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!
Text & photos by Seng Yen Wah
The story begins from...
One day, a person found a bear cub alone in the forest at Kg. Kipaku, Tambunan. He was just three months old. The person sent him to Lok Kawi Wildlife Park on the 12th of April, 2018 and he arrived at BSBCC on the 22nd of January, 2019. This cub was named Joe. When he arrived he was in a healthy condition. He is four years old now.
Due to the long periods of being kept in captivity, Joe appeared tame and attached to humans. He suckles his hind paws when he requires attention and does it more frequently when he sees humans. When kept in captivity, wild animals cannot behave as they do in the wild, leading them to develop negative stereotype behaviour.
Fortunately, Joe meet Logan and Romolina and they grew up together. This has been important for Joe to help him recover from trauma, put his past behind him and reduce his stereotype behaviour. From the beginning, Joe was a shy bear. Logan is the playful bear who always takes the initiative to play fight with Joe. Once they start to play, they can be playing non-stop! Compared with Logan, Romolina seems less interested in joining their play. Sometimes she will play too, and it is entirely up to Romolina. Integrating with Logan and Romolina enriched Joe’s life. He is no longer alone and now has friends! Joe has become open and clear. He knows how to make friends with others. Now he takes the initiative to play fight with his playmates. Joe has a good personality bear and is always tolerant of others.
On the 30th of April, 2019, Joe took his first step into the forest with Logan and Romolina. It was the first time Joe saw the forest outside. He was hesitant and afraid to go out. After the keepers encouraged him with treats he slowly explored the forest. He has adapted well to his forest home and has made good progress slowly learning and developing the skills needed for survival in the wild. Joe seems to know how to enjoy the forest’s life. He spends most of his day foraging. He searches every corner of the forest so that he never misses out on any food. After being busy foraging, he will choose a place to rest and sunbathe! Any place will become his favourite place to sunbathe. He likes to cover up his face when he rests. Even though he is covering his face you still can easily spot him!!
It is heartwarming to see Joe is improving every day. He is always bright and alert. With his kind character and innocent eyes, Joe can easily grab your heart. We hope Joe will gain more skills in the forest and become like a wild bear.
Text by Anastasia Ting Jia Lei
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
He peeked out of the door which separated the brightness of the greenery outside from the dim concrete walls within. After a few moments of hesitation, Chin made up her mind to leave her friend behind and pass through the door into the daylight, where she could explore around, bask under the sun, climb trees, and just enjoy her life. Amaco stared after her, sniffing curiously. Intrigued yet daunted by the world beyond the concrete walls he was used to, he had no intention to leave his comfort zone.
The guillotine door with rust spots slid down, blocking his view and plunging him back into the gloom he was familiar with. He turned away as loneliness engulfed him. Unsure what to do, he wandered to his usual spot and plopped down clumsily.
Time for a nap.
I watched this scene before me with mixed feelings. Amaco, a 29 years old Bornean Sun Bear, has never set foot in a forest where he belongs, and this is all because of humans' wrongdoings. After 18 years of being caged up in Tamaco Plantation, he has grown accustomed to the comfort within metal bars and dares not venture out into the forest. Pity welled up within me. How I wished I could do something to help him!
Then, an idea popped into my mind. If he wouldn't go into the forest enclosure, why don't I bring the forest to him? With that thought in mind, I strode up to my buddy, David Tahir, and shared my project idea with him.
I was warned, though, that Chin would destroy all the plants I add to Amaco's cage as they often share the same cage. Nonetheless, I was quite stubborn. I researched and asked around for the types of plants suitable for a dim cage like Amaco's. For example, fishtail palms, begonias, mosses, etc. Eventually, I settled on bird's nest ferns as they are easy to find, non-poisonous, low-light tolerant, and moisture-loving.
Mizuno, upon hearing about my plan, said, "Jom!" And just like that, my buddy and I followed him out of the bear house, through the territory of Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center, and down a long stretch of road to reach a plantation where ferns hung abundantly from the palm trees. We harvested several ferns and carried them back to the bear house.
