Text by Mohammad Naqiuddin bin Alipudin
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Kala is a 6 year old, adult female sun bear in BSBCC. She arrived at the BSBCC in January 2015 as a cub and she was separated from her mother at an early age. She was actually being illegally traded and someone bought her with the intention of surrendering her to Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit. Upon arrival at the BSBCC, she showed signs of dehydration, emaciation and malnutrition; basically in a very poor condition.
However, Kala is treated full of care here and has been progressing into a strong adult sun bear. She was introduced back to her natural habitat, the forest, on June 2016.
Kala loves wandering in the forest, foraging in the soil, biting tree bark in search for foods such as invertebrates like earthworms, termites and pill millipedes. With her sharp claws and full set of canines, she has no problem to bite through the tree bark or any wooden logs. Walking around the forest alone is really her thing. She would find her favorite spot and just sit there, sunbathing under the rich sun rays before going back to foraging again, or sleep on dead logs.
She loves being in the forest, just like how humans like being at home. Most of the time, almost every day, she doesn’t go back to her den and spends the night out in the forest. As adventurous as she might be, she’s still learning several survival skills and hopefully, she will soon be completely rehabilitated and able to be released and live on her own in her natural habitat, away from humans.
In the bear house, Kala stays with Susie 2 in the same den and her neighbour, Bintang. All three of them went out to the forest together. When Bintang had a grumpy moment, she would growl at both Kala and Susie 2 after the door is opened. However, it didn’t affect their bonding at all as there is no aggression. Susie 2 sometimes growls back. As for Kala, she is one chilled bear. In their den, she will rest alone on the platform and remain unbothered.
Even during feeding time, unlike other bears who are so eager to get fed first, Kala would only come down when she really is hungry and she has no problem sharing foods with Susie 2.Kala is not really fond of new people which is really good being part of her natural instinct. When she feels threatened, she knows how to defend and fight for herself with a warning bark. She is cool around other sun bears but not around human. She is always observant. When any keeper enters her neighboring dens to clean, she lies down and watches from above, sometimes sniffing then barking but when she gets bored she falls asleep!
Kala is not only an adorable sun bear but also strong and brave. Her journey whilst at the BSBCC has been positive and she still consistently improves, mastering skills for what it takes to be a wild sun bear and keeping in touch with her natural instinct. She loves the forest, the air, the sun’s rays and playing in the greens that grow on the rich soil. Hopefully, she will soon be fulfilling all the criteria of a wild sun bear and able to be released in the future. Good days are coming Kala!
Mamatai loves the forest.
Mamatai is an adult female sun bear, at least 20 years old. She has beautiful big grey eyes, a short and plump body, adorable and downright cute!
Mamatai is a happy go lucky bear who loves to greet the forest! She loves basking in the sun, and resting on logs seems to be her favourite activity throughout the day. Although Mamatai is getting older, she is still enjoying her bear's life. The forest makes her feel young and look great! This is why she loves the forest!
Forest is her natural habitat and her real home.
Sun bears are the forest farmers.
The sun bears dig in the soil for small invertebrates, such as ants, termites, pill millipedes, beetle grubs and many more. While digging, they are helping to mix the soil to enhance the forest's nutrient cycle.
Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Kina is a five year old adult female bear. She always has a bright face with curious eyes, big ears similar to the moon bear’s ears. And, this is how she got the title, “the Moon’s cousin”. Besides, Kina also has a beautiful, unique chest mark.
Kina was originally named Kalong by her previous owner, but we renamed her “Kina” after where she came from, Kinarut, Sabah. Kina was kept as a pet for more than a year. Her owner said that she saw a mother bear with a bear cub crossing a road. The mother bear suddenly got frightened, ran away and left Kina behind. She was tiny and had not even opened her eyes. We never knew the truth about what happened to Kina. Do you believe a mother bear would leave her cub behind? Mother bears protect their bear cubs instinctively. The cub will generally follow their mother for two to three years to learn forest survival skills in the wild. Can you imagine, without their mother beside them, how will the cub survive in the wild?
Fortunately, Kina was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department on the 22nd February 2017 and sent to BSBCC on the 1st March 2017.
In the quarantine, Kina made friends with Sika, Soo, BJ and Diana. They get along very well as Kina is a friendly bear. She always initiates play fight with the others. Sun bears are a solitary animal in the wild. However, during the integration process, the sun bears can learn from each other and encourage healthy behaviour. They spend their days together and enjoy each other’s company.
On the 6th February 2020, Kina moved from quarantine to the bear house with her groupmates (Sika, Soo and BJ). Kina is an active bear full of enthusiasm. She shows dominance in her group. She is curious about her surroundings. Kina is not picky and enjoys all the food. There is no food leftover at all. She will cheekily grab all the food for herself too. It seems that food is more important than anything else for her!
Kina is an excellent explorer. She likes to roam freely in the forest. She always has some favourite spots to stay in. In the forest, Kina spends some time with Sika and BJ. However, Kina tends to be independent. She loves to explore the forest alone, digging and foraging all day long. She enjoys sleeping in the trees when she is full. She also spends time searching for small invertebrates as snacks, including ants, termites, beetle larvae and many more. Sometimes she will spend the night outside. This all shows that she is completely relaxed about being outside.
Kina went through these unhappy experiences. Without the company of her mother, she has lost her world once. After coming to BSBCC, her life took on a whole new look. Kina is doing her best every day. We will also continue to work hard to create a brighter future for her and her bear friends.
