By Paul Clenton
It has now been 2 weeks since the door leading from Linggam’s pen into the rainforest enclosure was first opened for him. What a transformation! To begin with he was cautious, timid even, when facing the challenge of going outside. Now when I see him he is relaxed, roaming freely around through the trees. A bear enjoying life in the type of place a bear should be.
Often when he is out, Linggam is very difficult to photograph, but here he very considerately came over to where I was, foraging for food.
It makes me quite emotional to see this; there is such a significant improvement in a relatively short time, even for an adult bear which has grown up in captivity. This is what rehabilitation is all about. There is a small but dedicated team here who are working incredibly hard to make things like this happen. The BSBCC is yet in desperate need of funding to make successful releases back into the wild happen, but I feel privileged to be here now as the project is starting to gain momentum and start to take these important steps.
Lastly, I’d like to add that just a few days ago, 3 female bears -Cerah, Jelita and Lawa- also began to take their first steps into the forest. There is a post about it here by Shauna Tay, a fellow volunteer at the BSBCC.
By Paul Clenton
Last week there was a phonecall announcing that 2 new bears were to be delivered to us from a zoo on the west sdie of Sabah. On the day before they arrived it was revealed to us that one was called Mamatai and the other Wan Wan.
Matatai earned her name because of her aggression (I believe it approximates to “killer” in the Dusun language). However, the same has been said for other bears in thre past -such as Linggam- who seem quite gentle when here. She is an interesting animal as she is the first sun bear I have ever seen with dwarfism. Just as in humans, her condition means that her limbs are much shorter in proportion to the rest of her body. She seems to have Achondroplasia dwarfism. In humans, this type of dwarfism has a prevalence is approximately 1 in 25,000 in the population and accounts for most dwarfism cases. Usually this is due to a random mutation associated with advanced paternal age, in other cases the mutation is inherrited.
By Paul Clenton
As I have mentioned previously, the special feature of our bear enclosures is that they are in primary rainforest. This is an incredibly important area in its own right and therefore we intend keep records of the impact our bears are having upon the different tree and vine species (anything with a diameter greater than 5cm was recorded). The way that this is usually done is by tying a labelled ribbon or metal tag to each tree. Unfortunately our little hairy friends would make light work out of removing these and so we must paint the ID numbers onto each tree and vine.
Todays work was like solving a puzzle; it’s the kind of thing contstants have to do on reality game shows. It would have been lots of fun too, were it not for the thick jungle, rain and leeches. for each tree we were given it’s ID number, approximate size and circumference at chest height, as well as it’s distance and compass bearing from another tree. This was all very useful, although it was sometimes difficult because the bearing and distance stated referred to another tree which had not yet been surveyed. As a result, we made our way through thr jungle, identifying and marking the trees in a “head bone connected to the neck bone” fashion. There a few photos below which were taken this morning.
We managed to get 40 trees done in our first session before the rain got too heavy. That’s roughly 10% of what needs doing, so there’s going to be plenty to keep us occupied over the followiing days.
By Paul Clenton
DINING OUT - April 15, 2011
I watched with a great big smile on my face today as my mate Linggam ate his breakfast “alfresco” for the first time. He not only spent much more time venturing out and exploring today (periods of 8,3,2,2,1,1,1,1 & 1 minute, respectively), but he also ventured further away from the security of the bear house, exploring hitherto unknown logs and bushes.
I now wait for tomorrow with some excitement to see how far he will go next. His food will be a little further out tomorrow and if I have time beforehand I’ll make some kind of a puzzle feeder to keep him occupied outside. More on Linggam’s progress tomorrow.
April 18, 2011
Linggam continues to do wellIt was day 4 for Linggam today. He left the door to his pen with his body held higher than on previous days and appeared noticably less anxious. During his first few minutes out there were several occasions when there was a loud noise nearby, on previous days he would have darted back in upon hearing them, though today he only flinched a little before continuing on with his business.
As yesterday, his interest in the outside was very much correlated to the availability of food. Today however he spent a little more time outside. I observed him outside for durations of 7,5,2,4,2 & 1 minute respectively, over a period of 30 minutes… approximately 2/3 of the time.
