Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah and Chiew Lin May
Seven years ago, a two month old sun bear cub was found by a villager’s hunting dog in a remote forest area of Long Pasia, in the Sipitang district of Sabah.
He was found injured and Nooh, the owner, decided to take care of him until he recovered. Nooh named the sun bear cub as “Fulung” which means forest in native Lundayeh language.
Nooh had decided to return Fulung back to the forest but due to the poaching concern happening in the forest he decided to keep Fulung as a pet for the time being.
Until August 2011, where Nooh found out he could give him a better life. He decided to surrender Fulung to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) when Fulung was nine months old.
Fulung arrived at BSBCC on 15th of August, 2011.
During his arrival, it was found that Fulung was malnourished and had a scratch mark on his forehead, which is believed to be caused by rubbing it on a cage bar. The initial health checks showed him in good health and body condition, weighing 9.4kg. During Fulung's placement in quarantine, he started to show signs of self-trauma due to finding it difficult adjusting to new experiences. This result was from being kept as a pet which caused him to scratch his abdomen until the wound was infected. This made him leave a dry scar wound on his abdomen area. Besides the wound, you could hear Fulung would growl and bawl loudly. Sun bear cubs will growl long and loud when they are separated from their mom. That was the problem with Fulung who had been kept in captivity with close human contact for long periods, which resulted in him requiring a great need of comfort.
To avoid this happening, we provided the best care for Fulung, different enrichment activities were given in order to stimulate and encourage his natural behavior.
A proper diet comprises of protein and fruit, medical treatment and great treats which have brought an improvement on Fulung. We could see that he was happily munching, destroying and exploring everything. He started to adapt and would smell, taste, play and paw things.
Fulung is a very cleaver, young male sun bear and checks out his enrichment.
Luckily, Fulung continues to improve day by day. He is settling in well in the new environment.
Moreover, other orphaned sun bears may help Fulung to learn the vital survival skills that he will need in the wild. So, BSBCC made a decision that Fulung needed to have a sun bear companion. On October 27th, 2011 he was introduced to the first ever bear friend, Mary.
For the last seven years, Fulung has known how to charm his way around the females in his group. He has grown up with other orphaned bears.
During the bear integration, they were incredibly playful in friendly greeting ways and no aggression happened beforehand. Bongkud, Mary, Debbie, Ah Bui, Ah Lun, Rungus, Julaini, Montom and Natalie are Fulung’s play bear friends.
He loves to make new friends where he becomes the loved and admired mischievous bear!
Magical! On June 11th, 2013 he took his biggest step and got to enjoy the sunshine with tall trees where he should belong!
Once the door opened, he quickly went out to explore! He was checking every meter of his new forest environment.
Fulung first dug up the dead log to get his favourite termites.
Over the years, Fulung proved to us that he will be one of the most confident and lovely bears in the centre.
Fulung is best known for loving to stand on his hind legs to get a better smell or look.
He will keep busy.
He spends his day roaming around the free range enclosure,
foraging up invertebrates and favourite food
basking in the sun,
taking a nap and loves climbing up high above the trees.
Fulung is an expert climber and will show how well he can climb to the top with rediscovering his natural behaviour!
He is anything and has become a much loved member of the sun bear family.
They are full of enthusiasm and energy!
They will keep learning to be wild bears and have fun everyday!
He always captures the hearts of people with his enthusiasm in loving nature.
This is very impressive when observing him slowly grow use to his new environment and learning as a wild bear. He slowly realizes the special bear he is and there is nothing to fear out there.
Fulung is doing exactly what they should do in the forest!!
Remember that we are not their mother. This is a very pathetic story for keeping a sun bear as a pet only will make the sun bear not know the world beyond the cage bars and they will lose the survival skills that they need to learn in the wild.
But thanks to the ongoing care and support we can give Fulung a second chance to live the happy, safe and healthy life he deserves. One of the things we LOVE about the smallest bears is simply that they make you smile.
The 10th International KL Eco Film Festival is happening at Publika, Mont Kiara Solaris.
Big Pygmies Little Giants, a documentary about BSBCC by Howard Jackson will be screened today (28th October 2017) at 3.10 pm. Come and watch the film and support our booth at the Black Box, Publika.
More KLEFF activities to enjoy around the mall!
