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!
How do you spend rainy days?
Sun bears live in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia. Their outer layer of fur sheds water. Their coat is thick to protect against heavy rain or branches fall. Sun bear learn how to cope in the rainy season - either play or stay out from the rain. Wawa is waiting for the rain to be over so she can continue to play in the forest.
Sun bears play a vital role in seed dispersal and in maintaining the health of the forest ecosystem. One of the threats to sun bears is the loss of habitat because of the demand for land to grow palm oil or infrastructure. Please help use protect sun bears, their critical forest home, and their future.
Video by Chiew Lin May
No doubt, he has been taken from his mother to be illegally displayed at Mini Zoo and spend his life in captivity. The trauma these little ones go through is heartbreaking to see. After 6 years of the rehabilitation process, it is amazing to see Sunbearo develop the vital survival skills necessary for life in the forest. He now ready to live a life of freedom that he truly deserves!
Due to the pandemic, Sunbearo and his friends had been rescheduled to be released back into the wild next year. But with your support, our ultimate goal to return them to their forest home keeps it going. You can help return them to safe forests, where they should belong. For them, everything is about to change. Sunbearo needs YOU! Please donate today to support the bear release programme:
Accounts Name: Sun Bear Conservation Berhad
Bank's Name : Public Bank Berhad
Account No. : 3195054919
SWIFT Code : PBBEMYKL
Bank's Address : Lots 149, 150, 151, & 152, Block 15A, Phase II, Prima Square, Mile 4, Jalan Utara, 90000 Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia.
Contact number: +6089 202288 or +6016 5551256 (Dr. Wong Siew Te)
Click here to learn more about the smallest bear - http://www.bsbcc.org.my
Find us: Website: https://www.bsbcc.org.my/
Subscribe to the newsletter: http://www.bsbcc.org.my/newsletter
Background music: https://youtu.be/aeSOVhSZhxc
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 93: Being able to be an Arboreal bear!
Sun bear is the smallest and most arboreal bear. They have unique adaptions for their arboreal lifestyle: large paws, naked soles and long, curved claws that aid them in climbing trees. They spend most of their time in trees.
Little Kipaku is a very active sun bear who enjoys climbing trees. The first time he was taken to a strangler fig tree he climbed as high as he can- there is nothing like it! Just look at the cheeky look in his eyes!
You can read his full story on our blog https://www.bsbcc.org.my/bear-talk-blog/category/kipaku.html
Show some love by ADOPT Little Kipaku today and help us give him the life deserve here https://www.bsbcc.org.my/share-bear-adoption.html Every action helps enrich their lives.
Subscribe to the newsletter: http://www.bsbcc.org.my/newsletter
Text by Nurul Haslinda binti Abdul Kahar
Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Hi! My name is Nurul Haslinda Binti Abdul Kahar, one of the ticketing staff at BSBCC. All of the ticketing staff was given two weeks to do the task as a bear keeper at the bear house and I am the third staff after Khoirul. These two weeks actually has been a great chance for me to know more about the bears, for instance, what do they eat? which bears don’t get along when they are together? why some of the bears are given a different diet? Most of those questions I used to wonder about have been answered by working at the bear house in those two weeks. I was also able to recognise the bears inside the bear house during my volunteering period. YEAH!
During my two-week training, I did the same work as all the bear keeper staff. No exception. Hahaha…
It took a few days for me to get used to all of the tasks, such as fence check, food preparing for the bears inside the bear house and in the forest enclosure, fecal check with my buddy(Roger), husbandry work and many more. All of the tasks given actually required lot of energy every day! Now I understand how the bear keepers doing their daily routine before releasing the bears into the forest enclosure.
This two-week training has given me so much experience and profound knowledge about the bears. Now, I am able to share them with visitors who visit this centre. Here I want to say thank you to those who helped me during my training at the bear house, especially my buddy, Roger, and all the bear keepers.
I hope in the future I will have this kind of volunteering opportunity again.
Here are some pictures taken during my training program:
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!
Text by Gillian Gabriel (UMS Intern Student)
Photos by Chiew Lin May
This story is about Kina, BJ, Sika and Soo being released to the forest enclosure for the first time in their lives!
Attempt in releasing Kina
Among the four bears, Kina appears to be more curious about her surroundings because she is the first one that was brave enough to go out on the first day of the release. Although on the first day she spent most of the time staying on the ramp, she managed to pull herself out of her comfort zone. On the third day, Kina gracefully went out to grab some food and ate it. While enjoying all the fruits, there was the sounds of a chainsaw and blower. She continued to enjoy eating her food and went back inside the cage right after she finished eating. It seems that to Kina, food is way more important than anything else and nothing else can distract her while she is eating!
