Video by Chiew Lin May
Day 15: All she wants is loved and care Don’t miss out on a sweet Little Betung story! See how Little Betung progressed in her two weeks of the rehabilitation process. She is one of the victims of the pet trade. She was neglected for five months and kept in a small cage. When she arrived at BSBCC, her condition was emaciated, malnourished and growth stunted. Our team worked around the clock to build her strength. It is hard to imagine the life she endured before her rescue by Sabah Wildlife Department. Betung’s fighting spirit makes us reminded that she should be with her mother and free in the wild. She took every opportunity to be a bear cub!
She needed emergency veterinary care. Please buy a gift to help Little Betung the love and care she needs to recover - A healthy balanced diet, medical care and enrichment toys to keep her stimulated both physically and mentally. You can show LOVE by adopting Betung. Please share her story!
Everything was stolen from her by humans. Keeping sun bears as pets are “Illegal”. Please do not keep and support sun bear as a pet – Give back a life where they belong!
Adopt Betung: https://www.bsbcc.org.my/share-bear-adoption.html
To donate - https://www.bsbcc.org.my/donate.html
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
On 26th August 2020, BSBCC received their third rescued cub of the year. It is not a proud number and all these rescued sun bears underlying problems are the same. How much more pain and trauma must the bears have to endure? We cannot imagine a bright future for sun bears if this poaching and illegal pet trade continues at this rapid rate. They are being threatened!
Rescued at an estimated five months of age, the story reported the cub was found by a villager’s dog and she was ‘wandering alone’ in the orchard at Kampung Betung in Ranau district. She was a tiny little cub – no teeth yet. She was taken and kept as a pet for about five months in a chicken wire mesh cage. She was fed with Lactogen milk powder only. The villager was willing to surrender Betung to Sabah Wildlife Department. Wonder what happened to her mother…? A mother will risk their own life in their cub’s defence and would never abandon their cub at that young age. Little Betung would still be constantly with her mother.
Her weight was 1.4kg and she was in a poor condition, growth stunted, underweight, super weak, malnourished, emaciated and suffering with alopecia on the head and body. She has been placed into quarantine while a health assessment, nutritious diet and care plan is put into place. She receives treatment with medicated shampoo to treat her pruritus.
Betung needs to be nursed back to health before starting to venture out to the forest. She soon took her first steps on the LONG road of recovery. Little Betung is beginning to settle into her new home. The surroundings are still very new to her. She has a lot to overcome having lost her mother and forest home at an early age.
She is now in quarantine and receives intensive treatment from our vet and bear team. She requires 24 hour care and 7 feeds a day. A huge thanks to the Wildlife Rescue Unit of Sabah Wildlife Department for taking care and help us get the vet care Little Betung needed. Finally, she is now safe and loved.
Being so young she would not have been able to survive on her own - we are ready to provide Little Betung with a healthy diet, veterinary care and enrichment activities to stimulate her.
She has settled in quite well. She is keen on the new menu and loves the food she is receiving - MILK. On 29th August 2020, we moved her to a larger den filled with climbing structures, toys and treats to keep her enriched and stimulated. Slowly, she is learning that the bear world means a lot to her. She loves being in the den – ready to explore everything!
Thanks to our dedicated cub keepers, Adrian and Danny who teach the cubs forest life skills! Even so tiny and weak, Little Betung NEVER MISSES the chance to climb!! She has improved in her tree climbing abilities. But, she will take some time and think about how to get down from the climbing structure or platform, and she never stops trying!
She will find the best digging spots. She spends her day foraging and digging the dead wood. She will bite and play with the small branches or dried leaves!
She has logs to dig with, dried leaves to destroy, bear balls to roll with and a gunny sack hammock to sleep on – cubs just love this! She will keep herself entertained throughout the day. She loves exploring new smells, sights and textures. She finds dead logs very amusing and it often looks like her first time surrounded by the dead logs. She can have endless fun with them! She enjoys her quiet time and does not appreciate any disturbances as she can sometimes get quite feisty. Cubs vary a lot in the amount of sleep they need. After she finishes drinking milk, she spends her time snoozing with her bear toy or inside the gunny hammock to recover and regain back her energy.
