Sun bears are the forest farmers.
The sun bears dig in the soil for small invertebrates, such as ants, termites, pill millipedes, beetle grubs and many more. While digging, they are helping to mix the soil to enhance the forest's nutrient cycle.
Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Kina is a five year old adult female bear. She always has a bright face with curious eyes, big ears similar to the moon bear’s ears. And, this is how she got the title, “the Moon’s cousin”. Besides, Kina also has a beautiful, unique chest mark.
Kina was originally named Kalong by her previous owner, but we renamed her “Kina” after where she came from, Kinarut, Sabah. Kina was kept as a pet for more than a year. Her owner said that she saw a mother bear with a bear cub crossing a road. The mother bear suddenly got frightened, ran away and left Kina behind. She was tiny and had not even opened her eyes. We never knew the truth about what happened to Kina. Do you believe a mother bear would leave her cub behind? Mother bears protect their bear cubs instinctively. The cub will generally follow their mother for two to three years to learn forest survival skills in the wild. Can you imagine, without their mother beside them, how will the cub survive in the wild?
Fortunately, Kina was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department on the 22nd February 2017 and sent to BSBCC on the 1st March 2017.
In the quarantine, Kina made friends with Sika, Soo, BJ and Diana. They get along very well as Kina is a friendly bear. She always initiates play fight with the others. Sun bears are a solitary animal in the wild. However, during the integration process, the sun bears can learn from each other and encourage healthy behaviour. They spend their days together and enjoy each other’s company.
On the 6th February 2020, Kina moved from quarantine to the bear house with her groupmates (Sika, Soo and BJ). Kina is an active bear full of enthusiasm. She shows dominance in her group. She is curious about her surroundings. Kina is not picky and enjoys all the food. There is no food leftover at all. She will cheekily grab all the food for herself too. It seems that food is more important than anything else for her!
Kina is an excellent explorer. She likes to roam freely in the forest. She always has some favourite spots to stay in. In the forest, Kina spends some time with Sika and BJ. However, Kina tends to be independent. She loves to explore the forest alone, digging and foraging all day long. She enjoys sleeping in the trees when she is full. She also spends time searching for small invertebrates as snacks, including ants, termites, beetle larvae and many more. Sometimes she will spend the night outside. This all shows that she is completely relaxed about being outside.
Kina went through these unhappy experiences. Without the company of her mother, she has lost her world once. After coming to BSBCC, her life took on a whole new look. Kina is doing her best every day. We will also continue to work hard to create a brighter future for her and her bear friends.
The forest is the natural habitat of the sun bears. In BSBCC, we reintroduce the rescued bears to their natural habitat - the forest enclosures, so that the sun bears can be the closest to life in the wild.
In the forest, the bears develop the skills necessary - foraging, tree climbing, nest building and self-defence - for independence.
Noah, the 53rd rescued sun bear, arrived at BSBCC in 2016. After five years of the rehabilitation process, Noah has grown into an energetic bear.
In this video, you can meet Noah, who may melt your heart in an instant.
On Betung arrival, she only weighed 1.4kg. She was tiny and weak. She looked much smaller than she should be. After six months of care, she has grown to a healthy sun bear.
Seeing the forest's beauty, and Betung found reasons to love the forest more.
Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
The Sun Bear is the smallest bear species in the world. They are listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This means that it is illegal to trade them on all international commercial trades in bear parts and products. However, illegal wildlife trade is still one of the biggest threats to all the wildlife species. So, what is wildlife? Wildlife is the animals that grow or live wild and independently in a natural condition.
Some people still believe that bear bile and gall bladder are very good traditional medicine. Poachers also poached the bears for the meats, the claws, and canines as a souvenir. Consequently, more wild sun bears are killed for it. They do not deserve being treated like this!
In Malaysia, the administrate regions are divided into three semi-autonomous ones: Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak, and Sabah. Sabah and Sarawak can make separated laws on matters in the ‘State List’ and the ‘Concurrent List’ of the Constitution, which include the wildlife law. As a result, there is not a unified wildlife enforcement law but three wildlife laws in Malaysia.
Sun bears are a totally protected species under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 in Sabah and Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716) in Peninsular Malaysia. However, Sun bears are only listed as a protected status under Sarawak’s Wildlife Protection Ordinance.
When technology is getting advanced, social media become a MUST in our life. However, exotic animals and wildlife are endangered due to advanced technology. How so? Selling them has become easy and it creates a market demand. A simple click then the purchase is done. Cuteness is a curse for wildlife. They are cute but it does not mean that they deserve to be kept as house pets. Take the sun bear as an example, the cubs stay together with the mother bear for two to three years. So, where is the mother bear when a bear cub is found alone? Have you ever wondered why the mother bear abandoned her own cub? The answer is that a mother bear will never abandon her cub unless she was killed by the hunters! What about the bear cub? It ends up being a pet for them! No reasons can be acceptable and tolerated for their deeds, what the poachers have done is unforgivable!
