Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
It is a vital step to protect the health of all the rescued bears at our centre. Every year the bears will receive full health checks and any medical procedures they require. Once again, we were very fortunate to have veterinary care from Sabah Wildlife Departments, Dr. Nabila Sarkawi.
A basic health check corner has been set up complete with a surgery table and health check equipment. 44 of the bears have been checked. The health check began with each bear being individually anaesthetized.
Dr. Nabila and the bear care team performed a thorough check on the bears’ health. This included taking the bears’ weight,
temperature, pulse and respiration rate, body measurement, blood and hair samples, dental treatment, cutting back severely overgrown claws for those bears that stay inside the bear house, x-ray, being checked for potential sickness (signs of ill-health, disease and injury), and functioning of internal organs.
cutting back severely overgrown claws for those bears that stay inside bear house,
If the bear had a wound, then treatment and medication would be provided during the examination.
Once the health checks were completed, the bears were brought back to their dens to recover from the sedative and their condition was monitored. From this health check, we will have a much clearer idea of the bears' future needs, including diet.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), they are categorized as “vulnerable”. We need to highlight sun bear conservation and help protect them from the threat of extinction. On the 13th of July 2017, an application of advanced reproductive technology in the conservation of endangered wildlife programme (ART programme) - training in immobilization and reproduction of sun bear in Sabah, was conducted. ART programme is a project under the 11th Malaysia Plan administered by Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD). Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) is appointed as consultant to help develop the ART programme. By conducting this ART programme, the “sample size” of living individuals is large and there are opportunities for the captive sun bear population to contribute to the long term survival of the species. During the health check, eight healthy adult male bears and one adult female bear were chosen. Sun bear semen was collected.
In very exciting news, on the 26th of November 2017, Debbie and Damai were fitted with satellite collars. Debbie and Damai have shown signs of being excellent in their forest skills, enough to cope sufficiently in the wild. They have prepared for life back in the wild. Our team will monitor their adaptation, making sure the collar is functioning well and will evaluate their progress.
Our rescued bears get the best care. Thankfully, a number of the bears examined had nothing serious going on. Only Diana, an eleven year old, adult female bear had poor conditions with her teeth, suffering from severe damage ever since having a highly unsuitable diet when she kept as an illegal pet. Diana requires extensive medical care ahead. She was moved to Quarantine for future special care by our bear team. Diana will recover well by receiving pain relief and being fed soft blended fruit. She is continuing to show good progress with less signs of stereotypical behavior compared to when she was staying at the bear house. Every day she can enjoy the forest scenery and smells around her. After finishing her food, she climbs up and rests comfortably back in her basket.
After one year of Noah and Nano undergoing rehabilitation at our centre, they made such good progress that they graduated from cub rehabilitation in quarantine to “big bear” dens in Bear House. Here they can see other sun bears so they can learn from them and get used to the sounds and sights of the outside world. The bear house bears were delighted to welcome Noah and Nano to the family. The new dens where they are settling in have been stocked with climbing structures to play on, a comfy hammock to take naps on and dried leaves as browse to explore. After a period of adaption in the new den where the rehabilitation will continue, there will be eventual access out to the forest enclosure. Noah and Nano are very quick settle into their new environment.
They are sniffing in curiosity all the time. Noah and Nano are exceptionally brave and inquisitive explorers. Noah adapted well to his new environment, proving to be a fast learner and loving the fruits given by his care taker. Nano’s response was quite amazing, but his favourite past time is sleeping in his basket.
They are being monitored and are being continuously stimulated with enrichment items. They will have the opportunity to climb, explore and adjust to this new space. Every time they are given extra treats and new enrichment they get really excited!
They also have received lots of love from our bear care team, doing everything they can to help them build strength and courage to live as a wild bear! It is wonderful knowing that what is coming next makes it even more incredible.
