Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Betung is the youngest cub in BSBCC. She is now ten months old. In April 2020, Betung was found alone by a villager's dog in Kampung Betung, Ranau district. When Betung was found, she was tiny. She had been kept in a small cage. Her diet lacked nutrition which affects her growth and development. When she came to the BSBCC, her weight was only 1.4kg. She was emaciated, malnourished and had multiple alopecias on her body. The villager surrendered her to the Sabah Wildlife Department and they sent her to the BSBCC on 26 August 2020. It took her two months to recover from her poor health.
Now, she has become a cute and playful bear. Without her mother being beside her, Betung lacks security. For her own good, we decided to let her be integrated with other bears. In 2020, we received three cubs, Kipaku (11 months old male cub), Itam (1-year-old female cub), and Betung. So, this provided an excellent opportunity to let them be friends.
25 December 2020
On Christmas day, Betung met with Kipaku and Itam.
First, Itam came into Betung’s cage. Betung saw Itam, and she growled. Itam climbed, while Betung stayed on the ground. Betung is curious, and she sniffs the sliding door. Itam approaches Betung for the first time. Betung growls and barks. Itam tries for a few times, but is rejected by Betung.
Betung bawled when she saw Kipaku. Kipaku tries to approach Betung, Betung barks at him immediately. Kipaku tries to get attention from Betung, but Betung is roaring at him.
On this first day of their integration, Betung was alert but afraid to meet Kipaku and Itam. However, there was no aggression.
26 December 2020
The next day, Kipaku met with Betung. Kipaku was excited to meet Betung. However, Betung did not feel the same way as Kipaku did. Kipaku stood on his hind legs, and he was ready to play. He pawed Betung. But Kipaku's way of playing is a bit rough for Betung and she growls at him. Kipaku then explored the environment and enrichment. Betung was curious about him but still kept her distance. Once Kipaku tried to approach Betung but she avoided him and growled at him.
After Kipaku, Itam came to meet Betung begining slowly and friendly. Itam seemed to know that Betung was scared. She kept her movement slow and low. They were very curious about each other and kept looking at what the other was doing. They were spending more time on investigating each other than playing.
27 December 2020
Once the sliding door opened, Betung approached Itam first. She was following Itam and sniffing her. Itam had her head down and approached Betung. Betung sniffed her. After this, Betung kept following Itam to find where she was. Itam played softly with Betung. They finally started to really play! The integration of Betung and Itam showed positive signs.
Kipaku joined them to have a play fight. Kipaku gave Betung his back, but Betung didn't want to play with him. Kipaku and Betung chase-and-run around the den. Kipaku took the first step to play fight with Betung. He softly bit Betung. Betung stopped avoiding him and started to play fight with Kipaku. Later, Itam joined them too. The three days of integration was a success.
After getting along, they were moved to a larger space - the exercise pen. Betung likes to be with Itam. If Kipaku was playing too rough for her, she will give him a warning bark to stay away. After Betung gets tired of playing with Kipaku and Itam, she explores the environment and enrichment alone.
Betung is the smallest bear that we have ever had. It's wonderful to see her growing up day by day, and now she has companions in her life. Betung’s life is better due to the companionship of Kipaku and Itam. We hope that these three little cubs can learn and support each other to become bears full of courage and confidence.
End the Illegal Pet Trade!
Illegal trade is one of the biggest threats to the sun bear’s survival. Our rescued sun bears were a victim of the illegal wildlife trade before someone came to their aid. The rehabilitation process helps to restore the sun bears’ natural behaviour and preparing for their lives in the wild can be a long process. After being rescued, they start to re-learn skills with the help of their bear friends. Such as foraging for food, climbing, and avoid strangers which their mother will teach them when they were young.
Keeping sun bear as pets is illegal and it could make the bears lose their instincts for living in the wild. Please return back to where they belong. Each of us must make a difference!
