Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
It is a vital step to protect the health of all the rescued bears at our centre. Every year the bears will receive full health checks and any medical procedures they require. Once again, we were very fortunate to have veterinary care from Sabah Wildlife Departments, Dr. Nabila Sarkawi.
A basic health check corner has been set up complete with a surgery table and health check equipment. 44 of the bears have been checked. The health check began with each bear being individually anaesthetized.
Dr. Nabila and the bear care team performed a thorough check on the bears’ health. This included taking the bears’ weight,
temperature, pulse and respiration rate, body measurement, blood and hair samples, dental treatment, cutting back severely overgrown claws for those bears that stay inside the bear house, x-ray, being checked for potential sickness (signs of ill-health, disease and injury), and functioning of internal organs.
cutting back severely overgrown claws for those bears that stay inside bear house,
If the bear had a wound, then treatment and medication would be provided during the examination.
Once the health checks were completed, the bears were brought back to their dens to recover from the sedative and their condition was monitored. From this health check, we will have a much clearer idea of the bears' future needs, including diet.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), they are categorized as “vulnerable”. We need to highlight sun bear conservation and help protect them from the threat of extinction. On the 13th of July 2017, an application of advanced reproductive technology in the conservation of endangered wildlife programme (ART programme) - training in immobilization and reproduction of sun bear in Sabah, was conducted. ART programme is a project under the 11th Malaysia Plan administered by Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD). Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) is appointed as consultant to help develop the ART programme. By conducting this ART programme, the “sample size” of living individuals is large and there are opportunities for the captive sun bear population to contribute to the long term survival of the species. During the health check, eight healthy adult male bears and one adult female bear were chosen. Sun bear semen was collected.
In very exciting news, on the 26th of November 2017, Debbie and Damai were fitted with satellite collars. Debbie and Damai have shown signs of being excellent in their forest skills, enough to cope sufficiently in the wild. They have prepared for life back in the wild. Our team will monitor their adaptation, making sure the collar is functioning well and will evaluate their progress.
Our rescued bears get the best care. Thankfully, a number of the bears examined had nothing serious going on. Only Diana, an eleven year old, adult female bear had poor conditions with her teeth, suffering from severe damage ever since having a highly unsuitable diet when she kept as an illegal pet. Diana requires extensive medical care ahead. She was moved to Quarantine for future special care by our bear team. Diana will recover well by receiving pain relief and being fed soft blended fruit. She is continuing to show good progress with less signs of stereotypical behavior compared to when she was staying at the bear house. Every day she can enjoy the forest scenery and smells around her. After finishing her food, she climbs up and rests comfortably back in her basket.
After one year of Noah and Nano undergoing rehabilitation at our centre, they made such good progress that they graduated from cub rehabilitation in quarantine to “big bear” dens in Bear House. Here they can see other sun bears so they can learn from them and get used to the sounds and sights of the outside world. The bear house bears were delighted to welcome Noah and Nano to the family. The new dens where they are settling in have been stocked with climbing structures to play on, a comfy hammock to take naps on and dried leaves as browse to explore. After a period of adaption in the new den where the rehabilitation will continue, there will be eventual access out to the forest enclosure. Noah and Nano are very quick settle into their new environment.
They are sniffing in curiosity all the time. Noah and Nano are exceptionally brave and inquisitive explorers. Noah adapted well to his new environment, proving to be a fast learner and loving the fruits given by his care taker. Nano’s response was quite amazing, but his favourite past time is sleeping in his basket.
They are being monitored and are being continuously stimulated with enrichment items. They will have the opportunity to climb, explore and adjust to this new space. Every time they are given extra treats and new enrichment they get really excited!
They also have received lots of love from our bear care team, doing everything they can to help them build strength and courage to live as a wild bear! It is wonderful knowing that what is coming next makes it even more incredible.
It is so exciting that the rescued sun bears will take the biggest step in their life. This year will be a big movement for our bears. Some groups will go into an outside forest enclosure for the first time. Other bear groups will change to have access out to the new forest. Several groups will undergo electric fence training. While one group will be introduced to a larger group. There are also two release candidate bears preparing to be released back into the wild. The bears will realize this new life is good and finally live the life denied to them by pet trade.
Thanks for the hard work and wonderful care provided by Dr. Nabila, Dr. Pakee, Dr. Reza, Elis Tambing and the bear care team! Huge thanks for being part of the team. Job well done!!!
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Chin is a female adult bear aged 10 years old. She was rescued from Tawau district, located in southeast Sabah. She was kept at a mini located in a primary school, where she was displayed illegally in a small metal cage. She arrived at the BSBCC on the 22nd of July in 2014 from Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo.
