The Star Online, 30th May 2018
by Fatimah Zainal
KOTA KINABALU: From sun bear cubs and tapir calfs to slow loris and hornbills, the illegal wildlife trade is booming online and must be stopped, said wildlife biologist Dr Wong Siew Te.
Dr Wong, who found many such businesses brazenly operating on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, said it was sad that such illegal activities were still widespread in Malaysia.
Despite these sales being illegal under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, hundreds of juvenile protected animals are still being killed, captured and sold as pets and for individual profits, said Dr Wong.
Dr Wong, who is known for his studies on the sun bear and for founding the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sandakan, was shocked to discover sun bear cubs being sold online.
One Instagram page had more than 500 posts advertising protected infant animals for sale.
“The protected wildlife species that are sold include the calfs of the highly endangered Malayan tapir, sun bear cubs, infant gibbons, infant leaf monkeys, slow loris, leopard cat kittens, juvenile raptors, hornbills, civets, and more.
“All of these protected wildlife infants possibly had their mothers killed by illegal poachers in order to obtain these infants,” he said.
On the BSBCC Facebook page, Dr Wong on Wednesday (May 30) shared a video he found on the Instagram page which was advertising a sun bear cub for sale.
It showed a man bottle feeding milk to the cub.
“The sun bear is a totally protected species in West Malaysia and Sabah, and protected species in Sarawak.
“No one is allowed to sell, to kill, to keep, and to possess any body parts of sun bears,” Dr Wong wrote in his post accompanying the video.
Since the online business is being conducted in the peninsula, Dr Wong had reported the matter to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) which told him that the matter will be investigated.
He said the discovery of sun bear cubs being sold online comes just two weeks after BSBCC celebrated Sun Bear Day on May 16, which was aimed at raising public awareness on the protection and conservation of sun bears.
“If we keep quiet and choose to do nothing, soon our forests will be empty,” he said.
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
Diana was kept in a concrete floor cage and was displayed to the public at View Top Resort, Tawau, on the South East coast of Sabah, for about ten years. She was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on the 31st of July 2013, and was then brought to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) on the 10th of March, 2014. Upon arrival, she was in a bad condition with existing open wounds on the right maxillary area and had unhealthy gums due to fighting with another male, adult sun bear as they were both kept together in a cage. We will never know what happened to her mother, but this can illustrate how vulnerable wild sun bears are to threats from poachers. Stolen from life in the forest, Diana will never be taught by her mother how to survive in the wild.
This year we still continue to fight the battle to rescue illegal pet trade victims in Sabah. Due to the dens in our bear houses and quarantine being full, our team has decided to let Diana meet with two lovely young female bears, Sika and Kina, in quarantine.
They immediately enjoyed their new dens which were full of natural habitat enrichments such as dead wood, green leaves, climbing structures, a sleeping platform, and a hammock. These enrichment activities are all designed to stimulate natural behaviour and keep them active.
They all have their own spot for napping.
Our sun bears are rescued and undergo rehabilitation at our centre. They have suffered some physical disabilities or psychological trauma from their time kept in captivity. Through this integration, life is getting better for these bears that have lived with pain and trauma for so long. For Diana, single enrichment and the company of new friends can make her day.
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Enormous thanks to Healing Animals Organisation who is helping the rescued sun bears through creating a mobile apothecary fit, sensory enrichment and relaxation techniques. They are guiding and teaching us about the use of natural plants or herbs in sensory enrichment.
BSBCC has been rehabilitating these rescued sun bears after their years of trauma from being locked up in small cages as illegal pets. They must have been going through the traumatizing experience. With the healing techniques, this will helps the bears to recover from the physical and psychological trauma they endured. The bears love it and their lives will change for the better. It brings their days filled with smile and not fear!
We are pleasure to learn new skills to improve the lives of rescued bears. Thank you very much to the wonderful team- Elizabeth, Adele, Kay, Olympia, Margaret, Kelly and Richard who have given us the means to provide everything a bears needs and making a difference together. It was a great sharing experience!
