We were honored to receive a visit from the CEO of Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) or Sime Darby Foundation, Dr. Hjh. Yatela Zainal Abidin, and a few of YSD Officers as a part of YSD’s visits to projects supported and funded by Yayasan Sime Darby in Sabah. YSD has been becoming the backbone of BSBCC since the early days of BSBCC and has supported BSBCC numerous times for the past few years.
The group's arrival at the Centre was warmly greeted by the Founder and CEO of BSBCC, Dr. Wong Siew Te, and the team. They were personally guided by Dr. Wong to watch the sun bears residing in BSBCC forest enclosures, filled with information sharing among the two sides. The YSD’s group was also brought to take a closer look and witness the daily routines in the bear houses and were guided to the new shop building afterward. The visit was finished by 5 pm.
The Movement Control Order (MCO) due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak which started in March 2020 hindered the entries of foreign visitors, bringing the tourism industry to a stop, thus affecting the Centre’s main revenue. Yayasan Sime Darby has spent a big amount of budget to fund the Centre’s operation and support it to go through a hard time. No words can describe how we are deeply grateful for the support given during the time. Thanks for everything Yayasan Sime Darby!
Text by Ng Wei Ling
Photos by Ng Wei Ling, Mohd Salffazryean Suban Abdullah & Seng Yen Wah
Hello, I have always wanted to have a volunteer experience since I was little but never got the chance. Coming to BSBCC is my first volunteer experience and it turns out to be really great! When I first arrived at Björn Hala, it looks scary for me because I arrived at night and Björn Hala looks like a haunted wooden house without any lights. In fact, it held the warmest memories during my time there and the dogs there are such a good companion especially at night for a toilet trip.
For a city girl like me, it was really difficult to work in the forest with all the small animals like leaches, spiders and centipede and also a lot of insects like cockroaches, mosquitoes, ants and many more weird looking insects which I do not know the name. I almost gave up after volunteering for a week but I am grateful that I did not. As I progressed through, I have gain knowledge and understanding towards wild life conservation and its challenges. The sad truth is that poaching is still happening not just in Malaysia but all around the world and there is no telling how long those rehabilitated bears could survive in the wild despite being trained and evaluated fit for the wild. On the other hand, human development (industrial and residential development) is not going to stop and there are not enough forest reserves left to release the bears. I can only hope that one day human and wildlife can co-exist.
So, before that, we do what we can to conserve. In the bear house, we prioritize the welfare of the bears. The routine work at the bear house in the morning is cleaning bear cages while after lunch we will make enrichment for the bears. I have learned to make some small enrichment but I prefer to build structure enrichment because small enrichment will have to deal with a lot of ants.
Whilst, structure enrichment is more exciting as it involved cutting, sawing, and drilling. Considering it as a life skill?
So, when I was asked to make an enrichment, I came up with an idea of building structure enrichment. I was not sure if the bears will like it but I got a lot of guidance from my buddy, David, and he also suggested to give it to Chin the bear. I was so glad that Chin like it and actually play with it.
Finally, I really appreciate and am thankful for the time that I have spent here working with bears and also all the bear house staffs who made my first volunteering experience amazing! At the end of my volunteering time, all the struggles was nothing when compared to the positive values and experiences that I have gained.
Written by Pradeep Aggi Gunasegaran
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Ronnie or also known as Ronnie Boy is one of the forty-three residents Bornean Sun Bears at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). On the eventful night of 10th of March 2014, Ronnie Boy was among the five sun bears that were involved with the transfer activity from Lok Kawi Wildlife Park to BSBCC. While the history of Ronnie Boy ending up with human beings is unknown, he spent approximately eight years of his life at a resort in Tawau with Diana, another rescued sun bear at BSBCC. The both of them spent the early part of their lives in a small concrete floored cage as they were exhibited to the resort’s visitors. The owner of the resort then decided to hand over both Ronnie Boy and Diana to Sabah Wildlife Department in July 2013 and they were housed in Lok Kawi Wildlife Park for slightly more than seven months before the transfer activity was carried out.
