Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Cerah and Jelita are best bear friends. They always spend time together. They came to BSBCC from Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo in June 2007. Since they are inseparable people are always confused, who is Cerah and who is Jelita?
Cerah is an 11 year old adult female bear. Cerah means bright in Malay. She was just 8 months old when she arrived. Cerah has a fierce face due to her wrinkles. But just because she looks aggressive doesn’t mean she is. She is intelligent, cool, and curious. She is very cautious about strangers and prefers to keep her distance. She is happy in nature, preferring to spend time in the trees than on the ground.
Jelita is a 12 year old adult female bear. Jelita means beautiful in Malay and she is really beautiful. People will fall in love with her lovely eyes. She is the dominant one in the friendship, Cerah will follow her around whilst they roam, forage and climb. Jelita has a beautiful chest mark which splits like a wishbone on her right side.
In 2010, Cerah and Jelita moved from old bear house (now quarantine) to bear house 1. In the same year, they were reintroduced to a forest enclosure named Pen D. Before they could be released back to the forest, they had to pass the fence training. Fence training is for the bears to know that if they get too close to the hot wire or they try to climb on the fence they could get zapped by the electric fence. This is used to prevent them escaping from the forest enclosure.
In August 2015, Cerah and Jelita moved again from bear house 1 to bear house 2 and they were introduced to a new forest enclosure, Pen K. In order to encourage them going out from the bear den, their favourite foods such as banana, watermelon, honeydew, and of course HONEY will be scattered around the ramp and on the forest floor. Once the guillotine door opened, they get attracted by the delicious foods but they are hesitant about the new environment. So, they will try to stretch as much as their body out to the ramp and try to grab the fruits but still keeping their hind legs in the den so that they feel safer. After nearly a week, Cerah finally stepped out to the forest. And, Cerah was the first bear to step out in the forest.
Cerah and Jelita display their wild behaviour. They love spending time in the forest enclosure. Sometimes they like to stay in the forest overnight as well. They are excellent climbers and can always be found in a tree engaging in their favourite activities such as sunbathing and resting. After years of rehabilitation in BSBCC, they have learnt pertinent survival skills such as nest building. Both of them are outstanding at building nests using tree branches and leaves providing them a comfy resting place.
Sun bears are solitary animals in the wild. However, the limited space in BSBCC is one of the biggest challenges that we have ever met. Therefore, we integrate the bears. Integration is part of the rehabilitation processes. Other than to solve the problem of limited space, integration can let the bear learn survival skills from each other. Cerah and Jelita are one of the examples that show the advantage of integration. They depend on each other. If they were having a fight with other bears, they will back each other up and chase the bears away. Their inseparability is the signature of them. They love to stay with each other.
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.
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
Chin was rescued from the Tawau district where she was kept at the primary school’s mini zoo. On October 20th, 2014, we relocated Chin to our BSBCC bear house to join a gorgeous group of bears. We started to introduce Chin to other female adult bears so that they can live together. Integrating sun bears is a helpful process through which the bears can develop and learn pertinent skills for survival in the wild. We hoped the integration would go well.
Chin was introduced to the adult female bears which included Susie, Kuamut, Tokob, Cerah, Jelita and Lawa. Because it would be too overwhelming for Chin to meet all six sun bears at the same time, one by one introduction was started for the first seven days. Through the expressions of Chin’s behaviour, she could not wait to play with other female bears. Five of the female bears were very pleased to have a new playmate, inquisitively sniffing and offering a friendly paw to Chin. Chin is very playful bear! A few months on, they continue to enjoy and learn to understand each other better, and no aggression was noted. They would play chase, climb around and share enrichment with each other. Their friendships blossomed.
Here are couples of photos shows the integration Chin with the other female adult group.
Integration Chin with Cerah
Integration Chin with Jelita
Integration Chin with Lawa
Integration Chin with Susie
Integration Chin with Kuamut
However, Tokob did not welcome the newcomer. Tokob’s reaction toward Chin was very strong, growling and barking on a defensive way. Tokob has a very strong sense of curiosity, but maintains her distance around Chin. Tokob is very alert, and demonstrates a bit more dominance than Chin so we will have to be patient while this integration unfolds. We will continue to monitor these two bears until we are certain that they are good playmates and we will keep you updated on their progress!
Integration Chin with Tokob
Text and video by Chiew Lin May
Tropical rainforest are the sun bear's main habitat. They are tree lover and can climb extremely well. Many of the features are specifically adapted for a more tree-dwelling lifestyle. Example the long, curved, pointy claws and they can rotate their arm just like primate do. However, sun bear faces many challenges for its survival, including destruction of forests and commercial hunting.
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) would like to help and conserve sun bears.Please help us save them.Watch this video to discover what we do know about this amazing and special sun bears in their natural habitat.
Text and photo by Chiew Lin May
Malayan sun bear (Helartos malayanus) need a diverse tropical rainforest to survive. They are forest dependent species. BSBCC forest enclosure highlight the needs for animals better prepared for living in their natural environment. One of the primary goals of the BSBCC is to rehabilitate and release suitable orphaned and ex-captive bears back into the wild, providing an improved long-term living environment for captive bears that cannot be released.