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos & Captions by Chiew Lin May
Logan, a four month old male sun bear cub, arrived at BSBCC on 19th of May 2018. He was the first bear rescued in 2018, the 57th overall for BSBCC. Logan was found at Lokan River, Kulu-Kulu Village, Sandakan, Sabah. The owner reported that he had seen a mother bear and a bear cub in an estate. One day, the mother bear was crossed a river leaving the cub behind. The owner realized that the front left paw of the bear cub was injured. The injured paw was covered in maggots and hairless. The owner then took the bear cub and kept him. The bear cub was young, tiny and skinny. He was held in a small metal cage around three months and fed with milk and porridge mixed with chicken. The owner surrendered him to the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and sent to BSBCC on the same day. Upon arrival he was named Logan.
However, only Logan knows his past and we believe something terrible has happened to him. This is because on arrival we found Logan’s front left paw has developed abnormally and is missing the thumb. Logan was originally called Bibi by his owner. But he was renamed to Logan which is the name after the place he was found and also after the character from ‘X-Men’. We hope that Logan the bear will grow to be like Logan in the movie who is strong and brave when facing the challenges in his life.
After he was settled in quarantine for three days, Dr. Nabila Sarkawi, the veterinarian from SWD, performed a general medical check with BSBCC team. He weighs 9.15kg. During the health check, general measurement and X-ray are performed and the X-ray showed his left paw is malformed and loss first phalange thumb. But then, he is a sensitive, yet active and playful bear. Logan has a long road ahead of him but we will never give up on him and we hope that you will support us as best you can!
Logan will go through quarantine and receive round the clock care from the BSBCC bear care unit. Thankfully, Logan is having a second chance at life. With time, love and proper care, we hope he will become a strong and brave bear. We will keep you updated on his progress. Please spread the message to Save the Sun Bear!
Text by Alicia Paula Magilin
Photos by Alicia Paula Magilin, Sumira Muis (APE Malaysia), Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Hey there, I am Alicia Paula Magilin an 18 y/old from Sabah, Malaysia. Volunteering in BSBCC twice, I have combined the two events into one blog.
I have always loved to participate or to volunteer in events that involves being ‘behind the scenes’. I am not that type of person who loves being in the spotlight, instead I would rather be the one holding the spotlight for others. This time, I am holding the spotlight for the sun bears.
I had an hour break before I was brought to the bear house by Lin May (Research and Reintroduction Officer). The staffs told me that I can go wherever I want as long as I am in the centre, and so I did. I went to Platform 1. On my far right, I saw black water tanks and the roof of the bear house. “I wonder what are they doing there?” I thought to myself. An hour later, then I knew.
Dec 5th- Dec 22nd 2017
My first day cleaning the night dens, was pretty hard at first. Beads of sweat trickling down my eyelashes and my spectacle frame, having to bear the odour of bear faeces and avoiding stepping on it...which I failed a couple times, also avoiding being ‘barked’ at by the bears. Despite all that, having to be surrounded by bear keepers who are fun, caring, open and easy-going, I managed to adapt quite fast with the surrounding where I will be volunteering for the next 17 days. I even got to celebrate my 17th birthday with some BSBCC staffs that was born on the month of December! The meeting session with Dr. Wong was an honour. He has like a fatherly figure to all volunteers, making sure they eat well, gain enough sleep and to take it easy, you can also ask some advice from him if you have any personal problems.
Feb 5th- Feb 18th 2018
On February 5th 2018, I came back for another two week in BSBCC. I just can’t get enough of the excitement. Having to escape the hustle & bustle of the city and take a break somewhere ‘isolated’ with towering tree canopies, good vibes and 44 rescued sun bears, was a craving well satisfied.
Throughout my two weeks volunteering in BSBCC, my buddy Roger and I have made a total of five enrichments! Roger and I are holding a bridge like enrichment, is specially for Kudat. I observed that Kudat likes to balance on the rope enrichment that we first created when I arrived, which was hung across his night den.
And I guess to fulfil his ‘fun time’, me and Roger decided to create a bridge for Kudat to balance on. And he LOVES IT! We also made enrichment for Bermuda (mainly to get him distracted from pacing) and Amaco (to encourage him to climb a little, and it was a success!).
The main reason why I volunteered in BSBCC, is to use my free time whilst waiting for my high school last exam result. And with that opportunity, I have always wanted to gain hands-on experience and gain knowledge on the cause of the volunteer. Fortunately, I have achieved that in BSBCC!
