Text by Amanda Wilson
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Every individual has a story to tell, therefore it is only right that a bear’s story is told; a life behind iron bars displayed for people to see, exploited as money boosters through mistakenly presented for something they are not. This particular case involves two sun bears who were previously displayed as Giant Pandas. One of them was Kudat, an adult male sun bear who currently lives at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) who is now 9 years old. Kudat was rescued from a private mini zoo in a district named Kudat, within northern Sabah, where he was kept alongside another adult female sun bear named Panda. They were both kept in a small cemented-floored cage together, where they were fed chicken meat everyday, which was clearly an unfit diet for a Sun Bear. Kudat was named after the district where he was rescued from, although he originally is from Tawau.
It is heart-wrenching to hear that these animals were exploited merely for human’s greed. These animals deserve to be in the wild where they can enjoy being in the forest. According to the rescue report, both bears came from Tawau and were still infants when they were presented as gifts to the zoo’s owner back in 2008 (most likely involving a lot of money). From then on, these bears were labeled as “Pandas” and became the main attraction of the zoo. Fortunately, in 2010, the bears were surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department before being sent to BSBCC. A hopeful journey for these bears began. When they first arrived at the Centre, they were quite tame and adapted to the new environment very fast. In terms of size, both bears were much bigger compared to other bears of the same age, which was probably due to their heavy meat consumption at the mini zoo previously.
As soon as they arrived at the centre, Kudat and Panda were kept in quarantine for specific amount of time before being moved to the Bear House. Due to limited space in the forest enclosure at that time, Kudat had to stay in the Bear House for a few years.
Kudat is a playful bear, although he can be perceived as aggressive, this is his manner of playing. He is a sweet and friendly bear. He loves to play with water and is one of the few bears in the centre that eats fruit peels. At the Centre, Kudat is fed with a proper diet and was able to socialize with other bears like Along and Simone. He was introduced to various types of enrichments and learnt to climb, dig and forage for food like any other bear does in the wild. In his den, he loves to lounge up in his hammock. Before he was released to the forest enclosure, Kudat successfully went through fence training. Fence training is a required process for the bears to be introduced to the electric wires. This is so that they recognize the existence of these wires that surround the forest enclosures to prevent the bears from escaping, getting into fights and so on.
For the bears to be reintroduced to the forest, it takes patience and a whole lot of courage but it is rewarding to see. Being only steps away from the outside, it took some time for Kudat to brace himself and explore his new surroundings for it was pure fear that kept him inside. The bear keepers and volunteers tried various ways to lure him out of his den from drizzling honey on the ramps and forest floor, to placing food as incentives for him to come outside. These tricks did not only help to trigger his sensory smell, but also encourage the bear’s curiosity of the situation. At first, he only took food that was close enough for his paw to grab without stepping outside of the den’s door. He also showed unnatural stretching to grab the food on the ramp whilst keeping his back feet in the door to his den. After some time, he would come out of his den only to grab the food and quickly went back inside.
It took a good two weeks or so for him to have the courage to explore the outside world. We were overjoyed and proud of him! It was touching and rewarding to see him finally roaming around and exploring the greeneries. From only stepping on cemented-floor everyday, he finally got to feel the forest floor. From being cautious of his surroundings, he got more comfortable and acclimated by day. He even climbed up trees and scraped dead logs in the enclosure. He was first released in Pen D of the forest enclosures at the centre before he was moved to Pen L. Recently, due to required maintanence work in Pen L, he had to be abstained from going out into the forest enclosure for some time. However, he is now free to go out again and climb trees, dig and play in the mud like any bear should be able to. We are hoping for more happy stories for more of our beary friends!
Climbing up on trees and playing with enrichments
Text by Bronwyn Nyrie Watkins (APE Volunteer)
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Kudat is an adult male bear, who was taken from a mini zoo along with Panda, an adult female, where they had been displayed as giant pandas and fed them a chicken in every day. However due to the limited area of forest enclosure in this Centre, Kudat has to stay in bear house for two years. This just led to it being all the more emotional watching Kudat be retrained to touch the ground and go outside, as we knew he could, it was pure fear that kept him inside.
For the month that I was volunteering at BSBCC, I was part of the group that observed Kudat in the training pen. This was probably the most rewarding part of my whole time with the bears, as not only did we watch his reactions to the outside, we were also able to move the food (used as incentive to come outside) around depending on where we wanted him to go or how far he could actually stretch. The lines of fruit radiating from his door were a visual display of his improvement. The other rewarding aspect was that we could see him walking more like a bear, with no unnatural stretching to keep his feet in the door to his night cage. Before the fence training, Kudat had been stressed, resulting in pacing and worrying his fur until he had bald patches on his legs and head, but now his fur is starting to grow back, making him look more like the beautiful sleek bear that he should be!
