Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Soo is a four year old female, sub adult bear. She was purchased with the price of RM350 when she was still a cub in Karamatoi Village in Sook Keningau market. After that, she was kept as a house pet in Nambayan village in Tambunan for two years. She was rescued by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and transferred to BSBCC on the 8th of September, 2017. Soo is very alert with her surroundings. She easily gets stressed and starts to pace aggressively when she hears loud, machine noises. This stereotypic behaviour is the consequence of her past life of living as a caged pet. She took a long time to adapt herself. There must be a way to help her more. Maybe it is time for her to have bear friends!
Let’s introduce you Soo’s friends, Diana (12 years old female adult bear), Kina (three years old female sub adult bear), and Sika (two years old female sub adult bear). Kina and Sika integrated on the 19th of November 2017. After that, Diana joined Kina and Sika on 13th of April 2018. And on the 2nd of September 2018, Soo meet them all for the first time.
Soo is curious about the appearance of a new bear beside her cage. She sniffed on the sliding door. The sliding door opens slowly and Sika is waiting for her at another side. This is the first time Soo met a bear. Soo is anxious. She vocalized with Sika when Sika came close. She would like to play with Sika but she doesn’t know how to do it. She shows defensive behaviour which Sika does not like. Therefore the first time is not pleasant.
The second day of integration is Kina’s turn. Kina shows more curiosity about Soo. She tried to initiate play fight with Soo, who is still nervous about her first friendship. Soo demonstrates a big response to Kina’s approach, but this did not stop Kina and still tried getting close to her. If Soo is being stressed at the moment, Kina will not disturb her.
Soo took her time and she tried her best to become friends with Diana, Kina and Sika. They are getting along well now! Only sometimes, Diana is on her temper and shows her aggression to Sika and Soo by vocalizing. But, there would never be a problem for them to stay together. They play fight with whoever they want. They share their food and also rest together. It is so good to see Soo’s improvement since her first arrival. We really hope Soo can live in a better life with her bear friends and we hope to see her grow into a strong and brave bear!
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Bintang was originally known as Ronnie, named after her previous owner who surrendered the bear to the BSBCC on July 15, 2014. Bintang was just a five months old female sun bear cub and weighed 7.9kg when she arrived in BSBCC. Her history is unknown. Owners who find Sun bear cubs will attempt to reason for holding them captive, but no explanation is suitable for the holding of a wild animal. Keeping a wild animal as a pet, such as the Sun bear, is illegal. In 2017, this bear was renamed to “Bintang” when Albert Teo Chin Kion and Borneo Eco Tour Sdn Bhd, both passionate enthusiasts into changing a sun bear’s life, adopted Bintang. Another reason for changing the name to “Bintang” is because her chest mark appears as a sun-shape, sprinkled with light black dots. “Bintang” is a beautiful name which incorporates the Malaysian meaning of “star” to represent her unique chest pattern.
Rescued at such a young age, Bintang spent little time of her cub life alongside her Mother; sun bear cub should remain with their Mother until two/three years old, when living in their natural habitat. The individuals who separated Bintang from her Mother, weakened her chances for survival as she was unable to learn valuable life skills from a young age. Therefore, BSBCC needs to take good care of her and teach her how to be a real bear again. She has been offered lots of fruits such as durian, mangosteen, tarap, rambutan and many more. Other than that, in order to encourage her natural bear behaviour, lots of enrichments are made and given to her. She shows her improvement day by day.
Sunbearo, Loki and Bintang are integrated in quarantine. She met her bear brother, Sunbearo and her bear sister, Loki within this time and all were getting along extremely well. They spend time playing fighting, suckling for comfort seeking, resting and sleeping together. Bintang’s suckling style is different to others; her paw will be placed on one of the friend, whilst suckling.
On 22 November 2015, Sunbearo, Loki and Bintang integrated with Montom and Susie2 and then Damai. On 24 December 2015, they were released to the forest enclosure. They were foraging together and found some bugs, ants and termites but they didn’t seem too interested in climbing. Loki was the first to climb. After being anxious on the first day, Bintang and Sunbearo both started to climb across the following few days, which made them fall in love with climbing. In 2016, the bears integrated with Kala, Mary, Boboi, Kitud, and Tan Tan, as well as Dodop and Wawa. There was no signs of aggression between them. Bintang is very friendly to all the bears, but Damai is her best bear friend ever! Bintang loves to spend time with her bear friend, to play fight, rest and just hang out together in the forest enclosure.
