Video by Chiew Lin May
Little Logan was missing his left thumb and his left front paw has developed abnormally but these have never made give him up in climbing trees.
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah and Chiew Lin May
Seven years ago, a two month old sun bear cub was found by a villager’s hunting dog in a remote forest area of Long Pasia, in the Sipitang district of Sabah.
He was found injured and Nooh, the owner, decided to take care of him until he recovered. Nooh named the sun bear cub as “Fulung” which means forest in native Lundayeh language.
Nooh had decided to return Fulung back to the forest but due to the poaching concern happening in the forest he decided to keep Fulung as a pet for the time being.
Until August 2011, where Nooh found out he could give him a better life. He decided to surrender Fulung to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) when Fulung was nine months old.
Fulung arrived at BSBCC on 15th of August, 2011.
During his arrival, it was found that Fulung was malnourished and had a scratch mark on his forehead, which is believed to be caused by rubbing it on a cage bar. The initial health checks showed him in good health and body condition, weighing 9.4kg. During Fulung's placement in quarantine, he started to show signs of self-trauma due to finding it difficult adjusting to new experiences. This result was from being kept as a pet which caused him to scratch his abdomen until the wound was infected. This made him leave a dry scar wound on his abdomen area. Besides the wound, you could hear Fulung would growl and bawl loudly. Sun bear cubs will growl long and loud when they are separated from their mom. That was the problem with Fulung who had been kept in captivity with close human contact for long periods, which resulted in him requiring a great need of comfort.
To avoid this happening, we provided the best care for Fulung, different enrichment activities were given in order to stimulate and encourage his natural behavior.
A proper diet comprises of protein and fruit, medical treatment and great treats which have brought an improvement on Fulung. We could see that he was happily munching, destroying and exploring everything. He started to adapt and would smell, taste, play and paw things.
Fulung is a very cleaver, young male sun bear and checks out his enrichment.
Luckily, Fulung continues to improve day by day. He is settling in well in the new environment.
Moreover, other orphaned sun bears may help Fulung to learn the vital survival skills that he will need in the wild. So, BSBCC made a decision that Fulung needed to have a sun bear companion. On October 27th, 2011 he was introduced to the first ever bear friend, Mary.
For the last seven years, Fulung has known how to charm his way around the females in his group. He has grown up with other orphaned bears.
During the bear integration, they were incredibly playful in friendly greeting ways and no aggression happened beforehand. Bongkud, Mary, Debbie, Ah Bui, Ah Lun, Rungus, Julaini, Montom and Natalie are Fulung’s play bear friends.
He loves to make new friends where he becomes the loved and admired mischievous bear!
Magical! On June 11th, 2013 he took his biggest step and got to enjoy the sunshine with tall trees where he should belong!
Once the door opened, he quickly went out to explore! He was checking every meter of his new forest environment.
Fulung first dug up the dead log to get his favourite termites.
Over the years, Fulung proved to us that he will be one of the most confident and lovely bears in the centre.
Fulung is best known for loving to stand on his hind legs to get a better smell or look.
He will keep busy.
He spends his day roaming around the free range enclosure,
foraging up invertebrates and favourite food
basking in the sun,
taking a nap and loves climbing up high above the trees.
Fulung is an expert climber and will show how well he can climb to the top with rediscovering his natural behaviour!
He is anything and has become a much loved member of the sun bear family.
They are full of enthusiasm and energy!
They will keep learning to be wild bears and have fun everyday!
He always captures the hearts of people with his enthusiasm in loving nature.
This is very impressive when observing him slowly grow use to his new environment and learning as a wild bear. He slowly realizes the special bear he is and there is nothing to fear out there.
Fulung is doing exactly what they should do in the forest!!
Remember that we are not their mother. This is a very pathetic story for keeping a sun bear as a pet only will make the sun bear not know the world beyond the cage bars and they will lose the survival skills that they need to learn in the wild.