Chin is a curious bear. She is curious about everything that you offer to her. She will happily spend her day exploring. Tearing things, such as coconuts and dead logs, apart is one of the ways she explores. She does not mind getting dirty. Her happiness is seeing a dry cage with some dead logs. She will spend her time rolling on the dry leaves and try to roll the dead logs on her body. She likes to keep the smell of the wood on her, nature’s scent. Chin can nap anywhere such as a hammock, basket or even a branch that is in the right position. Chin can be kept entertained easily with just a simple enrichment that can make her day.
Chin had been integrated with many bears. First, she tried with Cerah and Jelita, Tokob, Susie and Kuamut but they did not seem to get along. So in October 2016, she was introduced to two older bears – Amaco and Gutuk. They interact well and love to play fight together, especially Gutuk. Gutuk is her playmate. She loves to follow what Gutuk was doing. Gutuk loves to lie on the ground and enjoy the temperature and Chin would copy whatever Gutuk did. They are such good bear friends! However, Gutuk passed away on the 22nd of July, 2017. She seemed different after Gutuk left her alone. Her face looked sad and she clearly misses her best friend. However, Chin is using Gutuk’s memories to move on with her life and be a better her!
In January 2015, Chin took her first steps out into the forest. She enjoys every moment in the forest such as digging, foraging, resting, and napping. She loves to explore every corner of the forest enclosure, where everything seems interesting to her! In October 2017, she once again stepped out into the forest with a different forest enclosure. She enjoys when the sunlight is shining on her body. There is a small natural pool that is ready for her when she is finished sunbathing. She likes to splash water on her body or soak in the water to reduce the feeling of sweltering heat.
Chin may look like a heavy and grumpy bear but she is actually gentle and friendly. She does have a hot temper, but she is the bear who enjoys every single moment. It is never too late to protect a bear like Chin. They deserve more than that! The forest is their home! Sun bears are a ‘Totally Protected’ species under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 which means those who hunt sun bears will be fined RM100,000, or jailed 10 years, or both. Share the awareness and spread the word. Sun bears need more attention to get more protection!
International Business Times
by Adrita Biswas
Malay Mail Online, 21st December 2017
by Julia Chan
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Kina is a two year-old female sub-adult bear. She was originally named “Kalong” by the previous owner, but her name has been changed to “Kina”, after the place where she was kept at Kinarut, Sabah. Kinarut is a town in Sabah state, located about 20 kilometres south of the state capital, Kota Kinabalu. Kina had been kept as a pet illegally for a year. Her owner claimed that Kina was abandoned by her mother. The story starts with a mother and her cub crossing a road and getting frightened, and then she ran away without bringing her cub with her. The cub is Kina, who had not even opened her eyes yet. Then, her owner took her and kept her for more than a year. After a year keeping Kina in their house, the owner decided to surrender Kina to the Sabah Wildlife Department on the 22nd of February, 2017. Kina arrived at BSBCC on the 1st of March, 2017.
Sikas’ original name was “Sikala”, but we changed her name to the town she was rescued from, the village of Sikalabaan in the Pensiangan district. The Pensiangan district is considered as one of the most rural areas in Sabah. Sika was found by a foreigner who travelled to the village of Sikalabaan, who had visited BSBCC before. After he found Sika was being kept in a chicken mesh cage as a house pet, he decided to call BSBCC and asked for help rescuing this bear cub. Sika was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on the 9th of February, 2017 and sent to BSBCC on the same day as Kina, 1st of March 2017.
On the 19th of November, 2017 they meet for the very first time. The sliding door is opened slowly by their keeper. Sika and Kina start sniffing at each other through the small gap. Then the door opens wider and they see each other! They are curious so they get closer and sniff each other politely. Kina and Sika are off to a good start and start to play-fight with gentle pawing and soft biting. This is how a bear friendship begins! They seem to get along very well, and spend more time playing together on the hammock platform. It’s non-stop playing for both of them even when they are panting with tiredness. Nothing will stop them playing! Neither of them are aggressive towards each other, hopefully the sign of a beautiful friendship forming between Sika and Kina.
Sika is clearly the dominant bear. She will grab what she wants first. Kina will try but she always fails, but fear not! This does not affect their friendship! Kina learns to be more tolerant. Sika will dig out some porridge for Kina and they share it. When Sika comes to take Kina’s enrichment, Kina will walk away and go to get the others. Kina is showing how to treat a younger sister – with patience! Sometimes they fight, but they still love each other. When Kina gets tired, Sika is always waiting for Kina to have one more round of playing. Peace and harmony!