It is so exciting that the rescued sun bears will take the biggest step in their life. This year will be a big movement for our bears. Some groups will go into an outside forest enclosure for the first time. Other bear groups will change to have access out to the new forest. Several groups will undergo electric fence training. While one group will be introduced to a larger group. There are also two release candidate bears preparing to be released back into the wild. The bears will realize this new life is good and finally live the life denied to them by pet trade.
Thanks for the hard work and wonderful care provided by Dr. Nabila, Dr. Pakee, Dr. Reza, Elis Tambing and the bear care team! Huge thanks for being part of the team. Job well done!!!
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
The sad part of each rescued orphan sun bear that arrive at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) is that they come from having lived through a bitter past. As sun bears grow into fully grown adult, they become dangerous and difficult to handle which will end up their lives in a tiny cage or seeking out sun bear rehabilitation centre to take their sun bear pet in.
This is what happens to our recently rescued a three years old sub adult female bear, Soo (Rescued bear No.56). It was so shock when we received a video showing that the person was playing with this bear (who is fully grown bear). She was purchased from Karamatoi village in Sook Keningau market when she was still cub and kept as a pet by a family in Nambayan village in Tambunan, located in the interior Division of Sabah for almost three years. She was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department and she arrives at BSBCC on 8th September 2017. Soo was fed with rice, cucumber and milk. Undoubtedly her mother had been killed; she is sold illegally throughout Borneo and kept in private home. Sadly many of these orphaned sun bears will never fully learn their natural way of life and lose their ability to survive in the wild.
During the arrival, Soo shows a sorrow face and traumatized. This made her keep alert. She must have been going through traumatizing experience for her. You can feel how this disgusting the pet trade is! Often these rescued sun bears take a long recovery road from the trauma of losing their mom in such a horrific way. They often suffer from physically health issues, malnutrition and poor treatment during her pet trade time.
Luckily for Soo, the Sabah Wildlife Department rescued her and she has been given second chance to survive as a wild bear. She has to go through a quarantine process for 30 days to determine her health status. On 10th September 2017 she received a health check. Dr. Pakeeyaraj Nagalinggam from Wildlife Rescue Unit, Sabah Wildlife Department performed a general health check. These include an assessment of her overall health, function of the internal organs and physical condition and potential sickness. Her weighs was 25.70kg.The blood tests result has shown she is in good health and bright bear.
At the BSBCC, Soo will receive intensive care. The most important first step is to make sure Soo is settled in this new environment. Till now she still avoids to explore new surroundings. Soo was introducing to new correct diet and enrichment to ensure she is growing healthy. But Soo only will explore the enrichment and treats on night time where the surrounding area was quiet. She will quickly move away after detecting our presence. Soo spent the majority of her time and feel safe by staying high up on cage. She is now an orphan and needs much love and care to grow into a trust and confident beautiful sun bear.
We are delighted to welcome Soo to our sun bear family! Soo has a long journey ahead of her in going through rehabilitation until she returns to the wild again. It is illegal to keep sun bears as pets! Please remember the consequences of keeping one as a pet and give them promise of HOPE! We hope to see Soo can be thriving and adapting well to her new home. She has to find the life of a free bear. We will be monitoring to see how she progresses over the coming months at quarantine.
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Wawa is a 11 months old female bear. She was found alone in the Forest Management Unit (FMU) 16, Pinangah, Telupid District on March 11st, 2016. She was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department and sent to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo after that. She arrived at BSBCC on March 18th, 2016. She appeared weak and showed signs of dehydration when she arrived.
Dodop is a one year old female bear. She came to the SBCC on June 2nd, 2016. The Sabah Wildlife Department rescued her from being kept as house pet in a Singgaron village in Ranau district. She had been found with missing all of her milk teeth. But now her permanent teeth have grown into strong and sharp canines.
Both of them have been growing well in quarantine. So, now is the time for them to meet their big brothers and sisters in bear house. They had to undergo a general health check by Dr. Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam, a veterinarian from Sabah Wildlife Department, Wildlife Rescue Unit first. Both of them had been proven healthy. Their new friends could not wait to meet them and gave their greatest welcoming bark to them.
