Day 134: The best enrichment of a bear always is another bear!
Most of the rescued bear in BSBCC is being separated from the mother bear and kept as a pet, which causing they spend most of the time having contact with human (direct or non-direct) in the unnatural environment. After living alone in a cage, on 25th December 2020, Little Betung finally free from trauma and now has made new bear friends for the first time in her life.
Through integration, it will help to change these bears' lives and provide them with more physical and mental stimulation, reduce stress, and allow them to learn vital survival skills. Rescued bears learning from each other (bear copying bear behaviour) facilitate the rehabilitation process in our centre - building up their confidence for stepping out again into the forest floor, climbing trees, and self-defense.
Interactions between Betung, Kipaku, and Itam have shown to be positive. Itam & Kipaku help her adjust to her new life and learn how to be a bear again. They enjoy playing, exploring, and making us fall in love with their beautiful smiles!
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photo by Sabah Wildlife Department & Chiew Lin May
A sub adult, male bear was rescued on the 5th of December 2009 in Taman Formosa, Penampang Baru, Sabah. He was found trapped in the farm and was kept in a small iron cage for a very long time. He was then brought to the Lok Kawi Zoo and sent to BSBCC on the 3rd of July 2010.
He is now safe, and we will give him the best chance of surviving in the forest. He was named “Julaini”, after the head welder who constructed the new bear house. During the arrival, he was a very aggressive bear, but now Julaini has become a big favourite for us – nicknamed wrinkled bear!
He has adjusted very well to his life at BSBCC.
During his rehabilitation, proper nutrition and various enrichment activities are given to stimulate his bear behaviours and to help him recover from the psychological trauma of being kept in captivity. Bear care staff will always introduce different types of enrichment toys and new treats for him. He enjoys fruit, coconuts and honey. On the 26th of May 2011, Julaini together with Ah Lun got to meet their new group of bears friends.
During the electric fence training, he appeared to be more nervous compared to the other bears. We never gave up on Julaini and used different types of his favorite food to lure him out to the forest. Julaini has a cataract on his left eye, but this did not let him give up easily in learning to be a wild bear. On the 13th of March 2013, Julaini finally took his huge first steps into a lifetime of freedom in the forest.
He walked slowly and calmly sniffed the forest air!
It was a blessing to watch him be a wild bear again and we were unable to control the smiles on our faces.
Julaini’s eyes widened with the thrill of TALL trees, dead wood, termites and blue sky around him!
Julaini is brave and finds the strength to venture out to the forest.
Julaini can be seen roaming around in the forest with his best female pal, Ah Lun, where they will forage, play fight, protect and get comfort together.
Julaini is not keen on climbing trees. Julaini loves to find a big tree trunk and fall asleep there.
He also never misses his favorite treats –termites and honey! He learns all the skills he will need to survive in the forest.
Over the past 10 years, Julaini has been given the chance to return to his natural habitat.
He seems to have a wonderful time and has proven to us that he is one of the loveliest bears in the centre.
There is a lot more freedom ahead for Julaini to enjoy!
Sun bears are vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The global population of sun bears has declined by 30% in the last 30 years. This is due to the increasing threats to the species’ survival from illegal hunting, pet trade and deforestation, which has led to the rapid decline in sun bear numbers. It acts as a reminder to us all how important the need to protect sun bears from extinction truly is. Please give them a voice!
We hope that you are well during this unprecedented time. Our hearts are always with everyone. We have been a GOOD bear this year! We are still the beautiful, fun-loving, and brave bears who touched the hearts of everyone we met. Because of you, we can receive nonstop loving care and begin new freedom living in the forest.
This Christmas, buy them a gift to help keep them healthy, heal from their traumatic pasts, tummy happy, enriched, have a safe forest home, and be wild. They absolutely love it! All the best things about Christmas rolled into one 🎄
Wishing you a very happy Christmas and a safe and healthy 2021. Sending a lot of love to you and looking forward to the day we can see you again. Love & Big bear hug!
To buy a special gift: https://www.bsbcc.org.my/shop.html
Background music: https://youtu.be/0qezq-rVb9s
Text & Photos by Chiew Lin May
Four month old, female sun bear cub, Wawa was found alone without her mother in a forest reserve in Pinangah, Telupid District in 2016. She was rescued and surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department and has since been cared for at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) as of March 18, 2016. She weighed 4.5kg on arrival.
Upon her arrival, she appeared weak and dehydrated. Sun bear cubs require around-the-clock care and feeding with a special milk formula.
