourished, emaciated and suffering with alopecia on the head and body. She has been placed into quarantine while a health assessment, nutritious diet and care plan is put into place. She receives treatment with medicated shampoo to treat her pruritus.
Betung needs to be nursed back to health before starting to venture out to the forest. She soon took her first steps on the LONG road of recovery. Little Betung is beginning to settle into her new home. The surroundings are still very new to her. She has a lot to overcome having lost her mother and forest home at an early age.
She is now in quarantine and receives intensive treatment from our vet and bear team. She requires 24 hour care and 7 feeds a day. A huge thanks to the Wildlife Rescue Unit of Sabah Wildlife Department for taking care and help us get the vet care Little Betung needed. Finally, she is now safe and loved.
Being so young she would not have been able to survive on her own - we are ready to provide Little Betung with a healthy diet, veterinary care and enrichment activities to stimulate her.
She has settled in quite well. She is keen on the new menu and loves the food she is receiving - MILK. On 29th August 2020, we moved her to a larger den filled with climbing structures, toys and treats to keep her enriched and stimulated. Slowly, she is learning that the bear world means a lot to her. She loves being in the den – ready to explore everything!
Thanks to our dedicated cub keepers, Adrian and Danny who teach the cubs forest life skills! Even so tiny and weak, Little Betung NEVER MISSES the chance to climb!! She has improved in her tree climbing abilities. But, she will take some time and think about how to get down from the climbing structure or platform, and she never stops trying!
She will find the best digging spots. She spends her day foraging and digging the dead wood. She will bite and play with the small branches or dried leaves!
She has logs to dig with, dried leaves to destroy, bear balls to roll with and a gunny sack hammock to sleep on – cubs just love this! She will keep herself entertained throughout the day. She loves exploring new smells, sights and textures. She finds dead logs very amusing and it often looks like her first time surrounded by the dead logs. She can have endless fun with them! She enjoys her quiet time and does not appreciate any disturbances as she can sometimes get quite feisty. Cubs vary a lot in the amount of sleep they need. After she finishes drinking milk, she spends her time snoozing with her bear toy or inside the gunny hammock to recover and regain back her energy.
She will make everyone around fall in LOVE with her enthusiasm and spirit.
And most importantly, Betung’s spirit, now she is able to do her favourite activities as other sun bear cubs do.
She is a little cub who can be very expressive. When digging into wood, you can find her keeping an open mouth or showing off her sharp canines which indicates the wood dust has stuck on her tongue – she thinks of a way to remove it!
As Little Betung surrounded herself with wood or toys, there was “a little something” that would make her SMILE!
You will wonder what has attracted Betung’s attention. She will sniff, be curious and get into it!
She will prove to be a natural fighter! Imagine the future for this little cub who would have been able to live in peace with her mother in the wild. Please remember sun bears are NOT PETS and should NOT BE STOLEN from the wild to live with humans.
Little Betung is still in the process of recovering and we look forward to seeing the difference that living without trauma makes to her – growing and thriving.
Hope one day her weight and skin condition will show improvement, then she can climb up into the trees, build her self-confidence, be free once more and safe from any harm! She still has a long road of rehabilitation ahead of her. Little Betung needs you to help with her medical recovery. Please consider helping and supporting Little Betung by donating towards the on-going care and emergency medical treatment. Grab a wonderful gift today! Your donation will be on its way to support this little one. Stay strong, Little One!
Text by Rebecca Kimlaw
Photos by Mizuno Merek Men & Seng Yen Wah
Hi! I am Rebecca Kimlaw, one of the staff at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. My volunteer program started on the 14th of July and ended on the 27th July. I was fortunate enough to spend my two amazing weeks volunteering with the bears. It gave me a glance to see how the operations are generally carried out in the bear house. It was a good chance to learn more about the bears.
My two-week volunteering here was one of the most precious experiences in my life. There was a lot of work to do in the bear house and required a lot of energy. The tasks I was assigned doing were cleaning the bear dens, preparing a lot of food for the bears, feeding bears inside and outside the bear house area and so on. I started falling in love with the bears. Although they are so adorable, we must all bear in mind that its illegal to keep them as a pet. I hope people have awareness about this, so we can protect these beautiful bears together.