Linggam’s rehabilitation (day 6)
April 19, 2011
Linggam is continuing to do well. He was outside for >75% of the available time today. He appears very confident in the area near the bear house. The next stage will be to place his food further away, in the forested area. I can’t wait to see how he does tomorrow!
April 20, 2011
Linggam pushes his boundaries & Rungus is lovely
I was monitoring Linggam today, his 7th day in the forest. Though he didn’t spend more time outside than he chose to yesterday, it was pleasing to see that he explored twice as far from his pen than he had done on previous days.
On another note, I checked on my dear Rungus in her pen today and found her swinging back and forth in her tyre swing. She is so adorable.
This afternoon I dd a session with the staff on the feeding habits of wild sun bears, based upon findings from Wong’s own fieldwork. Tomorrow I shall follow this up with a session on nutrition and the diet of captive sunbears.
Text by Shauna Tay
Day 1, 12th April, was the beginning of Linggam’s adventure. After a year of being in the indoor enclosure with BSBCC, for training purposes, and who knows how many years before that in a small cage, he is finally ready to be introduced to the outdoor enclosure. The outdoor enclosure is a large patch of the forest that is fenced up for these newly introduced bears, making sure they don’t run off without us knowing that they have the ability to survive on their own. Many would expect that once the gate is opened for Linggam to enter the huge forest area he’d run at the first chance he could get. However, that’s not the case for many of these bears. They’ve been captive animals for most of their lives – all they know is their cage or pen. They don’t know yet that they belong out in the wild.
We placed various fruits all over the forest area, as well as on his ramp to encourage him to come down from his pen. He took several minutes to even take the nerve to sniff the ramp. I reckon he was just shocked by the sudden gush of nature’s smells that entered his pen. He would take a step out, take a deep – yet quick – sniff, then jump backwards further into his pen. This would continue for a while until at one point he actually kept walking down the ramp eating fruits, extremely cautious of course, and took his first step on the soil. It took 5 seconds until he went into mad panic. He started running back and forth underneath the gate, too frightened he didn’t find his way back up the ramp, and jumped 3 feet through his gate and safely back into his pen. After that heart-breaking incident, he didn’t try come back out. It’s clear there is some room for improvement!
Day 2, 13th April, was the second attempt. We set everything up just like before. He repeated what he’d done the day earlier, as he would take a few steps then reverse back in over and over again. Eventually, he made it to the bottom of the ramp and touched the soil again. It’s extremely sad to know that this may be the first time he’s ever stepped on soil. After a few minutes of eating the nearest fruits he fled back into his pen, overwhelmed with all his five senses working harder than ever before. He still has very far to go, but this is without a doubt his first step to an even better quality of life.
Day 3, 15th April, Linggam made great progress as he stayed out of his pen longer than he had the previous days. He was still extremely cautious and aware of everything around him, but he wasn’t as hesitant to step onto the ground this time. However, you could see the pattern – the more food around him, the longer he’d be out; the less food around him, the less time he’d be out. There was a gradual decline in minutes with each time he came out of his pen. Our next step: place a food puzzle outside. It’ll be a motivation and challenge for him to stay in the outdoors. Let’s hope the next few days he’ll find it easier to take a few more steps. After all, each step is one more step to overcoming his fear.
Remember two weeks ago British actress Emma Thompson met me for the first time and championed the "most beautiful little creature" in Kota Kinabalu? After the last meeting, Emma together with her husband Greg Wise and daughter Gaia have been visited almost all ecotourism hot spots in Sabah-Danum Valley, Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Kinabatangan River, Sipadan, etc.
Yesterday was their last stop in Sabah, visiting the sun bears at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.
The family stayed at the centre all day long to learn everything and anything about this little known bears. This was the first time Emma and her family encountered with the Bornean sun bears and realized how little they were compared to the giant Alaskan brown bears! Their up-close-and personal experience with the bears, and learned all about the sun bears from me, was most memorable. Gaia especially, fell in love with the sun bears and promised to come back in 7 years when she is old enough to become a volunteer at the age of 18! Beside our long discussions on the plights of sun bears and casual conversation, the family also watched the newly produced documentary "Big Dream Little Bears" -the story about the new life of our rescue sun bears in BSBCC filmed a year ago.