Bintang is a very kind-natured and gentle sun bear. She does not mind being dirty an actually loves digging and tearing up the dead wood across the forest enclosure. She enjoys her nap time and snoozing on her favourite tree. Bintang is an excellent ground nest builder. She tries to grab as many big leaves from the trees and arranges it nicely on the ground. She will continue to build even if her friends try to interrupt her, with a lot of determination to have a nice comfy nest to rest on afterwards.
Bintang is showing excellent survival skills in the forest every day. We hope that soon she will be one of the next candidates for releasing back into the wild. She deserves to stay in the wild and be a WILD bear once again!
Video By Chiew Lin May
What is the reasons that makes you smile..?
The best thing what you can get is hanging out with best pals!
Video By Chiew Lin May
Day 36: Friendship Goals
The best enrichment for the bear cub is another bear. Romolina and Logan spend more time learning how to be in a beautiful friendship, and to be happy, agile sun bears after all that they have been through in the past.
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Logan and Romolina are the bear cubs we have at BSBCC. Both of them are estimated at eight months old. Even though the same age, Romalina has permanent teeth and canines, whereas Logan still has his milk teeth and canines, with a curved shaped jaw. Logan has a bigger body size than Romalina, due to the gender difference. Both of these cubs have come to BSBCC with a different story.
Logan is a male bear cub. He was found at Lokan River, Kulu-Kulu Village in Sabah. When he first arrived, Logan was small and skinny, with the owner claiming that Logan was abandoned during the crossing of a large river with his Mother, leaving his left front paw maggoty and hairless. As a result, his left front paw has developed abnormally. The owner surrendered him, after keeping him for roughly three months, to the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) on 19th of May 2018, who sent Logan to BSBCC on the same day.
Romolina is a female bear cub. She was kept as a pet for roughly three months at Romol Village, Sapulut. The villager surrendered her after Bob Hartley and Virgil Joon Gunting negotiated with the villager. They sent her to the SWD who the transferred her to BSBCC on 7th of July 2018.
As these bears are of such similar ages, we decided to brighten their day and integrate the bear cubs. Logan is a friendly bear. He is curious about the presence of other bears and wants to get close and initiate play fighting with his new friends. Romolina decided to make things difficult. Romolina is more attached with humans and this integration was the first time she became close to another bear. She started to defend herself by vocalizing and tries to give a warning to Logan, as she felt insecure. However, Logan is brave and playful, therefore tries his best to get to know about Romolina despite her insecurity.
The day starts to get better. Romolina still uses her vocalisations, but only to warn Logan that she does not like his methods of play. However both bears show that they enjoy playing with each other through their soft biting and pawing. They spent more time playing in the hammock than on the ground. Time on the ground was spent chasing and running after each other within the enclosure, just like the characters from the cartoon “Tom and Jerry”. Both bears fill each other’s times with fun and excitement, showing they really enjoy being around each other.
Pacing has shown to be one of the stress-related behaviour. This stress-related behaviour may have been caused by the bear’s past life, especially if kept within small cages such as Romolina. When they are integrated, Logan will interrupt Romolina’s pacing which has helped to reduce her stress-related behaviours and time spent performing them. This has shown to be an alternative way and also the best way to help her!
Logan and Romolina have been sharing food together but only when it is not Romolina’s favourite food, corn. Romolina wants all the corn to herself and will give Logan a warning if he tries to take her corn away. Other than that, sharing the food has been successful. Sometimes they fight but it will not affect their friendship. We really hope Logan and Romolina can grow up happily together, gain the courage and strength to return to the forest together!
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Cerah and Jelita are best bear friends. They always spend time together. They came to BSBCC from Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo in June 2007. Since they are inseparable people are always confused, who is Cerah and who is Jelita?
Cerah is an 11 year old adult female bear. Cerah means bright in Malay. She was just 8 months old when she arrived. Cerah has a fierce face due to her wrinkles. But just because she looks aggressive doesn’t mean she is. She is intelligent, cool, and curious. She is very cautious about strangers and prefers to keep her distance. She is happy in nature, preferring to spend time in the trees than on the ground.
Jelita is a 12 year old adult female bear. Jelita means beautiful in Malay and she is really beautiful. People will fall in love with her lovely eyes. She is the dominant one in the friendship, Cerah will follow her around whilst they roam, forage and climb. Jelita has a beautiful chest mark which splits like a wishbone on her right side.