Integration is one of the rehabilitation processes for the bears, as they can learn from each other. Sika and Kina were both kept as pets before, so they lost their chance to learn from their mother. Integration is a good chance to learn from each other about all the pertinent survival skills. Under the care and love of BSBCC, we hope Sika and Kina will grow up and return to the forest together, to become a pair of happy and lovely bears!
As a former grantee of the GEF Small Grants Programme, BSBCC was invited to share its project on the two-day GEF SGP Best Practices & Knowledge Fair event held at the Park Royal Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. Today, Dr. Wong presented on BSBCC's environmental education project, which has been funded by the GEF SGP from the year 2014-2016. We are truly grateful for the support provided by GEF SGP in helping BSBCC to raise awareness and educate the public on the plights of sun bears and the important need to conserve the species.
The sun bear may be the smallest bear species found around the world, but they are not short of protectors, thanks to the Sahabat Beruang Madu (Friends of the Sun Bear) communities now set up in five regions around Malaysia. Part of the Sun Bear Conservation Programme funded by Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV), and partnered by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (PERHILITAN) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), the Sahabat network has been set up to foster a community sympathetic to issues surrounding conservation of the sun bear and Malaysia‘s other threatened wildlife species. This Program was held on December 12-13th, 2017, with the main objective being to raise public awareness about conservation, for sun bears in particular and other wildlife species in general. MNS collaborates with BSBCC and is tasked with furthering awareness and education within the community in Felda Sahabat Estate, which is one of biggest estates in Malaysia.
This community program also invited Sabah Wildlife Department, who delivered a presentation about protected wildlife species in Sabah and how to handle critical situations when facing wild animals (Human Wildlife Conflict). Another presenter was from Sabah Forestry Department, discussing the importance of forests and why we need to protect and preserve them. Knowledge from information offered in this program will heighten awareness when staff is back within their plantations and forests, and will afford them the advantage of preventing human-wildlife conflicts before they can occur. During this program, a lot of activities were held such as talks, video show, sun bear mascot activity and exhibition booths. Huge thanks to Felda Sahabat management (Sahabat Beruang Madu Wilayah Sahabat) and MNS (Malaysian Nature Society) for inviting us to this program. Hopefully this programme will continue every year. Many thanks for continuous support! Humans are protectors of these defenseless animals, and we hope Friends of the Sun Bear will act as the first line of defense when it comes to wildlife conservation.
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Soo was rescued and arrived at BSBCC on 8th September 2017. She was sold and purchased at RM 350 when she was just a cub in Karamatoi village at the Sook Keningau market. She was kept as a house pet in Nambayan village in Tambunan, the interior division of Sabah, for two years. Soo is one of the lucky ones to have been rescued from captivity. But, like all the rescued sun bears in our centre, she has suffered trauma and been taken away from the chance to grow up with her mum in the forest home.
After Soo completed her 30 days in quarantine, she had bloomed into a healthy and beautiful bear. She has a healthy appetite.
Special care is vital for Soo as she requires love to recover from the physical and psychological trauma she endured. We spend more time encouraging her to get use to the sights and scents around her, and to introduce her to different types of enrichment before moving her to a larger den.
Soo loves every type of food, especially honey, dog biscuits and fruit! It is amazing to see the progress Soo has made in these three months.
Life is very different for Soo today! On 19th November 2017, Soo was released into the great exercise dens.
The exercise dens are enriched with natural habitat enrichment such as green leaves, dead wood, a climbing structure, fire hose bags, a sleeping hammock and different types of platforms to stimulate and prepare her for life back in the wild.
For most of the trauma bears, this is the challenging part they face in the transition from smaller cages to open spaced enclosures. Once the guillotine door was opened, she was peering out at us from her den then she took about 10 minutes to take her brave first steps out to the big exercise dens and made her way to find her favourite treats! She made it!!
She is now strolling around her new home and investigates her new finds.
She keeps sniffed out treats hidden around the enrichment structure.
She is eager to explore her new surroundings. She is becoming more energetic and active by the day. She learns to love everything about her new life, especially now that she knows she is protected and loved.
Day by day, life is getting better for these rescued sun bears that have lived with pain for so long. This allows her to demonstrate her natural behavior, for example foraging and climbing skills.
She finds absolute joy in little things. It is not always an easy journey but seeing Soo munching on termites and playing with enrichment toys assures us it is all worth it.
Over the past few months, Soo has amazed us all with her trauma recovery. Thanks to our dedicated bear team, Soo continues to grow stronger each day.
It was clear that something needed to change. We owe it to every single one of them to try and return the freedom that belongs to them. Soo has years of rehabilitation ahead of her. Please help us save sun bears and ensure Soo still has a home in the protected forest to return to when the time comes.