Ronnie Boy was assumed to be eight years of age and he also appeared to be a physically healthy and muscular adult male Bornean Sun Bear. However, he was still subjected to a health check upon his arrival at BSBCC and he was diagnosed with a heart condition by the veterinarian. Due to that, extra care is given to ensure that Ronnie Boy gets the best diet possible under BSBCC’s care. He went from just merely eating fruits and rice to being fed with a variety of food from fruits, vegetable, egg, and many more to keep him healthy. Today, Ronnie Boy is 15 years of age, still healthy, muscular and looking charming with his pair of blue eyes.
Throughout the years of being under the care of BSBCC, Ronnie Boy has always been a calm adult male bear. Sun bears are solitary individuals in nature but he does not seem to be unfazed by the sight of other male bears nearby. He often spends his time relaxing in his den by sitting on the edge of the basket provided, clinging on to the bars with his forelimbs while resting his head against one of his forelimbs. Besides the basket, Ronnie Boy is also hooked on hammocks. He would lie down in his beloved hammock with his head resting on the edge. In that position, he would just observe keepers and volunteers who happen to walk pass by his den. While he is always in state of tranquility, he gets excited when environmental enrichment is provided to him. He does not get frustrated if the environmental enrichment is complex instead he would spends hours interacting with it.
Although Ronnie Boy is always calm in the bear house, he does have an issue that troubles him. For years, the bear care team has been trying to release Ronnie Boy into the forest but it has not been fruitful. Ronnie Boy is often afraid to take the steps out of the guillotine door into the forest enclosures. He is fearful of the outside world probably due to the condition he has been living in since young where he has only grown up to know concrete flooring and metal bars as his safe haven. We may be heading into the blue but for as long that Ronnie Boy is under the care of BSBCC, efforts will carried out for him to some day have his paws feeling the earth and grass while his body is soaked under the sunshine and rain. We hope that some day, Ronnie Boy will experience the world like any other wild Bornean Sun Bear!
Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
It’s a BIG day! Luna, our captive born sun bear cub is six months old today!
Luna was born on the 20th of May, 2021. She is the daughter of Bintang (Rescued Bear 39). Bintang took good care of Luna since she was born. However, on her eighth day, the keepers noticed Luna was not as active as before. She had a low body temperature and severe injuries to her ears and skin infections. Due to Luna's poor health, we made the difficult decision to separate Luna from her mother. At that time, she only weighed 353gms and was in need of urgent medical attention. Luna survived many critical moments when she was placed in the oxygen chamber several times. It was not easy for Luna's tiny body to get through all of this. She did well. After one month of treatment, her wounds healed. Unfortunately, she lost both of her external ears.
Luna is unique and different from other sun bears as she grows in a short, sleek, grey coat. But this doesn’t affect her prettiness. As Luna grows, her fur gets darker.
It is awesome to watch Luna growing up by hand-raising her from her day nine. Bringing Luna to the forest walk is a routine that allows her to learn forest skills. Every day, Luna walks into the forest happily, hops around, unable to conceal her excitement. It seems that she cannot wait for her daily forest adventure. From the beginning, Luna follows behind, and now, she will lead you to the path she wants to explore. She likes to stop and explore along the way! Luna has soil eating behaviour. She will dig into the soil and taste it. Luna loves to explore the forest by digging into the soil, hugging the trees, sniffing the forest floor, foraging for ants and letting the breeze embrace her.
To encourage Luna to climb, the her keeper will climb trees with her. Slowly, she shows her skills as she grips the trees with her sharp claws, and now she can climb up a tree to more than seven meters high! In the forest, Luna would pick her favourite trees to explore. She climbs up the trees to the canopy using liana, by digging and tearing them. Sometimes she climbs and crosses to another tree too! But Luna seldom spends time resting in the trees.
At the end of the forest walk, the keepers will take her to the stream. At first, Luna was a little uncertain and nervous as she crossed the stream. She follows the stream at the side, and then she goes slowly further into the stream with her keeper. If Luna thinks the water is too deep for her, she will step back. She enjoys the water, but she always checks where is her keeper first so she can go further! Sometimes she does not want to play in the water and stays at the side of the stream and digs the soil or climbs up a tree.