In 2010, Cerah and Jelita moved from old bear house (now quarantine) to bear house 1. In the same year, they were reintroduced to a forest enclosure named Pen D. Before they could be released back to the forest, they had to pass the fence training. Fence training is for the bears to know that if they get too close to the hot wire or they try to climb on the fence they could get zapped by the electric fence. This is used to prevent them escaping from the forest enclosure.
In August 2015, Cerah and Jelita moved again from bear house 1 to bear house 2 and they were introduced to a new forest enclosure, Pen K. In order to encourage them going out from the bear den, their favourite foods such as banana, watermelon, honeydew, and of course HONEY will be scattered around the ramp and on the forest floor. Once the guillotine door opened, they get attracted by the delicious foods but they are hesitant about the new environment. So, they will try to stretch as much as their body out to the ramp and try to grab the fruits but still keeping their hind legs in the den so that they feel safer. After nearly a week, Cerah finally stepped out to the forest. And, Cerah was the first bear to step out in the forest.
Cerah and Jelita display their wild behaviour. They love spending time in the forest enclosure. Sometimes they like to stay in the forest overnight as well. They are excellent climbers and can always be found in a tree engaging in their favourite activities such as sunbathing and resting. After years of rehabilitation in BSBCC, they have learnt pertinent survival skills such as nest building. Both of them are outstanding at building nests using tree branches and leaves providing them a comfy resting place.
Sun bears are solitary animals in the wild. However, the limited space in BSBCC is one of the biggest challenges that we have ever met. Therefore, we integrate the bears. Integration is part of the rehabilitation processes. Other than to solve the problem of limited space, integration can let the bear learn survival skills from each other. Cerah and Jelita are one of the examples that show the advantage of integration. They depend on each other. If they were having a fight with other bears, they will back each other up and chase the bears away. Their inseparability is the signature of them. They love to stay with each other.
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
Diana was kept in a concrete floor cage and was displayed to the public at View Top Resort, Tawau, on the South East coast of Sabah, for about ten years. She was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on the 31st of July 2013, and was then brought to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) on the 10th of March, 2014. Upon arrival, she was in a bad condition with existing open wounds on the right maxillary area and had unhealthy gums due to fighting with another male, adult sun bear as they were both kept together in a cage. We will never know what happened to her mother, but this can illustrate how vulnerable wild sun bears are to threats from poachers. Stolen from life in the forest, Diana will never be taught by her mother how to survive in the wild.
This year we still continue to fight the battle to rescue illegal pet trade victims in Sabah. Due to the dens in our bear houses and quarantine being full, our team has decided to let Diana meet with two lovely young female bears, Sika and Kina, in quarantine.
They immediately enjoyed their new dens which were full of natural habitat enrichments such as dead wood, green leaves, climbing structures, a sleeping platform, and a hammock. These enrichment activities are all designed to stimulate natural behaviour and keep them active.
They all have their own spot for napping.
Our sun bears are rescued and undergo rehabilitation at our centre. They have suffered some physical disabilities or psychological trauma from their time kept in captivity. Through this integration, life is getting better for these bears that have lived with pain and trauma for so long. For Diana, single enrichment and the company of new friends can make her day.
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
On January 10th, 2014 a six month old, male sun bear cub (Rescue No-37), was rescued from a Mini Zoo and Hot Springs in Tawau, South Eastern Sabah. Sunbearo arrived to BSBCC from Lok Kawi Zoo on the 10th of March 2014
Thin and dehydrated. His life at the Tawau Hot Spring was spent in a confinement cage. Like so many other rescued sun bears, his mother had been killed and he had been taken from the forest. Based on his teeth and malnourished appearance, it was likely he was being fed the wrong diet. His weight during the arrival was 11.6kg. Originally he was known as Tan Sri, which was the name of his owner from the Mini Zoo and Hot Spring in Tawau. Sunbearo is a special sun bear cub and has been adopted and re-named by Neways International (Australia) Pty. Huge thanks to the support from Neways International (Australia) Pty, which enables us to protect Sunbearo.
Sunbearo has a beautiful tiny crescent sun in the shape of a “V” on his chest!
He was placed into quarantine before being introduced to the other cubs of his own age.
He seemed very fragile as his muscles were not strong due to his tiny size, and he was nervous when it came to climbing. The bear care team gives him and his friends a chance to play in their dens. He was given new enrichment toys and a healthy diet.
