Text By Seng Yen Wah
Photos By Jude Ailton George, Julamih bin Jainuddin & Seng Yen Wah
Our little Luna is growing up! Luna is a captive-born sun bear cub born on 20th May 2021 in BSBCC. Her mother, Bintang, is a seven year old adult female bear. On day 8, we noticed that Luna was less active than had previously been observed. After a quick check, we found Luna had a low body temperature, severe ear injuries and a skin infection. Due to this, we decided to separate Luna from her mother. We started to hand raise her and she only weighed 0.353kg at this time. After eleven months of day and night care, she had finally grown to weigh 18.85kg !
Luna has come a long way. We take Luna for a walk in the forest every day, where she learns and acquires skills. Luna shows her bear instinct and great potential like a wild sun bear. At the same time, Luna also has a deep bond with her surrogate mothers (cub keepers). And hence, we started introducing Kipaku, Itam, Betung, and Kukuton to Luna, as they could be her companions later. In the wild, sun bears are mainly solitary. However, integration can encourage positive behaviour in bears as they learn from each other.
It was not easy for Luna because that was the first time Luna had met other bears. Kipaku, Itam and Betung are sub adult bears. But three of them have different personalities. As a result, their friendship turned into a different outcome.
Kipaku is the youngest male sun bear in BSBCC. He is a playful and cheeky bear. He likes to wrestle with others, and he always wins with his size and weight.
When Kipaku first saw Luna, he was full of curiosity and chased after Luna. But his excess passion makes Luna feel he is rough which Luna does not like. When Kipaku plays with her and she will continue growling and huffing. Kipaku would initiate a play fight with her by sniffing, chasing, soft biting her but she cannot stand any of them. So there is always a chase and a run happens every time they meet.
Itam is the largest but friendliest bear in the group. When we first started integrating Luna and Itam, Itam showed her interest in getting to know little Luna and was always looking for and sniffing her. She approached Luna tenderly.
However, Luna began to greet Itam, pawing at Itam's face several times. But Itam remained patient and tried to get close to her. But Luna is too shy and ran around to avoid Itam.
Betung is a curious and observant bear. She likes to observe what is happening around her. But Betung is not keen on playing with others. So when she met Luna, she just came over and sniffed her, then she started to explore the environment and enrichment.
As a summary of the story of Luna making new friends, Luna prefers to be alone. She does not mind being around others, but it is okay to leave her alone. Her friends are getting to know her more and more, so they will give her space, and carry on with their own businesses. Sometimes they also get naughty with Luna. When Luna does not want to put up with that, she would warn them and stay away from them. Luna may need more time to make new friends. Perhaps, one day she can become good friends with them.
As well as Luna making friends with Kipaku, Itam and Betung,Kukuton also joined the group. Here is the story about Kukuton. Kukuton is a seven years old adult male bear. From 2015 to 2019, he was kept as a house pet in Kampung Taginambur, Jalan Belud, Ranau in Kota Belud. The owner claimed that she wanted to save Kukuton from being sold, and she had no intention of keeping him as a pet, but, as she was busy with her family, it took her four years to hand Kukuton over to the authorities. During that time, Kukuton was confined in a small cage. He was officially handed over to SWD on 13 September 2019. She paid the fine two years later when she admitted the offence under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 and was fined RM15,000 rather than be jailed for four months. Kukuton arrived at the BSBCC on 8 January 2022. Compared to his age, his body is small. He weighs just 18kg. The prolonged captivity has led to Kukuton exhibiting self-inflicted stereotypic behaviour. Integration is best for Kukuton to help reduce this negative behaviour. This is because the best enrichment of a bear is another bear.
Kukuton has shown a positive side in making new friends. He was usually timid and stayed in the corner, but he bravely took a step to get closer to others in the integration. He approached the others slowly and carefully. Kukuton can often be seen sniffing the others secretly. He usually starts to play fight with others. But the way he plays is rough, and only Kipaku could hold on. Sometimes, Itam and Betung also join the fight. As the days passed, the others slowly embraced him. And now, he seems to get along just fine with everyone else.
