This morning we welcome students from the Oregon State University, United States. BSBCC Founder and CEO, Dr. Wong delivered a talk on sun bears, how BSBCC was set up and BSBCC's achievements. Then, everyone went for an exclusive tour at the sun bear observation area guided by Dr. Wong himself. It was also our honor to welcome Dr. Wendy Erb, Fulbright Scholar and biological anthropologist and also Shanon Phang from the US Embassy, Kuala Lumpur to BSBCC. Thank you all for visiting us and we hope everyone had a wonderful time learning about the sun bears today!
Starting from 16th June - 20th June 2017, BSBCC Education team joining the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD); Kinabatangan district for the CEPA & CEPA Kit Programme. CEPA stands for the "Conservation, Education, Participation and Awareness" Programme is a platform to convey knowledge and create awareness on the importance of wetlands among its inhabitants. With the theme of environmental education, this programme aims to deliver message and spread the knowledge of biodiversity conservation among local communities and school kids. Three schools are selected along the Ramsar site in Kinabatangan area which are SK Tidung Tabin, SK Tundon Bohangin and SK Sri Ganda. Hopefully, with this programme we can help to enhance the community engagement in wildlife conservation in Sabah.
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Tee Thye Lim and Chiew Lin May
The sun bear is the smallest and least studied of the eight bear species in the world. Unfortunately, the number of sun bears is declining. Their population has decreased by 30 percent over the past 30 years and they are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The causes for this decline are illegal poaching, illegal pet trade and habitat loss, putting their future in jeopardy.
Our project of studying the wild sun bears in Tabin Wildlife Reserve has kicked off!!
Currently Thye Lim is running the project for his masters at Sunway University, and he is conducting this study to estimate the population density of sun bear. The study will be conducted in the biggest forest reserve in Sabah (Latitude 5°12’51”N and Longitude 118° 43’11”E). Tabin Wildlife Reserve was gazetted in 1984.
A total of twenty camera traps will be in use (Moultrie M-999i). One camera will be placed at each station. To increase the detection of sun bears, we set up camera traps along animal trails and on trees which had any signs of sun bears (e.g. claw marks), or on fig trees.
Type of bear signs :
This study is supported by the International Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA), Lancaster University (UK) and Sunway University (Malaysia). This is a collaborative project by Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department and BSBCC.
There are fantastic pictures which have been taken by camera traps during our sun bear study and we will keep you updated on more photos as they come!
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Azzry Dusain, Tee Thye Lim, Seng Yen Wah and Chiew Lin May
Without the BSBCC, many captive sun bears would still live in small cages without HOPE; without the BSBCC many people in the world still would not know there is a bear species called the sun bear
– CEO & Founder, Dr. (Hon) Wong Siew Te, D.J.N
Poaching, pet trade and loss of habitat continue to pose a MAJOR threat to the survival of sun bears. Mother bears are often killed and their infants are sold in the illegal wildlife pet trade. Sun bears are very similar to humans - they cannot survive on their own without their mothers. It is tragic that sun bears are still being found orphaned. Sun bear populations have declined by more than 30% in the past 30 years, leaving the danger of imminent extinction in the wild a very real possibility.
The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre’s (BSBCC) CEO and Founder, Dr. Wong Siew Te has dedicated more than 20 years of his life to raise awareness and save the “forgotten bear species”. Wong founded the BSBCC in 2008 with the goal to conserve sun bears through a holistic approach that of improves the welfare of rescued sun bears, rehabilitation, education and research. Wong was one of the greatest sun bear conservationists.
The BSBCC has received 55 rescued sun bears since its foundation. Currently there are 44 rescued sun bears housed at the BSBCC. Sadly, we have seen a significant increase in the numbers of sun bears arriving at the centre in 2016. This trend is worrying as it shows that poaching is still going wild with rampant sale of sun bears or illegal bear bile medicine over websites and the numbers will continue to rise rapidly until drastic measures are taken to protect sun bears.
A three months old female sun bear cub Tan-Tan was bought by a person with the purpose of rescuing her from being sold in the remote region of Paitan. Most of the bears arrived at our centre will have in different conditions- frightened, stress and with wounds common to bears rescued from pet trade.