This experience made me see a bigger and clearer perspective of what conservationists are trying to achieve and facing the obstacles that are unavoidable. The journey to achieve the goals, are neither short nor smooth. I never thought that animal trafficking or pet trade is still a serious subject for conservationists, until my volunteering period in BSBCC. I suppose it is because I have never known or took note of the situation in that field. Volunteering in BSBCC made me realize, kinda like a wake-up call. With the realization, I have started to be more knowledgeable of the endangered species...and unaware of myself, I have even started to be more watchful of what the street vendors are selling in the big market. Not everyone knows the names of the endangered animals and not everyone knows the threats that animals in the wild are facing. As people who know the names and the threats, we should share and educate to our family, relatives, friends and so on.
Most Memorable Moments
I would say my most memorable moments about volunteering in BSBCC, is everything! Walking out from the office door at 8.ooam, rarely you could spot a stunning hornbill gliding gracefully over the centre towards the forest canopy. One of the days where me and the staffs were walking down towards the bear house, David (Bear Keeper) and Andy (Maintenance) saw broken branches from the tree just after the metal signboard, “Ah, that should be from one of the orang-utans.”, Andy said. And it sure shows how strong orang-utans are just by the mere strength of their bare hands. Walking along the whole perimeter of the forest enclosure while carrying a basin filled with fruits, definitely was twice a day mini walkathon especially if you are in charge of the fruits for Pen A (the last and furthest). During lunch break, I ate in the office. Camouflage patterned camera traps were neatly arranged on the table. I was terribly curious and I had to get my hands on the camera traps. Soon, Thye Lim (Centre Operation Executive) came in and asked me to lend a hand to insert the batteries into the camera traps to check if it is still operational. While doing so, he explained to me about the camera traps and how it works. He also showed me a video clip of a wild sun bear, back- scratching against a tree smeared with belacan (a fish paste mix with salt and other herbs). It was SO COOL! After the bear’s afternoon meal was fed and all trays were cleaned, we went back to the office at 5.oopm. My volunteer moments in BSBCC are endless, especially the ‘not everyday’ moments are ones that I will treasure the most.
“We have the smallest species of bears in the world!?”
All these years I have always seen huge brown grizzly bears, black bears, white polar bears and China’s giant panda on TV. Constantly being amazed of their size, strength and thick coat of fur which protects them from the harsh elements of nature. But coming to BSBCC and being told that the Bornean Sun Bear is the smallest bear in the world? Was totally out of my mind. Other than that, sun bears are the only bears the longest tongue which is 20 cm to 25 cm long, and by far the most arboreal bears in the world! Sun bears are mostly known as opportunistic omnivores.
It’s when your country has something that no other place has, it kinda makes you feel proud, right? And it was also an honour to be volunteering alongside people who dedicate their time and energy to rescue, rehabilitate and release the sun bears into the wild, thus providing a second chance for the bears to live a ‘bearful’ life.
Volunteers will be scheduled for 11 to 12 days of ‘work’ in the two week period, about 8 hours a day with an hour of lunch break in between, in BSBCC. For a few, it may need some commitment to wake up early in the morning and eagerly wanting to go back to bed after completing their day in the bear house. For others, it is just a typical day with a little twist. Free roaming orang-utans, unpredictable weather, health checks, stories of the bears, inquisitive volunteers seeking for answers, bear keepers and staffs acquainting with volunteers, tiny mishaps in the kitchen and so on, those are the twists. The unexpected twists makes the repetitive days different from each other. Making permanent and temporary enrichment such as stick paradox, nest ball, fire hose pocket and honey comb, is great for volunteers to expand their knowledge, skills and creativity. With the help of their buddy, an idea from the mind will be an enrichment for the bears. Stereotypical behaviors such as pacing, grooming excessively, self-mutilation for attention is not natural within a bear’s behavior. Creating these enrichment will be able to distract the bears enough to prevent these undesirable behaviors from a rehabilitating bear. Preparing the meals in the kitchen is also another skill that is useful for volunteers who are looking forward to pursue their studies elsewhere from home. The task of cleaning, is also important to let volunteers know the importance of cleanliness in a night den for a bear’s health, and even for the volunteer’s pet(s) too.
Well this is where I end my blog for these two events. The thought of having to volunteer again in BSBCC? Always <3
On 16th May 2018, BSBCC celebrated our 2nd Sun Bear Day. More than 80 primary and secondary students from the schools around Sandakan were invited to participate and celebrate this special day. It was a pleasure to be visited by our friends and supporters in conservation as well.
