Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Two kilograms of heavy metal chain with a brass lock tied on Kuamut’s neck may look amusing but the story behind it is heartbreakingly sad. Kuamut was a sub adult when she was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department from illegal pet ownership and being kept in a small iron cage at a village on the Kinabatangan River on 13th January, 2009.
When she arrived, she was in a bad condition from where her neck was tied with an enormously heavy metal chain since she was a cub. Her neck was found thin and worn.
She was extremely stressed during the arrival and had a fearful expression in her eyes. It was heartbreaking to see such a young sun bear without her mother to comfort and protect her.
We are absolutely delighted to have rescued her and will give her the best chance of surviving and returning one day to her forest home where she belongs. She has settled into her new environment very well. BSBCC provides different types of enrichment – such as toys and food based ones to encourage natural behaviors and stimulation. She explores all the enrichment but sometimes will struggle to figure them out. Kuamut is very fond of eating and loves all her meals. She really enjoys her fruits, especially tropical fruits and honey! She will slowly gain strength, confidence and develop her independence to survive in the forest.
After she finished quarantine, she was moved to the bear house and was introduced to the adult females in April 2010. She is a beautiful bear. Kuamut developed good relationships with adult female, Tokob. They loved to spend time sharing bear stories and play wrestling a lot.
But sadly, Kuamut has lost her best friend, Tokob. She passed away on 25th April 2015 due to respiratory and circulatory failure. Tokob with her beautiful yellow “batman” shaped crescent and the most slender, will be missed by Kuamut. Then after a year of Tokob passing away, Kuamut slowly displayed trust towards her other bear pals. She now is closer with an eleven year old, adult female sun bear, Susie. The only one she will play wrestle with. Susie loving the attention, has helped Kuamut grow in confidence.
Kuamut is now ten years old, her sleek, dark coat and muzzle make her adorable. During rehabilitation at BSBCC where the rescued sun bears can learn to climb trees, forage for food, make a nest to sleep in at night in the forest enclosure and develop all the wild behavior they need to survive in the wild.
Kuamut finally took her brave first step out into the forest enclosure in June 2010. She walked out into the sunshine with the confidence of knowing her life was now safe and displayed wonderful bear behavior! She was able to adapt in the forest just like a wild sun bear and equipped with the survival skills.
She loves to play, climb trees and occasionally loves to borrow and stay at other sun bear friends’ tree nest!
She loves to borrow and stay at other sun bear friends’ tree nests!
Her enthusiasm can be seen where she loves breaking branches, climbing trees, foraging in termites nests and digging deep into the soil. These seem to be her favourite activities throughout the day. She likes keeping herself busy at all possible times. This is not a problem for her as she is very skillful in foraging for natural foods like termites, beehives and invertebrates. She has proved to us that she is an exceptional tree climber and is eager to explore.
She will find her favourite trees to climb. Slowly she recovers from a life of hardship and embarks on a new way of life. She grows up peacefully in the forest. She never gets along with Cerah and Jelita. Whenever Cerah and Jelita try to climb a tree that is her favourite, she will make a noise and give warning to chase them away. Be warned not to alarm her with sudden movements or noises! She will immediately climb up into the trees where she feels safe.
Kuamut is a quiet and gentle bear. We are pleased to report that she is doing really well in the forest. Every day she goes on her independent adventures in the forest. She has found a new big log and will spend time there together with Susie.
Kuamut can be easily spotted and never misses an afternoon nap on the platform near the bear house.
Sometimes she will just sit and sniff around, perhaps enjoying the smell of freedom!
Commercial hunting and poaching remain the biggest threat to sun bear survival. Sun bears have declined by at least 30% over the past 30 years and will continue to decline at this rate if NO action is taken. Sun bears are protected by law in Sabah under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997. Please help us protect sun bears from extinction before it is too late. You can make the difference!