The BSBCC forest enclosure is an old growth forest with full-grown trees and lianas. Over the past many months, we have observed good progress on Cerah and Jelita display their wild behavior and stand a better chance to freedom in the wild. They are an arboreal bear species. They spend a lot of their time foraging for food, resting, digging and climbing on tree canopy at BSBCC forest enclosure.
They play a vital role as seed dispersers in their forest ecosystem as when they eat the fruits contain seeds. The seeds will be carried long away from the parent tree or scatter the undigested seeds in their faeces with a way to spread out and grow in new places. The importance of seed dispersal is for the continuation of plant and species life.
Sun bears are opportunistic omnivore. Cerah and Jelita forage by using their claws to dig the decayed wood searching for natural bear food such as termites and beetle larvae. They have to forage a lot each day in order to meet their energy requirement. They are good at skimming through the forest enclosure with their nose and paws to find any kinds of food in the forest. Jelita like to sit on the ground with her body straight up and held the food with her front paws and licked it. They are feeding on fruits both on the ground and in the trees. Sometimes, their black fur makes them not easy to be spotted when they are foraging on the dark forest floor at the forest enclosure.
Sun bears are good tree climbers because that is where they can find their food. In the forest enclosure, Cerah and Jelita climb like a wild sun bear. They are excellent climbers and are thought to sleep in trees. It is lucky to saw the interesting behavior of the sun bears climbing up the trees. They usually spend most of their day sleeping and sunbathing on the tree or forest floor in the forest enclosure. After napping, they spend much of the time foraging for food.
Here are some of photos showed the Cerah and Jelita difference resting/ sleeping postures.
These trees will provide bedding sites for sun bears. Those branches also make a nice place to build a nest for resting or sunbathing during the day. Cerah and Jelita enjoy exploring the natural environment at BSBCC forest enclosure.
Cerah and Jelita enjoy exploring the natural environment at BSBCC forest enclosure. While studies of sun bears in the wild indicate they live solitary existence, most likely due to competition for food but Cerah and Jelita are best pals. They will share food, comfort and protect each other together. Cerah have strong sense of curiosity. She will stay alert and avoid with presence of human and surrounding sound in the BSBCC forest enclosure. She will quickly climb trees to seek shelter and safety.
BSBCC forest enclosure is a perfect dwelling place that the rescued sun bears can roam freely by day and night. Cerah and Jelita has learned from experience and developed technique in survival skills. Observed them venture and acclimate to life in the forest. This showed a positive sign of independence and given the sun bears the best chance of survival in the wild. Both of the sun bears are fascinating in the forest enclosure. Watching the change of both of the sun bears grown healthy and adapt well in the forest is undoubtedly one of our greatest pleasures.
Help us spread the words about the forgotten species – the sun bears! Together we can make a difference!!
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Host by Bears&Buds, The Largest Online Monthly Teddy Bear Magazine Circling the Earth, The Sixth Annual URSA Awards Competition is an international stuffed toy animals contest that participated by high-quality stuffed toy animal makers (artists) around the world. This year Maria Collin from Germany entered the competition by making a staffed sun bear name "Carah" base on Cerah the sun bear from BSBCC to raise fund and awareness for BSBCC and the plights of the sun bear in SE Asia.
And the Winner is..... CERAH!!
Yes, Cerah won the first place at the "Large bare bears and buds" category!
Congratulation to Maria for the job well done and Thank You for helping to raise awareness for sun bear and BSBCC!
(see.. another good example of "do what you do best to help sun bears!")
Here is what Maria got to say to the rest of the world:
Wald-Michelbach, Hesson Germany
I am thrilled to be amongst the URSA winners again, especially as this Sun bear was a "first" for me and definitely outside of my comfort zone - all those wrinkles! I probably developed a few more myself, trying to get hers right.
I made "Cerah" as a prize for a recent fundraiser, for the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre as my contribution to their efforts to raise awareness of, and to care for, these desperately threatened and utterly enchanting little bears.
Coming from a part of the world where real bears were hunted out long ago, it took teddy bears to guide me into the world of their real counterparts.
Creating "tribute" bears like my Cerah Sun bear is my way of expressing my appreciation for their inspiration - and looking at the real Cerah, who could fail to be inspired?
My grateful thanks to all who voted for her; it means such a lot to me!
And huge thanks too, to Valerie and Bears&Buds, for a super competition - and to all the other competitors - it's always a privilege to be amongst you all.
Here are the finalists of the competition:
After 4 years of idea developing, planning, and more than 3 years of hard working from many people, I am proud to present you the sun bears that we rescued at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre!
Although not all of our bears are in the forest enclosures, we are working hard to train them so that they can adapt their new life in the forest enclosures soon. These sun bears feed a lot on natural food items such as termites, and ants, in the forest enclosures. Both sightings and scat analysis conformed this observation.