She will make everyone around fall in LOVE with her enthusiasm and spirit.
And most importantly, Betung’s spirit, now she is able to do her favourite activities as other sun bear cubs do.
She is a little cub who can be very expressive. When digging into wood, you can find her keeping an open mouth or showing off her sharp canines which indicates the wood dust has stuck on her tongue – she thinks of a way to remove it!
As Little Betung surrounded herself with wood or toys, there was “a little something” that would make her SMILE!
You will wonder what has attracted Betung’s attention. She will sniff, be curious and get into it!
She will prove to be a natural fighter! Imagine the future for this little cub who would have been able to live in peace with her mother in the wild. Please remember sun bears are NOT PETS and should NOT BE STOLEN from the wild to live with humans.
Little Betung is still in the process of recovering and we look forward to seeing the difference that living without trauma makes to her – growing and thriving.
Hope one day her weight and skin condition will show improvement, then she can climb up into the trees, build her self-confidence, be free once more and safe from any harm! She still has a long road of rehabilitation ahead of her. Little Betung needs you to help with her medical recovery. Please consider helping and supporting Little Betung by donating towards the on-going care and emergency medical treatment. Grab a wonderful gift today! Your donation will be on its way to support this little one. Stay strong, Little One!
Text by Rebecca Kimlaw
Photos by Mizuno Merek Men & Seng Yen Wah
Hi! I am Rebecca Kimlaw, one of the staff at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. My volunteer program started on the 14th of July and ended on the 27th July. I was fortunate enough to spend my two amazing weeks volunteering with the bears. It gave me a glance to see how the operations are generally carried out in the bear house. It was a good chance to learn more about the bears.
My two-week volunteering here was one of the most precious experiences in my life. There was a lot of work to do in the bear house and required a lot of energy. The tasks I was assigned doing were cleaning the bear dens, preparing a lot of food for the bears, feeding bears inside and outside the bear house area and so on. I started falling in love with the bears. Although they are so adorable, we must all bear in mind that its illegal to keep them as a pet. I hope people have awareness about this, so we can protect these beautiful bears together.
I felt comfortable at the bear house because the bear keepers helped me so much. They taught me a lot about the bears. One of my favourite moments is making an enrichment for the bear. Normally, we use leaves, banana, and other accessible nature resources to make an enrichment for them. I enjoyed feeding the bears inside and outside bear house area. I felt satisfied when I saw the bears enjoying their food.
All the bears are cute. But the one that I like the most is Om. Om is a 15 years old male bear. He is a very energetic bear and enjoys his food. He spends a good deal of his time in the forest. Sometimes he is quite content playing all alone, especially with small pieces of dead wood. So, my buddy (Mizuno) and I made an enrichment for him. We could tell that he liked it.
Special thanks to my buddies Danny, Bithrenley, Mizuno and all the bear keepers at the bear house for giving me information and helping me during my training programme. I sincerely recommend this place to anyone who would like to participate in volunteering programmes. You will not regret it! Hopefully I will have a chance to enrol in this volunteering program again.
Video by Chiew Lin May
Day 7: Favourite! Termite Mound!
BSBCC runs a number of enrichment activities for the sun bears in their care. It promotes physical and mental stimulation or to ensure the sun bears' well-being.
Little Kipaku learns to break the termite mound and feeding on termites!
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Sabah Wildlife Department, Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Meet little Kipaku, an active 5-month old male sun bear cub. He was being kept as a house pet by a local villager family in Kampung Kipaku, Tambunan, Sabah. The story reported to the rescue team was that they found him ‘wandering alone’ in the forest fire area.
The family then decided to hand the cub over to the Sabah Wildlife Department on July 16th, 2020. Kipaku’s story is similar with the other rescued sun bears. Sun bears are facing extinction in the wild if uncontrolled poaching activities or losing their forest homes to fire, logging and palm oil plantations are still continuing. Sadly, it is believed that his mother undoubtedly was killed intentionally or perished in the fires. He arrived at BSBCC on July 18th, 2020. He appeared dull and with dry hair on his coat when he arrived.
Thanks to the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit who saved Kipaku’s life.