Seeing my indecisiveness regarding how to plant the ferns, Roger guided me and helped me tie the ferns to logs. Two weeks before the end of my internship at BSBCC, I asked for the keepers' help to 'install' the ferns in Amaco's cage.
When we were done, I took out the foul-smelling frog juice (a type of fish bait) and lathered the areas around the ferns with it. As Amaco LOVES that juice, I was hoping that he would associate the ferns with it and grow to like the ferns.
But things went a little differently than expected.
Unable to reach the frog juice on the cage bar, Amaco lost his temper. With an annoyed grunt, he reached out his forelimb, and with a powerful tug, he wrenched the fern away from the wood.
The next day, to my delight, Pradeep shared with me that Amaco cradled the leaves of the fern as he slumbered at night! Then, I thought, why not just provide him with more ferns to keep him entertained and happy?
Again, Mizuno picked up a knife and led us back to the plantation for another fern-hunt. We found a gigantic fern, which Mizuno harvested with some difficulties. When we added the fern to Amaco's cage, he sniffed and clawed at the fern, searching for ants hiding within its roots.
Although planting the ferns in the cage for the long term would be ideal, it is quite an impossible task. Nevertheless, I am glad that this enrichment had given Amaco a good time, however short it lasted.
Text by Anastasia Ting Jia Lei
Photos by Anastasia Ting Jia Lei & Seng Yen Wah
I was often met with the question, “Why would you apply for an internship at a place where you won’t be paid?” I can only say I have no regrets at all. The experience I gained from BSBCC was invaluable and immeasurable in monetary form. I gained skills such as setting up camp and foraging for termites in the forest; I was able to be up close and personal with the bears during their health checks; I learned more about the zoological behaviors of sun bears; etc. Working with these bears was a dream come true for me. I might not be allowed to interact with these amazing creatures, but just being in their presence fulfilled me. Contributing to wildlife conservation is a greatly meaningful deed, which I am glad to have partaken in.
Some might judge the way this center is run, but there rarely is anyone who can achieve what Dr. Wong and his staff have achieved. It is easy to criticize from an outsider’s viewpoint when no one other than the BSBCC staff truly understands the difficulty the center is facing. A little less judgment, and a little more support, can greatly reduce the worries burdening the center. What BSBCC has done and is doing, is amazing and inspiring, especially in a country where limited attention and resources are allocated to wildlife conservation.
Honestly, the first time Dr. Wong called me into his office for a talk session, I was extremely shocked. I had initially thought of him as a busy and distant person, being the CEO of a wildlife conservation center. On the contrary, he is surprisingly friendly and engaging. He welcomes anyone with a passion for wildlife conservation and helps to nurture their love for wildlife. He provided me with the opportunity to learn from him and encouraged me to pursue my passion in the conservation field, despite my limited experience in this field. For that, I am immensely grateful.
As someone socially awkward, I cannot be more grateful to Adneen and Roger for brightening up my days at BSBCC, although I might be a pain in the neck at times. I greatly appreciate Dr. Boon’s, Seng Yen Wah’s, and Pradeep’s patient replies to my incessant questions, even though some of my inquiries might have been ill-thought-out. I would also like to extend my gratitude to David, and Mizuno, who gave me guidance throughout my internship. And thank you, Ivan, Oliver, Jude, and other BSBCC staff for assisting me whenever I needed help.
Amid my upcoming graduation and job search, my future is full of uncertainties. But one thing’s for sure ── I will be back to volunteer.
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
After Sunbearo and Loki were reintroduced into the wild in January of last year, we are happy to announce that we have successfully released Wawa, a six-year-old adult female sun bear, back into the wild on February 26, 2022. She is the 11th bear to be reintroduced into the wild by the BSBCC.
Wawa arrived at the BSBCC on the 18th of March, 2016. When she arrived at the BSBCC she was just four months old. She was spotted by the Forest Management Unit (FMU) 16, Pinangah, Telupid District. At that time, when the officer brought her to the FMU, she appeared weak. The next day, they surrendered Wawa to the Sabah Wildlife Department. After that, she was sent to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo and then to the BSBCC.