If you see suspicious activity, be sure to REPORT illegal trade in bear parts to:
# Jabatan PERHILITAN Semenanjung Malaysia: 1-800-88-5151
# Sabah Wildlife Department: 088-254767
#Sarawak Forestry Corporation: +60168565564
# Wildlife Crime Hotline | Hotline Hidupan Liar | 野生物罪案热线 : +60 19 356 4194
Morning dip, anyone?
Little Kipaku enjoying a dip on a sunny day. He always will stop by and take a dip in his chilly stream.
"Despite the many important functions that sun bears serve, their long term survival in the wild depends on the continuous existence of natural forests” –Dr Wong Siew Te
Sun bears play a vital role in maintaining the forest ecosystem – fruit seeds dispersal, nutrient cycling, and termite pest control. But their forests are under threat from illegal logging and the expansion of palm oil plantations. We need to act fast before this magnificent wildlife disappears from our planet. Let’s protect our forests so we can save their life and ecosystem.
Adopt Little Kipaku 💚
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Sun bears are the coolest! Let’s learn about them!
The sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) is the smallest bear on the planet. They live in the forests of South East Asia. Sun bears are not picky eaters –opportunistic omnivores. They eat a varied diet including termites, ants, beetle grubs, a large variety of fruit species, and honey. Besides being adorable and charismatic, these smallest bears play an important role in maintaining the ecosystem and equilibrium of the forest. Like other bears, sun bears are face threats ranging from illegal poaching for their gall bladders, the illegal pet trade, and loss of habitat. You can join to help care for them: https://www.bsbcc.org.my/volunteer.html
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by BSBCC & Chiew Lin May
Sweet Manis has been at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) since August 2009. During the arrival, she was suspected to be pregnant. However, her pregnancy was later found to be a pseudo pregnancy. Manis means “Sweet” in Malay language.
Manis was found having health problems which caused changes in skin colour and dryness. Her health condition has improved with intensive treatment and care. She has received health checks since arriving at her new home. Manis settled into the new environment very quickly. A nutritious and balanced diet was given to her.
Being kept as a pet for years can have an effect on the sun bears physical and mental health. Manis will show more stereotypical behaviours in the dens. It is believed that she was never given any enrichment when she was kept at the zoo, thus leading to her stereotypical behaviour. The volunteers and keepers provide different types of enrichment to encourage Manis’s natural behaviour and for stimulation. Manis is a curious bear that is keen on interacting with the new enrichment toys offered. She now has dry leaves as a bed which she has never had before.
After she finished quarantine period, Manis soon moved to the next stage of her rehabilitation. In 2010, Manis was integrated with the larger adult female bear group – Cerah, Jelita, Kuamut, Susie and Lawa.
Manis and her friends were moved to the new bear house on 7th April 2010, after the construction of bear house 1 and forest enclosure 1 was completed.
Integrating them with other bears will enable them to share and roam the forest enclosure together. It also allows Manis to continue to learn more wild sun bear behaviours. Besides, there has been a significant change in Manis’s behaviour since she has bear pals. Over the years, we have watched her grow into a gentle and dominant adult bear. She is the “grandmother” of the group.
Preparing for life in the wild can be a long process. Sun bear cubs will live with their mother for two to three years to learn the skills they will need to become wild sun bears. But for Manis’s case, she will not be able to be released in the wild due to her old age. But in BSBCC, Manis will be given a second chance to survive as a wild bear in order to let her have the freedom to live in the rainforest.
On July 2012, it was the first time for Manis to begin exploring the forest world when she was released into the forest enclosure and was able to be free to forage, climb, play, explore the world and acquire a variety of other survival skills.
Despite her age, Manis tends to spend more time on the ground than climbing high in trees. This includes looking for termites and taking naps. Manis has adapted well to life as a sun bear and is leaving her past behind her. She enjoys the forest and displays absolute enthusiasm!
We cannot imagine the future for sun bears if they continue being caught and sold as house pets, or their home continues to be lost. We must protect sun bears and their forest. Please help to stop illegal wildlife trafficking.
Susie was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on 07 August 2008. She was being kept as an illegal pet. The owner claimed that Susie was dancing inside the cage. Susie has lost everything –mother, love, wild instinct.
