Text by Nithisha Nair
Photos by BSBCC & Chiew Lin May
One in a million- Om is an adult male bear at the age of 14 years old, who currently resides in the second bear house and spends his time under the daylight in Pen G. He is considered to be one of the ‘originals’; the earlier bears who claimed their spots in our centre. He arrived at BSBCC when he was 5 months old on the 4th of August 2005, after being found at a plantation spot in Telupid. As his rescue was well before many, the reason for his confiscation or rescue is unknown and not under record. Aside from losing his left fore claw, he arrived in a healthy condition.
Om had been in quarantine for a lengthy period of over four years, until he was eventually transferred to the new bear house on the 7th of July in 2010. His transfer included a physical health check upon arrival at the new bear house where he showed optimum health!
Om was integrated with a bear named Ah Chong, another male bear, on the 10th of April 2010, they both went through fence training the next day together. Ah Chong was the only bear that Om has ever and will ever be integrated with, as Om is a dominant male bear. Any integration attempts at this age with another male will result in fights, therefore Om is now spending his days solitarily in BSBCC since the death of Ah Chong in February, 2011.
Once they were deemed to have passed the fence training, they were both released to Pen D together. This marked their first steps in the forest since their arrival.
Long after the death of Ah Chong, Om was released to Pen G in February, 2016. This is now considered Om’s pen as it is where he has resided up till this date.
Om is a bear who loves his enrichments, and adores his food, he may be a vicious bear, but to me, he is nothing short of independent and well behaved.
Sun bears, being a part of the wildlife, require exposure to the forest and have their very own survival instincts, regardless of if they were raised in captivity or if they spent every minute out in the wild. Thus, keeping them as pets would not only bring harm to the bear’s physical health, but would also harm the owner as well, once the bear starts to develop their own natural instincts.
When sun bears are kept as pets, they lose the part of them that is needed to survive once they live in the wild. Often, bears that are rescued from being kept as pets completely lose the ability to be released back into the wild. They either lose important survival instinct characteristics or are often disfigured in terms of being declawed to ensure the health of their ‘owners’. Their claws are extremely valuable to their survival; thus, the lack of these things prevents them from being released as their chances of survival are severely reduced.
I would like to end this by saying that the bears are a part of our ecosystem, a part of wildlife and a part of the forest. Let’s do our part by ensuring they remain that way.
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
An one year old, male sun bear cub just arrived at the BSBCC. This brings to the total of 46 rescued sun bear at BSBCC currently. Joe (Rescue No.61) was found all alone crying in the forest. His history is still remaining unknown. A person rescued him and sent him to Lok Kawi Wildlife Park on March 2018. Joe has safely settled in BSBCC quarantine. He weighs 22.8 kg.
The team will now be looking after little Joe literally around the clock. There is a long way to go for Joe but he deserves a better life!! Stay tuned with BSBCC to have follow ups on Joe story! Meet Joe!
Video by Chiew Lin May
Find out what BSBCC is doing to help create a future for sun bears.
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
“We always hope this is the last bear taken from the wild and then it happens again; more efforts are needed to STOP this from happening”
A four months old female sun bear cub, Romolina was kept as a pet in a small cage for about three months until a person got knowledge of her and quickly rescued her from a villager by negotiating with them to hand over the bear. The owner claims that he had found the bear cub at forest alone and took her home then kept her as a pet at Kampung Romol, Sapulut, in the interior division of Sabah. Romolina (Rescue No.58) was handed-over to the Sabah Wildlife Department and sent to BSBCC today (7th July 2018).
As it is always with sun bears that young, she has been stolen from her mother as a cub and kept as illegal pet that lived her life locked up in tiny cage. We are not sure exactly what happened to Romolina’s mother, but we know a mother would not abandon her baby alone in the forest. She is now safe in our care and will go through routine quarantine. She will be given a full medical checkup. Thankfully she was rescued, and we are thankful to the responsible person who saved her life.