The forest is the natural habitat of the sun bears. In BSBCC, we reintroduce the rescued bears to their natural habitat - the forest enclosures, so that the sun bears can be the closest to life in the wild.
In the forest, the bears develop the skills necessary - foraging, tree climbing, nest building and self-defence - for independence.
The sun bears are arboreal animals!
Ever wonder what is the sun bear doing in the trees?
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Simone is a sweet-natured sun bear and is one of the favourite bears of people who have met her. She is an 11 year old adult female bear and has a wide and beautiful chest mark which looks like a webbed foot. Before Simone arrived at BSBCC, she was kept with a male sun bear, Along, in a Mini Zoo, Hot Springs at Tawau. On 2016, the owner surrendered them to Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and they came to BSBCC together.
Simone captures people’s hearts with her irresistible attractiveness. Simone is always chilled and calm. She is an observer, preferring to stay somewhere high, to be able to observe her surroundings. She is always curious and wants to get involved in whatever is happening at that moment. For this reason, she is always sitting on the water container to get a closer and better view of the activities around her.
Simone loves her enrichments and always looks forward to them. She enjoys everything that is offered to her. You can see how much she enjoys the enrichments as she climbs, explores, tears, bites and enjoys.
On the 28th of December, 2018, Simone finally took her first step into the forest. Now, she is confident to explore there, she spends more time observing her new environment. Due to the limited forest enclosures for the bears in our centre, she takes turns to go out to the forest enclosure with Sigalung and Kudat. This is because they are staying in the same row of dens. Sometimes Kudat is in a bad mood with Simone, especially when Simone gets the food or enrichment first, yet, this seldom bothers Simone. Along, the bear who came to the BSBCC with Simone used to be her neighbour. We exchanged Along with Sigalung. However we found both Sigalung and Along showed negative social behaviour with Simone during integration. Therefore, they are separated into different dens.
It is very interesting to observe Simone's behaviour. She likes to sit on the food holder and enjoys her food by holding it with both front paws. However, when offering her food on a tray, she likes to dig everything out and this is how she got the gold digger title. Simone is a slow eater. Sometimes she will not eat the food immediately, she will wait and begin to eat when she is ready.
After four years of rehabilitation in our centre, Simone has improved a lot. She is enhancing her skills every day. It makes us happy to see Simone enjoying her life and learnimg to be a wild bear.
Siesta in life!
May your days be filled with laughter always!
"This is the kind of place we would love to spend most of our time here where we can explore, foraging, climbing favourite trees, resting, and play fight with bear pals! Please help protect our habitat!" - The smiling bear, Fulung!
Dodop was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department in 2nd June 2016, where she was found kept as a house pet in Singgaron villager, Ranau district. Demand from the wildlife trade leads to sun bears being illegally stolen from the wild to become pets, attractions in zoos or used in traditional Asian medicine.
Having been kept long in captivity and habituated to people, she has lost the natural instinct to survive in the wild. Fortunately, with the help and care from our team, Dodop has finally learned what it is like to be a wild sun bear. She loves hanging out on the tree! Please share her story!
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by BSBCC & Chiew Lin May
Sweet Manis has been at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) since August 2009. During the arrival, she was suspected to be pregnant. However, her pregnancy was later found to be a pseudo pregnancy. Manis means “Sweet” in Malay language.
Manis was found having health problems which caused changes in skin colour and dryness. Her health condition has improved with intensive treatment and care. She has received health checks since arriving at her new home. Manis settled into the new environment very quickly. A nutritious and balanced diet was given to her.
Being kept as a pet for years can have an effect on the sun bears physical and mental health. Manis will show more stereotypical behaviours in the dens. It is believed that she was never given any enrichment when she was kept at the zoo, thus leading to her stereotypical behaviour. The volunteers and keepers provide different types of enrichment to encourage Manis’s natural behaviour and for stimulation. Manis is a curious bear that is keen on interacting with the new enrichment toys offered. She now has dry leaves as a bed which she has never had before.
After she finished quarantine period, Manis soon moved to the next stage of her rehabilitation. In 2010, Manis was integrated with the larger adult female bear group – Cerah, Jelita, Kuamut, Susie and Lawa.
Manis and her friends were moved to the new bear house on 7th April 2010, after the construction of bear house 1 and forest enclosure 1 was completed.
Integrating them with other bears will enable them to share and roam the forest enclosure together. It also allows Manis to continue to learn more wild sun bear behaviours. Besides, there has been a significant change in Manis’s behaviour since she has bear pals. Over the years, we have watched her grow into a gentle and dominant adult bear. She is the “grandmother” of the group.
Preparing for life in the wild can be a long process. Sun bear cubs will live with their mother for two to three years to learn the skills they will need to become wild sun bears. But for Manis’s case, she will not be able to be released in the wild due to her old age. But in BSBCC, Manis will be given a second chance to survive as a wild bear in order to let her have the freedom to live in the rainforest.
On July 2012, it was the first time for Manis to begin exploring the forest world when she was released into the forest enclosure and was able to be free to forage, climb, play, explore the world and acquire a variety of other survival skills.
Despite her age, Manis tends to spend more time on the ground than climbing high in trees. This includes looking for termites and taking naps. Manis has adapted well to life as a sun bear and is leaving her past behind her. She enjoys the forest and displays absolute enthusiasm!
We cannot imagine the future for sun bears if they continue being caught and sold as house pets, or their home continues to be lost. We must protect sun bears and their forest. Please help to stop illegal wildlife trafficking.