Text by Nithisha Nair (Intern student, University Putra Malaysia Bintulu Campus)
Photos by Chiew Lin May
As I introduced previously, here continues the story of our three musketeers. Romolina, Logan and Joe are now in fence training to prepare them for the forest enclosure. It took the trio 7 days to pass the fence training inside the training pen.
On the first day, the observation began with Romolina, who immediately makes her way into the training pen. Fruits and honey were laid in a trail leading to a pile in the centre with the intention of luring the cubs out and giving them comfort. Nevertheless, it was pointless, Romolina being the explorer that she is made her way out by herself and explored the cage, ignoring the fruits completely. Upon sniffing the corners of cage, she earned her first zap, but that did not deter her from continuing her exploration, it was not until her second zap that she became wearier and alert. After that it took a lot of effort to get Romolina back into the training pen, she would climb around in the den observing the pen from afar no matter what food we used to lure her out. All things aside, all it took to get her back out was dead wood and she happily made her way out digging and rummaging.
The observation proceeded with Joe on the second day. He had his eye and taste buds stuck on to the trail of honey and fruits towards the centre. When that was finished, he roamed around the cage earning his zaps, which eventually led to him suckling on his paw in the water container. His zaps were an obvious lesson to him though, after a few days in the pen Joe was smart enough to claw his food away from the hot wire very slowly and carefully. He showed amazing progress and seemed to be the best out of the trio.
On the third day it was Logan’s turn to train. He was nothing short of Joe in following the trail, he licked every bit of honey left on the ground with none to spare. But once he got zapped, he was the hardest to get back into the training pen. Eventually with help he was able to come back out and learn to claw food away from the wire.
After the three were used to the training pen and was able to explore on their own, they were put in the training pen together in hopes that they would encourage each other to explore their surroundings, and when that didn’t result in a very positive outlook, they were let into the training pen with their integrated buddies, to know more about integration do read our blog titled ‘Catch Up with Our New Friends’!
Upon being integrated and provided with dead wood, it was clear that the trio were more comfortable in the training pen. They were also seen clawing their food from under the fence, proving that they all passed indoor fence training with flying colours. Thus, it was time for outdoor fence training.
The first day of outdoor fence training, also known as their release to Pen D, Joe was the first to touch ground but got zapped while exploring and was afraid after. With Romolina, she ran up the enclosure but went into the training pen after getting zapped, she then proceeded to explore the area below the ramp. Last but not least, upon exploring Logan got zapped, in a panic he rushed his way to the top of the enclosure completely forgetting about the wires and getting zapped several more times. When he reached the top, he climbed on a tree vocalizing while refusing to come down.
The trio remained at the bottom of the enclosure exploring and occasionally pacing. That was until Wawa, another one of our bears were integrated with the cubs in the enclosure, she managed to guide Logan to the top of the enclosure, and eventually Romolina followed. After that the two were more than comfortable to remain at the top, exploring, digging, climbing, playing with the water from the sprinklers and sun bathing, they even refused to go back home for two nights! Joe was a tough shell to crack, while the two was living their best lives in the enclosure, Joe remained suckling and staying at the ramp.
No amount of integration was able to bring Joe up, eventually we decided to try a new tactic, as soon as he set foot on the ramp, we closed the guillotine door so he would not run back in, and then we encouraged him to explore with treats thrown on the grass. It worked! With two days of that, he eventually made his way up the forest enclosure, and once again with the help of our amazing teacher, Wawa, Joe was guided to the top, on his 13th day with outdoor fence training he was finally able to properly explore the enclosure and we could not be happier!
Fence training may seem extreme, in some cases even cruel, but in our case, it is vital and completely necessary to ensure that our bears do not escape once they are released to our forest enclosure. And as we all know; the forest enclosure release is an important step towards their journey in being released to the wild! The voltage of our fence is always monitored and ensured not to be harmful to our sun bears.
So here continues the journey of our trio towards their happy ever after!