Following his arrival, Kipaku was placed into quarantine. He adapted to his new life of freedom. He receives round-the-clock care from his surrogate mother by helping and encouraging him to gain back confidence and build up his strength – be WILD. He has shown tremendous growth in the last few days. He now weighs 7.20kg.
We are trying to get Kipaku to eat the nutritious food he needs to grow.
He is a grub lover and is very messy with his food!! His favourite foods are mealworms, ants and milk. He has a peculiar way of foraging his food by using his tiny sharp claws to tear it up (in a gentle way). Never mess with him when he is eating!
Kipaku wants to bark a “Huge thanks” to our lovely sponsorship, Fido Premium Milk Powder from TTL Distributions Sdn. Bhd. (http://www.ttl.com.my/) for being part of his journey. His health is now in a stable condition. He has been fed a milk formula five times a day for his growth.
Sun bear cubs remain dependent on their mothers for the first two to three years of age. Poor care and the psychological trauma of losing his mother means a lot to Little Kipaku. He has been kept in captivity, growing up alone and habituated to the presence of humans. All Kipaku knew was being scared and stressed. He will growl and bawl when no one is beside him. But lacking a fear of humans, the bear is ill equipped to survive and will be vulnerable to hunters in the wild. Throughout his rehabilitation process, we are minimizing the number of caretakers to reduce the habituation to human contact, keep his wild behaviours and slowly support increasing his independence.
His personality has begun to emerge!
He is an agile and unique bear. Kipaku can be a challenge to keep mentally occupied – stolen from the wild and never had the chance to learn survival skills from his mother. We provide a variety of environmental enrichment such as different types of young leaves, termite mounds, dead wood, logs, and branches to promote physical activity and prepare him for life back in the wild. It is heart-warming to find out that Kipaku has strong wild instincts - foraging, climbing and defence skills. He has a deep love for digging and tearing! He can spend time digging and tearing dead logs for ants or termites, and for FUN too! Through enrichment, Kipaku can have a great day, every day! He is smart and full of curiosity. He will examine, dig, play and destroy it. He shows great climbing skills and is learning to be a very skilled bear! He uses all of his senses to explore different tastes of freedom.
Kipaku will not miss a play wrestle with his surrogate mother. He will begin playing, rolling and pawing.
He loves soaking in the swimming bucket and splashes water to beat the hot day.
Kipaku tends to slow down on his busy activities and prefers to suckle on his front paw to seek comfort.
He is a baby and will vocalize his feelings. He always keeps himself busy BUT starts to become grumpy when he feels uncomfortable with something! He is excited about everything that is offered to him - these little things are simple but are making the bear world of difference to his life!
Kipaku will undergo rehabilitation at BSBCC in order to one day be returned to the wild. He begins the long rehabilitation process of learning and developing the survival skills and behaviours needed to one day survive in the wild. After recovering and passing quarantine, we will start taking him out for walks in the forest in order to prepare him for a new life in the rainforest.
Sun bears are classified as “Vulnerable” to “Endangered” by the IUCN. Human activity continues to threaten sun bear numbers and are pushing them to extinction. Please do not keep sun bears as pets and leave them in the forest to their real life. Thinking about how you can send your LOVE to little Kipaku? Adopting is a great way to give him the life he deserves. Please adopt Kipaku today! He will make your heart melt!
Video by Chiew Lin May
Precious little Bintang had been torn from her mother by a poacher. It is a tragedy to lose sun bears from the wild. Sun bears are protected species by both national and international laws.
Watch Bintang rescue and start to explore her new home - it is a delight to see how brave she is. She is learning and loves the forest world. She looks towards a brighter future. Just look at how happy and healthy she is now! Please share her story!
Text by Vincent Chin Yung Fook
Photos by Vincent Chin Yung Fook & BSBCC
Hi, my name is Vincent Chin Yung Fook. I am 23 years old and I am from Papar, Sabah. Time spent interning at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) for two and a half months was just too precious. Before I made the decision to have my internship here at BSBCC, I discovered this place through my senior. I was really eager to know and learn how an organisation rescues an animal, rehabilitates and releases them back to the wild in the first place. So, I signed up here for my internship.