So lovely to see Luna and Kukuton finally have a group of companions. Luna and Kukuton can now be seen wandering around in the exercise pen with Itam, Kipaku, Betung. Their integration is fantastic. Now, they share their historical moment! We hope they will grow and learn all together. They are not too far from the next stage of the rehabilitation programme in the bear house. They are absolutely looking forward to moving to the bear house soon and seeing the forest again!
Day 134: The best enrichment of a bear always is another bear!
Most of the rescued bear in BSBCC is being separated from the mother bear and kept as a pet, which causing they spend most of the time having contact with human (direct or non-direct) in the unnatural environment. After living alone in a cage, on 25th December 2020, Little Betung finally free from trauma and now has made new bear friends for the first time in her life.
Through integration, it will help to change these bears' lives and provide them with more physical and mental stimulation, reduce stress, and allow them to learn vital survival skills. Rescued bears learning from each other (bear copying bear behaviour) facilitate the rehabilitation process in our centre - building up their confidence for stepping out again into the forest floor, climbing trees, and self-defense.
Interactions between Betung, Kipaku, and Itam have shown to be positive. Itam & Kipaku help her adjust to her new life and learn how to be a bear again. They enjoy playing, exploring, and making us fall in love with their beautiful smiles!
Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Let’s meet our two rescued bear cubs, Kipaku and Itam.
Kipaku, is a five months old male bear cub. He was found in a forest fire site. After that, he was being kept as a house pet in Kampung Kipaku at Tambunan. He came to the BSBCC on the 18th of July, 2020. Kipaku is a bright and active bear. However,due to his history as a house pet, he is used to the presence of humans. He feels stressed and bawls when he sees there are no people around him.
On the other hand, Itam, is a seven months old female bear cub. She was found at Kampung Maimatom, Kemabong and kept in Kampung Kuala Sabinait, Pagalungan at Nabawan. When she was found, she had wounds from dog bites on her body. She came to the BSBCC on the 27th of July. Itam is an alert and shy bear. Her eyes were always focused on the surroundings.
Kipaku and Itam may come to BSBCC by a different story, but what they have in common is they both are alone now. To provide a better life for these little two cubs, giving them a new friend can encourage their social behaviour and helps them learn from each other. The best enrichment of a bear always is another bear!
This is how their friendship started.
On the 30th of Jul, 2020, was the first day Kipaku and Itam met. However, it is was not pleasant . Kipaku first gives a warning bark to Itam. Kipaku stayed in the hanging platform while Itam stayed in the basket. They both kept huffing and barking. There was not much progress during the first three days of their integration. This is due to neither of them wanting to get close to the other and they were still huffing, growling and barking.
Slowly, Itam took the first move to approach Kipaku. However, Kipaku always warns her to stay away. Itam still tries hard every time. She has no fear of Kipaku’s warning. Due to Itam’s fearless efforts and countless tries, they are getting closer day by day.
Finally after a week,we saw them begin their friendship! Now, Itam always follows behind Kipaku. They are always biting, pawing and wrestling. Kipaku still likes to paw Itam hard. However, Itam is always tolerant with Kipaku. They share food and enrichment and also sleep together. It is so lovely to see their precious friendship. We are hoping that they can grow and learn together and believe that one day they will return to the wild together.
Video by Chiew Lin May
A five-month-old male bear cub, Kipaku was discovered all alone in the forest fire area and had been kept for the past three months by a local family. He was previously fed with milk, rice, and fried fish. Kipaku was sent to the BSBCC on 18th July 2020. A seven-month-old- female bear cub, Itam was found in an orchard with a dog bite wounds on her body and appeared weak. The person decided to bring her back and cared for her wounds for 21 days before handed over to Sabah Wildlife Department. Spending years in captivity and unable to express any natural behaviours cause the cubs emotionally traumatized or too habituated with humans.
During this period of care, Itam and Kipaku took a brave step and trust on their new journey. They adapted well to their new environment. On 30th July 2020, they have met each other for the first time. They spend a great deal of their time together and enjoy the various enrichment given by their keepers. It is so uplifting to see that they are able to forget their past and it reminds us how wild they should be. We are happy that they are now safe and grow in confidence.
If a sun bear is not given the opportunity to learn these forest skills, their chances of survival in the forest are slim without the help of a rehabilitation programme. Please do not keep sun bear as a pet! Shows some love for Little Kipaku and Itam by sharing their stories!
