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Special Moments with Mary, Ah Bui, Koko, Debbie, Fulung and Bongkud in the BSBCC Forest Enclosure Part III
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Chiew Lin May and Tee Thye Lim
Here are some photos of our sub – adult sun bears, out in the forest enclosure. They love to be by trees and will find activities to occupy their time that will keep them close to the canopy. These include looking for termites, other forest invertebrates, climbing trees, playing together and taking naps. They get on really well, and enjoy playing together. These six sun bears at the forest enclosure is buzzing with cheer and joy. Look what they are doing in the forest enclosure!!
Special Moments with Mary, Ah Bui, Koko, Debbie, Fulung and Bongkud in the BSBCC Forest Enclosure Part II
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
It is happy sight to see Mary, Debbie, Ah Bui, Koko, Fulung and Bongkud knew what to do when they went out into the enclosure with all of the trees. Here are some photos of our sub-adult sun bears, out in their forest enclosure. They are very awesome!!
Look what Debbie doing in the forest enclosure!!
Special Moments with Mary, Ah Bui, Koko, Debbie, Fulung and Bongkud in the BSBCC Forest Enclosure Part 1
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Gloria Ganang & Chiew Lin May
On June 11th, 2013 Ah Bui and Mary spent their first few moments of freedom roaming, exploring, and playing around the forest enclosure. The next day, they were joined by Debbie and Koko. Soon after, the four sun bears were united with Fulung and Bongkud in one forest enclosure. At first they were curious about all of the tall trees around them. Tall trees! NOT a cage!!
These 6 sub-adult sun bears are now spending a lot of their time exploring, roaming, digging, resting, climbing, and foraging for food in the forest enclosure. They interact with their new environment by using their strong keen senses to experience different smells and sounds in the forest.
Today, a dream became reality, and now these 6 sub-adult sun bears are confidently roaming and exploring in the forest. Once the door was opened, all of them went out into the forest immediately. They are extremely adventurous and already attempting to climb trees and logs. The bears are happily enjoying living amongst the tropical rainforest, each in their own special way. Ah Bui, likes to dig in the soil and search for food while others prefer to use their sharp canines to rip open trees and find their favourite snack. They rummage through the forest smelling around decayed wood and dead logs in search of any interesting insects and invertebrates.
When the bears are not spending their time resting or sunbathing on the forest canopy they are sharpening their tree climbing skills to help them catch termites and other forest invertebrates.
They’ve also become good playmates and will play, chase, hang out, and climb trees together in the forest.
It brings great satisfaction to see the 6 young sun bears freely roaming in the forest enclosure. They’ve all made such great progress, and are beginning to take on characteristics and natural behaviours of wild sun bears. Adapting to the forest is not easy, but once they begin to explore, things will get better.
The sun bear is one of the most mysterious bears of the jungle, and plays such an important role in maintaining the ecosystem and equilibrium of the forest. Major threats to sun bear include habitat loss and poaching. Sun bears are classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) aims to conserve sun bears through education, rehabilitation, and research with hopes to improve the welfare for captive orphan sun bears. Please help us spread the word!!
Here are a couple of photos of Mary, Ah Bui, Koko and Debbie explore in the BSBCC forest enclosure.
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.
Look violent but completely harmless - The integration of Debbie with Mary and Fulung
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
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!
Debbie's first Heath Check
Text by Siew Te Wong; Photo by Pia Sundstrom
Debbie the female sun bear cub was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on January 6th and sent to us on the following day. Today (Feb 16,) we did the first health check for Debbie since she was sent here about a month ago. The check up is a routine check up for all new bears house in BSBCC to inspect abnormality, potential diseases, and body condition. Debbie was sedated by the Veterinarian from Sabah Wildlife Department and Orangutan Appeal UK Dr. Nigel Hicks and senior ranger Mr. Elis Tambing. All of the handling process went well. We also took body measurements, where she tipped the scale at 13 kg, hair samples, and blood sample. Everything looks pretty good for her. Although we did not weigh her when she first came here, I am sure that she has again few kilograms over the past 5 weeks and deposited some fat on her as well as we found out during the check up. Once the blood test results came back and clear for any diseases, she will join the party of Mary and Fulung to form the sun bear cub gang. For the youngster, there are no better enrichment than the companionship of other cubs when they are in captivity. Together they can interact with each other, play fight with each other, support with each other, and snuggle with each other!
Grow well Debbie! We are glad that you are in our care.
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!
While the holiday mood for the New Year remaining strong, Sabah Wildlife Department's Wildlife Rescue Unit already underway their new rescue mission of a sun bear cub on Jan 6th. The sun bear cub was sent to Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre the following day after a preliminary health check at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park near the state capital Kota Kinabalu. What would be a better way to the start the new year than rescuing a poor sun bear cub from imprisonment in a small metal cage?
We have not yet fully understood the story of this latest new female sun bear cub. We name her Debbie. Debbie is about 6-8 months old base on her size. From her documentation that we received from Sabah Wildlife Department, she was purchased by a Chinese guy from Tuaran and was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department's Wildlife Rescue Unit. We need to do find out the whole story of Debbie soon.
After a long 7 hours on the road from Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, the Sabah Wildlife Department's Wildlife Rescue Unit finally arrived at BSBCC with Debbie at 6:30 pm. Unlike other sun bear cub we rescued in the past, Debbie was an aggressive sun bear cub. She was barking at everyone when we tried to carry her in the transportation cage to her new home. This aggressiveness can only mean two things: she was wild caught and being in captivity for relatively short period, and the new environment and new people she encountered was very stressful on her. Debbie was one of very few sun bear cub that I did not dare to let her suckle my finger (as finger sucking calm down a stressful sun bear cub).
Nonetheless she immediately explored her new den with many climbing structures right after she was released from her transportation cage into her den. Her movement was agile and energetic. This was a good sign for healthy and strong. She had a very special chest marking. A friend in facebook said at the first glance it looked like a "Y." Second it looked like a rooster standing and finally it looked like smoke coming out of a potion bottle! We gave her some electrolyte water to overcome her dehydration during the journey and she drunk it all in one go. She did not eat the food that we gave her probably due to the stressful journey and new environment.
Dear little Debbie, we are glad that Sabah Wildlife Department's Wildlife Rescue Unit managed to rescued you and sent you to BSBCC to take care of you. However, we certainly understand that you have been through a tragic early start and all the bad things that human did to you and your mother. Here in Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, our mission is to conserve sun bear through improving animal welfare, raising conservation awareness with education, conducting research, and rehabilitating the sun bear cubs like you who have the chance to return your life in the forest! Little Debbie, we will do our very best to take good care of you!
Write to us at our
PPM 219, Elopura,
90000 Sandakan, Sabah,