Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
After Sunbearo and Loki were reintroduced into the wild in January of last year, we are happy to announce that we have successfully released Wawa, a six-year-old adult female sun bear, back into the wild on February 26, 2022. She is the 11th bear to be reintroduced into the wild by the BSBCC.
Wawa arrived at the BSBCC on the 18th of March, 2016. When she arrived at the BSBCC she was just four months old. She was spotted by the Forest Management Unit (FMU) 16, Pinangah, Telupid District. At that time, when the officer brought her to the FMU, she appeared weak. The next day, they surrendered Wawa to the Sabah Wildlife Department. After that, she was sent to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo and then to the BSBCC.
Ideally, the bear cub will stay with their mother until two to three years old. However, Wawa was found alone, without her mother by her side. She suffered from the loss of her mother. Due to emotional trauma, Wawa was afraid of her new environment. She would become grumpy and start growling. She felt safer and prefered to stay in the den rather than out in the forest.
For Wawa to gain confidence, her keepers provided her with different natural structural enrichments, in a larger exercise den, to enrich her daily life and encourage her natural bear behaviour. Every day she practised her “wild bear skills” such as digging, foraging and climbing. These skills are essential for survival in the wild. Wawa slowly adapted to her new surroundings.
On 17th November 2016, Wawa took her first and brave step out onto the ground in the forest enclosure. Once she touched the ground, she could not wait to explore everything inside the forest enclosure. She has since proven that she is an explorer! She has excellent climbing skills and is one of the most adventurous and outgoing bears in the BSBCC. She is superb at exploring and investigating both the enrichment and the environment. She explores, plays, climbs and rests in the forest. Wawa is vigilant. She is aware of her surroundings. When a stranger is gradually approaching her, she will give a warning bark or even chase them away. She gains strength, confidence and develops her independence. After six years of rehabilitation in BSBCC, she now has the opportunity to live in the wild again!
On 25th February 2022, our resident veterinarian, Dr Yeoh Boon Nie, assisted by the bear care team, conducted a final check-up on Wawa. After that, we transferred Wawa to a translocation cage, and her keeper cared for her wellbeing by closely monitoring from sedation to recovery. At 11.55pm in the midnight, the night sky was clear. The team loaded the cage onto a vehicle. Everything was ready! The bear release team and Wawa were set off for the forest reserves.
After few hours drive, we finally arrived. The sky was still dark. Wawa looked alert in the cage. The team wait for the sky to turn bright. The team then inspected the release site and made final preparations. When everything was ready, the moment finally came. Once the door opened at 6.29 am, Wawa ran out from the cage and soon she disappeared into the deep forest. It was an emotional moment to see her being released into the wild. The real freedom now belongs to Wawa. We hope she enjoys her new adventure in the wild. Her movement will be monitored via satellite collar by the BSBCC team. Stay wild, Wawa!
Last but not least, the BSBCC wants to thank the Sabah Forestry Department, the Sabah Wildlife Department, Yayasan Hasanah, Yayasan Sime Darby and everyone who has been following and supporting us. We can't do it without you. The pandemic covid-19 has affected our centre and caused a huge impact on our income from ecotourism and this is expected to last much longer. Your help will allow us to sustain our cause to promote sun bear conservation in Borneo through animal welfare, conservation, rehabilitation, education and research, giving captured sun bears a better home and restoring their right to live in the wild. Your support will make a difference in the life of the sun bear! Every little bit counts! For more information, please visit our website at: https://www.bsbcc.org.my/index.html.
Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Four years ago, the 57th bear to be rescued, Logan,arrived at the BSBCC. Logan was found at Lokan River, Kulu-Kulu Village, Sandakan, Sabah. During the rescue operation, the first thing that caught our eyes was his missing thumb and deformed front paw. His innocent eyes captured our heart immediately. He was just four months old. The owner reported that Logan used to stay with his mother on the estate. However, one day,his mother left him behind when they were crossing a river. The owner realized that Logan was injured. His front paw was hairless and covered in maggots. The owner took Logan and kept him till he recovered from the maggot wounds. On the 19th of May, 2018, Logan was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and sent to the BSBCC on the same day.
Logan is one of the bear cubs that concerned us the most. We always worried that his deformed paw may affect him as an adult in the forest as the sun bear's sickled, hard and sharp claws are an essential tool for climbing. Moreover, climbing is one of the bear's essential forest skills. However, sad to say, we found Logan had difficulty in climbing. But he shows us that he is a brave and robust bear.He always keeps trying. Even though he gets tired quickly and sometimes falls, he still enjoys every opportunity he gets to climb. Now, he is an expert climber.He may not climb as high as other bears, but he still likes to spend his time in the trees. He likes to rest on the trees and see the different views of the forests.