He quickly adapted to his new home where he has become more trusting and relishes every fresh fruit. HONEY is not an exception!!
On the 24th of April 2014, Sunbearo and Loki were integrated for the first time.
He slowly started to build trust with the bears and learnt that bears can be great friends. Loki, Bintang, Montom, Susie2, Damai and Kala are Sunbearo’s bear play friends. They love playing with each other.
He enjoys having friends to share freedom experiences with. Slowly, he has put his past behind him and is learning to be a wild bear again.
A shining start to the day! On the 28th of December 2015, Sunbearo had finally overcome his fear and took his first step out on the forest soil.
It is a great pleasure to see the first glimpses of these rescued sun bears stepping out to forest for their first time! Sunbearo sniffed around the tall trees.
He knew that he deserved a better chance to express his natural behavior and learn how to become a wild bear.
He is now outside foraging, climbing and enjoying himself. He loves the opportunity and uses all his senses to forage in the soil!
Sun bears are the arboreal bear and spend their time in trees. Sunbearo and Montom will immediately climb up and wrestle on top of the trees.
His long, sickle curved claws will help him in climbing trees and scraping off tree barks for termites.
He has a strong, close bond with Loki. Sunbearo and Loki can be found loving hanging out and spending time up in the trees, watching everything going on around them.
After four years of undergoing rehabilitation at our centre, Sunbearo has grown in size, skill and confidence.
He is a fussy eater.
If there are special sweet treats in the enclosure, Sunbearo usually hoovers everything up and licks every last bit of honey without wasting it! Around feeding time at the bear house, he can often be found growling for food. But most of all, he just loves foraging for extra protein.
In regards to nest building, we have not seen any tree nest building behavior from him. He will stay a while in a nest built by Loki or Damai.
Sunbearo is doing better and is enjoying life in a natural forest.
It is amazing to see a sun bear that was literally suffering from pet trade now looking healthy, free from pain and enjoying life as a sun bear. Sun bears are threatened in Southeast Asia by rapid poaching, illegal wildlife trade and habitat destruction. Please help us fight to free the bears from their major threats. The exploitation of the greed towards this little known bear species must end.
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Kina is a two year-old female sub-adult bear. She was originally named “Kalong” by the previous owner, but her name has been changed to “Kina”, after the place where she was kept at Kinarut, Sabah. Kinarut is a town in Sabah state, located about 20 kilometres south of the state capital, Kota Kinabalu. Kina had been kept as a pet illegally for a year. Her owner claimed that Kina was abandoned by her mother. The story starts with a mother and her cub crossing a road and getting frightened, and then she ran away without bringing her cub with her. The cub is Kina, who had not even opened her eyes yet. Then, her owner took her and kept her for more than a year. After a year keeping Kina in their house, the owner decided to surrender Kina to the Sabah Wildlife Department on the 22nd of February, 2017. Kina arrived at BSBCC on the 1st of March, 2017.
Sikas’ original name was “Sikala”, but we changed her name to the town she was rescued from, the village of Sikalabaan in the Pensiangan district. The Pensiangan district is considered as one of the most rural areas in Sabah. Sika was found by a foreigner who travelled to the village of Sikalabaan, who had visited BSBCC before. After he found Sika was being kept in a chicken mesh cage as a house pet, he decided to call BSBCC and asked for help rescuing this bear cub. Sika was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on the 9th of February, 2017 and sent to BSBCC on the same day as Kina, 1st of March 2017.
On the 19th of November, 2017 they meet for the very first time. The sliding door is opened slowly by their keeper. Sika and Kina start sniffing at each other through the small gap. Then the door opens wider and they see each other! They are curious so they get closer and sniff each other politely. Kina and Sika are off to a good start and start to play-fight with gentle pawing and soft biting. This is how a bear friendship begins! They seem to get along very well, and spend more time playing together on the hammock platform. It’s non-stop playing for both of them even when they are panting with tiredness. Nothing will stop them playing! Neither of them are aggressive towards each other, hopefully the sign of a beautiful friendship forming between Sika and Kina.
Sika is clearly the dominant bear. She will grab what she wants first. Kina will try but she always fails, but fear not! This does not affect their friendship! Kina learns to be more tolerant. Sika will dig out some porridge for Kina and they share it. When Sika comes to take Kina’s enrichment, Kina will walk away and go to get the others. Kina is showing how to treat a younger sister – with patience! Sometimes they fight, but they still love each other. When Kina gets tired, Sika is always waiting for Kina to have one more round of playing. Peace and harmony!
