Text by Gloria Ganang and photos by Tee Thye Lim
It has been 4 days since Ah Bui arrived at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). She is one fortunate female bear to be rescued by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) just on time. She was almost sold for the purpose of bear bile. Ah Bui is approximately 2 years old.
We conducted Ah Bui’s physical check up at the BSBCC today. It went on very smoothly with the help from staffs of the SWD and Orangutan Appeal UK vet, Dr. Cinzia Cordella. It took us around 35 minutes to complete the procedures.
Ah Bui has obvious large canine teeth which are due to her previous diet. She used to be fed with chicken before she arrived here. Her current weight is 25 kg which is perfect for a female bear her age. Her pulse and temperature readings are normal.
Ah Bui seems to have adapted to a small confined cage indicated through her constant "bending over" behavior when she first arrived at BSBCC. She has gradually adapted to the current cage which has more space for her to move around. Ah Bui however have to go through a quarantine period for a month before she will mix with other sun bears. She will eventually have a better social life, get access to the forest enclosure and be a wild sun bear again!
Text by Gloria Ganang and Siew Te Wong
Photos by Siew Te Wong
Koko's quarantine period has ended two weeks ago. A health check on her was performed late last months and the results showed that she is healthy and free from any disease. Today we started the first step of the integration and introduce her to our sun bear cub/yearling group. She was transferred to a new den next to another two sun bear cub/yearling, Mary and Debbie around 11.30 am.
Koko's original den is located at the opposite site of the hallway from the youngsters. We use two pieces of plywood to make a corridor and lure Koko with honey to her new den. The process was much easier than we thought.
Hi, I am Koko. What's your name?
Debbie was so excited and there were interactions going on between her and Koko. Koko also get pretty excited and displayed a dancing move as she reacted to the company of Debbie from the next cage. However, Mary didn’t show much reaction towards her new neighbor. It might take some time for Mary to get used to an additional bear around her.
Koko seemed pleased with her new transfer, wandering and sniffing around her new cage, checking out the enrichment that was prepared for her.
Best of all, she has now got new friends to interact with after a long period of isolation.
Text and photos by Siew Te Wong
We integrated Debbie the sun bear cub with Mary and Fulung for the first time on March 10th. The entire process started 10 days earlier on Feb 28th when we moved Mary at opposite side of the hall way to the den next to Debbie. Debbie's reaction toward Mary was very strong, huffing and barking on a defensive way whenever Mary made a move. Lack of sun bear's communication skills, poor Mary seemed to be confused and do not know what to do except sucking her feet (Mary suckles when she wants to seek comfort). We have to keep the den between Debbie and Mary empty to reduce contact between the two young bears because of Debbie's reaction.
The next day Debbie seemed to accept Mary's presence. She did not seem to be defensive nor aggressive and did not bark and huff at Mary like what she did a day before. She just watched Mary on a very curious way. We let Mary entered the middle empty den so that both bears can have contacts through the bars. Immediately Debbie was very interested on Mary, touching and scratching her gently whenever Debbie can reach Mary through the bars. Sometime Mary responded to Debbie by playing with her. However, Debbie was more proactive while Mary just sitting there to suckle her feet without paying much attention to Debbie. The induction between Debbie and Mary seem fine through the bars.
The next step was to move Fulung the yearling male sun bear on March 3rd to join Mary so that three of the sun bear yearling/cubs can be place together as a group. This time Debbie did not react much to the presence of Fulung. She seemed just fine to have Fulung as her neighbor without any conflict or aggression over the following week.
Finally the big day arrived on March 10th, we integrated Debbie with Fulung and Mary. Fulung is about one year and four months old. He is the biggest and oldest among the three bears. Mary is about one year and two months old and Debbie is the youngest, age about 8 month. Here I let the photos speak for themselves:
In order to prevent them from being too excited when first meet, we scattered their fruit snack- pumpkin and banana on that afternoon, on the floor. Just like what we expected, Fulung (left) and Debbie (right) get busy searching and eating their afternoon snack: banana (preferred) first, and pumpkin later. Mary was at the back of the den, checking out Amaco (an old male bear) behind the wall.