Luna is a gentle yet playful bear cub. Her keeper provides her with different types of enrichment in her den to encourage her natural bear behaviour and fill her day. Luna is a contented bear cub. She loves to try everything new! However, when she sees the new enrichment for the first time, she will remain alert, and she will paw it to make sure the enrichment is fine and then explore it. Luna knows how to make good use of her time. A piece of deadwood can get her through a day! Luna likes to play with towels, and she will bring the towel to where she wants to sleep. When Luna is scared by a noise, she will hide in the basket or stay behind, but she will look around and check the surroundings.
Time passed, Luna is six months old today. Luna is growing and learning the skills in the forest. She still has a long way to go, but it’s magical experience to see her being surprised and delighted to transform and behave as a wild sun bear. If you want to share your love for Luna, you can adopt her in our share bear adoption through our website, https://www.bsbcc.org.my/share-bear-adoption-thanksgiving-and-christmas-2021.html. You can help make a better future for Luna’s life!
Text by Pradeep Aggi Gunasegaran
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Rescued Bear Number 56 which goes by the name Soo maybe be well known among the loyal supporters of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) but for those of you who are new to our cause, here is a little flashback to the beginning of Soo’s life. The details that were provided to us spoke briefly about Soo being traded in a market at Sook, Keningau in the year of 2015. She was purchased by her owner for RM 350 and then lived as pet for two years in the interior division of Sabah. In 2017, Sabah Wildlife Department rescued Soo and handed her over to BSBCC when she was already at the age of three years old. There is no doubt that Soo’s mother would have been killed for her to be sold in a market. A mother bear would always try her best to protect her cub just as like it was potrait in a recent trending news (June 2021) which mentioned that a young American woman pushes off a brown bear to save her dogs. If you would have seen the entire CCTV footage, you would notice that the brown bear had two cubs and the mother bear became defensive when the dogs started barking frantically.
Like any other sun bears that end in BSBCC, Soo also underwent a health check upon arrival. However, unlike many sun bears which arrive in poor health conditions, Soo’s blood work indicated that she was healthy. While her general health was in order, Soo was not adjusting well to the surrounding. She was always in heightened alert state as keeper were around in the day. She would only eat her food and play with environmental enrichment after the keepers leave at the end of the day. The changes to her behaviour were subtle as she would aggressively start pacing if there is the slightest form of stressor such a single loud noise. As her behaviour slowly improved, it was decided that Soo’s rehabilitation process would take a positive turn by integrating her with Sika, Kina, BJ; three young sun bears and Diana; our adult female sun bear. At the beginning of the integration, Soo was apprehensive and confused at time when it came to interacting with the other bears. Although, it was difficult for her in the beginning, she eventually got along with all the other sun bears and she was able to eat, play and sleep together with them. Soo remained vigilant to the presence of keepers but having other sun bears around her did allow her to be more relaxed in comparison to her early life as a solitary bear since arriving at BSBCC.
After staying at BSBCC’s quarantine section for few years, Soo was transferred to bear house with her friends Sika, Kina and BJ in 2020. It was another stressful yet a necessary process that had to be endured by Soo in her rehabilitation program. This time around, there were more sun bears around where she could either see them or catch their smell and of course, there were also more keepers and volunteers around as well. Soo spent her first week clinging to the top of the den, refusing to shift dens for cleaning to be done or even coming down to take her food as long as she knew that keepers were still in the bear house even if they were not standing in front of her. Once she settled down in bear house, the next step in her rehabilitation process was undergoing fence training. Surprisingly, Soo was first to pass fence training among her friend. As soon as Sika, Kina and BJ passed their fence training, all of them were released into Pen G, a small forest enclosure. This time around the transition from a small enclosed space; which was very familiar to her to a large open space was tremendously difficult for Soo.