But thanks to the ongoing care and support we can give Fulung a second chance to live the happy, safe and healthy life he deserves. One of the things we LOVE about the smallest bears is simply that they make you smile.
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
On the 30th of October 2015 we were pleased to welcome two new rescued sun bears to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.
Introducing Boboi (Rescue Sun Bear 45), a one year old juvenile, male sun bear
Kitud (Rescue Sun Bear 46), a 14 month old juvenile, female sun bear
Both bears were handed over to the Sabah Wildlife Department in Singgaron village, Ranau district. They were both ex-pets. Their names were given to them by their previous owners who surrendered them to authority.
The story reported to the rescue team was that Boboi originally was from Pitas, Sabah and Kitud was originally from Mengkapoh village, Ranau district. Both of them were handed over by people. They were kept together in one cage and were fed with milk, rice and fish.
On the 1st of November 2015, we conducted a health check for Boboi and Kitud. Dr. Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam from the Wildlife Rescue Unit of Sabah’s Wildlife Department performed a general health check. This included an assessment of their overall health, potential sickness, function of the internal organs, and physical condition. Boboi was 15.55kg and Kitud was 12.1kg. The blood test results have shown Boboi and Kitud are healthy.
We are glad to report that Boboi and Kitud are showing positive signs of improvement. Kitud is very slow paced when eating and quite well behaved compared to her friend, Boboi, who is a very cheeky and energetic sun bear. He will find ways to enjoy himself. These two bears have a very close bond and can be seen loving to hang out together. They spend their time foraging, exploring, sharing their food, play fighting and climbing together.
On December 15th, 2015 Kitud and Boboi were integrated with Tan-Tan (an eight month old, female sun bear cub). This was a special day for Tan-Tan as it was her first contact with another sun bear after a very long time. They discovered a wonderful new friendship.This allowed them to greatly improve social skills. Tan-Tan seems to become more playful when interacting with Boboi and Kitud. The three sun bear cubs are living together and are sharing one large den. All worked out well with the integration and they did not show any signs of aggression.
Here are some pictures that show how the three sun bear cubs play fight and settling into their new life.
Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan are given different types of enrichment to stimulate and prepare them for life back in the wild. Boboi is always curious, huffing on the new enrichment toys while Kitud and Tan-Tan will normally without hesitation just destroy or play with it. They like to be dirty while enjoying the never ending enrichment and love getting care from our bear care staff. They are relishing in the extra space to play, run and climb. Boboi and Kitud have quickly adjusted to their new surroundings. They get a balanced diet that comprises of milk, vegetables and fruits. They are not choosy when it comes to food and have a good appetite. These three cubs are happy to leave their past lives behind and are learning to be wild bears again.
The sad reality of each rescued sun bear cub at our center is that they came from having lived through a bitter past; usually kept or traded by humans and having been separated from their mother at a very young age. These three little rescued bears are no different. The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre’s mission is to conserve sun bears through improving animal welfare, raising conservation awareness with education, conducting research, and rehabilitating the sun bears like Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan who have a second chance at returning to life in the forest! Sun bears are in grave danger of extinction in the wild and we need to help them as much as we can. Please spread the message that sun bears belong in the wild and should not be kept as pets, no matter what the circumstances.
Text By Leonardo Jainih (Intern Student)
Photo by Chiew Lin May
The primary goal of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) is to promote sun bear conservation in Borneo by creating the capacity to rehabilitate and release suitable ex-captive bears back into the wild forest again. In order to achieve this goal, one of BSBCC’s efforts or actions is by allowing the bears to explore and forage the beautiful forest enclosure around them. Building up a forest enclosure is not as simple as just putting up a fence as sun bears love to dig the ground and to climb over the fence. The fence cannot be too close to the tall trees in the habitat or the more adventurous chaps might be able to venture out into the wild. From rehabilitation program, it actually encourage the natural bear behaviour and reintroduce them to the forest environment. For example, they dig to find food such as earthworms, termites, ants and bettles, climbing trees to sleep, search for honeybees and feed on fruits. In August this year, some exciting for the bears (Cerah, Jelita, Susie, Kuamat, Lawa and Manis) to experience await them. They are all adult female sun bears aged from 8 to 9 years old except for Manis (14 years old). The bears had been waiting for their new forest enclosure (Pen K) after they were moved to the second bear house when medical check were conducted on them weeks ago.