On the 24th and 25th of October 2017, BSBCC joined a conference exhibition on the International Conference on Heart of Borneo (HoB) that was held at the Magellan Sutera Harbour Resort, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. This two-day event organized by the Sabah Forestry Department, themed 'A Decade of HoB Initiative: Accomplishments and the Way Forward, marked the 10th year of HoB's initiatives. The event was officiated by Sabah Chief Minister Y.A.B. Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman. Hundreds of participants from various organizations, sectors and higher institutions: locally and international participated in this programme. The objectives of this conference are to share the current achievements of the HoB Initiative throughout a decade of its implementation, to re-assess major activities which are critical to the HoB and the responsibilities of stakeholders by key sectors; and to streamline and coordinate actions towards realising the HoB Initiative.
This week, the BSBCC's Education Team head to Lahad Datu district together with our partner from Hutan - Kinabatangan Orang Utan Conservation Programme (KOCP). This Environmental Education outreach programme was organized by Hutan-KOCP and they invited BSBCC and Sabah Wildlife Department to participate in their programme. The first school we visited was SK Sabah Cocoa, Lahad Datu which is a rural school located in the middle of a plantation area. It is a low enrolment school (Sekolah Kurang Murid), only 39 pupils enrolled. The second school visited was SK Binuang, Lahad Datu. This school is about 15-20 minutes drive from Lahad Datu Town. Various activities were held during this programme such as talks, games, video show and colouring activity. Each participating organization also set up educational booth for the students and teachers to visit. Thank you Hutan-KOCP for inviting us to be part of the programme and we look forward to join more programmes with our partners in the future.
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Do you still remember the bear who has a sorrowful face, Soo? Good news, she had just recently finished her quarantine!
A little back story on Soo was that she was sold and purchased at RM350 when she was just a cub in Karamatoi village in Sook Keningau market. Soo was kept as a house pet in Nambayan village in Tambunan, the interior division of Sabah for two years. She was then rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department and sent to BSBCC on the 8th of September 2017.
Listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, the sun bear is a totally protected species in Sabah under the wildlife enactment 1997. Totally protected means that sun bears are illegal to hunt, be kept or be involved in any activity that could hurt the sun bear. Deforestation, poaching and pet trade are the major threats to sun bear population. There is no doubt that sun bear cubs are cute but the cuteness of a sun bear is not a reason to keep them as a pet. They are a wild animal that belongs to the wild.
The market demand is another reason for encouraging the selling and buying process of the sun bear. The intention of saving a sun bear by purchasing them is an indirect way to encourage the poachers to hunt for more sun bear in the wild. So, please stop buying any wild animal in either legal or illegal means and stop keeping them as a pet. Please take note this important message, if you see a sun bear being sold, you can give a call to Sabah Wildlife Department (+6 012 801 9289) or BSBCC. We could help rescue the bear. Just bear in mind, the purchasing of sun bear will encourage more selling of sun bears. When people keep sun bears as pet, they leave major implications to the bears and it starts with trauma. Trauma may then lead to the stress-related behaviour such as pacing.
During her time in quarantine, she spends more of her time by staying up high. But she does have her favourite enrichment, Aussie Dog Ball. The Aussie dog ball is filled with her favourite food, dog biscuits and honey. Besides that, keepers are trying to introduce her many kinds of enrichment such as live tree branches, happy sacks and much more. But, she seems to like to play at night time where no one is around her. This is the reason we called her The Nocturnal. She is preferably active at night. We saw her improvement within the 30 days quarantine. She appreciates all the foods that we offer and she can be eating so fast.
Soo lost her trust and confidence when she was kept as a pet. She may not leave her trauma behind at the moment, but soon we believe she will make it and back to the forest with her bear friends one day. So, what can we do now? We can give her more care and love to make sure she gains enough trust and confidence back. We hope she can be a real wild bear again in the forest. That is what she wants and what we want to.
A group of officers from Forestry Department Peninsular Malaysia visit to our Centre today (12/10/2017). Dr. Wong Siew Te guided them for a tour around the Centre while giving them a brief about sun bear. Thank you for visiting us !
A school visit from SJK (c) Pei Ying, Sandakan visited BSBCC today, 7th Oct 2017. The school children came together with their teachers and parents. They were given an introduction on sun bears and later they were brought to the observation platforms to see the bears roaming in the forest enclosure. The children together with their parents and teachers enjoyed their time at our Centre learning about sun bears and the environment. We were glad to share our knowledge on Sun Bears to them. Hopefully the children can gain new knowledge about sun bear and help us spread the awareness to their friends and family.
Text by Nur Athirah Binti Asrif
Photos by Nur Athirah Binti Asrif, Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Hi my name is Nur Athirah. I am 21 years old and am currently a final year undergraduate Zoology student from the University Malaysia Sarawak. I was born and raised in the nature city of Sandakan. I have known BSBCC since they started but never had the chance to pay a visit. In the past I have always aspired to be a volunteer to work with the bears but here I am finally, sharing you my own story!