After a few of month, Soo did not touch the soil in Pen G and it was decided that her entire group would be shifted to Pen K as an effort to get Soo living her life as a wild sun bear. When Soo, Sika, Kina, and BJ were released into Pen K, the initial results were similar as Soo refused to step down to venture into the forest while the others were quick the enjoy the much bigger forest enclosure. It also took Soo few month before she gathered the courage to step on the concrete flooring of Pen K, a flooring that is much familiar to a sun bear like Soo. After a combine of seven months, the bear care unit spotted Soo venturing into the forest enclosure. Although she was brave enough to indulge herself with nature, by afternoon, Soo would be back to bear house, on the all too familiar concrete flooring, waiting for the keepers to bring her back into the bear house later in the evening. In March 2021, Soo and her friends were once again shifted to Pen G as per the rotational practice under BSBCC. Unfortunately, the cycle repeats itself for Soo as she has yet to set her paw onto the ground of Pen G at this point of writing.
The rehabilitation process undergone by Soo with BSBCC has been a long and slow process. The reaction that Soo has been giving throughout the process clearly indicates that she is a traumatised Bornean Sun Bear. The actions of us, the human-beings have robbed her the essence of living her life as a sun bear; especially when she was a mere cub which could have lived peacefully with her mother for at least two years, learning the way of a sun bear.
Sun bears are a totally protected species, protected by the law in Sabah. It is illegal to hunt, to be kept as a possession or to be involved in any activity that could cause harm to a sun bear. Sun bear cubs are cute but it is also a reason for the depleting population of sun bears in the wild and the growing cubs end up having a traumatising lives just like Soo’s. Please say no to illegal wildlife trade and if you happen to see any sun bears being sold, you can alert the Sabah Wildlife Department or BSBCC.
As for Soo, BSBCC would continuously put in the effort to aid her with the rehabilitation program. We would also like to convey our appreciation to Perbadanan Insurans Deposit Malaysia (PIDM) who is adopting Soo under the My Bear Adoption Programme which further aids in our cause to give a second chance to the rescued Bornean Sun Bears in Sabah.
Text by Poon Siau Hui
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
BJ, the energetic five year old male bear was staying in Bear House 2. He was the 61st Bear rescued by the BSBCC. When he gets his favorite foods, he will guard his food by barking loudly.
When he was just five months old, he was purchased in Sonsogon Village, Pitas for RM 300 and then kept as a house pet. He arrived at the BSBCC on November 22nd 2018 when he was two years old. As his previous owner had fed him with rice, meat, honey, and fruits, he weighed 33.8kg.
As BJ is one of the illegal trade victims of a young age, we believe that his mother was either poached or killed. Normally in the wild, the sun bear cub will be cared for by their mother until 2 to 3 years of age.
When entering his new environment and surroundings, BJ takes time to adapt in the den. But as soon as he settled down and was no longer traumatized, he was given a chance to integrate with a larger social group of female bears – Kina, Sika, Soo, and Diana. By integrating with others bears, he can learn how to be a REAL bear and adjust his life living with bears not humans.
To proceed with the rehabilitation process, BJ, Soo, Kina, and Sika were moved to Bear House 2 and released into Pen G. But before BJ is released into the forest enclosure Pen G, he needs to go through fence training. At first BJ was afraid to go outside as this is another new environment for him. But after he tried to be brave and step out into the forest, he falls in love with it. He loves the texture of the ground which is covered with soil not concrete, the place where he belongs.
BJ really learnt a lot on how to be a real sun bear again,bonding with his friends. Hopefully one day he will fulfill all the criterias which a wild sun bear should have and have a chance to feel the freedom in the rainforest.
Text by Poon Siau Hui
Photos by Mizuno Merek Men, Mohd Salffazryean Suban Abdullah & Seng Yen Wah
Greetings to everyone, my name is Poon Siau Hui or most of the time they call me Ashley and I am from Sandakan. Straight after my internship, I am entering my final year studying Animal Resource Science and Management better known as Zoology at University Malaysia Sarawak. My application for an intern placement at the BSBCC was in my plan during my first year of study. I am glad that I did my internship during the Covid-19 pandemic period.
I was assigned to a buddy to guide me throughout my 10 weeks internship, Julamih, a junior bear keeper. Although he was still quite new at the BSBCC, he taught me as much as he knew. Both of us learnt from each other. But during the last few weeks of my placement, he was transferred to Quarantine,which I could not join. So, for this period I was guided by different keepers daily.