Video by Chiew Lin May
Life is meant for great adventures and best friends!
Text by Amanda Wilson
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Every individual has a story to tell, therefore it is only right that a bear’s story is told; a life behind iron bars displayed for people to see, exploited as money boosters through mistakenly presented for something they are not. This particular case involves two sun bears who were previously displayed as Giant Pandas. One of them was Kudat, an adult male sun bear who currently lives at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) who is now 9 years old. Kudat was rescued from a private mini zoo in a district named Kudat, within northern Sabah, where he was kept alongside another adult female sun bear named Panda. They were both kept in a small cemented-floored cage together, where they were fed chicken meat everyday, which was clearly an unfit diet for a Sun Bear. Kudat was named after the district where he was rescued from, although he originally is from Tawau.
It is heart-wrenching to hear that these animals were exploited merely for human’s greed. These animals deserve to be in the wild where they can enjoy being in the forest. According to the rescue report, both bears came from Tawau and were still infants when they were presented as gifts to the zoo’s owner back in 2008 (most likely involving a lot of money). From then on, these bears were labeled as “Pandas” and became the main attraction of the zoo. Fortunately, in 2010, the bears were surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department before being sent to BSBCC. A hopeful journey for these bears began. When they first arrived at the Centre, they were quite tame and adapted to the new environment very fast. In terms of size, both bears were much bigger compared to other bears of the same age, which was probably due to their heavy meat consumption at the mini zoo previously.
As soon as they arrived at the centre, Kudat and Panda were kept in quarantine for specific amount of time before being moved to the Bear House. Due to limited space in the forest enclosure at that time, Kudat had to stay in the Bear House for a few years.
Kudat is a playful bear, although he can be perceived as aggressive, this is his manner of playing. He is a sweet and friendly bear. He loves to play with water and is one of the few bears in the centre that eats fruit peels. At the Centre, Kudat is fed with a proper diet and was able to socialize with other bears like Along and Simone. He was introduced to various types of enrichments and learnt to climb, dig and forage for food like any other bear does in the wild. In his den, he loves to lounge up in his hammock. Before he was released to the forest enclosure, Kudat successfully went through fence training. Fence training is a required process for the bears to be introduced to the electric wires. This is so that they recognize the existence of these wires that surround the forest enclosures to prevent the bears from escaping, getting into fights and so on.
For the bears to be reintroduced to the forest, it takes patience and a whole lot of courage but it is rewarding to see. Being only steps away from the outside, it took some time for Kudat to brace himself and explore his new surroundings for it was pure fear that kept him inside. The bear keepers and volunteers tried various ways to lure him out of his den from drizzling honey on the ramps and forest floor, to placing food as incentives for him to come outside. These tricks did not only help to trigger his sensory smell, but also encourage the bear’s curiosity of the situation. At first, he only took food that was close enough for his paw to grab without stepping outside of the den’s door. He also showed unnatural stretching to grab the food on the ramp whilst keeping his back feet in the door to his den. After some time, he would come out of his den only to grab the food and quickly went back inside.
It took a good two weeks or so for him to have the courage to explore the outside world. We were overjoyed and proud of him! It was touching and rewarding to see him finally roaming around and exploring the greeneries. From only stepping on cemented-floor everyday, he finally got to feel the forest floor. From being cautious of his surroundings, he got more comfortable and acclimated by day. He even climbed up trees and scraped dead logs in the enclosure. He was first released in Pen D of the forest enclosures at the centre before he was moved to Pen L. Recently, due to required maintanence work in Pen L, he had to be abstained from going out into the forest enclosure for some time. However, he is now free to go out again and climb trees, dig and play in the mud like any bear should be able to. We are hoping for more happy stories for more of our beary friends!
Climbing up on trees and playing with enrichments
Text by Ummu ‘Atiyyah Mohamed Talhah
Photos by Ummu ‘Atiyyah Mohamed Talhah & Chiew Lin May
My name is Ummu ‘Atiyyah, a Zoology student from Universiti Sains Malaysia and I was an intern at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre for 8 weeks.