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Text by Dr. Yeoh Boon Nie
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
A sunny day, we were excited to receive the very first satellite signal emitted from Montom’s GPS collar, indicating the released bear was exploring the new home, and passing by the adjacent forest reserve. Montom is an adult male bear that was returned to wild on 10th July. Our heart sank immediately after knowing a sun bear cub was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department and on the way to BSBCC.
Early morning on 18th July, an estimate 4 month old sun bear cub arrived in BSBCC. He came from Kampung Kipaku, Tambunan. So we named him Kipaku, straight forward, huh. While the cub care team still observing and learning Kipaku’s behavior, we received another bad news that one more rescued bear cub was arranged to BSBCC. On the late night in 27th July, Itam, an approximate 7 month old female cub arrived in the center.
BSBCC is established with the primary mission to rehabilitate the rescued sun bear. We are saddened by the fact that sun bears are still rampantly poached. And the cub, their cuteness is a curse, sought-after as pet. The morale in our team was low at that very moment.
Both Kipaku and Itam shared the similar background, but the two have distinctive different personality in insecurity. They both were kept as household pet after being found alone in the forest. What happened to their mother? Mama bear will not abandoned her cub unless she was threatened or died.
Kipaku is a sweet chubby bear that attached to human. He cry when no keeper around to keep him accompany. He was “trained” to eat fried fish with rice, and hence he dislike fruits and vegetables.
Itam, on the other hand, is a fearful bear that constantly wary of surrounding. Any noises will startle her. She barked and charged at keepers every morning. She would tip toe walking to explore the cage. She relaxed when no human around.
Dear Kipaku and Itam, we feel so sorry that you both loss your mother and endure terrifying event at your infant age. We will take care of you now. Your wild instinct and lessons taught by your mother will guide you through this rehabilitation journey. Five years later, hopefully, we will return you home, like Montom!
We have not giving up.
Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Itam,is a lovely bear with a slightly round body. She is seven months old, the youngest female bear in BSBCC.
Itam was originally from Kg Maimatom, Kemabong. But, she was found at Kg. Kuala Sabinait, Pagalungan, Nabawan. The owner of an orchard heard his dogs were barking. When he went to have a look he found Itam alone. At that time, Itam appeared weak and had some dog bite wounds. The owner was kept her for 21 days. After that, he decided to surrender Itam to Sabah Wildlife Department when she was being kept at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park. On the 27th of July 2020, Itam came to BSBCC.
On her arrival, her weight was 11 kg. She has a shiny coat and a unique chest mark. Unfortunately, we found,whilst conducting her general body checkup,that she has a severe dental problem. We believed that it may be caused by her stress-related behaviour - cage biting. Itam is not picky on food. She will try every new food that is offered to her. Her top three favourite foods are milk, egg, and fruits. Now, she weighs 12.35kg.
Most of the time, Itam is shy. She spends more time resting. The basket is one of her favourite places to hide. She is always seen peeking from the basket. Other than that, she enjoys staying on the hammock and resting with the belly up. If she wants to have a better view, she prefers to stay at the hanging platform. When she is resting, nothing bothers her. She chills and relaxes!
However, Itam is very alert to the environment. She always keeps her eyes wide open to observe her surroundings. Her moves are always careful and quiet. When you look into her eyes, they look alert with fear. A story lies in her eyes. She always stays in a corner or stays up high. Once she feels threatened, she charges and gives a warning bark. Then, she hides. We do not know what happened to her before. But, we believe that she has suffered a lot and this has caused her to be traumatized.
Sun bears are excellent climbers. However, Itam is clumsy in climbing. Instead of using her claw, she is using her paw and teeth to support during climbing. In the wild, cubs will be attached to their mother until two to three years old and,during this period,the cubs will learn from their mothers. However, Itam is now alone. Itam always looks up and looks as though she has many thoughts in her head. Maybe she is missing her mother and her natural home.
We can help her now by encouraging her more natural behaviour. We provide different types of enrichment for her so, she will be able to learn to be a real bear.
In BSBCC, She will receive intensive care. It will take her time and patience to forget her trauma. We are believe that she will grow into a confident young sun bear ready for her second chance of life at the BSBCC.