During these few months, I have prepared hundreds of kilos of fruits and vegetables, cleaned a lot of cages, and made many types of enrichments for the bears. One of my favourite moments here was observing a bear. I was given a chance to observe the fence training of the bears and the behaviours of the bear. Through this observation, I have learnt a lot about sun bears. My favourite bear in BSBCC is Chin. I like her because she’s cute and of course, she has the same name as me.
There are many different staff at BSBCC. Some are serious while working whilst some are funny and playful. I had never get bored working with them. For the Björn Hala’s (name of the place I stayed during my internship) people, I really appreciate the time we laughed together, played games, did karaoke, and watched movies. To my funniest buddy, Jeniur, I would like to say thanks for having my back. He taught me a lot of stuff, sharing his knowledge and his experiences of working in the wild.
In short, this internship has been an excellent and rewarding experience, and I really enjoyed myself throughout my sixteen weeks of this training. Working with different staff just gave me more experiences as different staff have different ways of doing their jobs. I also learned a lot by asking a lot of questions about their work experiences. Not only gaining experience and knowledge about the conservation of sun bears, but the staff also taught me how to handle and communicate with visitors.
It was difficult at the start as it was my first time working here in the bear house. I never thought that taking care of wildlife was a very energy consuming job. However, the struggle was nothing when compared to the positive values and experiences that I have learnt through this internship. Another obstacle which limited my time and experiences was the outbreak of disease, Covid-19. Although my internship period at BSBCC has ended, I will not forget about the kindness of the staff, the knowledge that they shared, and the lovely bears. I really appreciate and am thankful for the time that I have spent here working with bears.
Text & Photos by Chiew Lin May
Simone and Sigalung were victims of the illegal pet trade. Simone was kept in a Mini Zoo Hot Spring in Tawau and Sigalung was rescued from a logging camp in Sipitang. We know what really happened to their mothers to get the baby - despite it being illegal to keep a sun bear as a pet in Malaysia. Rescued sun bears take a long brave step to overcome the psychological trauma they endure during their captive 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. It has been four years, Sigalung did not have the best company because of his aggressive behaviour. We hoped that one day he would be able to find a new bear friend for life.
On 6th June 2020, we shifted Sigalung to the other Bear House. He tends to acclimatise quickly to new environments. The next move was integration with another bear. Due to Sigalung’s rough play behaviour, the integration between the two bears was handled with care. When the sliding door between the bears was opened, Sigalung immediately tried to approach Simone – vocalizing, sniffing, and grabbing her. Sigalung amazed us all with his courage. He was excited and full of energy. Simone was cautiously curious with Sigalung and quite accepted him. Both started gentle-play fighting for more than 30 minutes. It was love at first sight!
Thankfully, it was a positive social interaction, they were play wrestling after the initial introductions. They seem well matched and no aggression was observed. At the end of the wrestling, Sigalung went to the basket and had a rest. They both share their bear stories, food, and enrichment. They have logs and toys to explore to keep them entertained. Sigalung loves his treats. He is always the first to grab enrichment. Nobody is going to stop him from enjoying this.
We are looking forward to watching Sigalung and Simone explore the forest enclosure and learn the skills essential to surviving in the wild together.
Text by Gillian Gabriel
Photos by Gillian Gabriel, Jerlyn Joan Jenius (APE Malaysia) & Chiew Lin May
For the first and foremost, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself. Hi! My name is Gillian Gabriel or you can call me Gee. I am currently in the final semester of my degree. Each final year student of University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) was required to finish their final semester by completing an internship program. My major course is Conservation Biology. With the three and a half years of studying Conservation Biology, I decided to do my internship at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). I discovered BSBCC from the website and you can tell that it was love at first sight. I got really curious about how they handle the sun bears and I was quite fascinated with the positive feedback given by the previous volunteers. I also thought to myself that this is a great opportunity to expose myself into the real life world as a conservationist. So, I decided to experience it on my own and lucky me, I was accepted!
Professional and friendly, yes that’s my first impression on BSBCC management. All the staff are really friendly, playful and they would never make you feel left out. They are also quite professional. Although I was assigned with my own buddy keeper, Bithrenley, the other staff were willing to teach, guide, and educate me as well.
