Text by Shelly Smith
Photos by Chiew Lin May
As the BSBCC presently only has 3 outdoor pens large enough to accommodate several bears at the same time, some seriously strategic ‘bear shuffling’ has to occur in the bearhouse in order to get the right bears into the right cages for the outdoor exit ramps.
There are 2 existing groups that need to be integrated so they can occupy one outdoor pen instead of two, freeing up the second outdoor pen for Bermuda, a large mature male who is eagerly awaiting his outdoor sessions.
The two groups are ‘matriarchal’. The’’ Mary’’ group consists of 6 sub adult bears – little Mary, Ah Bui, Debbie, Koko, Bongkud and young male Fulung. 2nd group is Natalie’s group of four, with Natalie, Ah Lun, Runggus and young male Julaini.
Bear etiquette dictates that a polite introduction is by way of curiously sniffing through an interconnecting gateway - if no sign of aggression is seen, then the gateway is opened cautiously by the bear keeper, and one bear may proceed into the adjoining cage where the sniffing procedure progresses to a stage of playful paw inductions. Hereafter it is quite permissible to raucously cavort around the cage and wrestle in the hammock (or other enrichment provided) until one or both bears are completely exhausted. Suckling on a bear’s ears is a privilege for best friends only.
Integration started on the 9th September by daily introducing one bear from Mary’s group to the Natalie group bears, one bear at a time over an hour or so. These introductions over the week went amazingly well with no hint of aggression as each bear learnt the smells, stature and behaviour of the others, in spite of two females being on heat during the process.
Special Moments with Mary, Ah Bui, Koko, Debbie, Fulung and Bongkud in the BSBCC Forest Enclosure Part III
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Chiew Lin May and Tee Thye Lim
Here are some photos of our sub – adult sun bears, out in the forest enclosure. They love to be by trees and will find activities to occupy their time that will keep them close to the canopy. These include looking for termites, other forest invertebrates, climbing trees, playing together and taking naps. They get on really well, and enjoy playing together. These six sun bears at the forest enclosure is buzzing with cheer and joy. Look what they are doing in the forest enclosure!!
Special Moments with Mary, Ah Bui, Koko, Debbie, Fulung and Bongkud in the BSBCC Forest Enclosure Part II
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
It is happy sight to see Mary, Debbie, Ah Bui, Koko, Fulung and Bongkud knew what to do when they went out into the enclosure with all of the trees. Here are some photos of our sub-adult sun bears, out in their forest enclosure. They are very awesome!!
Look what Debbie doing in the forest enclosure!!
Special Moments with Mary, Ah Bui, Koko, Debbie, Fulung and Bongkud in the BSBCC Forest Enclosure Part 1
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Gloria Ganang & Chiew Lin May
On June 11th, 2013 Ah Bui and Mary spent their first few moments of freedom roaming, exploring, and playing around the forest enclosure. The next day, they were joined by Debbie and Koko. Soon after, the four sun bears were united with Fulung and Bongkud in one forest enclosure. At first they were curious about all of the tall trees around them. Tall trees! NOT a cage!!
These 6 sub-adult sun bears are now spending a lot of their time exploring, roaming, digging, resting, climbing, and foraging for food in the forest enclosure. They interact with their new environment by using their strong keen senses to experience different smells and sounds in the forest.
Today, a dream became reality, and now these 6 sub-adult sun bears are confidently roaming and exploring in the forest. Once the door was opened, all of them went out into the forest immediately. They are extremely adventurous and already attempting to climb trees and logs. The bears are happily enjoying living amongst the tropical rainforest, each in their own special way. Ah Bui, likes to dig in the soil and search for food while others prefer to use their sharp canines to rip open trees and find their favourite snack. They rummage through the forest smelling around decayed wood and dead logs in search of any interesting insects and invertebrates.
When the bears are not spending their time resting or sunbathing on the forest canopy they are sharpening their tree climbing skills to help them catch termites and other forest invertebrates.
They’ve also become good playmates and will play, chase, hang out, and climb trees together in the forest.
It brings great satisfaction to see the 6 young sun bears freely roaming in the forest enclosure. They’ve all made such great progress, and are beginning to take on characteristics and natural behaviours of wild sun bears. Adapting to the forest is not easy, but once they begin to explore, things will get better.