This process of releasing the bears to their new forest enclosure start with slowly open up the guillotine door for them to start their new chapter of life. Fruits such as papaya, watermelon, rambutan and honey dew were scattered around the ramp and on the forest floor. Usually, the bears will start sniffing their new environment and surely eats the fruits prepared for them. However, almost all the rescued bears at BSBCC had this one tricky habit which was trying to grab the fruits at the ramp and left at least their hind leg inside the den, as if to say, “I bet you would not close the quillotine door as long as parts of my body is still inside the den”.
Cerah was the first bear to come out from her den and began her journey to the new forest enclosure (Pen K). She was hesitant to go outdoors at first, sniffing the air and fruits near the entrance to her indoor enclosure. However, after nearly a week with food laid out on a ramp, Cerah took her first official step out to the forest.
As expected, it took a while for the bears to venture, but after a few sniffs and a scan through the new forest enclosure as well, they became more curious and anxious. No one said that this was an easy task as there were few bears took about 6 months to finally stepped out from their den and foraging the forest.
Cerah is one of Jelita’s bestfriend and roommate. She is a clever and curious young lady-bear, who tends to welcome new faces with a friendly sniff. Whenever new enrichment activitiy is introduced, Cerah is not one to follow her stomach. Unlike Jelita, Cerah is always curiously to seek out and explore the new toys before finding the food, even if it is one of her favourite treats. That is why Cerah was the first one to come out from her den to the forest enclosure.
Finally, Manis was the last bear among all six bears stepped out from her den and start exploring her new environment with high curiousity. In the end, Manis get to shares her enclosure with five other sun bears (Cerah, Jelita, Susie, Kuamut and Lawa). Despite all of this she equally likes her own space and if she is not in the mood for company, she lets the other females know quickly to leave her alone. It can be concluded that this plan is a successful one as it took only a month for all the bears at Pen K step out to the forest enclosure everyday. In no time, they remembered how to be wild sun bear again by digging at dead wood in search of insects like termites and beetles, and exploring and roaming the forest in peace.
Our hope is that one day they will confidently walked out and be ready for the wild forest but this is not an easy task. It really requires a huge amount of resources if it is to be done successfully. Therefore, it is very important to help them to remember how to be bears again so that they can survived in the wild without our help.
Oakland Zoo, 3rd January 2014
by Amy Gotliffe
Time with Bears:
Fulong means forest in Lundayieh, a tribal language in Borneo. A tiny sun bear cub, the smallest of all bear species, was found in the forest by a hunter’s dog and brought to the master who gave him the name Fulong. The man kept the bear in a cage as a pet — but when he found out he could give her a better life, he relinquished her to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, where we sat this morning in rapt attention as Gloria, the head of education, told us the history of some of the beautiful sun bears at the centre.
Sun bears and the work of Siew Te Wong was our inspiration to embark on a conservation expedition to Borneo in the first place. We have been in full support of his efforts to give a wonderful home to sun bears that all have a different conservation back story. This new center is right next to the Sepilok Orangutan Center and sure to be a hit. Many visitors to Borneo know about Orangutans, and now many will know about this amazing bear.
After six years of helping Wong work as the founder and raise funds for this center, it is a THRILL for our group to be here to help them get ready for their soft opening to the public in January. After a survey of our skills and their needs — Gloria and I put together a schedule – and we rolled up our sleeves and got to work!
What a day we are having! In the rain and heat, one group is moving gravel with shovels and wheelbarrows, watching for venomous snakes and tiger leeches. Another is in the bear house, chopping diets of banana, papaya, green beans – and heating an oatmeal-like super nutritious bear meal. Some even enjoy cleaning the night houses in this sparkling new facility.