Logan is a playful and active bear. He is the one who initiates play fights most of the time. Logan mixes easily with other bears. He loves to venture into the forest with his bear pals. Although sometimes others reject Logan's invitation to play fight, he still stays beside them. He is a carefree bear and withstands other’s temper and attitude. He is always kinds to others.
When Logan is alone, he has no worries. He knows how to enjoy his own way.
Logan loves food and is not fussy about food. Whilst in the forest in the afternoons he is always busy looking snacks of small invertebrates , such as termites, ants, and pill millipedes. We are happy to see his mouth is full, and his belly is round. Although now he has become chubby!!
Logan has taught us a lot. Never give up! If you persist, miracles await you. After four years of rehabilitation at the BSBCC, Logan has grown and become the bravest bear that you have ever seen! He is still learning and improving every day. We have high hopes that he will return to the forest and become wild someday. Logan definitely deserves a second chance and a better life!
Text by Koh Jieh Long
Photos by Mohd Nur Adneen Bin Anuar & Seng Yen Wah
I paid for the ticket, passed through the gallery, walked up a flight of stairs, was greeted by a member of staff before I saw the sun bears in their forest enclosure; everything made me feel welcomed on my first visit to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). I took photos of the sun bears eating their “third feeding” of the day, while Max, from the ticketing staff, set up a spotting scope that’s pointed directly at one of the sun bears’ favourite treats in the wild – “sarang kelulut” or stingless bee’s nest. I felt drawn to this place, even before the entrance to the BSBCC – on the wooden walkway leading to the ticket counter/shop, birds were singing, orangutans making nests, Prevost’s squirrels chasing one another… What if I could volunteer here?
I knew BSBCC has a volunteer program; I had been wanting to experience it for a long time. This is an internationally recognised sun bear rehab facility that is established enough to allow tourists to visit; a non-governmental wildlife sanctuary capable of self sustainment without compromising the welfare of their captive animals. On top of that, it has released multiple sun bears to the wilderness of the Tabin Wildlife Reserve which is truly a rare case in Malaysia. Naturally, I am curious of how they make it this far and still standing amidst the Covid pandemic?
I walked through the gallery to knock on the door to the BSBCC office. I asked the person answering the door: “can I talk to someone about your volunteer program?”. I was told to wait and after a few minutes, a familiar face showed up; it’s the same face I have been seeing on social media and online webinars, with the name that I have been hearing from the other wildlife conservationists. Dr.Wong and I chatted for a bit – after I pulled back my hand that was meant for an awkward handshake but got rejected (because Covid).
Not long after, I found myself cleaning cages in the bear house, and preparing meals and enrichments for Julaini, Romolina, Simone, Kudat, Along, Dodop, Ronnie Boy…I soon found out that Dr.Wong is very passionate and will always carve out his time and space to talk to people about nature, about sun bears, wildlife conservation, life…, and not sure if it’s just with me – about whether I have a girlfriend (x 5). I liked talking to him, and I’m sure many young people would agree feeling inspired after a conversation. My respect for Dr.Wong grew after finishing “Saving Sun Bears” – Dr.Wong’s biography authored by Sarah Pye. The book develops the innocent childhood of little Wong who just liked animals, to a rough, thankless journey in wildlife conservation where people like Dr.Wong have to do A LOT of “balancing” in decision making, especially when you are in the position of a CEO or the director of an organisation.
When Dr.Boon designs the sun bears’ daily food intake and dietary supplements, she’s trying to achieve balance between BSBCC’s budget and 45 sun bears’ nutritional needs; when Yen Wah walks baby Luna in the bushes, she’s seeking balance between Luna’s safety and wild instincts; when Pradeep plans feeding time and location, he’s balancing sun bear welfare and visibility for the tourists; and when Mizuno prepares his team to retrieve GPS collars dropped by the released sun bears in the deep forest of Tabin, he makes sure he knows the strengths and weaknesses of his team members.
When Dr.Wong makes decisions though, I can only imagine it must be similar to how the Chinese acrobat balances ten spinning plates at the end of each long stick while someone else does a headstand on top of his head. “Things will never be perfect, and we need to accept that”, I have learnt. We don’t always get our way. I just need to practice being grateful for the things that I have, starting by thanking BSBCC for the opportunity to learn.
In cage 7, Nano is sleeping on a tyre swing that’s about 2/3 his size. Other bears that have played with the tyre swing struggled to keep their balance; they would eventually get off the swing by climbing on to the ceiling mesh where the ropes of the swing are attached. Nano found his balance on that swing, and so he gets to enjoy resting comfortably at some height away from the cement floor of his cage; the same way sun bears find their balance in a tree, where they construct their nests and rest. Trees sway in the wind, balance points shift, how do we keep the balance and rest in comfort?
Now back to my own balance in life.
Koh Jieh Long
Not gonna have a girlfriend.