As the centre is still not open to the public, most of my work is animal husbandry. The bear care unit members are split into different groups to complete morning routine. These are cleaning the dens in Bear House 1, Bear House 2 and Quarantine, working in the Kitchen, Fence Check, Medic, Faecal Check and feeding. A weekly roster was prepared which rotated into these different departments. Bear in mind, volunteering at the BSBCC requires physical preparation. All jobs require a high amount of energy such as cleaning the dens, hiking during fence checking, carrying bowls which contain at least 2kg of fruits to feed in the outside enclosures. I am getting stronger day by day.
.There are many unforgettable moments that I went through during these days. Making various types of enrichment for all the bears (sambil membawang HAHAHA), going out to collect banana leaves, going into forest to search for termite’s nests, observing Romolina, Logan and Joe for their integration with others adult bears, doing some maintenance in the bear house,I had the opportunity to learn on how to use water jet and so on.
From only knowing Amaco at first, now I can recognize all the bears. I feel a little proud of myself. Whenever I was free, I went to observe the bears while they were eating, enjoying enrichment that I made and smiling towards them as I felt so grateful that I had a chance to observe them closely. I was able to join Lingam, a male sun bears’ health check too! That was an exciting yet nervous moment!
At last, I would like to give a huge thank you and big bear hug to all the bear care unit members: Yen Wah, Julamih, Mizuno, Dr. Boon, Roger, Adneen, Danny, Pradeep, and David. Thank you for welcoming me during my first day. I did not feel awkward but filled with warmth! Thank you for all the jokes that made my day full of laughter and fun. Thank you for sharing all your experience in this field and teaching me to do something new which I have never done before. Roger and Adneen, who never underestimated me and were willing to help me as their temporary buddy. Not to forget our papa Bear, Dr. Wong who advised me on my future and shared his precious pathway working with sun bears from zero to now. I truly appreciate all the knowledge and skills that I gained throughout these 10 weeks. I’m going to miss you all and the bears, looking forward to my next visit to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
"We found a baby bear in Bintang’s den!" – Our resident vet, Dr Boon, was telling us from her walkie talkie.
It was an ordinary day. On 20 May 2021, in the morning, keepers, as usual, started their routine in the bear house. The bear keeper, Marshah, was doing the faecal check. Suddenly, he heard a soft crying sound from the bear den. Then, he checked every den and found a tiny black thing in Bintang's den. Then he asked David, a senior bear keeper, to take a look. As soon as David confirmed it was a bear cub, he informed Dr Boon immediately. Dr Boon came quickly to inspect the bear cub and informed everyone in BSBCC.
After that, the day had become an extraordinary day for the BSBCC.
In these 100 days, Little Luna has been through a lot. Let pictures show how the growing process has been for Luna in these 100 days!
Bintang did a good job being a mother for the first time. She took good care of Luna.
She spends every second around her cub fulfilling her all needs. When Luna is crying, she returns to Luna and cuddles her to comfort her no matter where she is. Bintang loves to interact with her cub and keeps watching all her activities even when she feels tired.
She is always alert to her surroundings to ensure Luna is safe. The mother's love is sweet and warm!
In the morning, Bintang was nibbling on her cub more frequently. Luna was less active. We decided to check on Luna and found that she was weak.Her body temperature was low, multiple dry wounds on her body and necrotic skin on her ears. After checking her condition, it is found that Luna’s injuries may have been caused by Bintang's over-grooming.
After that, we made a difficult decision to separate Luna from Bintang. The decision was tough for us as there was no doubt in Bintang’s mothering abilities. However, Luna was in poor health. Our vet and keeper quickly took her to the clinic and treated her immediately. Since then the keepers cared for her around the clock 24/7.
Luna’s health condition was unstable. Fortunately, she survived many critical moments, such as maintaining her in the oxygen chamber several times.
Slowly, her health improved.
Luna couldn't wait to see the world. It was so exciting, her eyes opened!