However, moments later, Kina decided to go out again and explore the surroundings. She continuously went back inside the cage every time she went out. Kina seemed so relaxed being in the outside world as she roamed around gracefully and used her incredible sense of smell to sniff around the area.
On the fourth day of release, Kina was now confident to go outside. She roamed around the forest enclosure, foraged, and at some point, she also dug the woods and the ground to find some termites to eat. Due to her high curiosity, she managed to explore almost the whole of the forest enclosure!
Apart from that, Kina is also an expert in climbing. She appears to be the most outgoing bear as she loves exploring the world by climbing up trees and enrichment. By doing so, she gets to see different parts of the forest enclosure from different views.
Kina is happy because she gets to enjoy the enrichment that was built by the bear keepers and the previous volunteer.
It was on a rainy day when Kina suddenly decided to climb up a tree. Kina is known to be the most active bear among her other friends and that is not just because she is the first one to go out into the forest enclosure, but it is because she normally prefers to live in solitary by isolating herself on top of a tree or an enrichment. Even before she was released to the forest enclosure, she loved spending her time alone, resting and climbing.
Attempt in releasing BJ
At first, BJ was afraid to go outside. He would normally stay on the ramp and watch from afar. However, his curiosity has built up as he saw his friend, Kina, gracefully walking alone at the forest enclosure. Determined enough to step out, he finally, most likely slowly, went out to the forest enclosure to experience the outside world himself. It was soon enough when BJ finally felt secure when he stepped outside. He began to love being outside.
BJ still in doubt whether or not he wanted to go outside.
Not feeling sure enough, he just spent the entire time resting on the ramp and looking at the forest enclosure from afar. Questioning whether or not he should give it a try.
Finally, he decided to go down.
Slowly but surely.
His natural instinct kicked in as he inhaled the smell of the earth.
Now that he finally has begun to trust the outside world, he has no problem enjoying his delicious food in the forest enclosure.
Attempt in releasing Sika
On the first day of releasing Sika to the forest enclosure, it was really a tough one as she refused to go out, even with many trials. Food was scattered all over the place so that she had the urge to go outside. She normally stayed on the ramp and instead of pulling herself out to experience the forest enclosure on her own, she remained still. She was not curious enough to explore the outside world and apparently, she loves staying in her comfort zone. She loves staying where she feels at ease.
Battling with her own thoughts, Sika finally made a decision to go out. But the only way she got distracted and was willing to go down was when honey was applied all over the stairs. With that, she got distracted by the delicious and sweet taste.
She climbed down step by step, licking the delicious honey that was in her way. What a great start she thought to herself.
Now that she was finally out, she got super curious with her surroundings. She was pretty amazed by the new place that she was introduced to. A new home with a lot more to explore.
Getting super curious, she sniffed around the forest enclosure, foraging and roaming around. Then she slowly started to like the outside world more than where she used to be. The taste of freedom was now in her bones.
Realizing how big the forest enclosure is, Sika then gets super comfortable staying outside. Bigger space for her to roam around. Even though she took a long time to finally decide to go out compared to her two other friends, BJ and Kina, she is the one who spends a long time in the forest enclosure. There are times when she does not go back to the cage at all. Sika also loves climbing as much as Kina does, she will spend most of the time on the tree and not want to go down.
Attempt in releasing Soo
Being kept as a pet at a very young age makes Soo less confident to interact with the outside world. Traumatized by her past, she is less active than the rest. Days of attempting to release Soo to the forest enclosure have been difficult as she only stays on the ramp or inside the cage. Not brave enough to go out.
However, she still tries to fight her trauma by taking baby steps and she still tries to build up all her courage. Even though she only stays on the ramp most of the time, she is still able to witness the outside world from the cage.
Instead of using the stairs as the trail to go down, she climbed down from the ramp. This shows that Soo is really attempting to go out. However, she still needs time to be fully ready.
I hope that in the future, all of the bears, Kina, BJ, Sika, and Soo are comfortable enough to stay outside in the forest enclosure. They were kept as pets before, and being kept inside a house has now built curiosity for some of them, such as Sika and Kina. This is why when introduced to the outside world, they got so excited and preferred to stay outside. The taste of freedom excites them. However, this does not apply to BJ and Soo. Instead of building curiosity, they are in fear. Fear of what the outside world is actually like. It takes time for them to build up their trust. With that, a release to the forest enclosure is a great opportunity to give them the life that they deserve and to promote their natural instincts.
Text by Vincent Chin Yung Fook (UMS Intern Student)
Photos by BSBCC & Chiew Lin May
Kudat, a lovely 12-year old, male bear currently being kept in Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). A little bit of story about Kudat’s past life, Kudat was originally captured from Tawau district but was sent to the Kudat district.
