Text by Ng Bee Ying & photo by Jocelyn Stokes
On the 24th March 2014, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) received a new sun bear cub. Mr. Wong Siew Te, Founder & CEO of BSBCC and his team awaited the cub with great excitement, wondering how the bear is and what is the story behind this orphaned cub.
Like some of our confiscated bears, she was rear illegally by her previous owner, who bought the cub from a friend, in Ranau (West coast part of Sabah). Indeed, she was kept at the backyard of an inn for about 5 months.
Again, this is another case of a sun bear being captured and raised illegally by irresponsible people. Hopefully with the care and love that we offer to this cub would help to keep her healthy and ready to be released back to the wild one day.
We sincerely hope that people can stop having sun bear as pets. Sun bears are cute in the way they are and no one should take them away from their natural habitat. This will only be subsidiary to the interests of their owners, however it is cruel to keep any wild animal as pet and make them behave against their natural behavior.
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
In the beginning of March, five new sun bears have arrived at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) , which include Diana, Ronnie, Phin, Sigalung and Sunbearo. A lot of hard work and preparations went into that day. It has been a busy couple of weeks for the team in taking care of, in total, 32 rescued sun bears.
There is a very attractive bear with blue eyes called Ronnie. He is a determined, smart and relaxed 8 years old adult male sun bear with strong personalities. Ronnie was kept with another female adult sun bear called “Diana”. Both of them were rescued from View Top Resort, Tawau, South-East coast of Sabah in July of 2013. Their owners said that they had been keeping the two bears together in a small concrete floor cage, and displaying them to the public at View Top Resort, Tawau. They were fed with rice and fruits. We conducted Ronnie’s physical check-up on 11st March 2014 and it went on very smoothly with the help of the Sabah Wildlife Department staffs. Ronnie's current weight is recorded as 61.6 kg, he is such a muscular bear! Ronnie always looks for food, he rest near the feeding tray even when there is no food. He also loves to stare at people who walk pass in front of him. He watches them with curiosity and is interested in things that happen around him.
Diana, on the other hand, is an adult female sun bear. Upon her arrival at the BSBCC, Diana was in a bad condition. She had an old injury hole on her right snout, bald patches on the back of her head and unhealthy gums due to fighting with bear in her previous captivity. Diana is a sensitive bear, she made warning sound to show her displeasure at the presence of human on her first day at BSBCC. Nevertheless, Diana is doing brilliantly and likes to explore the new enrichment tools that are prepared by the keepers. She also loves playing with water by splashing water out of the water container.
Phin and Sigalung arrived at BSBCC as adult male sun bears for about 6 years old. They were found by villagers near the logging camp in Sipitang district, Southwest of Sabah. Expected, their mother was probably killed before they were kept as illegal pets. Both of them were rescued and kept together at the Lok Kawi Zoo on 1st March 2014. On the first day of their arrival at BSBCC, Sigalung and Diana barked and appeared to be aggressive when the transportation cage was moved. They took a little while before stepping into their new cage.
The male adult sun bear, Sigalung is named after the name of the logging camp where he was rescued. Although he appeared to be fierce when he first arrived, he adapted quickly to his new cage. He climbed to the top of his new cage and surveyed the surroundings in the new big basket. He is healthy, adventurous, energetic and sometimes cheeky. Sigalung is very playful especially with coconuts! He can spend hours playing with and trying to open them. Besides, he also loves climbing and practices his climbing skills often. He is believed to be an amazing climber when he is out to the forest enclosure in the future!
Phin was calm on the night he arrived at BSBCC. His name, 'Phin' was given by his previous owner. He is healthy and incredibly gentle as he moves much slower as compared to Sigalung. He enjoys climbing, resting in the big basket as well as splashing water out of the water container onto his chest by using his paws. Phin also finds a great joy in foraging decayed wood and exploring the new enrichment tools.
Sunbearo was kept in a Mini Zoo Hot Spring, Tawau, South Eastern of Sabah before he was handed over to the Sabah Wildlife Department and BSBCC. Sunbearo was thin and weights only 11.6 kg. He was most likely to be around 6 months old but his size is much smaller than the other bears of his age. Sunbearo’s hair was in poor condition which could be due to malnourishment. Therefore, a more complete and nutritious diet is specially prepared for him. Now, Sunbearo physical condition has improved and is gaining back his appetite and weight slowly. Moreover, his canine teeth are developing too!
