Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
This rescue did not change the world that we lived in, but it definitely changed the whole world of these three rescued bears!
Why does sun bear’s survival threatened? Sun bears are threatened for various reasons; one reason in particular is humans. Human activities pose many threats to sun bears and their habitat. Intensive illegal logging paired with increased agricultural expansions are just two ways in which humans are forcing sun bears out of their homes. Illegal animal trade is also leading to the extinction of sun bears. Mothers are being killed so that their cubs can be taken in as pets; many of which end up in small cages, and due to a lack of knowledge on how to properly handle the babies, often times they become malnourished and traumatised. This needs to stop if we ever want to see wild sun bears living happy and free in the rainforest!
This past July, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre received three rescued sun bears named Ronnie, Susie and Chin. These three rescued sun bears arrived at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre from the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo in Kota Kinabalu.
We prepared a quarantine area for the bears which included a den enriched with decayed wood, climbing structures, hammocks, and green leaves. Upon arrival to the centre we unloaded the bear’s cages and secured it safely to the gate of the den. When we opened the doors the bears were hesitant to go inside. All three of them were slightly stressed from the move, but eventually each one entered its new home and began to explore.
All newly rescued bears must undergo a month long quarantine period so that wildlife veterinarians can conduct an extensive health check, blood and hair examinations, and monitor the body measurements of the bears.
Ronnie, a five month old female sun bear cub is always capturing people’s attention! Her history is still unknown but we believe that she was kept as a ex-pet and was sent to the BSBCC on July 15, 2014. Her mother was most likely killed by poachers, and now, this kind natured gentile sun bear is quickly adjusting to her new surroundings.
When Ronnie arrived at the centre, she weighed only 7.9 kg and took the spot as youngest bear at the centre, as well as one of the smallest. Now her weight is 10.8 kg.
She is learning all the skills pertinent to survival in the wild. She is also enjoying this learning process very much, and loves to play in the dirt! She also likes to dig, and tear apart the dead wood around her.
If we give her ginger leaves or decayed branches, she will spend an entire day biting, twisting or tearing apart her enrichments.
During play fights, Ronnie likes to show her small curved canines and sharp claws.
Now that Ronnie is getting plenty of milk and fruit to eat she is developing a big belly too!
We special made a new sleeping platform for Ronnie so that she can seek shelter and hide when she encounter strange condition.
Aside from playing in her new environment, she also enjoys her nap time and snoozing on her sleeping platform.
The chest mark of Ronnie similar to sun shaped with sprinkled with light black dots.
Susie, a 3 year old sub-adult female sun bear came to the centre on July 15, 2014. She was kept illegally as a pet by an individual who bought her from the Pensiangan Village in the Keningau District while she was still cub. He paid RM 200 for Susie. The owner's son then surrenders Susie to the Sabah Wildlife Department on June 2014. The previous owner fed her primarily rice, meat, honey and fruits. Susie now weights 23 kg.
Susie can be short tempered and rather sensitive, and is quite aware when strangers are around. When food is present, especially her favourite varieties of fruits, she eats extremely fast.
Susie has a large and broad chest mark with a “meteor” at the middle of her body.
Chin, an adult female sun bear, arrived to BSBCC from Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo on July 22, 2014. Chin is named after the primary school that she was rescued from in Tawau, a town in the southeast region of Sabah. Chin was kept at the primary school’s mini zoo for a very long time and was displayed illegally in a small metal cage. She was previously fed fruits, bread, and milk while she was kept at the school.
Upon arrival we discovered that Chin is missing her left hind claw, which for a human would be the ring finger on the left hand.
Chin may look like a heavy and grumpy bear but she is actually a gentle and friendly bear.
We believe that Chin was never given any enrichment when she was kept at the mini zoo, which explains her curious behaviour towards enrichment activities. Here at the centre she is finding more and more activities to enjoy! Chin loves to tear things into pieces, such as dead logs and coconuts, and is a big fan of ginger leaves! She also loves playing in the water and enjoys splashing water out of the water basin onto her chest.
Chin's chest mark
Well, these three new bears are doing well at BSBCC now! The bears slowly put their past behind them and are learning to live like wild bears again! Next step for the rescued sun bears will be integrating them with other bears, and slowly giving them access to the natural forest enclosure. The bears are in good hands with our caring staffs, and have been nurtured back to health. Throughout the day we provide different types of enrichment for the bears, and allow them the ability to freely explore, play, and forage. These activities stimulate their natural behaviour and help to prepare them for life back in the wild. Currently the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is taking care of 35 rescued sun bears, and is delighted to care for these bears!