The sun bear is one of the most mysterious bears of the jungle, and plays such an important role in maintaining the ecosystem and equilibrium of the forest. Major threats to sun bear include habitat loss and poaching. Sun bears are classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) aims to conserve sun bears through education, rehabilitation, and research with hopes to improve the welfare for captive orphan sun bears. Please help us spread the word!!
Here are a couple of photos of Mary, Ah Bui, Koko and Debbie explore in the BSBCC forest enclosure.
Text and photos by Wong Siew Te
Malaysian TV station TV3 came to make a TV program for their popular TV documentary series Majalah 3 from September 14 - 19, 2012. The filming crew is consisted of the host and producer of the program, Irin Putri, a camera man, and a sound technician. The film crew has taken many rare footages of the sun bears in both the forest enclosures and in the bear house, and filmed the daily busy routine of BSBCC. They also managed to film the moving of Fulung and Bongkut, the sun bear yearlings, to the new bear house, interviewed Wong and Wai Pak, and many others.
In conjunction of the broadcasting of the TV program, Wong will be interview in TV3's morning talk show Malaysia Hari Ini (Today's Malaysia) from 7:30 am - 9 am Friday Oct 12. The program is schedule to be air nationally through TV3 at 9 pm on October 13. On the following day, "Big Dream Little Bear" will be premier at the Kuala Lumpur Ecofilm Festival ay al 6 pm Sunday October 14, Experimental Theatre, Universiti Malaya.
This weekend, millions of Malaysians will learn about Malayan sun bear!
Text by Gloria Ganang and photo by Wong Siew Te
Bongkud, a 1-year-old sun bear arrived at the centre last June. She was named after the village where she was rescued, located in the Ranau district of Sabah. She had yellowish coat and milk teeth when she first arrived. However, Bongkud’s coat has gradually improved (she now has darker coat) and her canine teeth is developing.
Fulung (meaning “forest” in the native Lundayeh language), is 2 years old and came to the centre in August 2010. He is from Long Pasia village in Sipitang district of Sabah. He used to be integrated with Mary and Debbie (both sub adult females). However, Fulung had an injury on his belly and needed to be stitched and separated from his girl pals until his wound heals. It has been 5 months since his separation from the rest.
Bongkud moved in to the cage next to Fulung on the 11th August 2012. Through the expressions of Fulung's behavior, he couldn't wait to play with Bongkud.
Finally the day came, when the gates between them was opened. Fulung’s wound looked fantastic and Bongkud is ready for integration with other bears. The gate was opened at 3.10pm yesterday (7thSeptember 2012). Fulung, oftenly being the curious one went into his next cage while Bongkud was still busy suckling her feet and playing with the fire hose inside her basket.
Fulung sensed Bongkud and instantly climbed inside her cage. Bongkud, not realizing Fulung’s presence startled and gave Fulung an alarming bark! Her immediate reaction was moving a step back from Fulung to the other end of her basket. They both starred at each other for a few seconds and Fulung stepped away, sensing that it was not yet the right moment for playtime. He let Bongkud to settle down until he slowly approached her again, gave her a little sniff from his sticky nose and then.......PLAYTIME!
Fulung and Bongkud played for nearly an hour. They chased, rolled over and bit each other. They totally ignored the keepers who were feeding them. Bongkud was the first one to feel exhausted but Fulung couldn’t get enough of the fun of biting and chasing. They continued playing until it was dinner time where both of them went back to their own cages. The gate between them was closed. It was 5pm. The BSBCC team had to sign out and open the gate again the next day. Since this was their first integration, it requires monitoring until we are certain that they are good playmates.
This is a special day for Bongkud. This could be her first contact with another sun bear after a very long time. However, Bongkud has a long way ahead of her in going through rehabilitation until she returns to the wild again.
Text and photos by Gloria Ganang and Tee Thye Lim
Bongkud, a sub adult sun bear at the BSBCC meets new neighbors 2 days ago (11th August 2012). The little sun bear was rescued from a village called Bongkud near to the district of Ranau, Sabah and came to the centre last June. She was isolated in a separate cage throughout her quarantine period. Now she gets to stay in a neighboring cage with Fulung a sub adult male and also two adult bears, Kudat and Panda.