Luna gets ready to crawl! She can lift her head to look around. Then Luna starts doing mini push-ups, lifting or supporting herself up on her limbs. She learns to lift herself up on all her limbs. And she begins to rock forward and backwards. She surprised us with her learning ability. Soon, she was crawling around.
Luna is seeing the sun for the first time. It is so great! The first time of going outdoors, she was feeling anxious. She stays with the keeper who slowly introduces her to every little thing around her. Soon, she looks around and starts to fall in love with the sun, leaves and nature. She might think this world is so cool!
Luna is teething!
Meet the forest!
Everything in the forest is new to her! She never spends enough time exploring around, playing with leaves and digging in the soil. It is wonderful to see her running and hopping in a happy rhythm.
Walks in the forest allow Luna to explore the forest from an early age and learn the forest skills needed to survive in the wild, such as climbing, foraging, digging, etc.
Luna had a first taste of solid food,a banana! After that, she tried watermelon, snake fruit, pineapple, sweet potato and carrot.Her favourite is still the banana!
Hold on to each tiny moment. Luna is growing too fast! She is 100 days old today! There is still a long journey for Luna. With love and patience,we hope Luna grows up healthy and happy. Happy 100 days, Luna!
Sun bears are the smallest bear species in the world. Their cubs are considered incredibly cute.
Most sun bears in BSBCC are ex-pets. Before coming to the BSBCC, they were chained or kept in small cages with inadequate care. These bears were rescued and underwent a rehabilitation process at BSBCC to regain their forest skills. Our ultimate goal is to release them back into the wild where they truly belong.
Say NO to the pet trade. The sun bears do not belong in cages. They should never be your pets!
Text by Mohammad Naqiuddin bin Alipudin
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Kala is a 6 year old, adult female sun bear in BSBCC. She arrived at the BSBCC in January 2015 as a cub and she was separated from her mother at an early age. She was actually being illegally traded and someone bought her with the intention of surrendering her to Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit. Upon arrival at the BSBCC, she showed signs of dehydration, emaciation and malnutrition; basically in a very poor condition.
However, Kala is treated full of care here and has been progressing into a strong adult sun bear. She was introduced back to her natural habitat, the forest, on June 2016.
Kala loves wandering in the forest, foraging in the soil, biting tree bark in search for foods such as invertebrates like earthworms, termites and pill millipedes. With her sharp claws and full set of canines, she has no problem to bite through the tree bark or any wooden logs. Walking around the forest alone is really her thing. She would find her favorite spot and just sit there, sunbathing under the rich sun rays before going back to foraging again, or sleep on dead logs.
She loves being in the forest, just like how humans like being at home. Most of the time, almost every day, she doesn’t go back to her den and spends the night out in the forest. As adventurous as she might be, she’s still learning several survival skills and hopefully, she will soon be completely rehabilitated and able to be released and live on her own in her natural habitat, away from humans.
In the bear house, Kala stays with Susie 2 in the same den and her neighbour, Bintang. All three of them went out to the forest together. When Bintang had a grumpy moment, she would growl at both Kala and Susie 2 after the door is opened. However, it didn’t affect their bonding at all as there is no aggression. Susie 2 sometimes growls back. As for Kala, she is one chilled bear. In their den, she will rest alone on the platform and remain unbothered.
Even during feeding time, unlike other bears who are so eager to get fed first, Kala would only come down when she really is hungry and she has no problem sharing foods with Susie 2.Kala is not really fond of new people which is really good being part of her natural instinct. When she feels threatened, she knows how to defend and fight for herself with a warning bark. She is cool around other sun bears but not around human. She is always observant. When any keeper enters her neighboring dens to clean, she lies down and watches from above, sometimes sniffing then barking but when she gets bored she falls asleep!
Kala is not only an adorable sun bear but also strong and brave. Her journey whilst at the BSBCC has been positive and she still consistently improves, mastering skills for what it takes to be a wild sun bear and keeping in touch with her natural instinct. She loves the forest, the air, the sun’s rays and playing in the greens that grow on the rich soil. Hopefully, she will soon be fulfilling all the criteria of a wild sun bear and able to be released in the future. Good days are coming Kala!