After all the banana was gone, play time begun. Like usual, Fulung would is always advantage being a bigger bear. He shows off his dominancy by standing up right on his hind limbs. Debbie, although being the youngest and smallest, never feels threatened by Fulung's size. She displays her jaw and teeth. Her message is clear, "do not mess around with me!"
Debbie on the right now standing up to show off her teeth and claws. She just never gives up quickly!
Mary now joins them. Instead of play fighting, she is more into the remaining fruits. This is a great photo to show the facial expression of Fulung (left) and Debbie (back).
Mary (right) decided to join the party. Fulung (left) let Debbie to bite his neck. With a lot of loose skin, the neck of the sun bear is like the armor of the bear to get closer to their opponent.
Now the three bears are in action together. Although a lot of teeth and claws in these play fight, they are completely harmless to each other.Fulung and Debbie have a lot of interactions at first. Mary is a bit slow by just watching.
Fulung: "I am bigger than you, Debbie!" Debbie: "So what??"
Like a wrestler, Fulung uses his bigger body to press Debbie down, and the countdown being...
After tens of minutes, Fulung started to feel boring and left Debbie.
Now is Mary's turn to play with Debbie (right).peI can tell by now Debbie (left) is very tired. She just wanted to lie down on her back and push Mary (right) away.At the end of the day, both bears are so tired!
Text and photos by Siew Te Wong
Today as I do my routine walk in the forest enclosure of BSBCC to check on the sun bears, I saw Lawa the female sun bear climb a tree and rest on top of it. It was a dead tree full with lianas. I immediately used the Nokon sponsored D5000 and the 18-55 mm zoom lens to capture these images. Please see these photos or yourself to learn the amazing lifestyles of these bears in the tropical rainforest of Borneo. If I have a better zoom or telephoto lenses, I am sure I will take better photos. Anybody wanted to sponsor us a longer lens?
Only in Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, you can see sun bear behave like a wild bear.
Only in BSBCC, you can see sun bear climb the tree and sleep on a tree.
Only in BSBCC, you can learn about the sun bear and their forest habitat.
BSBCC aims to conserve sun bear though animal welfare, education, rehabilitation and research.
We are half way there; please help us make it happen.
Please do what you do best to help us.
Please help sun bears.
Please visit http://sunbears.wildlifedirect.org/how-can-you-help-sun-bears/
Text and photos by Siew Te Wong
Debbie is now a sweet bear. From a very aggressive sun bear cub (good for her to be aggressive because she needed to) when she first came to BSBCC, she is now a very sweet and mellow sun bear cub. I can touch her nose. Sometime, she would let me stroke her paw in return. For sun bear, paw touching is a very important sign of trust because they will never let any stranger touch them, especially their paw.
After spending more than a month with us, Debbie finally trusted me for security and accepted me as a family, so to speak. Regardless of how much I do to comfort her and give her a good home, in her eyes however, I still see sadness, like an orphan losing her mother. In fact, Debbie the sun bear cub has lost her mother to poacher, and she was capture as pet.
I can watch her playing in her den for a long time. Her favorite position would be in laying down in her sleeping basket and chewing whatever enrichment toys we gave her that day. Few days ago I gave her a cardboard box. In tens of minutes, she shredded the hard cardboard box into small pieces....
Who agree with me if I say sun bear cub is very cute?
BUT, please don't keep sun bear as pet. They are totally protected and endangered wildlife, not pet!
Caged, pet sun bears have a sad life. From the day they were captured and kept as pet, most of them will NEVER touch the soil, climb the trees, and dig the ground again.
Many of our rescued sun bears also have the same fate. However, with our state of the art forest enclosure, the rescued sun bears at BSBCC have the chance to enjoy the forest.
Bermuda, a 10 year old male sun bear at BSBCC, was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on October 10, 2002. He live on a concrete floor since he was captured from the wild as a little sun bear cub. For him, the ground is always a smooth layer of concrete floor, until today.