This is the second orphaned sun bear that was rescued in 2018 and given into our care. Sun bears are under serious threat in the wild. This is worrying as it shows that poaching is still happening out there with the rampant sale of sun bears as pets or illegal bear bile medicine, and this will bring sun bears on the brink of extinction soon.
Please remember that a sun bears should never be been taken away from their mothers in the wild and kept as illegal pets. We need to continue our fight for the survival of this species by ending the cruel demand for bear parts, and by strengthening wildlife laws and enforcement. Let’s PROTECT them, before it is too late!
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
On January 10th, 2014 a six month old, male sun bear cub (Rescue No-37), was rescued from a Mini Zoo and Hot Springs in Tawau, South Eastern Sabah. Sunbearo arrived to BSBCC from Lok Kawi Zoo on the 10th of March 2014
Thin and dehydrated. His life at the Tawau Hot Spring was spent in a confinement cage. Like so many other rescued sun bears, his mother had been killed and he had been taken from the forest. Based on his teeth and malnourished appearance, it was likely he was being fed the wrong diet. His weight during the arrival was 11.6kg. Originally he was known as Tan Sri, which was the name of his owner from the Mini Zoo and Hot Spring in Tawau. Sunbearo is a special sun bear cub and has been adopted and re-named by Neways International (Australia) Pty. Huge thanks to the support from Neways International (Australia) Pty, which enables us to protect Sunbearo.
Sunbearo has a beautiful tiny crescent sun in the shape of a “V” on his chest!
He was placed into quarantine before being introduced to the other cubs of his own age.
He seemed very fragile as his muscles were not strong due to his tiny size, and he was nervous when it came to climbing. The bear care team gives him and his friends a chance to play in their dens. He was given new enrichment toys and a healthy diet.
He quickly adapted to his new home where he has become more trusting and relishes every fresh fruit. HONEY is not an exception!!
On the 24th of April 2014, Sunbearo and Loki were integrated for the first time.
He slowly started to build trust with the bears and learnt that bears can be great friends. Loki, Bintang, Montom, Susie2, Damai and Kala are Sunbearo’s bear play friends. They love playing with each other.
He enjoys having friends to share freedom experiences with. Slowly, he has put his past behind him and is learning to be a wild bear again.
A shining start to the day! On the 28th of December 2015, Sunbearo had finally overcome his fear and took his first step out on the forest soil.
It is a great pleasure to see the first glimpses of these rescued sun bears stepping out to forest for their first time! Sunbearo sniffed around the tall trees.
He knew that he deserved a better chance to express his natural behavior and learn how to become a wild bear.
He is now outside foraging, climbing and enjoying himself. He loves the opportunity and uses all his senses to forage in the soil!
Sun bears are the arboreal bear and spend their time in trees. Sunbearo and Montom will immediately climb up and wrestle on top of the trees.
His long, sickle curved claws will help him in climbing trees and scraping off tree barks for termites.
He has a strong, close bond with Loki. Sunbearo and Loki can be found loving hanging out and spending time up in the trees, watching everything going on around them.
After four years of undergoing rehabilitation at our centre, Sunbearo has grown in size, skill and confidence.
He is a fussy eater.
If there are special sweet treats in the enclosure, Sunbearo usually hoovers everything up and licks every last bit of honey without wasting it! Around feeding time at the bear house, he can often be found growling for food. But most of all, he just loves foraging for extra protein.
In regards to nest building, we have not seen any tree nest building behavior from him. He will stay a while in a nest built by Loki or Damai.
Sunbearo is doing better and is enjoying life in a natural forest.
It is amazing to see a sun bear that was literally suffering from pet trade now looking healthy, free from pain and enjoying life as a sun bear. Sun bears are threatened in Southeast Asia by rapid poaching, illegal wildlife trade and habitat destruction. Please help us fight to free the bears from their major threats. The exploitation of the greed towards this little known bear species must end.