The transfer process went on smoothly. However it took some while for Bongkud to step into her new cage even though she was keen to go towards the honey smeared in the cage area.
She finally stepped in. Instantly, she climbed around her cage the moment she noticed the space and unfamiliar furnitures of the cage. But what really caught her attention was her new neighbors. They were all curios and started getting closer and sniffing each other. This would be Bongkud’s first contact with other sun bears after a very long time.
Bongkud is getting used to her new cage now. She starts sleeping in the basket and plays around with the enrichmnents. She practices her climbing skills quite often although she started a little bit clumsy at the beginning. High hopes for this little bear to climb on real trees of the rainforest!
Text and photos by Siew Te Wong
We integrated Debbie the sun bear cub with Mary and Fulung for the first time on March 10th. The entire process started 10 days earlier on Feb 28th when we moved Mary at opposite side of the hall way to the den next to Debbie. Debbie's reaction toward Mary was very strong, huffing and barking on a defensive way whenever Mary made a move. Lack of sun bear's communication skills, poor Mary seemed to be confused and do not know what to do except sucking her feet (Mary suckles when she wants to seek comfort). We have to keep the den between Debbie and Mary empty to reduce contact between the two young bears because of Debbie's reaction.
The next day Debbie seemed to accept Mary's presence. She did not seem to be defensive nor aggressive and did not bark and huff at Mary like what she did a day before. She just watched Mary on a very curious way. We let Mary entered the middle empty den so that both bears can have contacts through the bars. Immediately Debbie was very interested on Mary, touching and scratching her gently whenever Debbie can reach Mary through the bars. Sometime Mary responded to Debbie by playing with her. However, Debbie was more proactive while Mary just sitting there to suckle her feet without paying much attention to Debbie. The induction between Debbie and Mary seem fine through the bars.
The next step was to move Fulung the yearling male sun bear on March 3rd to join Mary so that three of the sun bear yearling/cubs can be place together as a group. This time Debbie did not react much to the presence of Fulung. She seemed just fine to have Fulung as her neighbor without any conflict or aggression over the following week.
Finally the big day arrived on March 10th, we integrated Debbie with Fulung and Mary. Fulung is about one year and four months old. He is the biggest and oldest among the three bears. Mary is about one year and two months old and Debbie is the youngest, age about 8 month. Here I let the photos speak for themselves:
In order to prevent them from being too excited when first meet, we scattered their fruit snack- pumpkin and banana on that afternoon, on the floor. Just like what we expected, Fulung (left) and Debbie (right) get busy searching and eating their afternoon snack: banana (preferred) first, and pumpkin later. Mary was at the back of the den, checking out Amaco (an old male bear) behind the wall.
After all the banana was gone, play time begun. Like usual, Fulung would is always advantage being a bigger bear. He shows off his dominancy by standing up right on his hind limbs. Debbie, although being the youngest and smallest, never feels threatened by Fulung's size. She displays her jaw and teeth. Her message is clear, "do not mess around with me!"
Debbie on the right now standing up to show off her teeth and claws. She just never gives up quickly!
Mary now joins them. Instead of play fighting, she is more into the remaining fruits. This is a great photo to show the facial expression of Fulung (left) and Debbie (back).
Mary (right) decided to join the party. Fulung (left) let Debbie to bite his neck. With a lot of loose skin, the neck of the sun bear is like the armor of the bear to get closer to their opponent.
Now the three bears are in action together. Although a lot of teeth and claws in these play fight, they are completely harmless to each other.Fulung and Debbie have a lot of interactions at first. Mary is a bit slow by just watching.
Fulung: "I am bigger than you, Debbie!" Debbie: "So what??"
Like a wrestler, Fulung uses his bigger body to press Debbie down, and the countdown being...
After tens of minutes, Fulung started to feel boring and left Debbie.
Now is Mary's turn to play with Debbie (right).peI can tell by now Debbie (left) is very tired. She just wanted to lie down on her back and push Mary (right) away.At the end of the day, both bears are so tired!
Text and photos by Siew Te Wong
Time flies, Fulung the male sun bear cub that Sabah Wildlife Department rescued from Long Pasir last August is now more than a year old. Mary, the female sun bear cub that we rescued last September, also is a year old now. Both cubs, or "yearlings" by now they should be called, require a lot of exercises such as biting, climbing and digging and everything that you can think of to grow big and strong. After several months under our care, both of them grow bigger and strong, especially Mary.