Integration is one of the rehabilitation processes for the bears, as they can learn from each other. Sika and Kina were both kept as pets before, so they lost their chance to learn from their mother. Integration is a good chance to learn from each other about all the pertinent survival skills. Under the care and love of BSBCC, we hope Sika and Kina will grow up and return to the forest together, to become a pair of happy and lovely bears!
Text by Batrisyia Teepol (UNIMAS student)
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Integration is one of the rehabilitation processes which takes place at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center. Although sun bears are known to be solitary in the woods, in this center however, integration between the bears plays a crucial role in the rehabilitation of the bears. It is debatable whether this process is against the bears' nature or not. But know that the bears here in the center are restricted to a lot of things. One example of this is that space is insufficient. Further, having another bear sharing this space is the best enrichment for a bear. What is the best way to learn how to be a bear if it is not learning from one another? Bears can learn from one another as much as we humans can learn from them. With the limited amount of capacity for the bears, integration grants the idea of letting the bears live together (in the same cage).
Obviously, you cannot simply decide in an instant whether a particular bear can stay with another bear without doing integration between them first. From the word 'integration', it is pretty self-explanatory on how the process would go down. This process can be done in two different stages where the first step, 'cage by cage', is where the bears are placed in cages next to each other. This is to let them familiarize with the others' scent and presence. Second step, 'body contact integration', can only be taken if you are at least 80% sure that the bears will not try to harm each other. This step starts when the bears make contact with each other. They usually start it off by sniffing and carry on with playing which includes pawing, wrestling, showing their canines and even biting. Integration must be done with the presence of a bear keeper.
This time, we integrated two bears who were already the best of friends (Noah and Nano) with other bears who belong to their own groups. Group 1 who use forest enclosure Pen D (Wawa, Mary and Dodop) and Group 2 who use forest enclosure Pen C (Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan). The criteria which affects the target of integration is that first off, their body sizes are preferably of the same proportion. Secondly, they are of the same age or within a similar range. The main purpose of this integration is to figure out which group Noah and Nano can go out into the enclosure with.
So, let's get to know some of the bears!
Nano’s name carries the meaning of "small" and "tiny", which definitely suits him. He is at the age of 2, which is a little older than Noah, however, is smaller in size. Noah, the youngest male cub, is definitely the most playful and most energetic. In contrast, Nano is always sleepy and shy. Although their personalities are the complete opposite, they however are very close friends.
Moving on to our bears who roam around forest enclosure Pen C, Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan (all 2 years old). Boboi is much more playful and bigger compared to his friends in Pen C. Kitud, easily identified with his brownish ears, is quite shy and quiet. Tan Tan is definitely not afraid of heights as she is always climbing trees in Pen C.
For bears in forest enclosure Pen D, Mary, Wawa and Dodop (all female), Mary is the oldest as she is 6 years old, but her body is smaller compared to the other bears of her age. This is due to her unbalanced diet during her days being kept as a pet. However, despite the age difference with Wawa (known as the ‘explorer’) and Dodop (known as the ‘sleepy one’), they have a very good friendship.
So, now you have touched the surface, let's dive deeper! Keep in mind that Nano and Noah have never met any of the other bears mentioned before. In the hope of at least one of the groups would make room for our cute cubs, Nano and Noah, and embrace them into the wilderness, we integrated them.
We started the integration one bear at a time. One bear from any of the groups were placed into a cage next to Nano and Noah (‘cage by cage’). They would start sniffing from between the grill to feed their curiosity! Once we were sure and confident, we slid open the doors between the cages and there you have it, ‘body contact integration’. They would start sniffing the other's sex organs and sometimes their ears. Slowly, they would start to play.
Words alone cannot explain how beautiful and amazing integration works for our bears, so these pictures would definitely tell you a thousand words.
Once they had already been introduced to one bear at a time, then Noah and Nano were integrated with two bears at the same time. We also did the integration between the bears in the training pen, just to observe whether the bears could share their food or not.
Throughout all the days I did my observation, no aggression was found. Hoping that the other bears would welcome our little boys, Noah and Nano with bear hugs. Their gestures would teach and allow these two little bears to learn and understand the idea of how to be a bear in the wild. As Dr. Wong would say, "The best enrichment a bear could have is another bear".