Before Dodop and Wawa moved to bear house, bear keepers prepared lots of enrichment for them. They not only build a platform and a hammock to provide them a resting place, but they also went to collect dry leaves and decayed wood. This is because Wawa is a playful bear. She likes to spend her time with enrichment. So, bear keepers placed different kinds of enrichment items inside the cages to help them adapt to their new environment. For the first day, Wawa seems alert to the surroundings. But thanks to the enrichment, they had adapted well into the bear house after the second day. They spend their time exploring the environment and the enrichment together.
The next for them is to integrate with the biggest group, the sub adult group with Sunbearo, Loki, Bintang, Montom, Susie2, Damai, Kala, Boboi, Kitud, Tan Tan and Mary. They are around one to five years old. After the integration, they have to undergo fence training to be able to release them back to the forest. In the forest, they can learn from the others and improve their survival skills as well. At last, we hope they can be back to the wild sooner or later within the rehabilitation program at the BSBCC.
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
He was surrendered by a villager and was found roaming alone at a villager’s orchard with his mother nowhere to be seen. Noah was handed-over to the Sabah Wildlife Department from Nabawan, a southern part of Sabah, and brought into the BSBCC on the 10th of October, 2016. We have named him “Noah”. We are unsure as to why he was found alone, he may have been abandoned, or his mother may have been killed by poachers. Noah was nervous, alert and timid at first sight during the arrival.
On the 10th of October 2016, Dr. Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam from the Wildlife Rescue Unit of Sabah Wildlife Department, performed a general health check. This included an assessment of his overall health, potential sickness, function of the internal organs and physical condition. During the health check, it was found that Noah’s four milk canines had been crushed off. Because of their small and cuddly appearance, sun bears are used in illegal pet trade. This is common with captive sun bears to prevent them from causing injuries and they are easy to handle. As a pet, he suffered from loneliness, rotting teeth, and malnutrition due to improper diet and care. Little Noah nearly lost everything – just because someone was greedy.
Noah is responding well to treatment. He has been receiving a proper diet and has a big appetite which has increased his body weight. He absolutely loves milk, banana, papaya and honey which ends up being a mouthful! Noah spends hours trying his best to get every drop of delicious honey out of the enrichment logs. As soon as he smells the food, he will quickly descend to find it. He will get involved in various types of enrichment to strengthen his muscles and senses. He is mischievous and prefers wrestles with his care taker. He continues to be as playful as ever!!
One of the BSBCC's missions is to give rescued bears lifelong loving care. The bears are reintroduced to their natural habitat. A huge thanks to the Sabah Wildlife Department who rescued and bought Little Noah to BSBCC. We will provide the best care possible through the rehabilitation process, so someday he can return to the wild. After completing the quarantine phase, Noah will embark on his new life. Little Noah will follow a process of gradual adaptation in the forest till he becomes an independent wild bear, then he will get this unique chance to return to the forest home he was once stolen from. We will take all appropriate steps to ensure that Noah makes a smooth transition into life as a wild sun bear.
We are confident that he will continue to practice the skills needed to survive as a wild sun bear in the future. Noah will spend his days learning new and vital skills in the forest canopy. We cannot wait for the day when Noah is roaming free back in the forest where he belongs.
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
Dodop was rescued from Singgaron village, Ranau district, Sabah. She was kept as a pet in a small cage. She arrived at BSBCC on 2nd June, 2016.
On June 2nd, 2016, Dr. Rosa Sipangui, a veterinarian from the Sabah Wildlife Department and the BSBCC team performed a general health check. Dr. Rosa sedated Dodop and made a full assessment of her health status. This is crucial for sun bears as it puts us in a position to immediately assess the correct diet and possible medical treatment for them. During the health check it was confirmed that Dodop is missing her all of her four permanent canines. The blood test results on the other side have shown, that she is healthy. Today, Dodop weighs 19.6 kg. She has gained a lot of weight in just one month!