Enrichment programs are vital for captive sun bears as they provide positive mental and physical stimulation. These programs allow Wawa to dig for insects and allow her to climb. Wawa has quite a big appetite and is particularly fond of fruits, termites, ants and honey!
Sun bears live with their mothers until the age of 2-3 years old and until they are grown enough to defend themselves. As Wawa no longer has her mother, our bear keepers become surrogate mothers, giving her love, support, care and the knowledge she needs to be released back into the forest.
On 25th June 2016, she was integrated with Dodop and has developed a good bond! Until today, she preferred spending most of the time with Dodop.
On 17th November 2016, she took her first step to go out to the forest enclosure - first taste of freedom – in the treetops.
Exploring her new home in the dense rainforest. Every time when we started swapping the rescued bears to the new forest enclosure, Wawa was amongst the bravest rushing out to the forest to explore and play.
She is an agile climber. We are always impressed by her agility and balance!
Wawa shimmies right up the tree and loves the sounds of the humming insects! Highly intelligent and inquisitive by nature! Climbing trees, digging for termite nests, and developing the strength and the skills she needs seem to be her favourite activities throughout the day. She loves to play in the dirt so much that her body is full of wood chunks and mud! Wawa has expressed natural avoidance behaviour towards people and barks when sees someone approaching (one of the better candidates for release).
She also reveals her own world of how to survive in the forest, foraging her own food, building nests, climbing trees, and recognising threats. She came from the wild and that is where she belongs, in the forest. It is gradually clear that she is ready to be released back to the wild!
You can make a difference and help every sun bear in our care live their best life in the forest home!
Video by Chiew Lin May
Day 68: Betung growing up! Every sun bear has a different story. She has been deprived of a suitable living in the forest, an appropriate diet, and has been unable to behave as she would in the wild. She needs to go through a long rehabilitation process to restore her wild nature and recover where she had been stolen from. It is a tragedy to find a sun bear cub without its mother.
Bark bark hooray! It was such a delight to see her overcome her obstacles. She is simply AMAZING! Fortunately, she has shown tremendous growth in the last two months. She is a strong little bear and no doubt she made stronger by the love she has all around her! Thank you for your kindness, support, and love for Little Betung.
Her smile will definitely brighten up your day today! Help us give Betung the life she deserves. Please adopt Little Betung today at https://www.bsbcc.org.my/share-bear-a... ! With love and tender care, Betung soon becomes a strong little bear.
Please help share Little Betung’s story and love with the world!
Text by Jenny Wong Jenn Ney
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Min Yi and I from the Universiti Sains Malaysia were some of the first volunteers at the BSBCC. Our volunteer programme was cut short from 8 weeks to just a little over 5 weeks (30 days). It might be a brief amount of time to achieve anything.
What can you do in 30 days?
You could be a bear housekeeper who cleans the bear house, sweeping up enormous bear scats so that every cute little bear can have a pleasant place to sleep for the night.
You could be an engineer or architect who designs and builds some hammocks, treats or your own project, as enrichment so that every bear can have a little fun and would not feel left out in their own dens.
You could be a chef who helps cutting pumpkins, sweet potatoes, watermelons and papayas into suitable shapes so that every bear can gorge themselves on their kind of Michelin-star food.
You could be an expert in Bear Etiquette who knows their behaviours and biology including what to do and what not to do for their well-being.
You could be a nurse who helps with the medical examination of a bear, checking their wounds, pulse, teeth, X-ray and even taking “pawprints” to monitor the general health of bears.
You could be an Animal Behaviourist (which is actually my favourite!) who closely observes and monitors every single movement of bears in a controlled environment, so that the data can be used to determine if the bears can get along with one another.
You could be a bookworm who immerses herself in the story of a man’s quest to save Bornean sun bears, Dr. Wong Siew Te the founder of BSBCC from the book “Saving Sun Bears” written by award-winning author Sarah Pye.
Most importantly, you could be an advocate to benefit and help wildlife conservationists for Bornean sun bears, the world’s smallest bears, whose lives may be on the brink of extinction in the next decades due to poaching, illegal pet trade and deforestation.
Video by Chiew Lin May
Wawa was found alone in the forest reserve and appearing weak. We believe her mother was likely killed by the poacher. She was only four months old and had not been properly cared for. The little cub was taken to BSBCC on 18th March 2016.
Over time, we noted the amazing changes in her behaviour. Wawa is a sun bear who is here to get the most out of life – freedom + honey + trees! She extremely smart and wild who loves to stay high up on trees! Please share her story!
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.