Fortunately, she has given a second chance. Now she is safe and having a lot of fun learning about forest life. She has grown into a beautiful strong bear! Please share her story!
Video by Chiew Lin May
“And soon there will be here - taking first steps into true FREEDOM!”
The bears have blossomed into the wild bears they were meant to be!
Here Sunbearo and Loki take you on a journey to release into their protected forest. It was encouraged to see how they take a huge step to begin their new life. Wishing them well on their journey to freedom!
Sun bears release program are very costly. Please support and help us give sun bears a second chance at a life in the wild. We are incredibly grateful for the support from our supporters, volunteers for always be there for making sun bears return to the wild.
Text by: Pradeep Aggi Gunasegaran
Photos by: Tee Thye Lim, Chiew Lin May, Seng Yen Wah
It has been a tough year for 2020 for BSBCC and all of us around the world with Covid 19 lingering amongst us. However, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) has not deviated from its goal of rescuing and rehabilitating Bornean Sun Bears in Sabah with help of our dedicated staffs, our supporters, Yayasan Hasanah, and Yayasan Sime Darby. The battle is not over yet but we at BSBCC have decided to kick it off in 2021 by releasing another two of our promising candidates back into their natural habitat, Sunbearo and Loki. The release of these two individuals would bring up a total of ten Bornean Sun Bears being released back into the wild since 2015.
Back in March 2014, BSBCC received both Sunbearo (Rescue Bear 37) and Loki (Rescure Bear 38) as young cubs. Sunbearo was rescued by Sabah Widlife Department back in January 2014 from a Mini Zoo and Hot Springs in Tawau while Loki was confiscated by Sabah Wildlife Department from the backyard of an inn, which was bought and kept as an illegal pet. Both of them had different names when they came over to BSBCC; Sunbearo was originally named as Tan Sri by his previous owner while Loki was called Ooi. Both their names were changed as recognition to Neways International (Australia) Pty Ltd who adopted Sunbearo and also Steve Denim who adopted and gave Loki’s name to honour his deceased cat.
A month after arriving at BSBCC, both Sunbearo and Loki were introduced to each to aid each other through this rehabilitation journey. Since then, both of them have never left each other’s side and have remained best friends. Since 2015, they have been exploring the forest enclosures in BSBCC together. Sunbearo and Loki have been exhibiting behaviour that is deemed essential for a wild sun bear throughout the years of them occupying the different forest enclosures. Sunbearo who is at 8 years of age is an excellent tree climber, loves exploring his surroundings for food and enjoys sunbathing under the sun from time to time. Loki, now 7 years of age has the same characters as Sunbearo but she is also capable of building nest out of leaves and branches in the forest enclosures as well. They can always be seen together at the Bear House sharing the hammock to sleep on together and even today, they suckle on each other every now and then for comfort as well. After years of rehabilitation, evaluating the behaviour as sun bears and their taking into account of their social characteristics, it was decided that Sunbearo and Loki will also be released back into the forest together; it hopes that the two of them would establish their home range close to each other and increase their survivability together as they are able to share resources as well.
The day before they begin the journey to the release sight, both Sunbearo and Loki underwent a last health check-up separately before they were both transferred in to the translocation cages. Both of their conditions were monitored throughout the time before they were loaded at into the four wheel drives to begin their journey to freedom at 11.45 p.m., 9th January 2021. Throughout the six hours journey, Sunbearo and Loki were composed. They faced all kinds of unfamiliarity from the moment they were placed in the translocation boxes, being lifted and fitted into the vehicles, experiencing the rain and the uneven roads of Sabah. During each stop to check on them, the bears were receptive to our approach to the translocation box to feed them with food and water. It is as though, Sunbearo and Loki knew the purpose of their entire journey.