Today I have a great day seeing Cerah, Jelita, and Lawa the sun bears destroying decayed wood to feed on termites, climbing on tree to feed on ants, and digging on soil but do not know what they were after. What I know that they were having a lot of fun, chasing and playing with each other in the dense forest floor!
Thanks to you all and your kind support;
Thanks to all the Bear Action Team volunteers who help us built this and built that;
Thanks to all the husbandry volunteers who help us clean cages, prepare bear food, make enrichments, and take good care of our bears;
Thanks to all the BSBCC staff, especially Wai Pak, and all the LEAP team, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre team, for making the life of our bears better;
Thanks to Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department, and LEAP to be the partners of this project;
WE DID IT BECAUSE OF YOU!
Finally, thanks to Peter Yuen for helping us took these photos of our bears in the forest enclosure.
Now everyone can see sun bears in the forest!
You can read more Peter's Yuen photography work and support BSBCC by buying these photos online:
~ Siew Te Wong, Founder and CEO, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Text by Shauna Tay; Photos by Siew Te Wong
The independent women (sun bears la..) of BSBCC – Cerah, Jelita, and Lawa – were let out into a newly secure forest enclosure (Enclosure C) last week . They’ve previously been out into Enclosure D on a regular basis and have all become confident to outdoors. On the 20th of April we had fixed Enclosure C where the fence were damaged by fallen branches that was much larger and with more new trees, vegetation, and smells for them to discover.
Some background knowledge about these three ladies; all sent at different times from Lok Kawi Zoo in Kota Kinabalu. Their ages range from 4-5 years, with Lawa as the dominant one in the group. Cerah and Jelita are the best of friends (which is surprising as bears are usually solitary animals) and absolutely adore each other’s company.
On Day 1 Cerah and Jelita had gone out happily into this big patch of forest. However Lawa stayed back in the pen – still building up the courage to go out as this was a whole new area. For their 2 o’clock meal of fruits, we had scattered them all over the outdoor enclosure to encourage them to eat out in the forest, where they should, rather than in their pen. This is also done to encourage foraging – a very important skill for a wild bear to have.
While Lawa hung around in their pen, Cerah and Jelita decided to be rebels. They didn’t come back in for their 4 o’clock porridge meal, yet decided to keep on exploring outdoors throughout the night! Although this was not planned, it’s actually a great thing as they would be able to find places for themselves to sleep outside, and also have the opportunity to build their own nests. We had left their pen door open for them to come back when they were ready, and sure enough they were sitting there with open arms for their breakfast in the morning.
Day 2, 3, 4 and 5 went on pretty much the same except that Cerah and Jelita actually returned for their evening meals rather than staying out all night. Day 6, Lawa finally stepped foot into the outdoor enclosure at 2pm. All three of the ladies are outside in the wilderness tonight. Hopefully with more observations, they’ll be in the queue to be released out into the wild – for good.
Recap from Part 1: Cerah is a female sun bear. Cerah means "bright" or "clear" in Malay language.
Two weeks after Cerah was confiscated and sent to Sepilok, Sabah Wildlife Department confiscated another pet female sun bear cub. We named her "Jelita," meaning "Lovely" in Malay. Jelita was few months older and larger then Cerah. She probably a year old on August 2007.
During that time, I was still conducting my fieldwork for my doctorate studying on wild bearded pigs and sun bears in Danum Valley Conservation Area, with logistic based in Danum Valley Field Centre, Sabah. The field project, Bornean Sun Bear and Bearded Pig Research and Conservation Project, started on early 2005 and lasted until 2008. During this three years period, I frequently visited Sepilok on a 5 hours' road trip where Cerah, Jelita, and other confiscated sun bears were housed.
This is a photo album of the first medical checkup for both Cerah and Jelita.
This is a photo album of Cerah the sun bear since she was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department in July 2007. Her story is a typical story similar to hundreds if not thousands of caged sun bears sun bears kept as human's pets. Because sun bear cubs are small, cute, and harmless, and compounded with no shortage of baby sun bears as a results from bear poaching and habitat destruction, the keeping of sun bears as pets are not uncommon across Southeast Asia.
Cerah's early life was a sad one. Her mother was probably killed when she and Cerah wondering into oil palm plantation foraging for food as the natural forest that they used to live in was shrinking from logging and converting into oil palm plantation. The change made the natural food more and more difficult to find. Cerah was then captured and sold as pets, while her mother sold as meat, many of her body parts sold as traditional medicine and decorative items. We do not know how old was Cerah when she was captured. What we knew is that when this incident happen, Cerah was small, really small.
Cerah was considered a lucky caged bears in some ways. In Sabah and most of the SE Asia, sun bear is a fully protected species and the keeping of sun bear as pet is illegal. Neighbors of Cerah's owner reported the crime to the Wildlife Department. The department acted quickly by confiscated Cerah and brought Carah to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre where all of the confiscated sun bears were housed by the department. This location later became Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.
This is the story of Carah and me...