Sun bears are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The population of sun bears are decreasing. The forest is the wildlife’s home - a natural habitat. However, development of the country scarifies the forest to increase the country’s economic growth. And, wildlife has no chance to say No for what happened to them. They are losing their home and their friends. Extinction of species will cause ecosystem imbalance. Every species is playing their role in the forest, just like the sun bear.
Sun bears are the forest planter. Sun bears are opportunistic omnivores. They consume a variety of forest fruit. As they travel, they disperse the seed in the forest. When the seed furthers away from the mother tree, the seed will have a higher survival rate. Besides, sun bears are excellent climbers. Sharp claws are served as important tools for them to climb. One of the reasons they climb trees is to harvest honey from beehives. Sun bear loves honey and this is why they also are known as a honey bear! When the sun bears want to get honey from a tree, they use their claws and strong canine to tear the tree trunks and get the honey inside. After that, it creates a cavity in the tree that can be used as a nesting site or a resting place for other animals, such as flying squirrels and hornbills.
Termites feed on live and dead trees. They build their colonies in the host tree, which makes the tree unhealthy and hasten the decaying and rotting process of a tree. Sun bears love to eat termites. Termites are one of the important protein sources of sun bears. They will dig into termite nests and consume them. Sun bears spend time on digging. Further than termites, they also dig for invertebrates such as pill millipedes, beetle grubs, and ants. Digging contributes to enhancing the nutrient cycle in the forest and consume the termites can help to keep the forest healthy. Every species in the forest helps to maintain the ecosystem balance but the balance is slowly destroyed by human disturbance. The out of control human activities are threatening the lives of wildlife.
The sun bear is the forgotten bear species. But, they need your attention! Spread the word and let’s save the Sun Bears together!
The sun bears are arboreal animals!
Ever wonder what is the sun bear doing in the trees?
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Simone is a sweet-natured sun bear and is one of the favourite bears of people who have met her. She is an 11 year old adult female bear and has a wide and beautiful chest mark which looks like a webbed foot. Before Simone arrived at BSBCC, she was kept with a male sun bear, Along, in a Mini Zoo, Hot Springs at Tawau. On 2016, the owner surrendered them to Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and they came to BSBCC together.
Simone captures people’s hearts with her irresistible attractiveness. Simone is always chilled and calm. She is an observer, preferring to stay somewhere high, to be able to observe her surroundings. She is always curious and wants to get involved in whatever is happening at that moment. For this reason, she is always sitting on the water container to get a closer and better view of the activities around her.
Simone loves her enrichments and always looks forward to them. She enjoys everything that is offered to her. You can see how much she enjoys the enrichments as she climbs, explores, tears, bites and enjoys.
On the 28th of December, 2018, Simone finally took her first step into the forest. Now, she is confident to explore there, she spends more time observing her new environment. Due to the limited forest enclosures for the bears in our centre, she takes turns to go out to the forest enclosure with Sigalung and Kudat. This is because they are staying in the same row of dens. Sometimes Kudat is in a bad mood with Simone, especially when Simone gets the food or enrichment first, yet, this seldom bothers Simone. Along, the bear who came to the BSBCC with Simone used to be her neighbour. We exchanged Along with Sigalung. However we found both Sigalung and Along showed negative social behaviour with Simone during integration. Therefore, they are separated into different dens.
It is very interesting to observe Simone's behaviour. She likes to sit on the food holder and enjoys her food by holding it with both front paws. However, when offering her food on a tray, she likes to dig everything out and this is how she got the gold digger title. Simone is a slow eater. Sometimes she will not eat the food immediately, she will wait and begin to eat when she is ready.
After four years of rehabilitation in our centre, Simone has improved a lot. She is enhancing her skills every day. It makes us happy to see Simone enjoying her life and learnimg to be a wild bear.
Day 177: Give Betung the best of everything to speed her recovery.
Wow looks how Little Betung has grown! She had made great progress in the forest and learns the essential skills needed to survive in the wild. To her, freedom means to able to do whatever she want, explore, climbing favourite trees, forage for food and be herself! She loves this adventure.
It will be a long road to recovery. This illegal pet trade - unable to express natural behaviours, left the bears traumatized and alone. There is always a reason for HOPE. Now she is safe and lives a second chance at a happy life, thanks to people like you!
Sun bears belong in the wild and should never be kept as pets! You can show your care by adopting Little Betung here:
Beautiful transformation, is not it? ❤️
Please share Little Betung's story!
Siesta in life!
May your days be filled with laughter always!
"This is the kind of place we would love to spend most of our time here where we can explore, foraging, climbing favourite trees, resting, and play fight with bear pals! Please help protect our habitat!" - The smiling bear, Fulung!