Around 3 years ago, I didn’t even know bears existed in Malaysia. That’s something a Zoology student should be ashamed of. One day I saw a picture of my lecturer at a Bear Conservation Centre, so I searched the name of the centre online and to my surprise it was in Malaysia.
A few years later, I find myself applying for a role as an intern at the centre. A few months later, I’m already in gumboots and holding a bucket of fruits.
I love working in the kitchen. Whenever I have to go through the bananas, I will always think of the song from The Jungle Book, the Bear Necessities. Nevertheless, I love going out to feed the bears in the enclosure. Seeing them out in the forest, closest to their natural habitat really made me happy, especially when I get to see them napping high up on the trees, digging, and playing.
The first half of the day is usually planned routine work and after lunch we usually get to relax a little by making enrichments.
Sometimes I feel like I’m in an advertisement promoting Malaysia. Orangutans minding their own business just only 1 metre from me, hornbills flying to a nearby tree right in front of me, as well as their unforgettable sound, almost like the sound of a duck. Not just that, countless number of unknown beautiful birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, the cute pygmy elephants, pygmy squirrels and even giant squirrels! All these sightings really make me appreciate our flora and fauna especially.
Not just the animals, I have not yet met any rude Sabahan’s during my 8 weeks stay. I admit that I am among those who call themselves slow learners. Even so, the staff, especially the bear keepers have always been motivating and patient with me. Being the only Muslim in the house, I am so relieved and grateful that they can try to understand and respect my beliefs and my “pantang larang”.
There are days where Dr Wong would have discussion sessions with the interns and volunteers. We would talk about almost everything from the bears to conservation and environmental issues, Malaysia’s forest and palm oil issues and a lot more. One time, he showed us a quote from Jane Goodall which goes like this, “Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.”
Some days we were assigned to go for outreach programs at schools, and some days we were assigned to go on the platform to talk to the visitors. Although I haven’t been the very best at talking with strangers, I really enjoyed talking to people especially those who were interested to know more.
Believe it or not, during my 8 (short) weeks of interning, I got to differentiate the bears based on how they look, and even based on their behaviours!
After a few weeks at the centre, I start to think more and more about the bears especially the ones that cant be released outside to the enclosure due to reasons that cannot be avoided. I tried to think of how I can help to minimize their stress and improvise the environment that they are currently in.
Finally, six days prior to ending my internship, I managed to provide a humble dry cage for Amaco, the oldest bear who is sadly never going to see the forest again. Brandon and I gathered dried leaves, grasses and twigs and placed them on the cage floor. For me, a dry cage is more like a fake forest, where the bears can get comfortable. Amaco and Panda (his companion) were curious enough to sniff around like cats. I wish I could’ve done more for Amaco and the others but I really hope the dry cage helped Amaco and Panda in any small way it can.
Two days before I left, a windstorm and a short but heavy rain hit the centre at around 4:30pm. We waited for the bears to come back to the bear house, fearing that there might be fallen trees, which might cause bears to escape. In the end, there was only one bear, Wawa who hadn’t returned. Everyone including the people from Wildlife Rescue Unit and other organizations came to help. David (a staff) accompanied me and another three interns in the bear house. After all of their hard work out in the dark and in the rain, Wawa finally came back. I admired all of the staff’s heroism, something I never thought I’d be able to witness. Days that usually end at 5:00pm ended at 7:00pm that day. Only after all that did we know that some of the pens in the enclosure as well as the platform for visitors were destroyed. Looking at the pictures really broke our hearts.
“Who is your favourite bear?” I always get asked this question. I usually just pick names just to give an answer because I don’t think I actually have favorites and not because of the cliché “I love them all”, but because I have weak spots for some of them. Week after week, my list of “favourites” just keeps on getting longer and longer.
Some are fierce and some are gentle. However they are, I still love them all even though they couldn’t care less about me.