A lady decided to rescue an one years old male sun bear cub Nano when she saw Nano was kept in a small chicken mesh cage in Kota Marudu, north of Sabah. She purchased him from the seller for a price of RM1,500, with the purpose of saving his life. Nano was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department and arrive at BSBCC on November 20, 2016.
BSBCC has been able to rehabilitate these orphaned sun bears after their years of trauma from being locked up in small cages and sold in the pet trade. Most of our bears have had an extremely difficult lives having witnessed the death of their mother, traumatic experiences through being sold as a pet, suffered unimaginable abuse, infected wounds and poor diet. Being taken away from all of that they had known...many will show stereotypical behavior and will growl in fear.
This has all changed with the greatly appreciated help from Sabah Wildlife Department. They assist in providing care and medical treatment for rescued bears. Our rescued bears will receive round the clock care from our Bear care team by helping and encouraging the bears to build up their strength as well as learning to trust their cares.
Enriching the lives of these rescued bears is an important part of bear management, which improves the bears’ lives by giving them a second chance to survive in the wild. We will make sure that the bears are having their choices and freedom. Little by little, after each rescued bear has passed their quarantine period, they will move on to the next step in the Bear house – a peaceful and safe place they have deserved all their life! Integrating with new friends, giving them access to forest enclosures for them to learn pertinent skills for survival and last but not least get them ready to be back into the WILD.
Even relishing every chop of fresh fruit, playing with their enrichment, roaming the forest, foraging for insects, inquisitive, exploring, snoozing, climbing trees, finding HONEY bees, enjoying the sunshine, tapping to check weak points of dead logs and building tree nests, play fighting with their fellow bears in the BSBCC. No more pain and letting go of the traumatic life – perhaps they are enjoying the smell of freedom !!
Let look how our rescued sun bears learn become wild bear!!
Most of you still remember Mary, a two months old sun bear cub that she was held captive in a cage as pet. She was found to be very malnourished when she first came to BSBCC because her previous owner did not fed her with milk. Her growth stunted and walking in an abnormal way. Now, Mary has improved a lot where every day for her is a treat of good food, friend and freedom.
Every individual sun bear at BSBCC has their own personality. They are growing independent every day. Strong characters like Amaco, Diana, Tan-Tan, Wawa and Nano have emerged. Slowly the rescued bears realize with their new life that they are now in a different, safer, healthier, and happier bear world which is their own.
For example: Tan-Tan is the holder of the record breaking all records among all sun bear cubs we have had so far: At six months old she could construct a little nest in the tree using broken twigs and leaves. It was truly amazing to see!
Besides that, due to the emotional trauma that resulted from his being kept as pet, Nano was very stressed and in pain. After one year, Nano finally has reduced his stereotypical behavior by spending more time with his bear friend, Noah. He is on the road to recovery. We tear up just thinking how Nano has finally overcome his fear...
Sun bears are beautiful animals in nature. They deserve the chance to go back to the deep forest and to become a WILD bear. We all have two things that the sun bears do not, which is a voice and freedom. Please use your voice to help them and stop the hunting or killing of sun bears, we can make a difference to their future survival. Together we must save the sun bears!
On behalf of our rescued bears, a big bark THANKS to Wong, our supporters, funders, volunteers, friends and bear care team for taking care, supporting and loving them!
Text and Photos by Ong Yu Qi
Ong Yu Qi. 1999. Penang, Malaysia. First and foremost, I would like to thank BSBCC for giving me a chance to be a volunteer at the centre for three weeks (19/3-8/4), I consider it as the best thing I’ve experienced so far in 2017. Back to 2016, my family and I were watching a TV show that was featuring BSBCC in one of the episodes and it was that day that I got to know about BSBCC and I was impressed with all the work that BSBCC have done. I then decided to volunteer at BSBCC after finishing my SPM to gain knowledge about wildlife conservation and to learn more about sun bears. After going through the application process and an interview, I got an email from BSBCC on 12th of February informing me that I’m IN for the volunteer programme! :D
Every morning after breakfast at the volunteer house Bjorn Hala (Meaning: Bear Den in Swedish), we will take off at 7:30am to the centre and start to work at 8:00am. For the morning session, one will either be at the bear house cleaning cages or at the kitchen preparing food for the bears. I admit cleaning cages wasn’t a fun thing to do, but I always had that distinct sense of achievement after cleaning them! On the other hand, working in the kitchen is less tough but there are a lot of things to do because everything that is needed for a balanced sun bear diet is done here. Some days, one will go for fence check to ensure the fences are clear from leaves, and stems from climbing plants because the voltage of the electric fence will be affected if there are foreign objects attached to it. Volunteers would had a chance to feed the bears too (without having contact with the bears of course) We feed them four times a day, two times porridge, two times fruits & vegetables.