Ideally, the bear cub will stay with their mother until two to three years old. However, Wawa was found alone, without her mother by her side. She suffered from the loss of her mother. Due to emotional trauma, Wawa was afraid of her new environment. She would become grumpy and start growling. She felt safer and prefered to stay in the den rather than out in the forest.
For Wawa to gain confidence, her keepers provided her with different natural structural enrichments, in a larger exercise den, to enrich her daily life and encourage her natural bear behaviour. Every day she practised her “wild bear skills” such as digging, foraging and climbing. These skills are essential for survival in the wild. Wawa slowly adapted to her new surroundings.
On 17th November 2016, Wawa took her first and brave step out onto the ground in the forest enclosure. Once she touched the ground, she could not wait to explore everything inside the forest enclosure. She has since proven that she is an explorer! She has excellent climbing skills and is one of the most adventurous and outgoing bears in the BSBCC. She is superb at exploring and investigating both the enrichment and the environment. She explores, plays, climbs and rests in the forest. Wawa is vigilant. She is aware of her surroundings. When a stranger is gradually approaching her, she will give a warning bark or even chase them away. She gains strength, confidence and develops her independence. After six years of rehabilitation in BSBCC, she now has the opportunity to live in the wild again!
On 25th February 2022, our resident veterinarian, Dr Yeoh Boon Nie, assisted by the bear care team, conducted a final check-up on Wawa. After that, we transferred Wawa to a translocation cage, and her keeper cared for her wellbeing by closely monitoring from sedation to recovery. At 11.55pm in the midnight, the night sky was clear. The team loaded the cage onto a vehicle. Everything was ready! The bear release team and Wawa were set off for the forest reserves.
After few hours drive, we finally arrived. The sky was still dark. Wawa looked alert in the cage. The team wait for the sky to turn bright. The team then inspected the release site and made final preparations. When everything was ready, the moment finally came. Once the door opened at 6.29 am, Wawa ran out from the cage and soon she disappeared into the deep forest. It was an emotional moment to see her being released into the wild. The real freedom now belongs to Wawa. We hope she enjoys her new adventure in the wild. Her movement will be monitored via satellite collar by the BSBCC team. Stay wild, Wawa!
Last but not least, the BSBCC wants to thank the Sabah Forestry Department, the Sabah Wildlife Department, Yayasan Hasanah, Yayasan Sime Darby and everyone who has been following and supporting us. We can't do it without you. The pandemic covid-19 has affected our centre and caused a huge impact on our income from ecotourism and this is expected to last much longer. Your help will allow us to sustain our cause to promote sun bear conservation in Borneo through animal welfare, conservation, rehabilitation, education and research, giving captured sun bears a better home and restoring their right to live in the wild. Your support will make a difference in the life of the sun bear! Every little bit counts! For more information, please visit our website at: https://www.bsbcc.org.my/index.html.
Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Four years ago, the 57th bear to be rescued, Logan,arrived at the BSBCC. Logan was found at Lokan River, Kulu-Kulu Village, Sandakan, Sabah. During the rescue operation, the first thing that caught our eyes was his missing thumb and deformed front paw. His innocent eyes captured our heart immediately. He was just four months old. The owner reported that Logan used to stay with his mother on the estate. However, one day,his mother left him behind when they were crossing a river. The owner realized that Logan was injured. His front paw was hairless and covered in maggots. The owner took Logan and kept him till he recovered from the maggot wounds. On the 19th of May, 2018, Logan was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and sent to the BSBCC on the same day.
Logan is one of the bear cubs that concerned us the most. We always worried that his deformed paw may affect him as an adult in the forest as the sun bear's sickled, hard and sharp claws are an essential tool for climbing. Moreover, climbing is one of the bear's essential forest skills. However, sad to say, we found Logan had difficulty in climbing. But he shows us that he is a brave and robust bear.He always keeps trying. Even though he gets tired quickly and sometimes falls, he still enjoys every opportunity he gets to climb. Now, he is an expert climber.He may not climb as high as other bears, but he still likes to spend his time in the trees. He likes to rest on the trees and see the different views of the forests.
