Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
Sun bear cubs are extremely adorable. The rescued bears we have received were taken from the wild and became victims of the illegal pet trade. To obtain the cubs, their mothers are usually killed before their young are snatched. Kipaku’s story begins from a lifetime of being a house pet. Kipaku had been kept for three months by a family in Tambunan, after they claimed they had found the cub wandering alone around the forest fire area. He was fed with fried fish, milk and rice – an inappropriate diet! The owner decided to surrender the cub to the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit on 16th July 2020, and he was sent to BSBCC on 18th July 2020. Kipaku quickly adjusted to life in his new home. Kipaku’s health is improving gradually. He now weighs 10.60 kg.
Sun bears of his age in the wild would be reliant on their mother, but he has already lost his mother and his home. Without his mother’s guidance, the chances of survival in the forest are slim. Here in BSBCC, the first step of rehabilitation for Kipaku was starting a daily forest walk with a surrogate mother.
On the 6th of August 2020, Little Kipaku got a second chance to learn as a wild bear. He found the courage to set his paws on the forest floor!
His surrogate mother will accompany and assist Kipaku to develop his survival skills, the knowledge he needs to thrive in the wild and ensure he receives the best possible care. During the walk, daily behaviour and ecology is recorded.
We found out he has strong instincts – like climbing, resting high up in the tree canopy and looking for wild food. He remembers tall trees and rivers! He is quickly practicing the skills and is exhibiting good natural behaviour which he has not known since he was stolen from the wild as a cub. But there was some concern with Little Kipaku, is he too habituated to human presence. Sun bears are being susceptible to poachers upon release. Therefore, cubs will be exposed to minimal contact with humans during the rehabilitation process.
Sun bears are opportunistic and will eat almost anything – small vertebrates, termites, earthworms, larvae and their eggs. He has an incredible sense of smell. Once he locates his favourite grubs, he will quickly use his claws to tear open tree bark then slurps out the food using his long tongue.
Every day has a new tree bark to satisfy his curiosity!
He can spend hours in a day foraging on the bark. He is very smart! He is always keen on trying out new things. He will check out every corner of the forest.
Kipaku loves to snack on soil too – high with mineral nutrient! Being the youngest male bear at BSBCC, he enjoys getting into mischief and exploring around - beginning his new life where he really belongs! It is important to keep him psychologically and physically fit.
“Climb, climb and climb higher!” – His most favourite activity when he is in the forest!
He is an agile and tree loving little bear! He shows confidence when he climbs! He has strongly curved, pointed claws and naked soles – adaptations to the arboreal lifestyle. He is busy in the canopy searching for food. Sometimes, he does not care whether the tree branches can support his body weight. He just climbs through the branches and munches on leaves or tears the tree bark. When he misjudges a branch which snaps under his grasp, he will quickly grab it or fall to the ground.
He can perform a full range of natural behaviour. Doing what bears do…!! He is free to do whatever he wants –FREEDOM!
He enjoys rolling around and taking a nap in the forest canopy. He will stop by the river for a swim.
After a few weeks of outings, he has become more and more adventurous and active. He has left his past behind and continued to develop his forest skills during the forest outings.
The little bear is doing so well. It is remarkable to watch Little Kipaku explore free into the depths of the jungle. He certainly has the instincts for a future in the wild. Please keep fighting to stop poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. Let them stay where they belong to – the wild!
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.
Video by Chiew Lin May
Day 7: Favourite! Termite Mound!
BSBCC runs a number of enrichment activities for the sun bears in their care. It promotes physical and mental stimulation or to ensure the sun bears' well-being.
Little Kipaku learns to break the termite mound and feeding on termites!
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Sabah Wildlife Department, Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Meet little Kipaku, an active 5-month old male sun bear cub. He was being kept as a house pet by a local villager family in Kampung Kipaku, Tambunan, Sabah. The story reported to the rescue team was that they found him ‘wandering alone’ in the forest fire area.