In the afternoon, we make enrichments for the bears. Enrichments are very crucial in the rehabilitation process of the bears as they can encourage their natural bear behaviours and boost their emotional health. (Bears can be bored and need something to play too!) In these couple of weeks, I’ve made nest balls, stick paradox, bamboo feeders, ice blocks and so on, not forgetting a hammock for my favourite sun bear - Simone!
There were also some days, we got to have sessions with Dr. Wong. He was so patient to answer whatever questions we had about the sun bears, the centre, on his life and so much more. Thank you Dr. Wong for delivering so much information to the volunteers and interns despite your busy life!
Don’t get me started on how amazing the people are! Everyone is willing to help, listen and answer. When I first got here, I was shy, quite nervous about meeting new people and kind of not used to being far away from my parents without any friends but everyone was so friendly and affable, I found my feet in no time. I would like to thank all of the BSBCC staffs (especially the Bear Care Team) and people that I’ve met along the way, and of course, Dr. Wong Siew Te for all the little and big ways you all have pitched in ♥ . The sun bears are extremely lucky to have such passionate, committed and selfless people as their “moms” and “dads”. I’ll never forget the days we went out for dinner, grocery shopping and movies, not to mention the splendid home cooked dinner we had at Dr.Wong’s house!
Furthermore, I learned a lot about the importance of a balanced ecosystem and the role humans play to protect it for our future generations. It’s sad to think about the fact that a lot of Malaysians don’t know about the existence of sun bears in this country and their vulnerability, it seems like people only know about giant pandas and polar bears when it comes to endangered bear species. These beautiful and precious creatures need to be protected and cherished, I hereby urge everyone (especially Malaysians) to find out more about sun bears by volunteering at BSBCC!
In a nutshell, my volunteer experience at BSBCC wasn’t a far cry from what I had expected - positive vibes, amiable people & lots of new things to learn every day! Truth be told, I’m proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and took up this challenge at the age of 18. The things that I’ve learned, the stories that I’ve heard, has empowered me to become stronger mentally and physically. I didn’t know that I’m capable of all of this until I’ve done it and I’m very grateful to have a experience like this to widen my horizon before my next big challenge - college.
New things that I’ve experienced during this period of time:
-Using tools that I didn’t use before, namely,jigsaws & power drills
-I had the chance to talk to foreign and local visitors about the sun bears (sun bear facts and their vulnerability)
-First trip alone to an unfamiliar place far away from home (first time in East Malaysia too!)
-Made new friends and got the chance to speak in languages other than Chinese (growing up in a Chinese family, owning 99% Chinese friends, I never really got opportunities to speak in other languages) I learned some Sabah slangs too ;P
I’m certain that I will be back because I want to…
-Experience more! (three weeks was too short, I didn’t even have the chance to go to an outreach programme which travels to schools to raise awareness about sun bears)
-Meet these amazing people again
-Help and learn more and more about sun bears!!!
Lots of love,
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Busy. Think. Learn. Find out. Enjoy
Over the past few days (31 May till 4 June 2017), our wonderful students from University of Minnesota have been hard work helping on the maintenance of the forest enclosures and facilities, assisting bear care keepers on cleaning bear dens, food preparation and making or loading enrichment for bears! From this enrichment sun bears can build their natural behavior.
Check out our lovely sun bears extremely grateful and figure out how to get into the treats on their new enrichment.
Party time at BSBCC!!
Minnesota students together with Dr.Wong are cooking together.
Big thanks to you all for tireless work and giving support to improve the lives of these rescued bears – You are brighten up their chance where bears can live freely where they belong – WILD !!
Great work everyone ! Keep it up !