Logan is a playful and active bear. He is the one who initiates play fights most of the time. Logan mixes easily with other bears. He loves to venture into the forest with his bear pals. Although sometimes others reject Logan's invitation to play fight, he still stays beside them. He is a carefree bear and withstands other’s temper and attitude. He is always kinds to others.
When Logan is alone, he has no worries. He knows how to enjoy his own way.
Logan loves food and is not fussy about food. Whilst in the forest in the afternoons he is always busy looking snacks of small invertebrates , such as termites, ants, and pill millipedes. We are happy to see his mouth is full, and his belly is round. Although now he has become chubby!!
Logan has taught us a lot. Never give up! If you persist, miracles await you. After four years of rehabilitation at the BSBCC, Logan has grown and become the bravest bear that you have ever seen! He is still learning and improving every day. We have high hopes that he will return to the forest and become wild someday. Logan definitely deserves a second chance and a better life!
Text by Koh Jieh Long
Photos by Mohd Nur Adneen Bin Anuar & Seng Yen Wah
I paid for the ticket, passed through the gallery, walked up a flight of stairs, was greeted by a member of staff before I saw the sun bears in their forest enclosure; everything made me feel welcomed on my first visit to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). I took photos of the sun bears eating their “third feeding” of the day, while Max, from the ticketing staff, set up a spotting scope that’s pointed directly at one of the sun bears’ favourite treats in the wild – “sarang kelulut” or stingless bee’s nest. I felt drawn to this place, even before the entrance to the BSBCC – on the wooden walkway leading to the ticket counter/shop, birds were singing, orangutans making nests, Prevost’s squirrels chasing one another… What if I could volunteer here?
I knew BSBCC has a volunteer program; I had been wanting to experience it for a long time. This is an internationally recognised sun bear rehab facility that is established enough to allow tourists to visit; a non-governmental wildlife sanctuary capable of self sustainment without compromising the welfare of their captive animals. On top of that, it has released multiple sun bears to the wilderness of the Tabin Wildlife Reserve which is truly a rare case in Malaysia. Naturally, I am curious of how they make it this far and still standing amidst the Covid pandemic?
I walked through the gallery to knock on the door to the BSBCC office. I asked the person answering the door: “can I talk to someone about your volunteer program?”. I was told to wait and after a few minutes, a familiar face showed up; it’s the same face I have been seeing on social media and online webinars, with the name that I have been hearing from the other wildlife conservationists. Dr.Wong and I chatted for a bit – after I pulled back my hand that was meant for an awkward handshake but got rejected (because Covid).
Not long after, I found myself cleaning cages in the bear house, and preparing meals and enrichments for Julaini, Romolina, Simone, Kudat, Along, Dodop, Ronnie Boy…I soon found out that Dr.Wong is very passionate and will always carve out his time and space to talk to people about nature, about sun bears, wildlife conservation, life…, and not sure if it’s just with me – about whether I have a girlfriend (x 5). I liked talking to him, and I’m sure many young people would agree feeling inspired after a conversation. My respect for Dr.Wong grew after finishing “Saving Sun Bears” – Dr.Wong’s biography authored by Sarah Pye. The book develops the innocent childhood of little Wong who just liked animals, to a rough, thankless journey in wildlife conservation where people like Dr.Wong have to do A LOT of “balancing” in decision making, especially when you are in the position of a CEO or the director of an organisation.
When Dr.Boon designs the sun bears’ daily food intake and dietary supplements, she’s trying to achieve balance between BSBCC’s budget and 45 sun bears’ nutritional needs; when Yen Wah walks baby Luna in the bushes, she’s seeking balance between Luna’s safety and wild instincts; when Pradeep plans feeding time and location, he’s balancing sun bear welfare and visibility for the tourists; and when Mizuno prepares his team to retrieve GPS collars dropped by the released sun bears in the deep forest of Tabin, he makes sure he knows the strengths and weaknesses of his team members.