Carol and Jereld are off with Ling Mai to set up camera traps. We then work with her to create a matrix for observing bears which we will try out this afternoon. Diana then helps create a program to illustrate the data that will be gathered. Carol and Rob sit together at a laptop editing copy for the educational signage for hours and hours, quite happily. Tina then gives her ideas around signage design. We hardly want to break for lunch, but we do, ‘cause it is hot and we have worked up quite an appetite.
After lunch with the bear staff, Lovesong and Mary go off with the bear keepers, exchanging stories and ideas on how to best care for a sun bear. A crew works with Gloria to envision the visitor center’s future displays and interactives. Another crew gathers around Ernie to discuss the gift shop and other ways to bring in extra funds to the program. Apparently t-shirts and postcards are the big sellers, but creativity is flowing. I get to download about education programs, volunteer positions and conservation action and messaging. I also got the pleasure of taking portraits of the staff for their website.
As the afternoon rolls along, I feel so fortunate to have gotten to be here on this day atthis time in the center’s history. What a joy to share what we could with them, and how inspiring to meet this talented and dedicated staff who shared so much with us. We are all lucky, especially bears like Fulong!
Text by Shelly Smith
Photos by Chiew Lin May
As the BSBCC presently only has 3 outdoor pens large enough to accommodate several bears at the same time, some seriously strategic ‘bear shuffling’ has to occur in the bearhouse in order to get the right bears into the right cages for the outdoor exit ramps.
There are 2 existing groups that need to be integrated so they can occupy one outdoor pen instead of two, freeing up the second outdoor pen for Bermuda, a large mature male who is eagerly awaiting his outdoor sessions.
The two groups are ‘matriarchal’. The’’ Mary’’ group consists of 6 sub adult bears – little Mary, Ah Bui, Debbie, Koko, Bongkud and young male Fulung. 2nd group is Natalie’s group of four, with Natalie, Ah Lun, Runggus and young male Julaini.
Bear etiquette dictates that a polite introduction is by way of curiously sniffing through an interconnecting gateway - if no sign of aggression is seen, then the gateway is opened cautiously by the bear keeper, and one bear may proceed into the adjoining cage where the sniffing procedure progresses to a stage of playful paw inductions. Hereafter it is quite permissible to raucously cavort around the cage and wrestle in the hammock (or other enrichment provided) until one or both bears are completely exhausted. Suckling on a bear’s ears is a privilege for best friends only.
Integration started on the 9th September by daily introducing one bear from Mary’s group to the Natalie group bears, one bear at a time over an hour or so. These introductions over the week went amazingly well with no hint of aggression as each bear learnt the smells, stature and behaviour of the others, in spite of two females being on heat during the process.
However, there came a turning point when the two young males were introduced. All went smoothly at the beginning of the session with 7 of the bears occupying 3 interlinking cages, playing and rough-housing with great abandon. Fulung, the young male from Mary’s group, has a wound that he continuously scratches at and thus it cannot heal. Julaini, the young male from Natalie’s group, curious to see if this could be meat, took a bite, with the ensuing fracas becoming quite violent, and intervention needed.
Lesson learnt! - since then Fulung’s would is treated with medication so he no longer smells like a meal, and all bears taking part in integration sessions are fed copious amounts of fruity treats, so tummies are full and everyone’s content beforehand.
All 10 bears will continue to mingle for a period every day under the watchful eyes of the bear team until they are deemed ‘’suitably merged’’ to enter the outdoor pen together. Bermuda can then finally be moved up the chain of linked cages to the outdoor exit of forest enclosure, and experience the freedom of the natural forest again!
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photo by Gloria Ganang and Chiew Lin May
Climbing is a skill most often associated with primates, but sun bears are also arboreal. They often climb trees in order to forage for food, protect themselves from predators or to rest and sleep on the branches. Wong Siew Te, our BSBCC's CEO and Founder refers to sun bears as "forest engineers" because sun bears can climb trees and dig into beehives at the top of the canopy to get honey. The empty and abandoned beehive then becomes an important new habitat site for other animals such as hornbills.