When I try to look back on the first day that I arrived here, with me being awkward with everyone, it feels like a lifetime ago. However my 8 weeks internship feels so short! The bears now have a special place in my heart, and strangers became friends. How things changed since I arrived. Even though the work was tiring, hot and sweaty, I always find myself missing the days where feeding the bears was a routine for me.
To all the bear keepers and staffs at BSBCC, I thank you all so much for making this experience something so fruitful for me. Though I smell like cow dung every evening, I sincerely loved the work at BSBCC. I apologize if I have been too slow or if I asked too many questions (I know I do). I hope you will all continue fighting for our bears and for Malaysia’s forests.
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Bintang was originally known as Ronnie, named after her previous owner who surrendered the bear to the BSBCC on July 15, 2014. Bintang was just a five months old female sun bear cub and weighed 7.9kg when she arrived in BSBCC. Her history is unknown. Owners who find Sun bear cubs will attempt to reason for holding them captive, but no explanation is suitable for the holding of a wild animal. Keeping a wild animal as a pet, such as the Sun bear, is illegal. In 2017, this bear was renamed to “Bintang” when Albert Teo Chin Kion and Borneo Eco Tour Sdn Bhd, both passionate enthusiasts into changing a sun bear’s life, adopted Bintang. Another reason for changing the name to “Bintang” is because her chest mark appears as a sun-shape, sprinkled with light black dots. “Bintang” is a beautiful name which incorporates the Malaysian meaning of “star” to represent her unique chest pattern.
Rescued at such a young age, Bintang spent little time of her cub life alongside her Mother; sun bear cub should remain with their Mother until two/three years old, when living in their natural habitat. The individuals who separated Bintang from her Mother, weakened her chances for survival as she was unable to learn valuable life skills from a young age. Therefore, BSBCC needs to take good care of her and teach her how to be a real bear again. She has been offered lots of fruits such as durian, mangosteen, tarap, rambutan and many more. Other than that, in order to encourage her natural bear behaviour, lots of enrichments are made and given to her. She shows her improvement day by day.
Sunbearo, Loki and Bintang are integrated in quarantine. She met her bear brother, Sunbearo and her bear sister, Loki within this time and all were getting along extremely well. They spend time playing fighting, suckling for comfort seeking, resting and sleeping together. Bintang’s suckling style is different to others; her paw will be placed on one of the friend, whilst suckling.
On 22 November 2015, Sunbearo, Loki and Bintang integrated with Montom and Susie2 and then Damai. On 24 December 2015, they were released to the forest enclosure. They were foraging together and found some bugs, ants and termites but they didn’t seem too interested in climbing. Loki was the first to climb. After being anxious on the first day, Bintang and Sunbearo both started to climb across the following few days, which made them fall in love with climbing. In 2016, the bears integrated with Kala, Mary, Boboi, Kitud, and Tan Tan, as well as Dodop and Wawa. There was no signs of aggression between them. Bintang is very friendly to all the bears, but Damai is her best bear friend ever! Bintang loves to spend time with her bear friend, to play fight, rest and just hang out together in the forest enclosure.
Bintang is a very kind-natured and gentle sun bear. She does not mind being dirty an actually loves digging and tearing up the dead wood across the forest enclosure. She enjoys her nap time and snoozing on her favourite tree. Bintang is an excellent ground nest builder. She tries to grab as many big leaves from the trees and arranges it nicely on the ground. She will continue to build even if her friends try to interrupt her, with a lot of determination to have a nice comfy nest to rest on afterwards.
Bintang is showing excellent survival skills in the forest every day. We hope that soon she will be one of the next candidates for releasing back into the wild. She deserves to stay in the wild and be a WILD bear once again!
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 Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Mamatai is one of our adult female bear who is around 17 years old. The name Mamatai comes from the local Dusun language meaning ‘killer’ and she earned this name due to her previous aggressive attitude. Mamatai was originally kept in Sepilok before being sent to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo and she returned to Sepilok in November 2010 to join us here at BSBCC.