I felt comfortable at the bear house because the bear keepers helped me so much. They taught me a lot about the bears. One of my favourite moments is making an enrichment for the bear. Normally, we use leaves, banana, and other accessible nature resources to make an enrichment for them. I enjoyed feeding the bears inside and outside bear house area. I felt satisfied when I saw the bears enjoying their food.
All the bears are cute. But the one that I like the most is Om. Om is a 15 years old male bear. He is a very energetic bear and enjoys his food. He spends a good deal of his time in the forest. Sometimes he is quite content playing all alone, especially with small pieces of dead wood. So, my buddy (Mizuno) and I made an enrichment for him. We could tell that he liked it.
Special thanks to my buddies Danny, Bithrenley, Mizuno and all the bear keepers at the bear house for giving me information and helping me during my training programme. I sincerely recommend this place to anyone who would like to participate in volunteering programmes. You will not regret it! Hopefully I will have a chance to enrol in this volunteering program again.
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
Sun bear cubs are extremely adorable. The rescued bears we have received were taken from the wild and became victims of the illegal pet trade. To obtain the cubs, their mothers are usually killed before their young are snatched. Kipaku’s story begins from a lifetime of being a house pet. Kipaku had been kept for three months by a family in Tambunan, after they claimed they had found the cub wandering alone around the forest fire area. He was fed with fried fish, milk and rice – an inappropriate diet! The owner decided to surrender the cub to the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit on 16th July 2020, and he was sent to BSBCC on 18th July 2020. Kipaku quickly adjusted to life in his new home. Kipaku’s health is improving gradually. He now weighs 10.60 kg.
Sun bears of his age in the wild would be reliant on their mother, but he has already lost his mother and his home. Without his mother’s guidance, the chances of survival in the forest are slim. Here in BSBCC, the first step of rehabilitation for Kipaku was starting a daily forest walk with a surrogate mother.
On the 6th of August 2020, Little Kipaku got a second chance to learn as a wild bear. He found the courage to set his paws on the forest floor!
His surrogate mother will accompany and assist Kipaku to develop his survival skills, the knowledge he needs to thrive in the wild and ensure he receives the best possible care. During the walk, daily behaviour and ecology is recorded.
We found out he has strong instincts – like climbing, resting high up in the tree canopy and looking for wild food. He remembers tall trees and rivers! He is quickly practicing the skills and is exhibiting good natural behaviour which he has not known since he was stolen from the wild as a cub. But there was some concern with Little Kipaku, is he too habituated to human presence. Sun bears are being susceptible to poachers upon release. Therefore, cubs will be exposed to minimal contact with humans during the rehabilitation process.
Sun bears are opportunistic and will eat almost anything – small vertebrates, termites, earthworms, larvae and their eggs. He has an incredible sense of smell. Once he locates his favourite grubs, he will quickly use his claws to tear open tree bark then slurps out the food using his long tongue.
Every day has a new tree bark to satisfy his curiosity!
He can spend hours in a day foraging on the bark. He is very smart! He is always keen on trying out new things. He will check out every corner of the forest.
Kipaku loves to snack on soil too – high with mineral nutrient! Being the youngest male bear at BSBCC, he enjoys getting into mischief and exploring around - beginning his new life where he really belongs! It is important to keep him psychologically and physically fit.
“Climb, climb and climb higher!” – His most favourite activity when he is in the forest!
He is an agile and tree loving little bear! He shows confidence when he climbs! He has strongly curved, pointed claws and naked soles – adaptations to the arboreal lifestyle. He is busy in the canopy searching for food. Sometimes, he does not care whether the tree branches can support his body weight. He just climbs through the branches and munches on leaves or tears the tree bark. When he misjudges a branch which snaps under his grasp, he will quickly grab it or fall to the ground.
He can perform a full range of natural behaviour. Doing what bears do…!! He is free to do whatever he wants –FREEDOM!
He enjoys rolling around and taking a nap in the forest canopy. He will stop by the river for a swim.