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 Chiew Lin May
Photos by Azzry Dusain, Tee Thye Lim, Seng Yen Wah and Chiew Lin May
Without the BSBCC, many captive sun bears would still live in small cages without HOPE; without the BSBCC many people in the world still would not know there is a bear species called the sun bear
– CEO & Founder, Dr. (Hon) Wong Siew Te, D.J.N
Poaching, pet trade and loss of habitat continue to pose a MAJOR threat to the survival of sun bears. Mother bears are often killed and their infants are sold in the illegal wildlife pet trade. Sun bears are very similar to humans - they cannot survive on their own without their mothers. It is tragic that sun bears are still being found orphaned. Sun bear populations have declined by more than 30% in the past 30 years, leaving the danger of imminent extinction in the wild a very real possibility.
The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre’s (BSBCC) CEO and Founder, Dr. Wong Siew Te has dedicated more than 20 years of his life to raise awareness and save the “forgotten bear species”. Wong founded the BSBCC in 2008 with the goal to conserve sun bears through a holistic approach that of improves the welfare of rescued sun bears, rehabilitation, education and research. Wong was one of the greatest sun bear conservationists.
The BSBCC has received 55 rescued sun bears since its foundation. Currently there are 44 rescued sun bears housed at the BSBCC. Sadly, we have seen a significant increase in the numbers of sun bears arriving at the centre in 2016. This trend is worrying as it shows that poaching is still going wild with rampant sale of sun bears or illegal bear bile medicine over websites and the numbers will continue to rise rapidly until drastic measures are taken to protect sun bears.
A three months old female sun bear cub Tan-Tan was bought by a person with the purpose of rescuing her from being sold in the remote region of Paitan. Most of the bears arrived at our centre will have in different conditions- frightened, stress and with wounds common to bears rescued from pet trade.
A lady decided to rescue an one years old male sun bear cub Nano when she saw Nano was kept in a small chicken mesh cage in Kota Marudu, north of Sabah. She purchased him from the seller for a price of RM1,500, with the purpose of saving his life. Nano was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department and arrive at BSBCC on November 20, 2016.
BSBCC has been able to rehabilitate these orphaned sun bears after their years of trauma from being locked up in small cages and sold in the pet trade. Most of our bears have had an extremely difficult lives having witnessed the death of their mother, traumatic experiences through being sold as a pet, suffered unimaginable abuse, infected wounds and poor diet. Being taken away from all of that they had known...many will show stereotypical behavior and will growl in fear.
This has all changed with the greatly appreciated help from Sabah Wildlife Department. They assist in providing care and medical treatment for rescued bears. Our rescued bears will receive round the clock care from our Bear care team by helping and encouraging the bears to build up their strength as well as learning to trust their cares.
Enriching the lives of these rescued bears is an important part of bear management, which improves the bears’ lives by giving them a second chance to survive in the wild. We will make sure that the bears are having their choices and freedom. Little by little, after each rescued bear has passed their quarantine period, they will move on to the next step in the Bear house – a peaceful and safe place they have deserved all their life! Integrating with new friends, giving them access to forest enclosures for them to learn pertinent skills for survival and last but not least get them ready to be back into the WILD.
Even relishing every chop of fresh fruit, playing with their enrichment, roaming the forest, foraging for insects, inquisitive, exploring, snoozing, climbing trees, finding HONEY bees, enjoying the sunshine, tapping to check weak points of dead logs and building tree nests, play fighting with their fellow bears in the BSBCC. No more pain and letting go of the traumatic life – perhaps they are enjoying the smell of freedom !!
Let look how our rescued sun bears learn become wild bear!!
Most of you still remember Mary, a two months old sun bear cub that she was held captive in a cage as pet. She was found to be very malnourished when she first came to BSBCC because her previous owner did not fed her with milk. Her growth stunted and walking in an abnormal way. Now, Mary has improved a lot where every day for her is a treat of good food, friend and freedom.