Mamatai is a gorgeous bear with her beautiful grey colour eyes. However, she has unusually short legs compared to other bears and she moves around very slowly. We never thought such a round bear could become an expert in tree climbing, however Mamatai has surprised us and is one of the few bear who has learned how to build a nest using tree leaves and branches. Despite the tree nest being small and messy, she enjoys resting up there. Mamatai is our resident ‘Yogi bear’, as she loves doing various yoga poses when she is resting.
Enrichments are an essential part of the rehabilitation process for our bears. People often ask “what are enrichments?” An enrichment is a ‘toy’ that we make for the bears in order to encourage their natural behaviours. BSBCC staffs and volunteers make daily enrichments for Mamatai including objects such as wooded swings, tyre swings, dead logs and many others. Mamatai really enjoys playing with the large variety of enrichments that we create for her.
On 14th August 2013 Mamatai and her friend (Wan Wan) were released into one of our forest enclosure ‘Pen D’ for the first time. Although Wan Wan and Mamatai had been close friends since they both arrived at BSBCC, conflicts soon developed and resulted in Mamatai being relocated into ‘Pen H’. Today Mamatai is a brave and independent bear who loves to spend her time resting on a large log in her enclosure.
Mamatai is a perfect example in showing the role that sun bears play in the forest. Many plants and trees rely on sun bears to disperse there seeds. The sun bear consume a variety of fruits and as they travel they leave seeds spread throughout the forest, giving the sun bear the title of the ‘forest planters’. Sun bears are also excellent climbers, able to reach heights of up to 60 metres and this leads to their role of ‘forest engineers’. Sun bears climb in order to harvest honey from beehives and use their claws and canines to tear the tree trunks leaving a cavity in the tree. This can provided nesting sites for other animals, such as hornbills and flying squirrel. Sun bears are also considered to be the ‘forest doctors’. They help trees to stay healthy by controlling the population of termite. Last but not least, sun bears are the ‘forest farmers’ as they love digging helping to mix the poor soil and the rich soil together and enhancing the nutrient cycle.
Although Mamatai is getting older she is still enjoying her life here at BSBCC, she continues to climb, forage and rest, building nests in the forest. The sun bear is a forest-dependent species and the forest is also dependent! Say NO to illegal logging and protect their natural habitat for them! They cannot speak but you can and the actions we take can help them to have the life that they deserve!
Text by Bronwyn Nyrie Watkins (APE Volunteer)
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Kudat is an adult male bear, who was taken from a mini zoo along with Panda, an adult female, where they had been displayed as giant pandas and fed them a chicken in every day. However due to the limited area of forest enclosure in this Centre, Kudat has to stay in bear house for two years. This just led to it being all the more emotional watching Kudat be retrained to touch the ground and go outside, as we knew he could, it was pure fear that kept him inside.
For the month that I was volunteering at BSBCC, I was part of the group that observed Kudat in the training pen. This was probably the most rewarding part of my whole time with the bears, as not only did we watch his reactions to the outside, we were also able to move the food (used as incentive to come outside) around depending on where we wanted him to go or how far he could actually stretch. The lines of fruit radiating from his door were a visual display of his improvement. The other rewarding aspect was that we could see him walking more like a bear, with no unnatural stretching to keep his feet in the door to his night cage. Before the fence training, Kudat had been stressed, resulting in pacing and worrying his fur until he had bald patches on his legs and head, but now his fur is starting to grow back, making him look more like the beautiful sleek bear that he should be!
Kudat stepping down onto the ground was a perfect goodbye present for me, as I could see the difference just spending half an hour every day with a bear does for their confidence. I hope that when I come back, I will be seeing Kudat out in the enclosures outside!
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by BSBCC & Chiew Lin May
I am not an ordinary sun bear cub as I became a victim of the illegal wildlife trade.
A villager reported that I was found on a palm oil plantation while hunting for bearded pigs. I was kept as a house pet and ended up spending the beginning of my life confined in a tiny cage.