Dodop finished her quarantine on July 2nd, 2016. Dodop settled in well. She has grown into a beautiful young female and also a fussy bear. That is the problem with cubs that have been kept in captivity with close human contact for long periods, which ends in the bears requiring a great need of comfort. People who kept her as pet completely did not know the basic needs of a sun bear. They fed her the wrong diet and made the sun bear be stressed, at times depressed with a poor physical condition and malnutritioned.
Dodop has been introduced to new large dens. The moment she was release into the large den, she barked but then without hesitation, Dodop ran in, looked around, climbing over everything but she still needed to find her surrogate mother to suckle for comfort. During the day she is in big dens with a nice view over the playground. So that she can get used to her new surroundings, where she is taught to use the climbing structures and how to forage for food. We are for example now hiding hid food in her dens so that Dodop could practice foraging skills. In the wild sun bear cubs would be with their mother until they are about three years old. The cubs learn all the necessary behavior and survival skills that they need.
We will be anxious to see how she develops her bear skills. We hope for Dodop to become wilder, which is what we are always looking for in a rehabilitation process. In the coming weeks, Dodop will be introduced to another sun bear cub and taken out for walks to the adjacent forest reserve. Here she will be learn and develop her survival skills for the wild. Stay tuned with BSBCC to have follow ups on Dodop out to the forest story!
Here are photos of Dodop introduction to larger dens.
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May
After a year, it’s time for the bears to do their annual health check.
We really appreciate Dr.Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam, who is a Veterinarian from the Sabah Wildlife Department, Wildlife Rescue Unit, to conduct this health check for all the bears in BSBCC with his valuable time and great efforts.
Each bear requires a full general anesthetic with the purpose of putting them under sedation for doing an extensive health check. After the bear has been darted, it takes some time for the bears to be sufficiently sedated. The bear can only be carried out from the cage once they are sedated enough.
Dr.Pakee conducted a full physical examination including dental condition, paws and wound problems. Growth measurements such as zoological length, head circumstance, neck size, chest girth and shoulder height, and the shank length was taken by bear keepers. All the measurements were recorded in measurement form. We also took hair samples and saliva for research purposes. Blood samples had to be taken by the vet and the samples will be sent to a laboratory in order to get more detail on the health status of the bears.
After we have done all the measurements, we would like to do a paw print for the bears. However, the paw print can only be done when there is not any wounds on their paws. If their paws showed up with wounds, we had to make a record of it.
Lastly, this is the chance for taking a good picture of their chest marks.
All the bears can be considered as healthy bears. However, take the bears away from the wild and keep them in inappropriate conditions can cause many chronic health problems for the bears. They will lose their instinct to take care of themselves.
Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan stayed in quarantine. Now, these three little sub-adult sun bears have moved from quarantine to Bear House 1 to join a big family. Their moving was given a hearty welcome by all the sun bears in the bear house through lots of welcoming barks.
Boboi was the first one who was moved to Bear House 1. He was depressed in the first day. He had no appetite and stayed on the hammock most of the time. Having no friend staying beside him was making him a bit aggressive. Luckily, this situation did not hold for too long. After one day, Kitud was moved to the bear house. Boboi tried his best to take a look at his dearest friend, Kitud, through the cage bar. After Kitud woke up from the health check, they could not wait to stay together. So, keepers integrated them inside a cage. They seemed so happy to have each other. They always stay together in the basket or on the hammock. Boboi grew an appetite after meeting Kitud. They were sharing a tray. After one day more, Tan Tan joined them. Finally, these three little friends met again. And, they help each other to adapt in this new environment. This is because the best enrichment for a bear is other bears.
