Text by Woo Chee Yoong
Photos by Woo Chee Yoong and Tee Thye Lim
The Island of Borneo is famous as the largest island in Asia and third largest island in the world. A vast and astonishing green area, covered with mysterious tropical rainforest, and so many amazing creatures that have not yet been discovered. Inside the island lies a very important habitat for the wildlife of Sabah. The Tabin Wildlife Reserve was once home to the Sumatran Rhinoceros, but sadly, the Sumatran Rhinoceros was declared extinct in the wild in Sabah, leaving the only two in captivity with Borneo Rhino Alliance, BORA, at Tabin.
During my internship period, I was given the chance to assist Tee Thye Lim, the BSBCC’s Operation Executive, who is currently conducting his Master’s research in Tabin Wildlife Reserve, with sun bears as his focus. His team assisted with his final sampling in the core area of the Tabin Wildlife Reserve for one month. First of all, I am very thankful for this opportunity given by Dr(Hon) Wong Siew Te, the founder of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), as well as Thye Lim. Besides myself, the other team members were Jeniur, Mizuno and Logan, who made the team complete, fit and tough. Each of them has their own strengths, and combined performed excellent teamwork. Hence, the sampling was smoothly completed. I feel thankful for the presence of these three warriors because they took good care of me as I was inexperienced living in a forest environment, and they always unselfishly taught and guided me with their own survival skills.
The methods we used for studying the sun bears at Tabin Wildlife Reserve were baited camera trapping and hair trapping. At each camera station, two trees were chosen as the targets and wrapped with duct tape to get the sun bear hair samples, and one of the trees was tied with bait made of shrimp paste and salted fish. The bait was wrapped inside a black net, and was hung above the tree within view of camera, in order to lure the sun bear to climb so its hairs would stick on the tape. Each camera was set up with photo and video mode. We stayed in the forest for two weeks in order to change the bait after one week.
Each day living in the forest posed a challenge for us, especially when the climate was not on our side. During the first two weeks, rainy days caused panic among us when the river water almost flooded to our camp site. Even huge trees were flushed away, known as “Water Head”. Then, in the next two weeks, we were hit by huge winds, known as “Wind Head”, and we could hear the sound of large trees falling to the ground. Even the calls of elephant or fresh footprints served to make us more alert to our surroundings.
However, it was not all hard work. We shared funny moment’s everyday which cheered us up and helped us forget our tiredness. We designed our own camp with comfortable hand-made furniture, and built tables, chairs and a kitchen area to induce more homely feeling. We bathed together in the super cold river (with underwear on of course), and watched movies in the forest using a phone and a speaker. We also played a poker card game called Bridge, where the losers were punished by washing the dishes, lighting the candles and making tea and coffee. The fried rice cooked by Mizuno was better than most of the dishes served by restaurant in the city. We did some crazy stuff, which will always be kept a secret by our team.
The best part of the experience was being able to witness the wildlife freely roaming in the forest. We heard the calls of gibbons and helmeted hornbills in the morning, and saw great argus’s right in front of us. Spotted hornbills flew round us, and bearded pigs, mouse deer, muntjac and sambar deer ran past us. A Malay civet even broke into our kitchen area! Lastly, we found sun bear claw marks and heard the loud barks of a sun bear when Jeniur and I were on our way to service a camera. Frightened and shocked were my reactions at the time, because the barks clearly showed that our presence was unwelcome. But it was a wonderful experience that I will always remember.
The forest is the sun bear’s home. We arrived uninvited, which is something that none of us in this world would like. Loggers and poachers are becoming more daring, and are exploiting every piece of this green land and the wildlife living inside it without mercy. More attention and funding are given to captive animals for education and research purposes, but wild animals need to be given the same attention and protection. I hope the public from all over the world will give more support to conservationists, like us at the BSBCC and other organisations which work to protect important species, such as Sun Bear. Preserving their main habitats is important to assure future of these species so they can continue to survive.
On November 20th-24th, of 2017, BSBCC was invited by IJM Plantations Berhad to the Environmental Outreach program (Wildlife Awareness) in their two-region area. It took about 4 and a half hours to arrive at the Sugut regions estate by car. The main purpose of this program is to create awareness about our protected species and also share information and knowledge about sun bears. The BSBCC team prepared an exhibition booth to help the audience understand better about the programme. The audience comprise IJM Plantations estate Executives and staff in two regional estates in Sabah - Sugut regions (8 estates) and Labuk regions (3 estates). At the same time, we also held an awareness programme with the Humana Schools (A school for children of foreign plantation workers in IJM estates). A lot of activities were held during the programme, including talks, video show, sun bear mascot activities and a visit to exhibition booths. Besides BSBCC, our partners, the Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU), were also invited to this program. Huge thanks to IJM Plantations Berhad for inviting us as well as for the continuous support given! We were really glad to see people learning more about Mother Nature.