Emma Thompson and her family were extremely sincere and humble. She is so kind to autograph several T-shirts and bags with her personal message to the world- save the sun bears! These t-shirts and bags were to be auctioned at fund raising events for BSBCC at facebook on June 11-12, and another fund raising event in Sandakan on July. Thank you Emma!
The sun bears for sure have a new friend since yesterday! Besides gaining additional world famous friend, the bears also gain a spokeswoman who would speak on their behalf. Even better, at the end of the day, Emma became the patron for both BSBCC and the UK Charity Sun Bear Conservation Trust. The connection between Emma Thompson and the sun bears has established.
Emma will be back for the sun bears!
Text by Paul Clenton
This is Om. He’s a great bear, if you pardon the pun. Om is very playful and loves playing with his tyres and other toys. This can get rather noisy but he seems to enjoy it. He is also very fond of his sleeping basket and will spend quite a bit of time there if he is not biting, clawing, twisting or tearing whatever else he manages to claim.
One thing he doesn’t do much, for a sun bear, is climb. I decided to remedy this by giving him something to motivate him to get up off the ground. We are not permitted to go around willy-nilly cutting down trees for the bears’ amusement as the forest around us is of great value. Fortunately however, I knew just the thing.
Not far away, alongside a trail in the jungle, at tree had recently been brought down by heavy rains. I had already salvaged parts from it to make climbing structures for Natalie and knew that what remained was certainly an “Om-sized” piece of wood. So off I went with my Swiss army knife to sort out something for Om’s amusement.
It was big, bulky and rather heavy for me to handle on my own. Nevertheless, by removing all the obstructions around it and rocking it about a pivot point halfway along, I managed to gradually inch it out of the place where it had fallen and get it onto the trail. Once on the trail things got better, although the vegetation was still hindering me slightly; even on its side, this chunk of tree was still taller than I was.
After a considerable amount of effort and a greater amount of grunting and swearing i managed to get it out of the forest and down to the quarrantine area. It was there that I was met by Seana, a Malaysian volunteer, who was attracted to the area by sounds of “something not human” in the jungle. That made me laugh.
Anyway, she helped me get it down to the bear house and the next day it was put up in one of the pens Om uses. Getting it in was quite a game as it was over 3.8 metres in length; if it were another 2 inches long it would have not been able to fit in at all. Once it was in it was secured with rope and drilled with holes for enrichment.
It gave me great satisfaction afterwards to see Om enjoying this new structure and he certainly seemed enthusiastic about the mashed banana I’d hidden too. Quite an effort, but well worth it. Enjoy, Om!
PS. With the exception of 2 cuts, I managed to dismember the entire tree using the saw attachment on my Victorinox Swiss army knife!
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is located on the premise of Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC), Sandakan, Sabah. Each year, about 100,000 visitors visiting the centre to see and to learn more about the orangutans. These visitors come from all over the world and all levels in the society, including many VIPs and the world famous celebrities.
On the rainy morning of last Saturday, I have a surprised visit from Sci-Fi Queen Sigourney Weaver. Yes, you hear me right, Ms Sigourney Weaver, or Ellen Ripley in the Alien film series (like many of you, I grow up with the Alien series and a big fan of Ripley!!!),
or Dr Grace Augustine in recent Sci-Fi blockbuster Avatar!
Like most of the people in the world, she did not know there is a bear call sun bear. She first heard about "sun bear" a day before when she was on her way to Sandakan to see the orangutan at SORC. Sitting behind her in the flight was Datuk Sam Mannan, the Director of the Sabah Forestry Department. After a brief chit-chat and learned that Sigourney was on her way to see the orangutan, Datuk Sam highly recommended her to come visit the sun bears as well. She immediately gets interested on sun bear, thanks to the recommendation and nice words from Datuk Sam, who is also the big supporter of BSBCC and a key person to make our project successful.
Sigourney was very nice and soft-spoken. She is aware of many wildlife conservation issues, especially on gorillas' conservation. She appeared in one of her most memorable and critically acclaimed performances in 1988 as mountain gorillas' biologist Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist. She is also the honorary Chairman of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
During our conversation with pouring tropical rain on the back ground, we covered many issues on sun bears conservation, research, threats, and the mission of BSBCC to save sun bears. Beside showing her our sun bears in their indoor dens and sun bears playing in their forest enclosure under heavy rain, I also introduced her to Natalie and Natalie's story- too cute to begin but too sad to end (if she did not end up at BSBCC)- life in small metal cage, so to speak.