A 8 months old sun bear cub, Damai has explore the forest and is very curious of the many new and exciting things that surround her. She is a very good at climbing trees. Every time we walk her in the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve Sabah, she practices how to climb trees or liana (long-stemmed, woody vines). When in the tree she spends her time digging in search of insects and playing or resting in the tree anopy, just like a wild sun bear would ! Once she started climbing the trees, she will keep climb higher up of the tree and did not bother us. Now Damai can climb more than 5 meters high !!
You may wonder what is it that makes Damai such a good climber? Many of the sun bears features are adapted for a tree - dwelling lifestyle. She has extremely long, sharp and curved claws that are perfectly adapted for climbing trees. Inside the sun bears claw have a piece of bone that gives strength to the sun bear when climbing. Her claws help her to get a grip on the tree bark and she uses her powerful claws, limbs and padded feet to go up tree. She can also climb down from tall trees supported by her claws. As she climbs up and down the trees, her muscles continue to grow stronger!! Thus, the presence of a sun bear can be detected by their characteristic claw marks on the bark of trees. The sun bears small body size and their ability to rotate their front limbs just like a primate also assists them to climb. Amazing, indeed!
Text by Gloria Ganang
I always consider it a great privilege as well as an amazing experience to walk a sun bear cub in the forest. BSBCC’s CEO and Founder, Wong Siew Te trains his staff, including myself to walk sun bear cubs in the forest. Sun bears usually spend their first 2-3 years with their mother learning survival skills before they eventually travel solitarily in the forest. Unfortunately for little Damai, she have to rely on humans to learn these skills. Here at BSBCC, Damai gets to use the adjacent forest reserve to develop her skills and get her natural instinct stimulated.
It has been more than 3 months now since Damai first went out to the forest. She would follow us around like a shadow for her first few days. We use to lead her to decaying stumps or logs where she’ll dig and bite them into pieces. She would often find termite larvae and feast on them as much as she could. She sometimes gets bigger rewards such as beetles, beetle larvae and millipedes
It took some time for Damai to climb up high on trees. She started climbing dead stump of 1 - 2 meters height. As soon as she gained confidence to go higher, she went impressively high up to 5 meters from the ground, and kept going higher and higher.
Damai would initially pick and climb on leaning trees or trees which are wrapped by climbers.This would assist her to carry herself up the tree by grabbing on the climbers. Gradually, she starts spending more time on the trees, breaking twigs, licking ants, grooming herself and sometimes takes naps on the tree. She now can climb on any trees using her claws and canine strength.
We sometimes may come across wild animal such as pythons, orang utans, bearded pigs and mouse deer. The loud calls of the Bornean Gibbons, Rhinoceros Hornbills, Racquet-tailed Drongos and even the “barking” sound of geckos often made Damai wary of the nearby animals. She would be the first one to react to the calls and the sounds of cracking branches or fallen leaves by standing on her hind feet and sniff around. Whenever she felt scared, she would climb up a nearby tree and look down. She would climb down as soon as she felt safe again.
Generally Damai knows how to get around the forest. She knows where to find her favorite snacks and climb her favorite tree. However, the BSBCC staff still has to observe and guide her to the forest everyday. These are some more photos of Damai's recent activities in the forest:
Text by Gloria Ganang and photo by Siew Te Wong
Koko, a female sun bear yearling has been joining Mary and Debbie (both female sun bear yearlings) for almost a month now. Koko came into the BSBCC earlier this year on the 20th February. She was transferred to Mary and Debbie’s den a month after her arrival which is after her quarantine period. Although it was a new environment for Koko at the beginning to share dens with other bears, she did very well gradually adjusting herself and getting along with her new mates. Koko connected with Debbie almost instantly during their first encounter with each other. Debbie, being the playful one among them is such an essential work out pal for Koko. They would tease, climb around and play chase with each other besides sharing their enrichment toys.