Originally known as Tan Sri, which is the name of his owner from the Mini Zoo Hot Spring Tawau, he was then re-named as “Sunbearo” in recognition of all the enabling support that the company, Neways has given to the centre. He is now in quarantine and seemed very fragile as his muscles are not as strong due to his tiny size. Sunbearo was nervous about climbing at first, whereby he used his canine teeth to support his body during most of the climbing. Sunbearo climbed and explored his new cage often and is able to reach a higher height on his own now. In addition, Sunbearo enjoys his daily playtime at the exercise pen that is supplied with new climbing structure and dead woods. He never stops being curious and always wants to explore and touch on anything that he can. Sunbearo's hesitant, curiosity and expressive face made him stand out from the start.
Sunbearo is adorable and sweet, he can melt your heart in an instant. He learns to climb and forage as well as develop the skills necessary to be a wild sun bear on his own! Like all the sun bears that are housed at BSBCC, Sunbearo arrived as an orphan. No information was given about what had happened to his mother. We may never know Sunbearo’s true story, but we are glad that he is now under our care.
It is happy to see that the bears finally receive the care and kindness they deserved in BSBCC after their rescue. They seem to be adapting to their current home well and enjoying the new experience exploring the new cages. They love playing with the enrichment tools that could encourage them to develop natural and positive sun bear's behaviours. It is also grateful to bring these orphaned sun bears back into good health. They deserve to get a second chance and lead a happy and successful life in the wild!
It is important to spread the message for sun bear.
“Please stop hunting, buying and keeping sun bears as a pet!”
New Straits Times, 16th March 2014
By Olivia Miwil | firstname.lastname@example.org
KOTA KINABALU: Five Malayan sun bears were relocated to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sandakan recently, bringing the total of the protected species to 32 currently at the conservation centre. The five bears --four adults and a six-month-old cub-- were previously sheltered at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park after they were previously rescued by forest rangers or were handed in to the authorities by the public.
A full medical examination was conducted to ensure the bears were fit for the eight-hour transfer journey to the centre.
The centre’s chief executive officer, Wong Siew Te said it took his team three hours to unload and settle the bears at their new ‘home’.
"These bears are not part of those for public viewing, but we will continue to monitor and update the public on their progress, here," he added.
The centre is able to receive more bears now after the recent completion of a second bear house.
It will become a home to 34 bears, which include the recent batch and another two coming in by the end of the month.
Wong urged the public to surrender the animal to authority as it was an offense to keep Sun Bears in captivity or as pets.
"They are forest-dependent species and play important roles in the forest ecosystem as seed dispersers in the forest. Their roles are akin to engineers, doctors and farmers in the forest’s ecosystem. They keep our forests healthy, for the benefit of humans and all life forms,".
Meanwhile, Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said those found to be keeping the sun bear any of its body parts could be jailed up to five years or be fined a maximum of RM50,000, if convicted.
"Habitat loss and poaching for parts used in traditional medicine are among key threats that have led to a severe decline of the sun bear population in the last three decades in Sabah.
"Sabah is now at a crossroad, and failure to protect remaining forest reserves would be a deathblow not only for our beautiful sun bears but also many other protected wildlife species such as clouded leopards and Orang utans," he said.
The sun bears is classified as "vulnerable" on the IUCN red list and is at risk of becoming endangered in future.
SANDAKAN: Five Malayan Sun Bears that were either confiscated or handed over to the Sabah Wildlife Department between June last year and March 1, this year have been transferred to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) near here.
The Sun Bears were initially sheltered at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Kota Kinabalu after they were seized by Sabah Wildlife Department rangers, with some being handed over by the public, Park officer-in-charge and veterinarian, Dr Rosa Sipangkui said.
“We tranquillized the bears in the early afternoon of March 10 and conducted a full medical examination to make sure they were healthy before they were transferred into their transport cages for their eight-hour journey to their new jungle home at the BSBCC in Sandakan.