He was kept and presented as a ‘Panda’ together with his female friend, Panda, at Victoria Mini Zoo, Kampung Parapat, Kudat. The bears were confiscated in 2010 by Sabah Wildlife Department after the public had complained due to animals being kept in an unsatisfactory environment. It was revealed that the bears were kept illegally.
Kudat, together with his friend Panda, were living in a small cage with no natural habitat at all. Wild animals belong to the wild and are not for entertainment. Due to increasing rates of people wanting to see wild animals, there are more people tending to illegally capture and confine animals for profit. We are fortunate enough that there are still many people who want to protect wildlife.
Last month, I was given a task to observe Kudat for his behaviours in the Bear House. For the 10 days I was observing Kudat, I noticed that Kudat was a very observant bear. Every time the bear keepers or volunteer passed by his cage, he would eventually sniff and observe them for a few seconds. Kudat likes to hear the sound of keys jingling. When a bear keeper (Pradeep) who usually hangs his keys to his pocket starts walking towards Kudat’s cage, Kudat peeks from his cage to where the sound of keys is jingling.
One of the things that Kudat likes is his hanging basket on the wall. Kudat usually sleeps in the basket and he seems so peaceful sleeping. I guess he really likes that basket. Kudat also likes to play with water. He would stand, reach into his water container and use his paw to splash water to his body.
Kudat is not as aggressive as other bears. Every time the other male bear (Along) started banging the guillotine door between the forest enclosure and Kudat’s cage trying to pick a fight with Kudat, Kudat would just sit back in his cage and enjoy his own sweet time.
Although Kudat is cute, he can be rough when he meets a female bear. When integration through body contact was made between Kudat and Simone, Kudat had a rough play with Simone. All we can say is, Kudat is really a playful bear. Indeed, they are cute and adorable, but remember, they are meant to live in the wild. The 10 days observing a particular bear was just not enough. I wish to have more time to observe and understand more about their behaviours.
Text by Gillian Gabriel (UMS Intern student)
Photos by BBSCC & Chiew Lin May
Hello everyone, my name is Panda and you might think that I am a round, fluffy, black and white bear that loves eating sugarcane. Yes, you’re right! I love sugarcane but I am not round, nor even fluffy and not a single white spot on my body. I have a black, sleek fur and I am pretty short. When I was younger, I was kept inside a small cage and was named after the sign that was pointing towards my cage.
I was kept together with another sun bear, his name is Kudat. Kudat looks exactly like me and looks nothing like a panda. The truth was revealed when I first arrived at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) on the 10th of July 2010, it turns out that I was right the whole time, I am a sun bear!
On the 6th of July 2010, Sabah Wildlife Department and the team at BSBCC finally came to the rescue!
Besides not looking round like a panda, I still have a perfectly round stomach. Probably because I love to eat! However, I am still considered as fit for my age. Lucky me!
Yes, that was me. But the picture was taken from the wrong angle, I’m slimmer, I swear!
I was unhappy back when I was kept inside the small cage. I was fed with chicken meat the whole time and there was barely enough space to roam around. However, as you can see from the picture, I finally have enough space for myself and I love sitting and leaning against a tree especially on a bright, sunny day. So relaxing!
In the forest, I love spending my time exploring, observing the environment, roaming around and relaxing. When I return back in the evening, I will splash water all over my body and as the water reaches the ground, I will lay down with my stomach facing downwards and will move my body slightly. That is just a way of me cooling myself down after a while in the forest.
How can I be mistaken as a panda? I have no dark circles surrounding my eyes but instead, my whole face is just plain dark. I am thankful enough that I was finally recognized as a sun bear.
It reminds me of when I was first brought to BSBCC, I was in quarantine for 30 days. Despite being in quarantine, the staff introduced me to new friends (Natalie, Ah Lun, Julaini and Rungus). They are so nice. I learned and developed my social and survival skills from them and slowly, I kind of trust all the staff here. They take great care of me, they feed me with healthy food and they even give me toys to play with.
All the rehabilitation processes I went through helped me to overcome the trauma due to being locked and kept inside a small cage for entertainment purposes, and these processes taught me to behave like how a normal wild animal would do.
The rehabilitation processes that I went through included fence training and the integration process. While learning and developing my survival skills, I realized that I am capable of doing a lot of things. I can crack open a coconut in seconds, can dig deep holes so that I can reach termites at the hollow of the tree branches and have an incredible sense of smell as I can smell honey from far away. Yes, I love honey so much and so do the rest of my friends here. Honey is like our main diet!
I am grateful for all the efforts given by Sabah Wildlife Department and Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) since day one. Because of them, I finally have the life that I deserve. I hope that in the future, no other sun bears are mistaken as Panda. The thing that appears to be so appealing on our chest area, is our chest mark. That is the best way to identify us.