Text, photos and videos by Jacquelyn Jill Jepiuh
Betung was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on the 21st August 2020. Like many of our rescued cubs, she had a similar story whereby a villager claimed to have found her walking alone in the forest and decided to hand raise her since April 2020. Sadly, she was not given proper care which resulted in chronic malnutrition causing her to have stunted growth. She estimated to be 6 months old but only weighed a mere 1.4kg. Whereas, a normal bear cub would easily weigh 10kgs at that age.
(More on Betung’s origins can be found on our Bear Talk Blog: https://www.bsbcc.org.my/bear-talk-blog/meet-betung)
Today, Betung is a healthy, active and a very naughty bear. Ever since she was able to be released into the forest enclosure, we will usually see her climbing the tallest trees or digging into logs searching for invertebrates. She enjoys having her alone time and will sometimes get annoyed with Kipaku but we will occasionally see the two getting along well and sharing.
Betung is the true definition of being a fighter. May she enjoy this new life of hers to the fullest, free from danger and free to explore! This is all thanks to the support of Hasanah Foundation, Kementerian Kewangann and Sime Darby Foundation. With this support, we are able to provide a brighter future for bears like Betung. The Bear Care Team will continue to do the best we can to let her have a better future and have the bear life she deserves.
Text By Seng Yen Wah
Photos By Jude Ailton George, Julamih bin Jainuddin & Seng Yen Wah
Our little Luna is growing up! Luna is a captive-born sun bear cub born on 20th May 2021 in BSBCC. Her mother, Bintang, is a seven year old adult female bear. On day 8, we noticed that Luna was less active than had previously been observed. After a quick check, we found Luna had a low body temperature, severe ear injuries and a skin infection. Due to this, we decided to separate Luna from her mother. We started to hand raise her and she only weighed 0.353kg at this time. After eleven months of day and night care, she had finally grown to weigh 18.85kg !
Luna has come a long way. We take Luna for a walk in the forest every day, where she learns and acquires skills. Luna shows her bear instinct and great potential like a wild sun bear. At the same time, Luna also has a deep bond with her surrogate mothers (cub keepers). And hence, we started introducing Kipaku, Itam, Betung, and Kukuton to Luna, as they could be her companions later. In the wild, sun bears are mainly solitary. However, integration can encourage positive behaviour in bears as they learn from each other.
It was not easy for Luna because that was the first time Luna had met other bears. Kipaku, Itam and Betung are sub adult bears. But three of them have different personalities. As a result, their friendship turned into a different outcome.
Kipaku is the youngest male sun bear in BSBCC. He is a playful and cheeky bear. He likes to wrestle with others, and he always wins with his size and weight.
When Kipaku first saw Luna, he was full of curiosity and chased after Luna. But his excess passion makes Luna feel he is rough which Luna does not like. When Kipaku plays with her and she will continue growling and huffing. Kipaku would initiate a play fight with her by sniffing, chasing, soft biting her but she cannot stand any of them. So there is always a chase and a run happens every time they meet.
Itam is the largest but friendliest bear in the group. When we first started integrating Luna and Itam, Itam showed her interest in getting to know little Luna and was always looking for and sniffing her. She approached Luna tenderly.
However, Luna began to greet Itam, pawing at Itam's face several times. But Itam remained patient and tried to get close to her. But Luna is too shy and ran around to avoid Itam.
Betung is a curious and observant bear. She likes to observe what is happening around her. But Betung is not keen on playing with others. So when she met Luna, she just came over and sniffed her, then she started to explore the environment and enrichment.
As a summary of the story of Luna making new friends, Luna prefers to be alone. She does not mind being around others, but it is okay to leave her alone. Her friends are getting to know her more and more, so they will give her space, and carry on with their own businesses. Sometimes they also get naughty with Luna. When Luna does not want to put up with that, she would warn them and stay away from them. Luna may need more time to make new friends. Perhaps, one day she can become good friends with them.