Bermuda finally passed his electric fence training lately. We let him out to his forest enclosure for the first time on Valentine Day Feb 14th. We put food, and honey (all time favorite food for bears) on the ramp to encourage/lure him out of his den. What he did that entire day was pocked his head out to reach the food and honey on the ramp without stepping a foot on the ramp.
This is a very pathetic story for all caged sun bears. To all of them, confined and locked up in a small cage is life. They do not know the world beyond the cage. Rain, soil, trees, leaf litters and other natural vegetations and natural elements in the forest all are something that they never come in contact. The only time when they walked on the forest floor was during the first few weeks or months of their life, until their mothers were killed and they were captured by poachers. To them, forest is an alien nation, fills with unknown bugs and unknown noise; the place that is so strange, unsecure and uncertain. All of our adult bears decided to stay inside the den and not wondering into the forest enclosure when we released them out to the forest enclosure for the first time. It sometime took them weeks if not months to wonder out from their den. Only the young once would go out immediately and enjoy the forest without second thoughts.
Bermuda's reaction when we let him out to the forest enclosure was not exception on Valentine Day. Over the next week or so he still kept himself safe under the protection of his den although the door to forest enclosure was staying open all day long. The food that we left on the ramp and the forest floor has attracted troops of forest bandits - pig-tailed macaques and long-tailed macaques, to enjoy their free meals. Bermuda, sometime I questioned his "male-hood," just stood in his den and watched his food being stolen away by these intelligent primates.
This afternoon as I was writing another blog on Fulung and Mary, Marianne our volunteer from UK rushed into the office, "Bermuda is out to his forest enclosure!" Wai Pak and I grasped our cameras and went down to witness this historic moment. This is the moment where he step foot on the forest floor for the first time in more than 10 years and we do not want to miss that! Although he did not wonder off far from the guillotine door of his den, we can tell from his fast pacing behavior that he was nerves and wanted to go back. Wai Pak then scattered some bread in the enclosure to encourage him foraging and exploring a bit more. He just ate the bread that was close to him without much exploration. After tens of minutes, he finally found his way back to his den and did not come out to explore again.
That was a good start for a captive sun bear willing to wonder off his den on the 7th day. Gutuk, another old male bear still decided to confine himself in his den although the door to the forest enclosure has been open for the past 3 months. I am sure Bermuda soon will gain more confidence to explore the forest enclosure. What he need is time and encouragement. In BSBCC, we will give him both!
In the tropical forest of Southeast Asia, live a bear species call sun bears. These bears are small, the smallest of all the eight living bear species, and have black fur that are not easy to be spotted when they forage on the dark forest floor under the multi-layers forest canopies.
Sun bears are the tree loving bears. They are forest dependent species. They live their life completely in the forest. Without the forest, there will not be habitat for the sun bears. They need the trees to survive because these trees, not few trees, but a lot of tress make a healthy forest where sun bears and other forest inhabitants can find sufficient food, shelters, mates, and propagate.
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre aims to conserve sun bears through improve animal welfare for captive sun bears, raise conservation awareness for sun bear with education programs, conduct research to learn more about this little known bears, and rehabilitate pet sun bears into the wild.
By working closely with Sabah Wildlife Department and Sabah Forestry Department, we rescued pets, ex-captive sun bears from tiny cages. We build forest enclosures so that they can have access to the forest. We educate the public to raise awareness on conservation and the plights of the sun bear.
We love sun bears the tree loving bears! How about you?
Photo credit: Marc Anderson
Used to locked up in small cages as pets, the sun bears rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department and Bornean Sun Bear Conservation can now enjoy the life that once were taken away by poachers and hunters.
These bears are truly the tree hugger bears. I first discovered their arboreal behavior when I saw one of my radio-collared wild sun bear on tree for the first time in 2000. He was feeding on wild figs in a fruiting fig tree about 45 m above the ground. Together with him on that tree was a female orangutan with baby, a female binturong with baby, a family of gibbons, many squirrels, and hundreds of birds. All of them were feeding and roosting on the same tree. It was a SPECTACULAR sighting which I will never forgot!