“Four of the five bears that we sent to BSBCC are males, including a six-month-old cub. Though I feel sad to see them leave Lok Kawi, I am happy for them as they will be getting a much better jungle home and also have an opportunity to be able to live in a forested environment very much like their original habitat and may be rehabilitated and released into a protected forest reserve one day,” Rosa said in a statement yesterday.
BSBCC chief executive officer Wong Siew Te said it took his team three hours to unload the bears when they arrived, and to settle them into the bear house.
“We are monitoring their progress, and we will keep the public updated on how they are doing. With the completion of our second bear house, BSBCC is now able to receive more bears that were previously in captivity or those rescued by the Department.
“The bears that we received are not part of those for public viewing at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park. With the expected arrival of two more bears this week, BSBCC will become home to 34 bears,” Wong said.
He stressed that it is an offence for the public to keep a protected species, and anyone who has the animal in captivity should surrender it to the department.
“My message to the public is that Sun Bears are protected by law and cannot be kept as pets. Sun Bears are forest dependent species and play important roles in the forest ecosystem as seed dispersers, forest engineers, forest doctors and forest farmers. They keep our forests healthy, for the benefit of humans and all life forms,” Wong said.
Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said Sun Bears fall under Schedule 1 of the Totally Protected wildlife species list in the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, and that killing, keeping a bear, or having in possession body parts like claws and gall bladders could result in punishment of up to five years’ jail or a maximum of RM50,000 fine.
“Habitat loss and poaching for parts used in traditional medicine are among key threats that have led to a severe decline of the Sun Bear population in the last three decades in Sabah.
“Sabah is now at a crossroad and failure to protect remaining forest reserves would be a deathblow not only for our beautiful Sun Bears but also many other protected wildlife species such as Clouded Leopards and Orang Utans that share a common habitat with the Sun Bear,” Ambu said.
In Borneo, the smallest of the world’s eight bear species is also seeing a drop in numbers following their illegal capture for the pet trade and when they are wrongly perceived as pests and gunned down.
The Polar Bear, Brown Bear, American Black Bear, Spectacled Bear, Sloth Bear, Giant Panda and Asiatic Black Bear are other better known bear species.
Found throughout mainland Asia, Sumatra in Indonesia and Borneo, the exact number of Sun Bears in the wild is unknown, making it even more pressing to reduce pressure on a species that is classified as “vulnerable” on The IUCN Red List, and at risk of becoming endangered unless circumstances threatening their survival improve.
Text and Photos by Risa Arimoto (有本リサ)
I volunteered in BSBCC for two weeks. I’m from Japan and studying Veterinary Medicine in my university. This is my first time to come to Malaysia. One day I got friends from Malaysia in my university. They told me about Malaysia's beautiful nature and wild animals, especially in Borneo!
Here in Sepilok, I could see exactly! You can sleep with birds singing, see wild animals, full of stars…
I almost misunderstood, this is just a vacation. But I could work for Bornean Sun Bears!!
I helped workers clean bear’s dens, cut fruits and vegetables, feed them by walking in the jungle.
We cut these fruits every morning for sun bears. Even just cutting or calculating the fruits or vegetables is hard work! Because bears eat a lot, sometimes I got muscular pain. A whole pumpkin is the most hard to cut! I haven’t seen that such a big pumpkin in Japan…
Bears are inside fence. The fence last PenA to PenE. We can walk in the jungle, but with the bucket full of fruits or vegetables are a little bit difficult to walk.
The way they eat cucumbers, sugar canes, bananas, coconuts, pineapples, corns... everything is really cute!! And I surprised they are skillfull with their craws.
The time I watch how they eat in the forest is my most favorite time.
Eating a cucumber
I took this picture during she peal a coconut. I wanted to see her style drinking a coconut. She pealed almost all coconut's skin, but she suddenly stopped! Because she was tired of pealing a coconut!!
I also helped make hammock for bears. This is for enrichment. They use fire hose for this. It’s very clever and ecological!!
I was really really lucky, because I could see 5 bears coming to the center, also their medical check.
Yes, I am the first volunteer could see that!! Yeah!!