I thank my buddy keeper for teaching and guiding me during my internship. Never once did he get angry at me for not catching up real quick. In fact, he taught me one by one and he never put me under pressure. I had a great time working with him. He has a great way of explaining things easier for me to understand. He is also funny and is really caring. They told me that the buddy keeper is in charge of our safety and our work progress. And I personally think that my buddy keeper did a pretty great job, he took his responsibility really well.
Sun bears? Honestly, they are ten times more adorable in real life than what you have seen posted on any social media or website. One of my favourite things to do is to feed them. The way they hold the food and chew it, is so adorable! I consider myself lucky because I got to see them face to face. My favourite sun bear is Simone, a female bear who loves climbing, observing, and relaxing. I consider her as the most obedient bear in BSBCC. My buddy keeper and I decided to make enrichment for her; we called it ‘The Flying Boat’.
I am so amazed with the final product and truly thankful to my buddy keeper for assisting, guiding and helping me. From the above picture, the word ‘boat’ is used because the structural shape of the product resembles a boat. The product was installed at the top of the cage to which the term ‘flying’ is used because this provides the bear to view things from a higher place.
The kitchen. For the first few weeks, I admit that I was quite slow. There are a lot of things going on in the kitchen. And it is really important to note down every single thing because you would not want to ruin a single menu. However, as the weeks passed by, I kind of got used to it. I almost memorized half of the schedule, although I often made a simple mistake, I still congratulate myself for doing a great job.
Another thing that made my internship ten times better was the other volunteers and intern students. I got to meet and live with them (at Paganakan Dii) and I got to share experiences with them too. Although I got to only spend a few weeks getting to know them, I had a great time. Besides, they are really down when it comes to seeking a new adventure.
I was also assigned to do behavioural research on one of the female bears, named Panda. I would spend two hours of my working day, observing Panda. And I tell you, she is really adorable! I think I might have gotten crazy because at some point I hoped she could talk. At least I would have someone to talk to during the observation.
Working was fun up until a virus outbreak happened; it was on the 18th of March in 2020 when a Movement Control Order (MCO) took place. People were restricted from going out of their houses and were advised to practice social distancing. This was the time when less staff were required to come to work and intern students were advised to stay at home, following the rules given by the higher authorities from UMS. At that point, staying at home was the best choice to flatten the curve and to minimize the risk of getting the virus.
However, the adventure did not just stop there. The other intern students and I moved to Bjorn Hala. Every evening, the intern students, Vincent and Ezi, the rest of the staff and I spent the time by making enrichment. And we always prepared different types of enrichment. We also shot videos as part of the assessment for the donation campaign and we included Sunny, BSBCC’s mascot, in the video.
Apart from making enrichment every evening, our supervisors, Wawa and Pradeep, also gave me a task to do at home. I prepared a report about the bear I was observing, Panda. I found a lot of interesting reviews and studies that I could relate to. One of the things I discovered was that the enclosure complexity and natural environment is really important. Now I understand why we prepared different types of enrichment every day. It’s like a toy and entertainer to them to keep them from getting stressed out!
Bjorn Hala has a special place in my heart. I agree 100% to the phrase “It is not about the places, it’s the people”. Despite the virus outbreak and staying miles away from my hometown and family, Bjorn Hala made me feel like I was home and I never felt alone. Boboy, Mizuno, Danny, Becca, and Wawa were like my family in Bjorn Hala. They are really funny, caring, crazy and they are pretty good at cooking as well. Thank you for feeding me, sharing with me your funny, creepy, and sad stories. I will forever cherish you guys!
To conclude my 12 weeks of internship program, I came to the realisation that there is a lot of exciting and interesting things going on while working at BSBCC. I cannot explain it with words and I bet you cannot even imagine it. From going to the forest to find termites, to staying 24/7 working at home, I learnt a lot of things and that is all coming from the people around me. It was an honor to be a part of the team and to witness and experience a lot of things. I hope that one day our paths will cross again and I get to experience another adventure working with wild animals!
I thank you BSBCC for being a hero to sun bears!
Text by Amanda Wilson
Photos by Chiew Lin May
Among many male bears at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), one particular bear stands out in spite of his quirks and cheekiness. He has an exceptionally smaller, snout and rounded body size for a male bear. With pitch black eyes and a nose that may appear bigger than it actually is due to his dark-coloured snout, he is actually a simple, adorable and kind-natured bear. At 12 years old, BSBCC has been his home for the past 6 years. He was named after the logging camp where he was rescued from – Seagalung, but the spelling came to be Sigalung in the end.