When Dr.Wong makes decisions though, I can only imagine it must be similar to how the Chinese acrobat balances ten spinning plates at the end of each long stick while someone else does a headstand on top of his head. “Things will never be perfect, and we need to accept that”, I have learnt. We don’t always get our way. I just need to practice being grateful for the things that I have, starting by thanking BSBCC for the opportunity to learn.
In cage 7, Nano is sleeping on a tyre swing that’s about 2/3 his size. Other bears that have played with the tyre swing struggled to keep their balance; they would eventually get off the swing by climbing on to the ceiling mesh where the ropes of the swing are attached. Nano found his balance on that swing, and so he gets to enjoy resting comfortably at some height away from the cement floor of his cage; the same way sun bears find their balance in a tree, where they construct their nests and rest. Trees sway in the wind, balance points shift, how do we keep the balance and rest in comfort?
Now back to my own balance in life.
Koh Jieh Long
Not gonna have a girlfriend.
Written by Pradeep Aggi Gunasegaran
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Ronnie or also known as Ronnie Boy is one of the forty-three residents Bornean Sun Bears at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). On the eventful night of 10th of March 2014, Ronnie Boy was among the five sun bears that were involved with the transfer activity from Lok Kawi Wildlife Park to BSBCC. While the history of Ronnie Boy ending up with human beings is unknown, he spent approximately eight years of his life at a resort in Tawau with Diana, another rescued sun bear at BSBCC. The both of them spent the early part of their lives in a small concrete floored cage as they were exhibited to the resort’s visitors. The owner of the resort then decided to hand over both Ronnie Boy and Diana to Sabah Wildlife Department in July 2013 and they were housed in Lok Kawi Wildlife Park for slightly more than seven months before the transfer activity was carried out.
Ronnie Boy was assumed to be eight years of age and he also appeared to be a physically healthy and muscular adult male Bornean Sun Bear. However, he was still subjected to a health check upon his arrival at BSBCC and he was diagnosed with a heart condition by the veterinarian. Due to that, extra care is given to ensure that Ronnie Boy gets the best diet possible under BSBCC’s care. He went from just merely eating fruits and rice to being fed with a variety of food from fruits, vegetable, egg, and many more to keep him healthy. Today, Ronnie Boy is 15 years of age, still healthy, muscular and looking charming with his pair of blue eyes.
Throughout the years of being under the care of BSBCC, Ronnie Boy has always been a calm adult male bear. Sun bears are solitary individuals in nature but he does not seem to be unfazed by the sight of other male bears nearby. He often spends his time relaxing in his den by sitting on the edge of the basket provided, clinging on to the bars with his forelimbs while resting his head against one of his forelimbs. Besides the basket, Ronnie Boy is also hooked on hammocks. He would lie down in his beloved hammock with his head resting on the edge. In that position, he would just observe keepers and volunteers who happen to walk pass by his den. While he is always in state of tranquility, he gets excited when environmental enrichment is provided to him. He does not get frustrated if the environmental enrichment is complex instead he would spends hours interacting with it.
Although Ronnie Boy is always calm in the bear house, he does have an issue that troubles him. For years, the bear care team has been trying to release Ronnie Boy into the forest but it has not been fruitful. Ronnie Boy is often afraid to take the steps out of the guillotine door into the forest enclosures. He is fearful of the outside world probably due to the condition he has been living in since young where he has only grown up to know concrete flooring and metal bars as his safe haven. We may be heading into the blue but for as long that Ronnie Boy is under the care of BSBCC, efforts will carried out for him to some day have his paws feeling the earth and grass while his body is soaked under the sunshine and rain. We hope that some day, Ronnie Boy will experience the world like any other wild Bornean Sun Bear!
Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
It’s a BIG day! Luna, our captive born sun bear cub is six months old today!