The family then decided to hand the cub over to the Sabah Wildlife Department on July 16th, 2020. Kipaku’s story is similar with the other rescued sun bears. Sun bears are facing extinction in the wild if uncontrolled poaching activities or losing their forest homes to fire, logging and palm oil plantations are still continuing. Sadly, it is believed that his mother undoubtedly was killed intentionally or perished in the fires. He arrived at BSBCC on July 18th, 2020. He appeared dull and with dry hair on his coat when he arrived.
Thanks to the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit who saved Kipaku’s life.
Following his arrival, Kipaku was placed into quarantine. He adapted to his new life of freedom. He receives round-the-clock care from his surrogate mother by helping and encouraging him to gain back confidence and build up his strength – be WILD. He has shown tremendous growth in the last few days. He now weighs 7.20kg.
We are trying to get Kipaku to eat the nutritious food he needs to grow.
He is a grub lover and is very messy with his food!! His favourite foods are mealworms, ants and milk. He has a peculiar way of foraging his food by using his tiny sharp claws to tear it up (in a gentle way). Never mess with him when he is eating!
Kipaku wants to bark a “Huge thanks” to our lovely sponsorship, Fido Premium Milk Powder from TTL Distributions Sdn. Bhd. (http://www.ttl.com.my/) for being part of his journey. His health is now in a stable condition. He has been fed a milk formula five times a day for his growth.
Sun bear cubs remain dependent on their mothers for the first two to three years of age. Poor care and the psychological trauma of losing his mother means a lot to Little Kipaku. He has been kept in captivity, growing up alone and habituated to the presence of humans. All Kipaku knew was being scared and stressed. He will growl and bawl when no one is beside him. But lacking a fear of humans, the bear is ill equipped to survive and will be vulnerable to hunters in the wild. Throughout his rehabilitation process, we are minimizing the number of caretakers to reduce the habituation to human contact, keep his wild behaviours and slowly support increasing his independence.
His personality has begun to emerge!
He is an agile and unique bear. Kipaku can be a challenge to keep mentally occupied – stolen from the wild and never had the chance to learn survival skills from his mother. We provide a variety of environmental enrichment such as different types of young leaves, termite mounds, dead wood, logs, and branches to promote physical activity and prepare him for life back in the wild. It is heart-warming to find out that Kipaku has strong wild instincts - foraging, climbing and defence skills. He has a deep love for digging and tearing! He can spend time digging and tearing dead logs for ants or termites, and for FUN too! Through enrichment, Kipaku can have a great day, every day! He is smart and full of curiosity. He will examine, dig, play and destroy it. He shows great climbing skills and is learning to be a very skilled bear! He uses all of his senses to explore different tastes of freedom.
Kipaku will not miss a play wrestle with his surrogate mother. He will begin playing, rolling and pawing.
He loves soaking in the swimming bucket and splashes water to beat the hot day.
Kipaku tends to slow down on his busy activities and prefers to suckle on his front paw to seek comfort.
He is a baby and will vocalize his feelings. He always keeps himself busy BUT starts to become grumpy when he feels uncomfortable with something! He is excited about everything that is offered to him - these little things are simple but are making the bear world of difference to his life!
Kipaku will undergo rehabilitation at BSBCC in order to one day be returned to the wild. He begins the long rehabilitation process of learning and developing the survival skills and behaviours needed to one day survive in the wild. After recovering and passing quarantine, we will start taking him out for walks in the forest in order to prepare him for a new life in the rainforest.
Sun bears are classified as “Vulnerable” to “Endangered” by the IUCN. Human activity continues to threaten sun bear numbers and are pushing them to extinction. Please do not keep sun bears as pets and leave them in the forest to their real life. Thinking about how you can send your LOVE to little Kipaku? Adopting is a great way to give him the life he deserves. Please adopt Kipaku today! He will make your heart melt!