According to reports, some villagers found Sigalung along with another adult male bear, Phin, near the logging camp in Sipitang, Sabah. They were assumed to be orphan bears kept as illegal pets after their mother got killed. Initially, both bears were rescued and brought to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park where they underwent quarantine period before being sent to BSBCC on the 10th of March 2014. Sigalung appeared healthy when he first arrived alongside five other bears at the centre. Like most bears upon arrival at the centre, he barked at people and appeared to be aggressive at seeing a new environment. When he was moved by transportation cage into the then newly built second bear house, he was belligerent.
He has since adapted well to his new surroundings. Sigalung has now blossomed into a different bear who is intuitive, energetic and adventurous. When he is excited, especially when he knows he will be receiving enrichments, he will cling onto the metal bars of his indoor den and whip his head side to side. He, at times, will get enticed at the presence of other male bears. He gets cheekier by day and we love to see how much he is grown into his character. Sigalung is one of the healthiest bears in the centre and we hope his health continues to flourish as he embraces adulthood.
Any wild animal kept as an illegal pet and confined for years would surely be impacted in their natural behaviour, whether physically or psychologically. At the centre, he does not only get to experience the natural forest environment, he gets to meet other bear friends, receives a sufficiently healthy diet under supervision of veterinarians and keepers, as well as enrichments to cater for his bear needs. Enrichments not only help to keep him occupied, but also to learn adequate survival skills that are vital in his rehabilitation process before being released to the wild.
For male bears to be integrated with other male bears, it is not an easy task. Adult males get very territorial and aggressive. Sigalung was only ever integrated with one male bear, Phin, his old pal back in 2014. However, the process was unsuccessful due to Sigalung’s aggression as he played too roughly with Phin.
When he initially arrived at the centre, Sigalung was hesitant and scared of going out into the forest enclosure to explore. Nowadays, whenever the guillotine door is opened, he shows eagerness and anticipation to step out into the natural forest environment. He would directly bolt for the forest that is calling out to him even when its drizzling out. In the forest enclosure, he loves to dig, forage and explore nature at its finest. He would hide in bushes or piles of dead wood and likes taking cover under the shade of fallen trees and branches. Although it took him about 2 years to be integrated into the training pen for the purpose of fence training, his first step into the forest was a memorable one thanks to the staff and volunteers who were patient, determined and consistent in their efforts. Finally, on July 27th 2017, he conquered his fear, set his paws on the grass after so long and is now enjoying the taste of freedom in the forest - exploring and doing what bears do best!
Sigalung and his kind are one of the many treasures in our ecosystem. Sun bears are precious beings that deserve so much love! However, due to their elusive and solitary behaviour, they were called the forgotten bears for a reason. Up until recent years, not much has been known about sun bears, be it general knowledge and awareness or scientific research. They are important to the forest as they are agents of seed dispersal, they control the termite population, keep the forest environment healthy, and their digging enhances nutrient cycling in soils as well as provides habitats for other animals in their excavated holes in trees.
The prime reason of their declining population here in Malaysia is pet trade. Orphaned sun bears whose mothers are almost always killed by poachers are kept in captivity since a very young age. These bear cubs who are dependent on their mothers do not get exposure to the very skills that help them to learn how to survive in the forest. People intending to keep sun bears as pets might think that they’re cute as cubs but once they get bigger, it gets tougher to contain them and people might get hurt or worse - the bears. There have been cases of people going to the extent of depriving these bears of their canines or claws to ensure the owner’s safety, but forget that the bears need these essentials to survive in the wild. Keeping the bears as pets is the very first breach in nature. Rehabilitation is a very lengthy and complicated process and often, rescued bears kept in captivity for too long reduces their chances of being rehabilitated and released back into the wild.
The forest ecosystem provides for the various species of fauna including sun bears that thrive by giving back to nature through their natural bear behaviours. Let’s be like sun bears and be more mindful of our actions towards nature and other creatures! Sun bears may be cute, but they are not pets!