The happy news for the health check this time is not only Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan joined a big family, but also the very big and special event for Lawa, a 9 year old adult,female bear. Maybe you will be wondering what is the special event for Lawa? And now, we are so happy to share our happiness with you. On June 3rd, 2016, was the collaring for our second release candidate, Lawa. Lawa was surrendered to the BSBCC in 2008 when she was only a one year old cub. She had lost her mother and her forest home, and it was hard to imagine that she ever thought her life might change to be better again.
Lawa is ready to live a new life as a truly wild sun bear! Lawa showed all the signs of an excellent candidate for release after being rehabilitated for nine years. She built up her survival skills and independence and quickly adapted to forest living. Lawa is excellent in climbing trees, foraging for food, nest building and she avoids people! She has explored and stayed in the forest every day for the last nine years.
There was a sunny and challenging day. With the excellent team from the Sabah Wildlife Department, Dr. Rosa Sipangkui and Elis Tambing, Wong Siew Te (BSBCC Founder & CEO) and the BSBCC staff, Lawa was tranquilized without any upset in her forest enclosure. This was so we were able to attach a satellite collar on her before her release into the wild. Our mission of the day was to find Lawa in pen K with the presence of Cerah and Kuamut. All the bear keepers had a short meeting before going to find Lawa. They were fully geared up on this operation. They split into 2 groups, one group went inside the pen and one group stayed outside as backup. We spent some time searching for Lawa due to her high survival skills. She showed up a few times but once she realized something was not right around her, she just ran away from the bear keepers’ eye sight. After a few attempts, finally one of our bear keepers, Thye Lim, found her. She had hidden herself in dense bamboo bushes. With the help of Dr.Rosa Sipangkui and Elis Tambing she was successfully darted in one shot.
Bear keepers moved Lawa from pen K to the bear house once she was under sedation for the health check and collaring. A general health check starts with weighing, she currently weighs 41.3 kg and after an assessment of potential sickness, functionality of organs and physical condition, Wong Siew Te helped fitting the collar on Lawa.
After the health check Lawa was placed into the new forest enclosure. A one month observation will be carried out to make sure the satellite collar functions well and Lawa gets used to the collar. This is a precious opportunity for a bear to be released back to the wild. They belong to the wild. Captivity will never be their first choice. Natalie is the first release candidate bear. Now, Lawa is the second bear candidate for release. It’s time for her to return back to her real home, the forest. It has been a long time but it will never be too late for her to be home. Lawa is extremely curious and has started to explore her new forest environment as a wild sun bear.
It is a pleasure to see a bear given the second chance to return back to where they belong! Thank you to Brad Josephs for your support in helping the fundraising for Lawa’s release. Her journey to freedom has been made possible with generous support and kind contributions from you all!
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
Our one year old, female sun bear cub Kala is growing up! Kala was bought by someone on Kalabakan-Sapulut Road near Maliau Basin with the intention of saving the cub they then surrendered her to the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit. She had never even been given the chance to experience life as a wild bear - poached from the wild as a cub after her mother was killed; this horrific life was all she had ever known.
When she first arrived at BSBCC, Kala was emaciated, dehydrated and malnourished. Back then her weight was just 3kg and she was very thin.
We are very glad that Kala health is now in a stable condition. She has been relying on FIDO Premium Milk Powder for her growth. A huge thanks to our most generous and certainly loveliest supporters from TTL Distributors Sdn Bhd who have given our orphaned sun bear cubs a life full of meaning and joy.
During her rehabilitation, Kala was taken out for daily forest walks to learn important forest skills by our bear care staff for almost one year. She is making good progress through gaining confidence while climbing in the trees, loving to be outside and finally learning how to be a bear. When she was about one year and three months old, she had reached the age where she was no longer vulnerable for a human to walk with her in the forest.