At 5.55 a.m. on 10th January 2021, Sunbearo and Loki arrived at their site of release. The sun was beginning to rise and the jungle came to life with beautiful voice of the gibbons, hornbill, coucal, and many more. It was decided beforehand that Sunbearo and Loki will be allowed to meet each other in the translocation boxes that would allow the two best friends to start of their new journey feeling calm and safer in this unfamiliar territory. At 6.48 a.m., the door towards freedom opened up. Sunbearo and Loki took their time to come out of the boxes. The both of them appeared to have settled down and they walked out of the boxes gracefully. Sunbearo was first and Loki was right behind his tail. Sunbearo and Loki were sniffing their new surrounding without feeling startled. Loki continued sniffing and walking on the pathway that was opened for them while Sunbearo stayed around for thirteen minutes sniffing the around before walking into the forest.
We could not ask for a better release than this. The experience was peaceful and fulfilling. Both Sunbearo and Loki looked at home since the moment they stepped foot on the soil. Their movement will be monitor via the satellite collars on them and we hope to see them thriving in the forest during the upcoming weeks.
Day 134: The best enrichment of a bear always is another bear!
Most of the rescued bear in BSBCC is being separated from the mother bear and kept as a pet, which causing they spend most of the time having contact with human (direct or non-direct) in the unnatural environment. After living alone in a cage, on 25th December 2020, Little Betung finally free from trauma and now has made new bear friends for the first time in her life.
Through integration, it will help to change these bears' lives and provide them with more physical and mental stimulation, reduce stress, and allow them to learn vital survival skills. Rescued bears learning from each other (bear copying bear behaviour) facilitate the rehabilitation process in our centre - building up their confidence for stepping out again into the forest floor, climbing trees, and self-defense.
Interactions between Betung, Kipaku, and Itam have shown to be positive. Itam & Kipaku help her adjust to her new life and learn how to be a bear again. They enjoy playing, exploring, and making us fall in love with their beautiful smiles!
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photo by Sabah Wildlife Department & Chiew Lin May
A sub adult, male bear was rescued on the 5th of December 2009 in Taman Formosa, Penampang Baru, Sabah. He was found trapped in the farm and was kept in a small iron cage for a very long time. He was then brought to the Lok Kawi Zoo and sent to BSBCC on the 3rd of July 2010.
He is now safe, and we will give him the best chance of surviving in the forest. He was named “Julaini”, after the head welder who constructed the new bear house. During the arrival, he was a very aggressive bear, but now Julaini has become a big favourite for us – nicknamed wrinkled bear!
He has adjusted very well to his life at BSBCC.
During his rehabilitation, proper nutrition and various enrichment activities are given to stimulate his bear behaviours and to help him recover from the psychological trauma of being kept in captivity. Bear care staff will always introduce different types of enrichment toys and new treats for him. He enjoys fruit, coconuts and honey. On the 26th of May 2011, Julaini together with Ah Lun got to meet their new group of bears friends.
During the electric fence training, he appeared to be more nervous compared to the other bears. We never gave up on Julaini and used different types of his favorite food to lure him out to the forest. Julaini has a cataract on his left eye, but this did not let him give up easily in learning to be a wild bear. On the 13th of March 2013, Julaini finally took his huge first steps into a lifetime of freedom in the forest.
He walked slowly and calmly sniffed the forest air!
It was a blessing to watch him be a wild bear again and we were unable to control the smiles on our faces.
Julaini’s eyes widened with the thrill of TALL trees, dead wood, termites and blue sky around him!
Julaini is brave and finds the strength to venture out to the forest.
Julaini can be seen roaming around in the forest with his best female pal, Ah Lun, where they will forage, play fight, protect and get comfort together.
Julaini is not keen on climbing trees. Julaini loves to find a big tree trunk and fall asleep there.
He also never misses his favorite treats –termites and honey! He learns all the skills he will need to survive in the forest.
Over the past 10 years, Julaini has been given the chance to return to his natural habitat.
He seems to have a wonderful time and has proven to us that he is one of the loveliest bears in the centre.
There is a lot more freedom ahead for Julaini to enjoy!
Sun bears are vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The global population of sun bears has declined by 30% in the last 30 years. This is due to the increasing threats to the species’ survival from illegal hunting, pet trade and deforestation, which has led to the rapid decline in sun bear numbers. It acts as a reminder to us all how important the need to protect sun bears from extinction truly is. Please give them a voice!