Luna was born on the 20th of May, 2021. She is the daughter of Bintang (Rescued Bear 39). Bintang took good care of Luna since she was born. However, on her eighth day, the keepers noticed Luna was not as active as before. She had a low body temperature and severe injuries to her ears and skin infections. Due to Luna's poor health, we made the difficult decision to separate Luna from her mother. At that time, she only weighed 353gms and was in need of urgent medical attention. Luna survived many critical moments when she was placed in the oxygen chamber several times. It was not easy for Luna's tiny body to get through all of this. She did well. After one month of treatment, her wounds healed. Unfortunately, she lost both of her external ears.
Luna is unique and different from other sun bears as she grows in a short, sleek, grey coat. But this doesn’t affect her prettiness. As Luna grows, her fur gets darker.
It is awesome to watch Luna growing up by hand-raising her from her day nine. Bringing Luna to the forest walk is a routine that allows her to learn forest skills. Every day, Luna walks into the forest happily, hops around, unable to conceal her excitement. It seems that she cannot wait for her daily forest adventure. From the beginning, Luna follows behind, and now, she will lead you to the path she wants to explore. She likes to stop and explore along the way! Luna has soil eating behaviour. She will dig into the soil and taste it. Luna loves to explore the forest by digging into the soil, hugging the trees, sniffing the forest floor, foraging for ants and letting the breeze embrace her.
To encourage Luna to climb, the her keeper will climb trees with her. Slowly, she shows her skills as she grips the trees with her sharp claws, and now she can climb up a tree to more than seven meters high! In the forest, Luna would pick her favourite trees to explore. She climbs up the trees to the canopy using liana, by digging and tearing them. Sometimes she climbs and crosses to another tree too! But Luna seldom spends time resting in the trees.
At the end of the forest walk, the keepers will take her to the stream. At first, Luna was a little uncertain and nervous as she crossed the stream. She follows the stream at the side, and then she goes slowly further into the stream with her keeper. If Luna thinks the water is too deep for her, she will step back. She enjoys the water, but she always checks where is her keeper first so she can go further! Sometimes she does not want to play in the water and stays at the side of the stream and digs the soil or climbs up a tree.
Luna is a gentle yet playful bear cub. Her keeper provides her with different types of enrichment in her den to encourage her natural bear behaviour and fill her day. Luna is a contented bear cub. She loves to try everything new! However, when she sees the new enrichment for the first time, she will remain alert, and she will paw it to make sure the enrichment is fine and then explore it. Luna knows how to make good use of her time. A piece of deadwood can get her through a day! Luna likes to play with towels, and she will bring the towel to where she wants to sleep. When Luna is scared by a noise, she will hide in the basket or stay behind, but she will look around and check the surroundings.
Time passed, Luna is six months old today. Luna is growing and learning the skills in the forest. She still has a long way to go, but it’s magical experience to see her being surprised and delighted to transform and behave as a wild sun bear. If you want to share your love for Luna, you can adopt her in our share bear adoption through our website, https://www.bsbcc.org.my/share-bear-adoption-thanksgiving-and-christmas-2021.html. You can help make a better future for Luna’s life!
Text by Pradeep Aggi Gunasegaran
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Rescued Bear Number 56 which goes by the name Soo maybe be well known among the loyal supporters of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) but for those of you who are new to our cause, here is a little flashback to the beginning of Soo’s life. The details that were provided to us spoke briefly about Soo being traded in a market at Sook, Keningau in the year of 2015. She was purchased by her owner for RM 350 and then lived as pet for two years in the interior division of Sabah. In 2017, Sabah Wildlife Department rescued Soo and handed her over to BSBCC when she was already at the age of three years old. There is no doubt that Soo’s mother would have been killed for her to be sold in a market. A mother bear would always try her best to protect her cub just as like it was potrait in a recent trending news (June 2021) which mentioned that a young American woman pushes off a brown bear to save her dogs. If you would have seen the entire CCTV footage, you would notice that the brown bear had two cubs and the mother bear became defensive when the dogs started barking frantically.