Mary used be a lot smaller than Fulung. When we placed them together for the first time, Fulung used to me much more bigger than Mary. Fulung used to be the big bully but Mary always tried her best to fight back. Well, not really fight but play fight. Sometime we have to intervene the play fight when Mary started to be annoyed by the big bully Fulung. After all, the sun bear style play fights can be rough and damaging.
Sun bear cubs have a period where they grow very fast, typically when they are 5 to 10 months when they can gain 3-4 kg each month. Mary too, was no exception. During the first time when we mixed Mary and Fulung together Mary was about half the size of Fulung. Now after 4 months Mary caught up with her growth and reaches only slightly smaller than Fulung.
A photo worth a thousand words. Here are photos of Mary and Fulung I took during a 3 min play fight.
*Warning* Cute sun bear cub photos! DO NOT KEEP SUN BEAR CUBS AS PETS!
STILL THEY COME…
BSBCC has become home to three more bears since July!
On 23rd July BSBCC helped Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) in the rescue of an illegally kept captive sun bear from a palm oil plantation near Lahad Datu, southeast Sabah. Named Amaco, the 18 year old male was in fairly good health apart from bad teeth and mouth condition, having been fed on a diet consisting almost solely of rice and sweetened condensed milk. Amaco has been given medical treatment and has been temporarily housed in the old bear house and is slowly relaxing and settling in.
The following month, Fulung, a 9 month old male cub was brought to BSBCC by SWD staff, after being surrendered to the SWD Wildlife Rescue Unit by a villager from a remote part of southwest Sabah who had had the cub for several months, after hunting dogs had apparently found it in the forest. Fulung was malnourished on arrival but is now putting on weight and is being kept temporarily in the old bear house under quarantine.
A third new sun bear, Mary, arrived from Lok Kawi Wildlife Park on 12th September 2011. A female cub, possibly 6-8 months old, Mary had been kept by villagers in central Sabah since July. She shows signs of malnutrition and calcium deficiency but otherwise appears healthy, and has also been placed in quarantine in the old bear house. Read more about Mary.
A contract has finally been awarded to a local company for the construction of the BSBCC Observation Platform and trails to it, access boardwalk from the car park and upgrading of roads and drainage. Construction commenced at the end of September and should be finished by March 2012. Watch this space!
SPREADING THE WORD
Wong participated in the 20th International Conference on Bear Research and Management in Ottawa, Canada in July 2011, presenting a jointly authored paper on ‘The effects of selective logging on sun bears in lowland dipterocarp rainforest of Borneo’, and on October 1st gave a talk on BSBCC and sun bears at the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. Over 40 people attended and the event was covered by the national press.
In September, BSBCC was thrilled to receive a donation of GBP500 (RM2,426.05) from International Aid for the Protection and Welfare of Animals, IAPWA, a UK based NGO, to be spent on purchasing ceiling fans for the new bear house.
Both individual and group volunteers continue to be an essential and much appreciated asset at BSBCC. Here are some of the activities some of the recent individual volunteers have been up to.
September was the time for the annual health check for most of the bears – a routine medical assessment of their overall health, potential sicknesses, internal organ function and physical condition. It was also a chance to give vitamins and de-worming injections and take blood samples and even hair samples for future DNA studies. Read more...
FILMS AND FILM STARS!
The end of July saw the first ever Borneo Eco Film Festival, held in Sandakan, Sabah. Always eager to raise local awareness, Wong gave a presentation on ‘The holistic approaches of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre to conserve sun bears in Sabah’ and there was a showing of the 20 minute promo film “BEAR TREK” by Wildlife Media Inc. featuring Wong carrying out his research at Danum Valley in Sabah. The event was well attended and, hopefully, the first of many highlighting and showcasing Borneo!
Actor and avid conservation supporter Jason Scott Lee visited BSBCC on 24th September 2011 as part of an eco-travelogue being filmed throughout Malaysia for National Geographic. Jason spent a whole day filming at the Centre, enthusiastically taking part in cleaning of the bear pens, feeding the bears in the forest enclosures and walking Mary the sun bear cub in the forest. Read more…