Last year in November we tried to let Kala meet new cubs and make friends (Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan). Unfortunately, Kala was not accepted by her three companions due to her rough play fighting, but we will continue to look for other bears who she might find some companionship with. This is a time for little Kala to make new friends and go out into the sunshine. On February 23rd, 2016 a veterinarian from the Sabah Wildlife Department, Dr Laura Benedict, and Wong Siew Te with our bear care team helped in the moving process. During the process, a general health check on Kala was conducted to assess potential sickness, functionality of organs and physical condition. The blood tests concluded that Kala was a healthy bear and she now weighs 23.35kg.
When moving Kala to her new dens, the other neighboring bears showed curiosity to the little cub. Kala’s den is designed in a semi natural style to give her a real taste of freedom and to stimulate her natural behavior in the wild.
The bear care team has given Kala various enrichment items – these have included puzzle feeders, fire hose bags, fire hose pockets filled with peanut butter, green leaves, logs, and hidden treats encouraging Kala to forage. Little by little she tried out every enrichment and ventured around the new den. Kala is extremely playful and loves to investigate new toys! When it comes to food, she eats all her meals with relish!
These events have given Kala a new journey in life. Beautiful Kala has been so strong and brave in shaking off her past and loves her freedom today. We will continue to help Kala develop the forest skills she needs until she returns to the wild again. The next step for Kala is she will be introduced to the bears who are the same age as her and slowly will have access to the natural forest enclosure. So stay turned!
Text by Kelvin Chee (Intern student)
Photo by Chiew Lin May
In June an annual health check for all the 34 rescued sun bears (13 males, 21 females) was done. This annual health check was done by the Sabah Wildlife Rescue Unit veterinarian, Dr. Sandy Ling Choo, Dr Laura Benedict, Eco Health Alliance and the BSBCC team. The main procedure of the annual health check was a check through of their pulse, respiration, temperature, assessment of their potential sickness (example: signs of disease, ill health, distress and wounds), inspection of their teeth and claws, taking their blood sample, hair sample, measurement of the body parameters and taking prints of the paw. All the bears were also given vitamins and a de-worming injection. Some of the bears were chosen to move from bear house 1 to bear house 2 or bear house 2 to bear house 1.
In the wild, sun bears are solitary animals and at BSBCC they have taken the innovative approach of integrating sun bears. Integration of the sun bears is one of the rehabilitation processes. In order to enable the best use of space and living conditions.
During this period, there were five bears that were selected to undergo castration (physical removal of both testicles from the male bear). Amaco, Gutuk, Kudat, Julaini and Fulung were castrated based on two conditions:
1. Male bears that will never be released in the wild as they are old, injured or need strong human attention
2. Male bears that will never be involved in a captive breeding programme
We hope the castration will further improve the animals’ welfare, promote social behaviour, further learning of survival skills and effectiveness on space use.
After the annual health check for 28 bears from the bear house, next was the bears in quarantine. There were five bears transferred from the quarantine to the bear house. The bears that transferred to the bear house will be living with other bears the same age and will slowly be released to the natural forest enclosure to promote their social behaviour with other bears. This will encourage them to adapt with the forest environment as well. We are hoping that these bears can adapt well in the forest enclosure and can be released back to the wild later as our objective is to rehabilitate the bears and release them back to the wild.
At the end of the health check the bears will be unloaded into their new den. The existing bear house residents will be curious, checking out his/her new neighbour or bark. The next step is that we will provide different types of enrichment for the bears which let them learn and adapt to their new environment.
We are grateful and thanks to the Sabah Wildlife Department and all their support, the health check, castration and moving process for all the 34 bears went smoothly.
Text By BSBCC
Photos By BSBCC & Scuba Zoo
Finally able to breathe true freedom in the wild…
Just before Christmas 2010 baby cub Natalie was rescued from illegal pet trade and sent to Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) on December 23rd. It was claimed that she was found alone and abandoned by her mother. However, we suspected that her mother was killed by poachers and she was captured and illegally kept as a pet.