I love sun bears, the tree hugging bear. How about you?
Special thanks to Marc Anderson who help us captured these spectacular moment of Keningau, one of our rescued bear in Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.
Photographed by Marc Anderson http://www.andersonstockphotos.com/blog/
It has been almost 4 years by now since I founded the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.
Thanks to the helps from many, so many in fact, people and friends from across the world,the establishment of the centre has been progress slowly but surely toward its goals.
These sun bears used to be kept as pets.
These sun bears used to be kept in small cages.
But luckily they were rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department and sent to Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.
In BSBCC, we these rescued sun bears have access to the forest enclosure, good forest enclosure in fact.
Our sincere thanks to Sabah Forestry Department for giving us this piece of forest for the sun bears.
These video clips were taken today on January 14, 2012.
These are how some of our rescued sun bears live in the centre.
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By WONG Siew Te, CEO and Founder, BSBCC
Debbie the latest rescued sun bear cub was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department's Wildlife Rescue Unit on Jan 6th and sent to Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre the following day. Unlike other sun bear cubs we have rescued in the past, Debbie was an aggressive and feisty little baby bear. Her aggressiveness can only mean that she was captured from the wild and keep in captivity for a relatively short period of time. She was still retained her "wildness", a skill that all wildlife must possess to survive, and not fully "domesticize". Her aggressiveness also mean that she was suffering from a lot of stress, fear to the new environment, and most of all, lost of her mother.
I went to attend the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Colloquium in Kota Kinabalu from Jan 8th to the 11th. During the three days of absence at BSBCC, I called Wai Pak on the daily basis to keep the latest update about Debbie. Because of her shyness and stress, her appetite was not as good as the rest of the rescued sun bears in the centre. Nonetheless, despite of her lack of interest to eat, she defecated normally. Normal defecation is a sign of good health - eat well, no gastrointestinal infection, and illness. Wai Pak told me that she was sleeping, more like hiding to be accurate, either in the basket or on the tree branch in her den most of the time. When the keeper and volunteers were around to clean the cage, she felt very uncomfortable, stressed, and came down to the ground and started pacing. Pacing is the most common behavior that sun bears do when they are under stress, and feel unsafe or threaten in captivity. She would bark at the keeper if they come too close from where she was. One other thing that Wai Pak told me was her eyes looked so sad. Both Wai Pak and me know what "sad eyes" mean to us after both of us taking care of many orphan sun bear cubs. They missed their mother very much, just like all of us do when we lost our mom or love ones. (sob) :(
I went back to BSBCC on the evening of 11th, day before yesterday, and saw what Wai Pak told me on the phone. Debbie was a sad orphan baby bear cub for an obvious reason. Yesterday I decided to spend some time with her. I want to teach her not to fear the new environment at BSBCC. I want her to gain trust on me and our keepers so that she feel safe and protected under our care and our presence, just like Fulung and Mary. I used a method, the only method that I used over the years to calm down a wild angry sun bear in a bear trap - honey!
Debbie responded to honey really well. Her love of honey is typical of how much sun bear resemble Winnie the Pooh bear. In fact, the Malay name of sun bear is Berung Madu, the honey bear. I first used a pole with smear of honey at one end so that the honey can reached her in her basket. She like it and licked it. I repeated this for few time. When she climbed down on the ground, I gave her the honey from the bottle at the same time calling her "Debbie Debbie my girl". After few sessions of honey exercise, I finally can called her down from her resting basket and she would licked the honey from the honey bottle and from my hand for the first time.
Today I did several sessions of calling and honey feeding. She responded really well. She moved more in her den to explore the new environment and chewed some decayed woods that we gave her. I can tell that she is much more comfortable today than yesterday. She can licked the honey from my hand without hesitation and I keep my all of my fingers and hand intact at the end of the day!
P/S: The two photos of Debbie was added on Jan 14th. Today she let me touch her little hairy hand!