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Text & Photos by Chiew Lin May
A sub adult, female sun bear was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) on 2nd May, 2012. She was named Ah Bui (Rescue No. 30), which means “friend” in local Murut language. Ah Bui came to the BSBCC on the 4th of May 2012, when she was two years old. She was originally from Sook village, Keningau. Ah Bui was kept by a person who almost sold her for the purpose of removing her gall bladder.
Imagine if we were late to rescue her, she would have become starved and wounded which would have caused terrible pain. Sun bears are hunted or killed in the wild to remove their gall bladder. Bear bile is used in traditional Asian medicine which can be useful for treating liver and gall bladder illnesses. Initial health checks showed her in good health with a weight of 25kg.
One of the primary goals of BSBCC is to conserve sun bears through creating the capacity to rehabilitate and release suitable orphaned and ex-captive bears back into the wild. Ah Bui has been given a second chance to survive in the wild. BSBCC enables rescued sun bear to live their life peacefully with the best of care. After 30 days of quarantine, free from pain, vet care and nutrition care, she had adjusted very well to life at the centre.
On 4th July 2012, Ah Bui finally met her first bear friend, Debbie. The close relationship formed among Ah Bui, Debbie and Fulung has lasted to this day.
Our rescued sun bears have access to the forest enclosure where they have tall trees to climb, a pool to cool off in, and iron wood to nap on. But when the rescued bears have stayed in a tiny cage for many years where they lost the chance to experience simple things from the natural world, it can be challenging for them to step out to the forest.
It requires considerable time and expense to restore the wild behavior of sun bears that have been victims of the illegal pet trade.
On 11th June 2013, Ah Bui and her friends took a huge step out to the door for her first glimpse of tall trees and to sniff the air! Slowly, she started with digging and turning dead wood to look for termites.
Ah Bui and her friends are well suited to their environment. Her short hair allows her to survive in the tropical forest. She enthusiastically destroys anything.
Sometimes she appears to be basking in the sun on a fallen decayed tree, absorbing the warmth of the sun’s rays. She is more than happy to lay around. She learns many of the forest skills that she would have naturally learned from her mother.
Ah Bui is a skillful climber, aided by long sickle-shaped claws that help her climb to the top of the tree canopy. She now very much enjoys climbing trees and has gained a lot of confidence and independence! She has been recorded to climb over to other forest enclosures through the trees five times!
Ah Bui also loves to climb high up and build a prefect sleeping nest.
She is learning and experiencing that life can be great! She is well enough to go outside and enjoy every minute of every day. She enjoys the sheer pleasure of being alive.
We can ensure that Ah Bui is ready for reintroduction. Ah Bui is healthy and she has developed her survival skills and wild behavior to equip her for life in the forest. It is always great to see our rescued sun bears back in the forest where they belong.
Please share the love. The rescued sun bears need to and deserve to live a wild bear life as any bear does.