A 5 year old adult female beautiful Natalie built up her survival skills, independence and learned to behave like a wild sun bear. Her improvement in her survival skills in the forest enclosure has been excellent. She became an exceptional climber and tree nest maker. After learning in BSBCC for five years Natalie is ready to be released back to where she belongs – the forest. The ultimate goal of BSBCC is to return rehabilitated sun bears back to the wild and on Sunday May 17th, 2015 it was time to follow this goal; BSBCC started the journey to release Natalie back to the protected forest. Previous to her journey she was fitted with a satellite collar to keep track of her even after her release. In order to transport the sun bear to the forest as far as possible we choose to use a helicopter. After a long discussion, Wong decided that the helicopter model Layang-Layang Aerospace Sdn Bhd (BO105) was the suitable for our purposes because it could fit transportation cage.
This is the FIRST time that a captive sun bear got reintroduced to its natural habitat in Sabah using a helicopter and is monitored post release with the help of a satellite collar. Natalie is ready to live a new life as a truly wild sun bear in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The experience she has gathered throughout her 5 years at the rehabilitation centre will help her explore her true home in the core area of Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The core area encompasses 120500 hectares and is a pristine rainforest with no human disturbances but lots of big trees, fig trees and a variety of wildlife.
It was a challenging day. All hopes and prayers were solely for this release activity to go as smoothly as planned. The release team’s preparations already started at 3pm on May 16th, 2015 at the bear house of BSBCC when Sabah Wildlife Department vet, Dr. Laura Benedict started the sedation process. A full physical health examination showed that Natalie was completely healthy at 45kg of weight. Dr. Laura Benedict inserted a microchip into Natalie’s body.
Natalie was then moved to her translocation cage. Natalie’s journey started on a WRU truck to Wildlife Department Quarter Lahad Datu in the east of Sabah, two hours from BSBCC. Natalie was kept in the translocation cage overnight close to the veterinarians, the WRU team and the team of BSBCC. She was under constant observation and fed with water, honey and banana. Natalie seemed to be stressed in the translocation cage, but freedom was just around the corner.
The team woke up early in the morning on May 17th 2015, and got ready at Tabin Headquarter at 6.30 am. After a full assessment, the weather was considered safe for the helicopter to land at Tabin Headquarter. Once the helicopter arrived, the operation was split into three different trips. With the first two trips the team entered the mud volcano of Tabin to evaluate and identify the most suitable release site.
At 10.17 am, it was Natalie’s turn to be flown to Tabin mud volcano
Once Natalie arrived, the team set up the translocation cage in the correct direction for release. Dr. Laura Benedict conducted a final check, to ensure that Natalie was ready to enter her new home!
A 20 m rope was tied to the sliding gate of the cage. The team stood 15 m away from the translocation cage.
As soon as the door of her cage was opened, Natalie straight headed into the forest. She explored everything, sniffed the air of Tabin and assessed her new environment before disappearing into the tall tree canopy of the forest. Tabin Wildlife Reserve has welcomed her into a new protected home. The emotions running through the forest while watching Natalie enjoying her newfound freedom are un-describable. A heart-warming moment filled with tears of joy.
Wildlife Rescue Unit team, Tabin Rangers, BSBCC team and Scuba Zoo Filming Crews in Tabin Headquarter. Thanks for all your support in helping sun bear and release work.
Natalie! Stay healthy, happy and keep growing gracefully!
You will always be in our hearts!
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
This rescue did not change the world that we lived in, but it definitely changed the whole world of these three rescued bears!
Why does sun bear’s survival threatened? Sun bears are threatened for various reasons; one reason in particular is humans. Human activities pose many threats to sun bears and their habitat. Intensive illegal logging paired with increased agricultural expansions are just two ways in which humans are forcing sun bears out of their homes. Illegal animal trade is also leading to the extinction of sun bears. Mothers are being killed so that their cubs can be taken in as pets; many of which end up in small cages, and due to a lack of knowledge on how to properly handle the babies, often times they become malnourished and traumatised. This needs to stop if we ever want to see wild sun bears living happy and free in the rainforest!