It took a while for Mary to familiarize with Koko until they finally mingled. Mary is the less playful one. However, Koko would often try to get her attention by giving her quick bites or taps on her back. This encourages Mary to respond back very quickly from the distraction and they usually would end up rolling around and show each other “who’s boss”!
Having an additional member in the group would keep the yearlings equipped with better and fun daily activities. They also keep each other warm during cold nights and rainy days by staying close to each other inside their artificial nest. We hope for the best for these sun bear yearlings throughout their growing period at the centre. Koko, Mary and Debbie are here because they have been confiscated from individuals who took them away from their natural habitat. They might end up growing up in small cages as house pets or even killed for their body parts. Help our sun bears by spreading the words on their threats!
Photo: Siew Te Wong
– May 17, 2012Posted in: Animal Stories, Animals and Plants, Bears, Conservation, Conservation at the Zoo, Pandas, Projects in the Field, Uncategorized
Enrichment toys are vital for a recovering sun bear's health. Photo courtesy of BSBCC
Several months ago, we put out a call via our Animal Care Wish List asking for donations to provide enrichment items for the sun bears housed with our new collaborative partner, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). You responded generously, and I am pleased to say we were able to send six new toys to the bears at the BSBCC. Thank you so much for your generosity!
The sun bear is a rare bear whose habitat is dwindling rapidly under pressure from deforestation. Primary causes of forest loss include illegal timber extraction and the development of palm oil plantations. Very few studies of wild sun bears have been conducted, and a population census of this species, or the Bornean subspecies, has never been conducted. However, their numbers must surely be on the decline as their habitat steadily shrinks.
One of my objectives is to find more opportunities to conduct research with sun bears, to learn more about them and facilitate conservation of this species. We have had the opportunity to observe the growth and development of four sun bear cubs born to our resident female, Marcella, but a larger sample size of animals was needed to conduct any statistically meaningful research into various aspects of their biology. Enter the BSBCC.
Siew Te Wong founded the BSBCC in Sabah, Borneo, to serve as a rescue and rehabilitation facility for orphaned and injured sun bears. “Wong,” as he is called, had conducted field work on these animals but recognized the need to provide care for bears impacted by forest loss and the illegal pet trade. In only 4 years of operation, the BSBCC has accumulated more than 20 sun bears. Some are destined for Wong’s developing reintroduction program, which will see them repatriated to the wild in time. Others are not good candidates for release and will likely live out their years at the BSBCC.
Thankfully, the BSBCC goes the extra mile to ensure a good home for its sun bears. It has several large outdoor pens that are essentially areas of enclosed natural habitat: giant trees, heavy canopy, soft forest soil, and a multitude of plants and bugs for the bears to enjoy. The enclosures are so natural that wild monkeys and birds often cruise in and perch in the canopy of their trees. The bears are carefully managed so that agreeable animals can be housed together as playmates when possible. Even so, there are so many of these animals that on any given day a few of the bears will be rotated inside so others can enjoy the outside spaces.
The BSBCC likes to provide enrichment for their indoor animals to ensure that their environment remains as stimulating as possible. And that’s where you come in. Your donations helped to aid in maintaining a quality of life for these bears that ensures their physical and emotional well-being. The photos here demonstrate that the bears are enjoying the toys immensely!
We are excited about developing our partnership with the BSBCC into a research opportunity. This will aid in the conservation of the smallest bear on Earth and could lend insight into the bear family tree. We know from our past work, for example, that sun bear mothers and panda mothers are very similar in their attentive maternal-care styles, and both pandas and sun bears differ from the less active hibernating bears like brown and black bears. What other similarities and differences between the bear species will we find?
Your gifts of enrichment were the first step in what I hope will be a long and informative road that leads to new discoveries about sun bears. Thank you again.
Suzanne Hall is a senior research technician for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, Monday: Black, White, and the Blues.