As well as Luna making friends with Kipaku, Itam and Betung,Kukuton also joined the group. Here is the story about Kukuton. Kukuton is a seven years old adult male bear. From 2015 to 2019, he was kept as a house pet in Kampung Taginambur, Jalan Belud, Ranau in Kota Belud. The owner claimed that she wanted to save Kukuton from being sold, and she had no intention of keeping him as a pet, but, as she was busy with her family, it took her four years to hand Kukuton over to the authorities. During that time, Kukuton was confined in a small cage. He was officially handed over to SWD on 13 September 2019. She paid the fine two years later when she admitted the offence under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 and was fined RM15,000 rather than be jailed for four months. Kukuton arrived at the BSBCC on 8 January 2022. Compared to his age, his body is small. He weighs just 18kg. The prolonged captivity has led to Kukuton exhibiting self-inflicted stereotypic behaviour. Integration is best for Kukuton to help reduce this negative behaviour. This is because the best enrichment of a bear is another bear.
Kukuton has shown a positive side in making new friends. He was usually timid and stayed in the corner, but he bravely took a step to get closer to others in the integration. He approached the others slowly and carefully. Kukuton can often be seen sniffing the others secretly. He usually starts to play fight with others. But the way he plays is rough, and only Kipaku could hold on. Sometimes, Itam and Betung also join the fight. As the days passed, the others slowly embraced him. And now, he seems to get along just fine with everyone else.
So lovely to see Luna and Kukuton finally have a group of companions. Luna and Kukuton can now be seen wandering around in the exercise pen with Itam, Kipaku, Betung. Their integration is fantastic. Now, they share their historical moment! We hope they will grow and learn all together. They are not too far from the next stage of the rehabilitation programme in the bear house. They are absolutely looking forward to moving to the bear house soon and seeing the forest again!
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.
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!
Day 169: Pill millipede! How yummy does this look?
Did you know – Sun bears are the smallest members of the bear family. Sun bears are opportunistic omnivores which means they eat a variety of fruits, plants, figs, insects, and even honey! Sourcing wild forest food is important so the rescued sun bears can become accustomed to a variety of food sources that they can forage in the forest.
Little Betung is curious and wondered how pill millipede taste like?
Day 166: A guardian of this little bear!
She is one of the survivors of the illegal house pet whom lost her mother since in young age. Sun bear cubs remain dependent on their mother for 2 to 3 years. She was weak and vulnerable and in desperate need of our help. After 5 months of the rehabilitation process, Little Betung is fulfilled in the forest home! She enjoys learning the life in the forest - enjoyment of lives with many small pleasures!
Slowly, she realized that nothing bad was going to happen to her anymore. She is now a happy, well-adjusted bear cub.
She requires lifelong care and deserves a future that will be a bright one. To make her dream a reality –buy a special gift (nutritious food, health care, enrichment treats & love). Please be a guardian of this little Betung! You are made a world of difference for her!
To buy a GIFT - https://www.bsbcc.org.my/gifts-with-meaning.html
Day 134: The best enrichment of a bear always is another bear!
Most of the rescued bear in BSBCC is being separated from the mother bear and kept as a pet, which causing they spend most of the time having contact with human (direct or non-direct) in the unnatural environment. After living alone in a cage, on 25th December 2020, Little Betung finally free from trauma and now has made new bear friends for the first time in her life.
Through integration, it will help to change these bears' lives and provide them with more physical and mental stimulation, reduce stress, and allow them to learn vital survival skills. Rescued bears learning from each other (bear copying bear behaviour) facilitate the rehabilitation process in our centre - building up their confidence for stepping out again into the forest floor, climbing trees, and self-defense.
Interactions between Betung, Kipaku, and Itam have shown to be positive. Itam & Kipaku help her adjust to her new life and learn how to be a bear again. They enjoy playing, exploring, and making us fall in love with their beautiful smiles!
Video by Chiew Lin May
Day 108: It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas 🎅
"Dear Santa, I love having a little cozy forest filled with branches, honey bees, tall trees, and termites! I am so excited for Christmas!” –Little Betung
It is going to be her first Christmas!