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Two kilograms of heavy metal chain with a brass lock tied on Kuamut’s neck may look amusing but the story behind it is heartbreakingly sad. Kuamut was a sub adult when she was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department from illegal pet ownership and being kept in a small iron cage at a village on the Kinabatangan River on 13th January, 2009.
When she arrived, she was in a bad condition from where her neck was tied with an enormously heavy metal chain since she was a cub. Her neck was found thin and worn.
She was extremely stressed during the arrival and had a fearful expression in her eyes. It was heartbreaking to see such a young sun bear without her mother to comfort and protect her.
We are absolutely delighted to have rescued her and will give her the best chance of surviving and returning one day to her forest home where she belongs. She has settled into her new environment very well. BSBCC provides different types of enrichment – such as toys and food based ones to encourage natural behaviors and stimulation. She explores all the enrichment but sometimes will struggle to figure them out. Kuamut is very fond of eating and loves all her meals. She really enjoys her fruits, especially tropical fruits and honey! She will slowly gain strength, confidence and develop her independence to survive in the forest.
After she finished quarantine, she was moved to the bear house and was introduced to the adult females in April 2010. She is a beautiful bear. Kuamut developed good relationships with adult female, Tokob. They loved to spend time sharing bear stories and play wrestling a lot.
But sadly, Kuamut has lost her best friend, Tokob. She passed away on 25th April 2015 due to respiratory and circulatory failure. Tokob with her beautiful yellow “batman” shaped crescent and the most slender, will be missed by Kuamut. Then after a year of Tokob passing away, Kuamut slowly displayed trust towards her other bear pals. She now is closer with an eleven year old, adult female sun bear, Susie. The only one she will play wrestle with. Susie loving the attention, has helped Kuamut grow in confidence.
Kuamut is now ten years old, her sleek, dark coat and muzzle make her adorable. During rehabilitation at BSBCC where the rescued sun bears can learn to climb trees, forage for food, make a nest to sleep in at night in the forest enclosure and develop all the wild behavior they need to survive in the wild.
Kuamut finally took her brave first step out into the forest enclosure in June 2010. She walked out into the sunshine with the confidence of knowing her life was now safe and displayed wonderful bear behavior! She was able to adapt in the forest just like a wild sun bear and equipped with the survival skills.
She loves to play, climb trees and occasionally loves to borrow and stay at other sun bear friends’ tree nest!
She loves to borrow and stay at other sun bear friends’ tree nests!
Her enthusiasm can be seen where she loves breaking branches, climbing trees, foraging in termites nests and digging deep into the soil. These seem to be her favourite activities throughout the day. She likes keeping herself busy at all possible times. This is not a problem for her as she is very skillful in foraging for natural foods like termites, beehives and invertebrates. She has proved to us that she is an exceptional tree climber and is eager to explore.
She will find her favourite trees to climb. Slowly she recovers from a life of hardship and embarks on a new way of life. She grows up peacefully in the forest. She never gets along with Cerah and Jelita. Whenever Cerah and Jelita try to climb a tree that is her favourite, she will make a noise and give warning to chase them away. Be warned not to alarm her with sudden movements or noises! She will immediately climb up into the trees where she feels safe.
Kuamut is a quiet and gentle bear. We are pleased to report that she is doing really well in the forest. Every day she goes on her independent adventures in the forest. She has found a new big log and will spend time there together with Susie.
Kuamut can be easily spotted and never misses an afternoon nap on the platform near the bear house.
Sometimes she will just sit and sniff around, perhaps enjoying the smell of freedom!
Commercial hunting and poaching remain the biggest threat to sun bear survival. Sun bears have declined by at least 30% over the past 30 years and will continue to decline at this rate if NO action is taken. Sun bears are protected by law in Sabah under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997. Please help us protect sun bears from extinction before it is too late. You can make the difference!