After a few weeks of outings, he has become more and more adventurous and active. He has left his past behind and continued to develop his forest skills during the forest outings.
The little bear is doing so well. It is remarkable to watch Little Kipaku explore free into the depths of the jungle. He certainly has the instincts for a future in the wild. Please keep fighting to stop poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. Let them stay where they belong to – the wild!
Text by Nurul Haslinda binti Abdul Kahar
Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Hi! My name is Nurul Haslinda Binti Abdul Kahar, one of the ticketing staff at BSBCC. All of the ticketing staff was given two weeks to do the task as a bear keeper at the bear house and I am the third staff after Khoirul. These two weeks actually has been a great chance for me to know more about the bears, for instance, what do they eat? which bears don’t get along when they are together? why some of the bears are given a different diet? Most of those questions I used to wonder about have been answered by working at the bear house in those two weeks. I was also able to recognise the bears inside the bear house during my volunteering period. YEAH!
During my two-week training, I did the same work as all the bear keeper staff. No exception. Hahaha…
It took a few days for me to get used to all of the tasks, such as fence check, food preparing for the bears inside the bear house and in the forest enclosure, fecal check with my buddy(Roger), husbandry work and many more. All of the tasks given actually required lot of energy every day! Now I understand how the bear keepers doing their daily routine before releasing the bears into the forest enclosure.
This two-week training has given me so much experience and profound knowledge about the bears. Now, I am able to share them with visitors who visit this centre. Here I want to say thank you to those who helped me during my training at the bear house, especially my buddy, Roger, and all the bear keepers.
I hope in the future I will have this kind of volunteering opportunity again.
Here are some pictures taken during my training program:
Video by Chiew Lin May
In the hot and humid tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia, sun bears love spending time sunbathing in the sun's ray, like Sunbearo here - his favourite pastime in BSBCC.
Sun bear has a short, sleek, and black coat. Their tick coat maybe looks absorb the heat but it protects them from insects and dirt. The fact that they enjoy sunbathing is why they got the name "Sun Bear"!
Click here to learn more about Sun Bear - http://www.bsbcc.org.my
To donate - https://www.bsbcc.org.my/donate.html
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Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Let’s meet our two rescued bear cubs, Kipaku and Itam.
Kipaku, is a five months old male bear cub. He was found in a forest fire site. After that, he was being kept as a house pet in Kampung Kipaku at Tambunan. He came to the BSBCC on the 18th of July, 2020. Kipaku is a bright and active bear. However,due to his history as a house pet, he is used to the presence of humans. He feels stressed and bawls when he sees there are no people around him.
On the other hand, Itam, is a seven months old female bear cub. She was found at Kampung Maimatom, Kemabong and kept in Kampung Kuala Sabinait, Pagalungan at Nabawan. When she was found, she had wounds from dog bites on her body. She came to the BSBCC on the 27th of July. Itam is an alert and shy bear. Her eyes were always focused on the surroundings.
Kipaku and Itam may come to BSBCC by a different story, but what they have in common is they both are alone now. To provide a better life for these little two cubs, giving them a new friend can encourage their social behaviour and helps them learn from each other. The best enrichment of a bear always is another bear!
This is how their friendship started.
On the 30th of Jul, 2020, was the first day Kipaku and Itam met. However, it is was not pleasant . Kipaku first gives a warning bark to Itam. Kipaku stayed in the hanging platform while Itam stayed in the basket. They both kept huffing and barking. There was not much progress during the first three days of their integration. This is due to neither of them wanting to get close to the other and they were still huffing, growling and barking.
Slowly, Itam took the first move to approach Kipaku. However, Kipaku always warns her to stay away. Itam still tries hard every time. She has no fear of Kipaku’s warning. Due to Itam’s fearless efforts and countless tries, they are getting closer day by day.
Finally after a week,we saw them begin their friendship! Now, Itam always follows behind Kipaku. They are always biting, pawing and wrestling. Kipaku still likes to paw Itam hard. However, Itam is always tolerant with Kipaku. They share food and enrichment and also sleep together. It is so lovely to see their precious friendship. We are hoping that they can grow and learn together and believe that one day they will return to the wild together.