Every individual sun bear at BSBCC has their own personality. They are growing independent every day. Strong characters like Amaco, Diana, Tan-Tan, Wawa and Nano have emerged. Slowly the rescued bears realize with their new life that they are now in a different, safer, healthier, and happier bear world which is their own.
For example: Tan-Tan is the holder of the record breaking all records among all sun bear cubs we have had so far: At six months old she could construct a little nest in the tree using broken twigs and leaves. It was truly amazing to see!
Besides that, due to the emotional trauma that resulted from his being kept as pet, Nano was very stressed and in pain. After one year, Nano finally has reduced his stereotypical behavior by spending more time with his bear friend, Noah. He is on the road to recovery. We tear up just thinking how Nano has finally overcome his fear...
Sun bears are beautiful animals in nature. They deserve the chance to go back to the deep forest and to become a WILD bear. We all have two things that the sun bears do not, which is a voice and freedom. Please use your voice to help them and stop the hunting or killing of sun bears, we can make a difference to their future survival. Together we must save the sun bears!
On behalf of our rescued bears, a big bark THANKS to Wong, our supporters, funders, volunteers, friends and bear care team for taking care, supporting and loving them!
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Kina (Rescue- 54), an one year old female sun bear cub and Sika (Rescue-55), a four months old female sun bear cub were sent to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) today (1st March 2017). These two rescued sun bears arrived at BSBCC from the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo in Kota Kinabalu.
Kina was found around the village of Malak Palak, at Kota Marudu, in the northern region of Sabah. We named her “Kina”, after the place where she was kept. Her owner claimed that Kina’s mother was crossing a road and got frightened then just ran away and left Kina behind. Kina was just a bear cub and had not even opened her eyes yet. Hence, her owner took her and kept her for more than a year. He then decided to surrender her to SWD.
Sika is named after the place that she was rescued from. She was found by a foreigner who travelled to the village of Sikalabaan, in Pensiangan district, located in the interior division of Sabah. Pensiangan is one of the most rural areas in Sabah which is located deep in Borneo’s jungle. He had visited BSBCC before. He decided to call BSBCC and asked for the centre to rescue this bear cub once he saw that a villager was keeping her in a chicken mesh cage as a pet. She was previously fed condense milk, fruits and cereal.
A Veterinarian from the SWD, Dr. Nabila Sarkawi performed a full medical checkup for Kina and Sika before they were sent to BSBCC. Kina weighed 12.85kg and Sika weighed 4.8kg. Both rescued bears are healthy, active, bright and alert bear.
Sun Bears are a “Totally Protected” Species under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment in 1997. Based on this enactment, any activities that could hurt the sun bear is totally prohibited which includes keeping a sun bear as a pet. Any offenders could face either 10 years in jail, fined up to RM100,000 or both. There is no reason for keeping a sun bear as a pet. They are wild animals and they should stay in the wild. In fact, the bear cub will be attached to their mother until they are two to three years old. A mother will never abandon her children. The only reason that could make this happen is the mother was killed and the children were brought away from their mother by poachers. Keeping them as a pet and illegal poaching is an unforgivable act to the sun bear.
Thankfully, Kina and Sika were rescued and gets a second chance for her life.From now, Kina and Sika will go through quarantine and will receive good care from the BSBCC bear care unit.We hope they will gain strength and be able to be released back into the wild one day.
We will keep you updated on their progress. Lastly, please spread the word to keep sun bears WILD and NOT as Pets! Be their voice!!
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
He was surrendered by a villager and was found roaming alone at a villager’s orchard with his mother nowhere to be seen. Noah was handed-over to the Sabah Wildlife Department from Nabawan, a southern part of Sabah, and brought into the BSBCC on the 10th of October, 2016. We have named him “Noah”. We are unsure as to why he was found alone, he may have been abandoned, or his mother may have been killed by poachers. Noah was nervous, alert and timid at first sight during the arrival.