This past July, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre received three rescued sun bears named Ronnie, Susie and Chin. These three rescued sun bears arrived at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre from the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo in Kota Kinabalu.
We prepared a quarantine area for the bears which included a den enriched with decayed wood, climbing structures, hammocks, and green leaves. Upon arrival to the centre we unloaded the bear’s cages and secured it safely to the gate of the den. When we opened the doors the bears were hesitant to go inside. All three of them were slightly stressed from the move, but eventually each one entered its new home and began to explore.
All newly rescued bears must undergo a month long quarantine period so that wildlife veterinarians can conduct an extensive health check, blood and hair examinations, and monitor the body measurements of the bears.
Ronnie, a five month old female sun bear cub is always capturing people’s attention! Her history is still unknown but we believe that she was kept as a ex-pet and was sent to the BSBCC on July 15, 2014. Her mother was most likely killed by poachers, and now, this kind natured gentile sun bear is quickly adjusting to her new surroundings.
When Ronnie arrived at the centre, she weighed only 7.9 kg and took the spot as youngest bear at the centre, as well as one of the smallest. Now her weight is 10.8 kg.
She is learning all the skills pertinent to survival in the wild. She is also enjoying this learning process very much, and loves to play in the dirt! She also likes to dig, and tear apart the dead wood around her.
If we give her ginger leaves or decayed branches, she will spend an entire day biting, twisting or tearing apart her enrichments.
During play fights, Ronnie likes to show her small curved canines and sharp claws.
Now that Ronnie is getting plenty of milk and fruit to eat she is developing a big belly too!
We special made a new sleeping platform for Ronnie so that she can seek shelter and hide when she encounter strange condition.
Aside from playing in her new environment, she also enjoys her nap time and snoozing on her sleeping platform.
The chest mark of Ronnie similar to sun shaped with sprinkled with light black dots.
Susie, a 3 year old sub-adult female sun bear came to the centre on July 15, 2014. She was kept illegally as a pet by an individual who bought her from the Pensiangan Village in the Keningau District while she was still cub. He paid RM 200 for Susie. The owner's son then surrenders Susie to the Sabah Wildlife Department on June 2014. The previous owner fed her primarily rice, meat, honey and fruits. Susie now weights 23 kg.
Susie can be short tempered and rather sensitive, and is quite aware when strangers are around. When food is present, especially her favourite varieties of fruits, she eats extremely fast.
Susie has a large and broad chest mark with a “meteor” at the middle of her body.
Chin, an adult female sun bear, arrived to BSBCC from Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo on July 22, 2014. Chin is named after the primary school that she was rescued from in Tawau, a town in the southeast region of Sabah. Chin was kept at the primary school’s mini zoo for a very long time and was displayed illegally in a small metal cage. She was previously fed fruits, bread, and milk while she was kept at the school.
Upon arrival we discovered that Chin is missing her left hind claw, which for a human would be the ring finger on the left hand.
Chin may look like a heavy and grumpy bear but she is actually a gentle and friendly bear.
We believe that Chin was never given any enrichment when she was kept at the mini zoo, which explains her curious behaviour towards enrichment activities. Here at the centre she is finding more and more activities to enjoy! Chin loves to tear things into pieces, such as dead logs and coconuts, and is a big fan of ginger leaves! She also loves playing in the water and enjoys splashing water out of the water basin onto her chest.
Chin's chest mark
Well, these three new bears are doing well at BSBCC now! The bears slowly put their past behind them and are learning to live like wild bears again! Next step for the rescued sun bears will be integrating them with other bears, and slowly giving them access to the natural forest enclosure. The bears are in good hands with our caring staffs, and have been nurtured back to health. Throughout the day we provide different types of enrichment for the bears, and allow them the ability to freely explore, play, and forage. These activities stimulate their natural behaviour and help to prepare them for life back in the wild. Currently the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is taking care of 35 rescued sun bears, and is delighted to care for these bears!