I was only two months old and weighed 2-3 kg. At two months old, I should be with my mother. In the wild, I should be tightly with my mum and relying on her protection and care for two to three years of my life. My mum was killed by a poacher, which is a common fate for sun bears. Many people still are not aware of the negative impacts and how illegal it is to keep a sun bear as a pet.
Due to the unbalanced diet with no milk and being kept in severely cramped conditions, I showed signs of malnutrition, calcium deficiency and stunted growth. It was sad to see the trauma I had to suffer alone. I am a dwarf with my limbs weak so I need to walk slowly.
Thankfully, on September 12th, 2011 Sabah Wildlife Department came and rescued me, and BSBCC gave me very close care.
During my rehabilitation, my papa bear, Dr. Wong Siew Te (BSBCC CEO &
Founder), took me out for daily forest walks to learn the survival skills I need in the wild. Wong is like my surrogate mother. This was amazing since it gives me the chance to return to my forest home. I learnt from my papa bear how to climb trees, how to balance myself when resting on trees, how to forage for wild food (example: fruits and invertebrates), how to defend myself and how to avoid predators. I am adapting really well to my new forest environment and am getting good practice for my life in the forest home. My papa bear helps me strengthen my muscles and makes sure I am capable in walking, climbing trees, running, and learning useful moves everyday! They prepared a variety of enrichment for me to ensure my natural instincts are prevalent. Mary, the sun bear wants to give Thanks to my papa bear, Wong – “Despite my stunted body, I am still a brave and confident bear! He helped me grow stronger, his tireless efforts to care for me while learning to become a wild bear and for giving me a second chance, and the dedication to protecting my fellow sun bears. I truly did not believe I would survive. It has meant everything to me, my Papa bear!”
It took a long time for me to undergo the rehabilitation process. I am in good health while under the care of BSBCC. For me, being previously kept as a pet made me forget that I am actually a sun bear. Suckling is an innate behavior. I should suckle my mum for seeking comfort but I had lost her, and the chance to seek protection and comfort. This makes me only able to suckle my own feet to seek comfort.
But a year later, with the care from BSBCC, I am slowly thriving!
I am a friendly character which makes me so incredibly loveable. I love to wrestle with the other bears.
Due to my relatively short and smaller sized body, I am now only able to socialise with the sub-adult group. Within these six years, I have been introduced to many groups of bears which have included Fulung, Debbie, Ah Bui, Bongkud, Koko, Damai, Sunbearo, Loki, Bintang, Boboi, Kitud, Tan-Tan, Dodop, Wawa, Montom, Susie2, Kala, Nano and Noah. I am very social with the other bear friends – through lots and lots of happy bear wrestling.
I greatly enjoy the time in the jungle with my friends
I am keen to explore my surroundings.
I am always up to something which is connected to food and have a good appetite.
I am at the age where I still am learning to be a wild bear and show a lot of natural behaviors such as digging, foraging, climbing and love finding my own protein supply of termites, beetles, beetle larvae or soil.
I love climbing to the top of the trees.
Although we are very arboreal and agile, here we sometimes will compete with each other to get to the top of the tree canopy! We are up in the trees, which is where we belong!
During sunny days, I prefer to stay in shady places – either in the underbrush or in the trees.
It is my determination!
The rest of the time, we enjoy wrestling, chasing each other, rolling, climbing trees, snoozing on a treetop or the forest floor, feeling the breeze stirring the treetops,
lounging by a pool
and carrying on making mischief and it is a whole load of fun! We find out about life in the forest together and are loving every minute of it! I am in my own world! But most importantly, I know I am part of the sun bear family.
What a wonderful experience and opportunity I have after such a traumatic beginning. Please spread the word that sun bears are WILD animals that belong in the forest, and NOT to end up behind bars. We need to clear the pet trade, poaching and deforestation. It is not over yet! Please let us enjoy the taste of freedom in the forest where we belong!