Text by Yvonne Chong Yee Wen
Photos by Yvonne Chong Yee Wen, Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
The Bornean Sun Bear is scientifically known as Helarctos Malayanus. It is the smallest species of bear found in the tropical forest habitats of Southeast Asia. Characteristics of sun bears include its long tongue (which is used to extract honey and insects) and a chest marking, unique to every sun bear.
Sun bears are opportunistic omnivores that feed mainly on termites, insects, larvae and a large variety of fruit species. Sun bears have several different roles within the forest, which provide many benefits to tropical ecosystems.
Sun bears are now facing the threats of commercial hunting and poaching, habitat loss, and being illegally kept as a pet. They belong in the wild. Please spread the word and protect the sun bear!
< 婆羅洲之子 —— 馬來熊 >
婆羅洲馬來熊（Bornean Sun Bear），又名太陽熊，也叫狗熊，學名為Helarctos Malayanus，屬哺乳熊科，它是全世界8種熊科動物中體型最小的熊類。馬來熊是依賴森林生存的物種，它們棲息和活動於東南亞地區的熱帶雨林，主要分佈於馬來西亞、越南、印尼、柬埔寨、泰國、緬甸、遼國、中國南部與印度東部等。
在1997年沙巴野生動物保護憲法之下，馬來熊已屬「完全受保護」品種（Totally Protected Species），凡觸法者，即盜獵、獵殺、販賣、飼養以及擁有有關馬來熊產製品的人將會面臨10萬馬幣罰款或被判10年徒刑，或兩者兼施。
SK Sungai Nangka Preschool
A school visit from SK Sungai Nangka Preschool, Beluran visited BSBCC on November 18th, 2017. The school children came together with their teachers and parents. They were given a short introduction on sun bears with our sun bear mascot 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 with them. We believe that environmental education can help in the efforts to save Sun Bears and their habitat for generations to come.
Tadika Ming Chung
A group of kindergarten children from nearby Tadika Ming Chung visited BSBCC on November 4th, 2017. The visit was guided by BSBCC staff to view sun bears in the forest enclosure. The kids were lucky enough to be able to spot a Crested serpent eagle and an Orangutan, as well as sun bears. On November 10th, 2017, the BSBCC team once again were glad to host another visit from SALY-B participants of Kg. Bakong-Bakong SALY-B or Sustainable Alternative Livelihoods for Youths in Sabah, an initiative by Forever Sabah and Raleigh Borneo, which develops young people's skills, knowledge and network to enable them to manage their environment, develop green enterprises, and protect valuable biodiversity in Sabah. Our Education Officer, Risnayati showed them around the Centre and gave them a brief introduction on sun bears and BSBCC.
The Daily Telegraph, 17th November 2017
by Ali Lowe
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Tee Thye Lim & Chiew Lin May
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) is glad they attended the 9th East and Southeast Asian Wild Animal Rescue Network Conference (WARN Conference) from 7th to 11th November 2017 in Cuc Phuong, Vietnam. This year, the WARN Conference was hosted by the Endangered Primate Rescue Centre (Cuc Phuong, Vietnam). A total of 70 participants from 18 organizations attended the conference and shared their experiences related to animal rescue, rehabilitation and release through presentations, practical workshops and site visits to their rescued centres. The theme of this year was “Wildlife Rescuing,Rehabilitation and Release”.
The purpose of WARN is to enhance the capabilities of East and South East Asian wildlife rescue centers to rescue and conserve wildlife, provide conservation awareness education for the public and advocate minimum standards for wildlife rescue centers.
One of the highlights of the conference was the post conference tour to
i. Endangered Primate Rescue Center
ii. Save Vietnam’s Wildlife (Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program)
iii. The Turtle Conservation Centre
iv. FOUR PAWS Bear Sanctuary Ninh Binh
v. Van Long Nature Reserve
The conference was a great opportunity to tackle the ongoing wildlife crisis and develop better rescue, rehabilitation and release animal care. Huge thanks to WARN Members and Endangered Primate Rescue Center for hosting this successful 9th WARN Conference. It was great sharing experience!!
A group of six staff members from Tradewinds Plantation Berhad visited BSBCC on November 3rd, 2017. Dr. Wong Siew Te brought them for a tour around the observation platforms to see the bears in the forest enclosure. This company has also adopted three of our sun bears under the My Bear Adoption Programme, named Jelita, Linggam and Simone. Adopting a bear is a great way to learn about sun bears while helping BSBCC meet the costs of rehabilitation. Funds raised by the adoption program are used to better the lives of all bears. Thank you for your visit and the support!