When they were coming, they roared scary voice. I haven't heard that in the center before. Because bears in the center are really used to the center and people. I was afraid of that voice , but I think bears are more frightened than us. And the most scary part is to transport cage to new cage. Bears are instantly not in the cage. Sun bears are smaller than other bears and sometimes they behave like a human, but when I saw the new bears from wild or heared their scary voice taught me once again they are real bears.
The next day, I could see the health check. I thought I just could see that but I could help Mr. Wong take TPR and blood samples!! I'm so sorry bears, I was afraid of you! Because maybe you have bad diseases!! I learnt in my school about animal's bacteria, parasites and a lot of diseases. But this experience is my first time touched wild animal. That was amazing! I was so excited! His(that new bear's name is Ronney) fare, claws, body, how to breathe, tongues... Everything is interesting! I haven’t seen these so closely.
I know they are not pets, so I shouldn't touch them, treat as pets just curious or for fan. In BSBCC, keepers and workers know a lot about sun bears. Their behaviors, why they do, what they want.. and they always think what is the best for bears.
Some people say, why you captured bears and feed them, Let's release bears to the jungle! At first, I thought almost same thing.
But I learnt if bears don't know how to survive, they can't live in jungle. If they don't have mother while they are young, they can't survive. So people in the BSBCC become their mother. They treat bears so well not as pets , as wildlife.
Yes, they are really serious about bears, BUT they are also funny person!!
Bear house always full of laughter.
And they bring me to Sandakan city to eat sea food, Sepilok Orang Utan Center, bird watching....
I went there with Thye lim(quick tongued),Tommy(play boy),Bee Yin(intelligent girl), Azzry(OTAKU)and David(Hentaino ojisan)!!
I had great great great time with not only sun bears but also staffs in BSBCC.
When I go back to Japan, I'll tell my friends, family, classmates about sun bears and my experience!
And I hope I could come back here again!!!!
Thank you so much!!!
Text by Jocelyn Stokes
Photos by BSBCC Staffs
Late Monday night, the BSBCC staff waited patiently in the moonlight as a large truck full of bears slowly pulled into the conservation centre’s docking area. It was 10pm on the 10th of March, when five rescued sun bears arrived at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre from Lok Kawi Zoo, Kota Kinabalu. The BSBCC is grateful to receive the assistance of the Wildlife Rescue Unit from Sabah Wildlife Department in their efforts to bring these bears to their new home
As the bears barked and rattled their cages, the staff managed to safely unload and transfer the four adult bears and one cub into the centre’s new rehabilitation facilities, all within the course of only 3 hours! Only one bear required sedation for the transfer, which occurred the following day in addition to a health check, revealing that this big, blue-eyed male is in good physical condition.
While observing the freshly-relocated baby sun bear explore its new home, Wong Siew Te, CEO & Founder of the BSBCC, announced that this beautiful young male will be named 'Sunbearo' in recognition of all the enabling support that the company Neways has given to the centre. “Without the generous support of companies like Neways, these bears could not have been given a home here,” Wong said with deep appreciation.
Wong and Sunbearo's first feeding. Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre mission is to conserve sun bear through improving animal welfare, raising conservation awareness with education, conducting research, and rehabilitating the sun bear cubs like Sunbearo who have the second chance to return his life in the forest!
In Sabah it is completely illegal to hunt or keep sun bears captive because the Bornean sun bear is a Class I protected species. Although it is illegal to keep sun bears, it is sadly not uncommon and wild sun bear populations continue to be at risk. Sigalung, Phin, Diana, Ronney and Sunbearo are the names of our well-received new bears. They are all victims of this crime. The BSBCC is grateful for the opportunity to assist them in their plight, however it is necessary to remember why they need our help.
In the midst of all the inherent excitement of receiving 5 new bears, a surprise guest visited the centre as well. Sir David Attenborough, famed naturalist and narrator, was graciously welcomed to the BSBCC with a personal tour from Wong as they observed and discussed the sun bears together. Although the bears being observed in the forest enclosure may not have been especially aware of his presence, Wong the BSBCC staff, were quite pleased to welcome such an honorary guest.
More news on the progress of our new arrivals will be coming soon, so stay connected as we embrace our new count of 32 sun bears!