The Sun Bear day was initiated to draw awareness for the smallest bear species in the world and to remember our first sun bear, Natalie, who was released back into the wild in 2015! This special day was also dedicated to our Papa Bear Dr. Wong as BSBCC‘s CEO & Founder, for his endless efforts in sun bear conservation. An unveiling ceremony was performed by Dr. Wong for the handmade Sun Bear Clay Art by Ms. Tan Tzy Ean. A mini celebration was also carried out for Dr. Wong‘s birthday where all staff, participants and invited guests gathered and partied at the BSBCC garden area.
It was indeed a fun and memorable day for everyone involved. We are looking forward to the next year‘s Sun Bear Day!
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
It is Sun Bear Day – A day of HOPE for a better sun bear world
The day was created to draw awareness for the smallest bear species in the world. It is for sun bear conservation and also remember our first sun bear Natalie, being released into the wild back in 2015 and at the same time celebrating our papa bear, Dr. Wong Siew Te’s birthday!
Here are photos to remind ourselves why we LOVE them so much!! It is the simplest treats and toys that keep our rescued sun bears loving to explore and happy to play and destroy! Everyday should be filled with this much laughter!
By supporting the BSBCC to save the sun bears and their forest HOME, you help the orphaned sun bears to regain their lives and overcome the trauma they have endured. Please support us now and make a difference!
Six sun bear clay art sculptures have been crafted and generously donated by Miss Tan Tzy Ean, a well-known sculptor from Penang, West Malaysia. With almost two months of careful research to study the real-life habits of sun bears, she managed to recreate their behaviours vividly in her sculptures.
There was a lovely unveiling ceremony performed by Dr. (Hon) Wong Siew Te for the sun bear clay art, in conjunction with this year’s Sun Bear Day opening ceremony on 16th May 2018. Being the only clay art sculptures of sun bears in the world, they are surely rare in the eyes of the art world! It is hoped that the sculptures can remind the public about the importance of sun bear conservation, and encourage us to take action in helping this vulnerable species from going extinct in the wild.
The clay art pieces are currently exhibited in the middle of our Visitor Centre and are easily spotted from the main entrance; they are arranged on a special 3-tier Belian wood structure, providing the perfect complement to these fine sculptures.
About the artist:
Tan Tzy Ean graduated from Commercial Art Department, Malaysia Institute of Art in 1991, with extensive experience in advertising, colour separation, and plate making. She first encountered clay crafts in 2005 and ever since, clay has been one of her favourite artistic elements in her work and leisure time. She creates flowers and figure sculptures, and now animals too. All of this artwork requires much detailed observation and focused concentration. The creation of her masterpieces is often time-consuming and labour intensive, but her fine craftsmanship produces amazing and unique clay art pieces that are one of their kind in the world.
Tzy Ean has been inspired by the efforts and contributions of Dr. Wong Siew Te in conserving sun bears in Malaysia. Many more Malaysians are beginning to pay care about conservation issues regarding sun bears because of Dr. Wong’s hard work. She hopes that everyone will work together to conserve sun bears and make this wonderful creature a first class national protected animal.
On 13th -14th May 2018, BSBCC participated in the Orangutan Awareness Program conducted at IOI Syarimo Plantation, Kinabatangan. The program was organized by Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and IOI Plantation's Sustainability team. Other organizations involved included the Wildlife Rescue Unit and HUTAN-KOCP. The targeted participants were school-youths, workers, and communities in the area.
The program included presentations from every organization, quizzes, a colouring contest for the students and educational booths. We were delighted to see that the participants really enjoyed the program and showed their eagerness to know more about wildlife. They asked a lot of questions regarding wildlife and really enjoyed visiting the booths. Our huge thanks to IOI Syarimo group administration, workers and villagers for the support and help during the program. Our team hopes that participants gained benefits and knowledge from the program, especially on the importance of conserving wildlife in their area and Sabah as a whole.
By Chiew Lin May
“ I know I am not the only one excited about summer. Pool party, here we come” – Noah, little sun bear
Dodop and Noah are spending their afternoon by soaking up the sun rays and enjoy the breeze. Made our day!