Text & Photos by Chiew Lin May
Wildlife traffickers are breaking away at the dwindling populations of Sun bears that have pushed these smallest bears to the brink of extinction. Keeping a sun bear as a pet is illegal in Malaysia. Little Betung is one of the victims of illegal pet possession. She was rescued at the age of 5 months old. She had been found by a villager’s dog in an orchard at Kampung Betung, Ranau district in April 2020 and was kept in a tiny chicken mesh cage – in unfamiliar surroundings with no one to comfort her. She would have spent the rest of her life behind metal bars. During the rescue, she had severe malnutrition, was growth stunted, weak, and had a skin problem. She weighed just 1.4kg.
Thanks to the Wildlife Rescue Unit of Sabah Wildlife Department, Betung was saved and brought to a new home at BSBCC. Such a young cub needs special attention since she survives the trauma of being snatched from her mother. We did not give up and knew that a miracle will come to bring this bear back to being a healthy bear. Her appetite has come roaring back as well. Her balanced diet consists of a combination of milk, fruits, vegetables and vitamins. With her nutritious diet, she not only gains weight, her hair is also starting to grow! She now weighs 7.45kg. The chart below shows the growth curve of Betung as a cub (updated 01 December 2020). A real reward, slowly she began to make good progress and a steady recovery. She grows sweeter every day and is becoming more energetic and active.
On September 5th 2020, she is relearning to be a wild bear – getting a second chance at life!
She lacks the skills to survive in the forest because she was separated from her mother when she was far too young. During the ‘walk bear cub’, her surrogate mother will guide Betung during the development stages and teach her how to survive in the wild. Betung learns how to do and practice every day.
Betung now lives a free and happy life like she would have had in the wild. 3 months later, she has made excellent progress in the forest. Little Betung will use her strong claws to dig into soil to search for tasty snacks such as the trace elements or decayed logs in search of termites. She has plenty of opportunities to forage naturally. She is always enthusiastic about exploring new things around the forest and will lead us the way through her favourite trees! She is picking out some favourite spots. She shows to us she is an arboreal bear! She loves climbing tall trees and travelling through the lianas. She finds the bigger trees to hug! This will help strengthen her muscles. She looks incredibly excited. She is perfectly suited to life in the forest! Sometimes she will be cheeky towards her surrogate mothers. She loves blind play fighting, running or rolling about on the forest floor! She keeps up her adventurous and playful behaviour.
We will let the photos speak for themselves!
Throughout her life, Betung has only known a world of trauma. Love and patient care has given Little Betung the confidence and bravery she needs. The round-the-clock care will help her to survive from the trauma she has been through. She has realised she is safe and no one can hurt her again. The transformation we have seen in Little Betung has been simply amazing! Go Betung Go!
It will be a long road to recovery and she is slowly putting her past behind her. We all need to do everything we can to keep them safe. Little Betung can be adopted here: https://www.bsbcc.org.my/share-bear-adoption-thanksgiving-and-christmas-special-promotion.html
Video by Chiew Lin May
Day 68: Betung growing up! Every sun bear has a different story. She has been deprived of a suitable living in the forest, an appropriate diet, and has been unable to behave as she would in the wild. She needs to go through a long rehabilitation process to restore her wild nature and recover where she had been stolen from. It is a tragedy to find a sun bear cub without its mother.
Bark bark hooray! It was such a delight to see her overcome her obstacles. She is simply AMAZING! Fortunately, she has shown tremendous growth in the last two months. She is a strong little bear and no doubt she made stronger by the love she has all around her! Thank you for your kindness, support, and love for Little Betung.
Her smile will definitely brighten up your day today! Help us give Betung the life she deserves. Please adopt Little Betung today at https://www.bsbcc.org.my/share-bear-a... ! With love and tender care, Betung soon becomes a strong little bear.
Please help share Little Betung’s story and love with the world!