Text by Nur Athirah Binti Asrif (UNIMAS student)
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Sunbears belong to the wild, in a vast forest and not in a cramped cage or behind iron bars. All the sunbears in the centre have their own despairing stories from before they were rescued. There might be more bears out there that need our help, faint voices that long to be rescued. Sunbears belong in the forest where trees become their shade and bushes comfort them as their pillows. However, not all of them have the opportunity to be able to enjoy the life they deserve. The canopies that are supposed to give them shelter are replaced with a human house, the tree branches for them to sleep and relax on are substituted with iron bars. The state of the 'homes' that are provided by humans are devastating enough, let alone the food they consume. Some of the bears are given only condensed milk by their previous owner, when their true diets range from fruits, insects and small mammals. As a conservation centre, this place provides all the essential things for the bears to experience the life they are supposed to. In the process of rehabilitation, the bears will be released into the forest enclosure after passing their fence training and integration with the other bears. For most of us at the centre, the small steps that the bears take to enter the forest enclosure is a big leap for everyone, especially the sunbears themselves.
This time around is our favorite duo, Noah and Nano. Both Noah and Nano have never been into a forest enclosure before let alone the vast jungle. On the 13th of August 2017, both Noah and Nano were given their first attempt to be released inside the forest enclosure of Pen D. As the guillotine door was opened, both Noah and Nano were full of anxiety. Both of them had never smelt the scent of the trees, nor had they seen the vibrancy of the greeneries. For them, it was like a new world that may or may not be secure for the both of them. Noah and Nano took their turns to take a glimpse outside of the cage. The rays of sunshine gave them a warmer impression of the forest. For their first attempt to be released in the forest enclosure, both Noah and Nano showed a positive response by letting their heads outside the G-door, although they had zero intention to go out in that moment.
Luckily, a great troop from the same pen which consists of Mary, Wawa, and Dodop, came down the forest enclosure of Pen D and had a visit to their new pen-mates, Noah and Nano. As Noah saw Wawa, Dodop and Mary playing under the sun and smothering their bodies with mud, Noah finally tried to walk down the ramp. Noah took a very little and cautious step down the ramp. It took him several attempts to finally touch the ground for the very first time. Noah's paw touched the wet mud but he was quick to retrieve himself and climbed back into the cage. It may have been humorous to us, but it was a bizarre experience for Noah as it was his first time experiencing the feel of the muddy texture. The weird greetings of the forest ground did not stop Noah from trying.
Wawa and Dodop, the other bears who also stay in the forest enclosure of Pen D, have helped Noah a lot in encouraging him to go down. As various foods were thrown into the pen, Noah finally went down and followed the other bears which were Wawa and Dodop. Noah enjoyed himself by playing with the water in the drainage and scraping most of the dead logs in the enclosure. Even the great amount of honey on the ground did not bother him as he was too immersed in his new surroundings. As days passed, Noah became more adventurous like he used to be.
He even climbed the trees which were guarded by Wawa and Dodop. The moment when Noah climbed the tree for the first time was such an enchanting and touching scene, showing how great it is for them to be able to enjoy the forest again. There was nothing in the world that could stop Noah in that moment as he ventured the whole forest enclosure himself. He digs every possible pit, scrapes every stray log and sniffs every inch of the greeneries.
Nano, on the other hand, is still cautious and chooses to stay in the cage by himself. Nevertheless, he always appears to be calm and has his own ways of enjoying the forest. Unlike Noah, Nano has his front legs crossed on the ramp while having his head resting on it. Nano chooses to enjoy the forest in a more calmer way and is more interested in the view of the forest rather than the touch of it.
As for now, Noah has become a part of Mary’s group and has the best time of his life everyday in the forest. Every morning when the guillotine door is opened, Noah is always there getting ready to enter the forest enclosure again to begin his new journey. On the ramp, Nano is always there relaxing and enjoying the forest with his own ways and will join Noah in the forest soon!