Like any other sun bears that end in BSBCC, Soo also underwent a health check upon arrival. However, unlike many sun bears which arrive in poor health conditions, Soo’s blood work indicated that she was healthy. While her general health was in order, Soo was not adjusting well to the surrounding. She was always in heightened alert state as keeper were around in the day. She would only eat her food and play with environmental enrichment after the keepers leave at the end of the day. The changes to her behaviour were subtle as she would aggressively start pacing if there is the slightest form of stressor such a single loud noise. As her behaviour slowly improved, it was decided that Soo’s rehabilitation process would take a positive turn by integrating her with Sika, Kina, BJ; three young sun bears and Diana; our adult female sun bear. At the beginning of the integration, Soo was apprehensive and confused at time when it came to interacting with the other bears. Although, it was difficult for her in the beginning, she eventually got along with all the other sun bears and she was able to eat, play and sleep together with them. Soo remained vigilant to the presence of keepers but having other sun bears around her did allow her to be more relaxed in comparison to her early life as a solitary bear since arriving at BSBCC.
After staying at BSBCC’s quarantine section for few years, Soo was transferred to bear house with her friends Sika, Kina and BJ in 2020. It was another stressful yet a necessary process that had to be endured by Soo in her rehabilitation program. This time around, there were more sun bears around where she could either see them or catch their smell and of course, there were also more keepers and volunteers around as well. Soo spent her first week clinging to the top of the den, refusing to shift dens for cleaning to be done or even coming down to take her food as long as she knew that keepers were still in the bear house even if they were not standing in front of her. Once she settled down in bear house, the next step in her rehabilitation process was undergoing fence training. Surprisingly, Soo was first to pass fence training among her friend. As soon as Sika, Kina and BJ passed their fence training, all of them were released into Pen G, a small forest enclosure. This time around the transition from a small enclosed space; which was very familiar to her to a large open space was tremendously difficult for Soo.
After a few of month, Soo did not touch the soil in Pen G and it was decided that her entire group would be shifted to Pen K as an effort to get Soo living her life as a wild sun bear. When Soo, Sika, Kina, and BJ were released into Pen K, the initial results were similar as Soo refused to step down to venture into the forest while the others were quick the enjoy the much bigger forest enclosure. It also took Soo few month before she gathered the courage to step on the concrete flooring of Pen K, a flooring that is much familiar to a sun bear like Soo. After a combine of seven months, the bear care unit spotted Soo venturing into the forest enclosure. Although she was brave enough to indulge herself with nature, by afternoon, Soo would be back to bear house, on the all too familiar concrete flooring, waiting for the keepers to bring her back into the bear house later in the evening. In March 2021, Soo and her friends were once again shifted to Pen G as per the rotational practice under BSBCC. Unfortunately, the cycle repeats itself for Soo as she has yet to set her paw onto the ground of Pen G at this point of writing.
The rehabilitation process undergone by Soo with BSBCC has been a long and slow process. The reaction that Soo has been giving throughout the process clearly indicates that she is a traumatised Bornean Sun Bear. The actions of us, the human-beings have robbed her the essence of living her life as a sun bear; especially when she was a mere cub which could have lived peacefully with her mother for at least two years, learning the way of a sun bear.
Sun bears are a totally protected species, protected by the law in Sabah. It is illegal to hunt, to be kept as a possession or to be involved in any activity that could cause harm to a sun bear. Sun bear cubs are cute but it is also a reason for the depleting population of sun bears in the wild and the growing cubs end up having a traumatising lives just like Soo’s. Please say no to illegal wildlife trade and if you happen to see any sun bears being sold, you can alert the Sabah Wildlife Department or BSBCC.
As for Soo, BSBCC would continuously put in the effort to aid her with the rehabilitation program. We would also like to convey our appreciation to Perbadanan Insurans Deposit Malaysia (PIDM) who is adopting Soo under the My Bear Adoption Programme which further aids in our cause to give a second chance to the rescued Bornean Sun Bears in Sabah.