A little heads up; there will be tons of pictures of my days in BSBCC here. Well as the saying goes, A picture is worth a thousand words, so bear with it! :)
As a requirement for my studies, we have to undergo an industrial training for a period of 10 weeks. I have zero hesitation upon applying BSBCC as my internship placement and am totally grateful to be accepted. I admit that I was one of the luckiest to have done my industrial training in this centre. For all the 69 working days, there was not a single day that I didn’t gain a new experience. It was truly a life changing journey which I believe I would not get from any other places. Each day in the centre has always been interesting and I will always look forward to what will come on the upcoming days. It is a place that brings a more positive side of me as I was able to venture myself into more extraordinary and more challenging tasks and that is what makes my journey a memorable one. In a way, it acts like a rehab not only for the sunbears, but also for me.
Sunbears are the smallest bears in the world and are one of the least known. It was devastating for me as a local to see how little do our own people know about these beautiful creatures. As I have the opportunity to get engaged with the public during educational outreach and also at the visitors centre, I realized that most of the locals have very little knowledge about the sunbears let alone the wildlife. But a huge thanks to our papa bear, Dr Wong Siew Te for all his hard work in which more of the sunbears that in danger are saved and more people are educated.
Formerly, BSBCC has four main pillars which include welfare, rehabilitation, education and research. During my days in this centre, I have the opportunity to work with various departments which covers almost all the four pillars.
First off is welfare, which are mainly all the work in the bear house. Our daily routine in the bear house is well organized as we follow the schedule provided. From feeding to husbandry, everything is neatly organized and is well timed. During my first few weeks working, it was a tough ride as it was a whole new experience. I have never cleaned (bear) cages before but during my first day I managed to clean five and I feel rather proud of myself. As days passed, I feel accustomed to the routine and felt less lethargic during work. It was a tough ride but trust me, even with a small, unfit physical state like me, you be able to do things you have never imagined before as you try you’re very best.
As a volunteer, you will be assigned to a bear keeper whom will be guiding you throughout your volunteer period. Here is a picture of me and my buddy keeper, Mr Brandon Khoo Lee Ming cutting fire hoses for our project, the Noah’s Ark. Every volunteer are also encourage making a new form of enrichment for the bears regardless of the materials. For me, I made a small bunk bed which kind of resembles a hammock for the bears to simply relax and play.
During my internship period, I was lucky enough to experience the whole procedure when a bear deceased and when a bear is rescued. I was able to do taxidermy on the deceased bear, Gutuk and also joined the team when the new rescued bear arrived, Soo.
Other than that, in the process of rehabilitation, I was given the opportunity to observe Noah and Nano from their fence training until the moment they are released into the forest enclosure. Observing this lovable duo had been a bittersweet memory. It was a touching moment for me as I was lucky enough to witness the joy of the bears when they are released into the forest enclosure for the first time. Plus, I also wrote two story blogs about Nano and Noah which entitled “Cannot have the sweet without the bitter” and “A castle of wood, A playground for bears”.
This centre enables you to work with every task available. Your tasks vary from sawing bamboos, collecting termite mounts to hand drilling ironwoods. Regardless that you are a small girl, you will get the chance to do all the tough duty. The bear care team will always be there for you and guide you with all the work. I never waste my chance and always ready to learn something new because; where else will you have a chance to improve your craftsmanship?
Also, cheers to my sidekicks, Chee Yong and Batrisyia which are also interns from Zoology,UNIMAS. We are the first intern students from UNIMAS to have done our industrial training in BSBCC and are said to be the best, haha (just kidding)! It was an amazing journey working with these people and I would never have all the fun things without them.
This centre had taught me a lot not only about the sunbears but about passion, determination, hardwork, teamwork, skills and so forth. Huge thanks to Dr Wong Siew Te for all the knowledge and the time he spends just to have a meeting session with his volunteers. A round of applause to the bear care team who make my days in BSBCC as one of the best moment of my life. Every day at work is filled with laughter and fun. The bear care team had taught me a lot and have gave me so many insight especially in teamwork. Every day the team do noble jobs wholeheartedly and it is what I aspire to do in the near future. It took a one whole amazing team to make a globally known conservation centre.
Not to forget the educational team, for giving me a chance to visit three various schools around Sandakan. It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to educate our own people about the sunbears and the wildlife.
Thank you so much for everything. I promise I’ll come back in the near future. Till then,
Love, Barks and Big Bear Hugs!