After the visit, Sigourney was extremely impressed with our works to help sun bears. Now that she knew more about the plights of sun bears, she pledged to help sun bears and BSBCC in many ways in the future. When people asked me what can they do to help, I always replied: "Do what you do best to help sun bears!" With no exception to a big Hollywood movie start, I sincerely hope that one day Sigourney Weaver can do what she does best to help us.
Thank you Sigourney for visiting us and listening to me talking about my works and sun bears. It was a truly pleasure to meet you in person! I hope your visit was educational and hope more people across the world will know more about the sun bear through you!
Text by Paul Clenton
Linggam is a very handsome, 6 year old male bear with a gentle and friendly personality. He was first brought to Sepilok as a cub (only 3.5kg) in August 2004 after being found at a logging camp at Kampung Pinangah. After a stay at Sepilok Linggam went to Lok Kawi Zoo. He was transferred back from Lok Kawi due to reported aggression problems (though that has never been observed here) and lack of space. Since coming here he is noticeably healthier though perhaps slightly underweight. Linggam is currently undergoing training and this week was finally able to go out into the forest enclosure.
I was watching him discretely while he took his first tentative steps out into the natural world. The transition to a wilderness environment is challenging for an adult bear which has grown up in a world of iron and concrete, but as I observed him it was obvious to see he was constantly thinking, calculating the safe distance to go from his doorway. Some might criticise him for not just running off outside and climbing a tree, but it is this caution he was demonstrating that keeps bears away from hazards in the wild. His approach did not surprise me; he seems the most pensive of bears, when I reflect upon howe he interacts with his enrichment items.
I look forward to observing him over the coming days and weeks to witness his discovery of the wonderful piece of rainforest habitat he now can call home. Watching a bear simply “be a bear” is an incredible thing to do.
Natalie has started to eat some more solid food. She gets 2 trays of rice a day, just like the other bears. The only difference is that her tray has only about 1/4 the typical serving. Awww, baby! She looks so adorable when she tucks in to her rice porridge with her little paws resting either side of the tray. She also gets several servings of milk, served like some posh coffee with chocolate flakes, only her warm drink comes with dog biscuits!
KOTA KINABALU: Sunbear conservation in Sabah is getting a boost from its latest champion -- the Academy Award winner British actress and screenwriter, Emma Thompson.The 51-year-old Thompson took time off from her holiday here to pitch in and help promote sunbear conservation by showing up at a "Power to the People" street party.
"I want to take the message about the sunbear back to the West and tell people about them because no one there knows about the sunbear.
"I hope to persuade someone from Discovery Channel to do a programme about the sunbears because all the other bears -- the polar bear, the grizzly bear, the panda -- everyone knows about them and there are many efforts to save them.
"But no one told me about the sunbear. No one even knows about the sunbear. And indeed, I didn't know about it until I came here and I found out about sunbears when I was reading some material."
She said that she hoped to get support for the Bornean Sunbear Conservation Centre and that she had spoken with its founder Wong Siew Te, whom she said "is single-handedly trying to save the sunbear".
"I was impressed with his work. He is an expert. Most species are saved because one person thinks and starts doing something about it."
She pledged to help Wong and the species by publicising the effort. She described the sunbear as "the most beautiful little creature on the planet" but very little is known about it.
"You look at them and you go 'Oh my God, why didn't I know about them?'".
She said she would visit the sanctuary later this month with her family as part of their holiday here. "Eventually, I hope to do a programme about the sunbear."
When asked whether she would consider doing a feature film in Sabah, she said she was here only as a visitor for now.
"I have no intrinsic knowledge of Sabah. However, if there is a chance to do it, I will jump at it," she said, adding that she was in Sabah on a break after writing the sequel for Nanny McPhee for six months.
She has been here for a week, learning to dive with actor husband Greg Wise and 12-year-old daughter, Gaia Romilly. -- By Julia Chan
Read more: Actress to champion 'most beautiful little creature' http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles/25emm/Article/#ixzz1ITvgMtRy