On the 10th of October 2016, Dr. Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam from the Wildlife Rescue Unit of Sabah Wildlife Department, performed a general health check. This included an assessment of his overall health, potential sickness, function of the internal organs and physical condition. During the health check, it was found that Noah’s four milk canines had been crushed off. Because of their small and cuddly appearance, sun bears are used in illegal pet trade. This is common with captive sun bears to prevent them from causing injuries and they are easy to handle. As a pet, he suffered from loneliness, rotting teeth, and malnutrition due to improper diet and care. Little Noah nearly lost everything – just because someone was greedy.
Noah is responding well to treatment. He has been receiving a proper diet and has a big appetite which has increased his body weight. He absolutely loves milk, banana, papaya and honey which ends up being a mouthful! Noah spends hours trying his best to get every drop of delicious honey out of the enrichment logs. As soon as he smells the food, he will quickly descend to find it. He will get involved in various types of enrichment to strengthen his muscles and senses. He is mischievous and prefers wrestles with his care taker. He continues to be as playful as ever!!
One of the BSBCC's missions is to give rescued bears lifelong loving care. The bears are reintroduced to their natural habitat. A huge thanks to the Sabah Wildlife Department who rescued and bought Little Noah to BSBCC. We will provide the best care possible through the rehabilitation process, so someday he can return to the wild. After completing the quarantine phase, Noah will embark on his new life. Little Noah will follow a process of gradual adaptation in the forest till he becomes an independent wild bear, then he will get this unique chance to return to the forest home he was once stolen from. We will take all appropriate steps to ensure that Noah makes a smooth transition into life as a wild sun bear.
We are confident that he will continue to practice the skills needed to survive as a wild sun bear in the future. Noah will spend his days learning new and vital skills in the forest canopy. We cannot wait for the day when Noah is roaming free back in the forest where he belongs.
The two-month-old sun bear cub was found lifeless and alone in a forest reserve in Pinangah, in Sabah. The forest workers who discovered her called the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), an officer of which drove the little bear to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sandakan. There, the cub, named Wawa by the officer, is now bouncing back, thanks to round-the-clock care.
Wawa is the 48th rescued sun bear to have arrived at the center, which was founded in Sabah in 2008 with the aim of providing care and rehabilitation programs for bears rescued from poachers and illegal wildlife traffickers. The center also provides a home for orphaned cubs like Wawa as well as for older captive bears that cannot be released back into the wild. The non-profit sports well-equipped facilities and has built spacious enclosures with plenty of leafy roaming grounds for the vivacious bears in its care.
Wawa, too, is now in the best of hands at the center. Despite being weak and dehydrated when she arrived, the little bear proved herself a real fighter in a welcome sign that the newborn cub was made of stern stuff and would pull through. “[A]lthough she was exhausted from the six hour drive (needed to take her to the center), she was feisty enough to bark at our staff,” noted BSBCC’s CEO Wong Siew Te. “BSBCC is taking up the challenge to raise this bear and to teach her all that she needs to know before she returns to her natural habitat as an adult,” he added.
Wawa’s mother was likely captured or killed by poachers who may have sold her on the illegal wildlife market. The body parts of sun bears are prized around much of the region in traditional Chinese medicine for their allegedly curative properties, albeit there is zero scientific evidence for any of the claims. “There are no medicinal values of consuming sun bear parts,” SWD’s director William Baya stressed.
Sun bears are protected by law in Sabah under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, with offenders facing the prospect of up to five years in prison and/or a maximum fine of RM50,000. Sadly, however, that has not stopped some opportunistic locals and regular poachers alike from continuing to try and snare or shoot bears in the state’s forests.
“Our department would like to issue a stern warning to those who continue to poach sun bears and other protected wildlife species.” Baya said.“We will take action against those who are found to be involved in such activities.”