Kudat stepping down onto the ground was a perfect goodbye present for me, as I could see the difference just spending half an hour every day with a bear does for their confidence. I hope that when I come back, I will be seeing Kudat out in the enclosures outside!
Text by Fetysella Olyndra Juli
Photos by Chiew Lin May
Everyone of these three bears has their own history, especially Simone and Along, both of them were kept in a Mini Zoo Hot Springs in Tawau while Kudat was kept on display in a private mini zoo with another female sun bear named Panda. Kudat was formerly named after the district of Kudat even though he originally is from Tawau. Along is a 6 year old male bear, Simone is a 8 year old female bear, and Kudat is 7 years old adult male sun bear. Kudat, Simone and Along were then surrendered by the Sabah Wildlife Department to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC).
Upon arrival at the BSBCC, the three bears showed their different personalities, where Along is considered to be more energetic and hyperactive, Simone is calm while, Kudat on the other side can sometimes be aggressive towards other bears, as has happened in the past when integrated with another female sun bear Panda. But Kudat is also playful even though he plays rough. Since all three bears are kept in the same row of cages, at first, we integrated Along and Simone. Along becomes somewhat hyperactive when meeting with Simone and at times he will start to pace back and forth at a fast rate when Simone is in the same room.
During the integration process interactions between Along and Simone became more and more aggressive, so the decision was made, to slow down the integration intervals. After possible times of no aggression Simone tries to play with Along, which will result in likelihood of Along developing aggressiveness towards Simone due to her manor of play. Sometimes Simone will be the aggressor and we realized that, as Along pacing can not be interrupted as long as Simone is in the same cage. The occurrence of any kind of aggression therefore is unpredictable.
Then, we decided to integrate Simone with Kudat. The first results of the integration process were positive, both bears played together, even though Kudat play very known to be rough. The first time Kudat met Simone, he started to sniff Simone first especially her sex organs. Realizing that Simone is a female sun bear, Kudat became excited and begin to play with her. We have been having integration sessions for a few days and so far no aggression occurred.
Then, we proceeded on to our next mission, which was the integration of Kudat and Along. First we were quite concerned, because both are male sun bears, and aggressive behavior is more likely to happen. Surprisingly, both Along and Kudat got along well, Kudat approached Along and sniffed him out first. Then, Kudat try to play with Along. Along struggled at first a bit, because of Kudat rough play. However, after some time, Along got used to it. After a few days of integration sessions between Along and Kudat, no aggression occurred.
Now, our final task is to introduce Simone into the group. First, we placed Along and Kudat in the same cage. Then, we opened Simones cage to get access to the males. At first, when Simone entered the cage (where Along and Kudat were playing), she did not pay attention, she just passed by. But we realized that even with Simone present, Along did not start to pace and continued to play with Kudat. Once he stop playing with Kudat, Along showed positive results towards both Simone and Kudat. This process continued for quite some time and there was aggression noticed. It seems that the presence of Kudat affects the situation between Along and Simone, but when we fed the bears coconuts during their integration session, Simone showed to be the dominant in the group. This may be due to Simone being the oldest in the group. In the end, we hope that, these three bears can continue to integrate well and can go out to forest enclosure together in the future.
Text by Bellinda Raymond (Intern Student)
Photos by BSBCC
Kudat is a 7 years old adult male sun bear, who was named after a district in the northern part of Sabah. Before he was sent to Kudat district, he came originally from Tawau district. Kudat was kept as a display in a private mini zoo together with a female sun bear named Panda. At the private mini zoo, both Kudat and Panda were on display as ‘black panda’. Later, they were surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department and BSBCC in 2013. At BSBCC, Kudat enjoy his new environment and began to explore the forest around him.
Kudat’s last friend was Panda which is in year 2013. Although sun bear is a solitary animal when they are in the wild, BSBCC encouraged a healthy positive social behaviour among the bears at the centre. At BSBCC, sun bears are integrated according to their body size, personality and age group. Bears integration is encouraged in this centre to bring out the positive behaviour development among the bears such as defensive skills and learning from each other through socializing. The number of cages in the bear house is very limited too where for now it only can accommodate up to 40 bears. Therefore, integration is also one of the ways to save up space in the bear house where the bears are integrated so that they can be in groups.
The first step in integration is integrating the bears cage by cage. The bears will start to sniff around their new environment especially when there is a new bear next to their cage. After that, integration body contact will be carried out where the sliding door between the two cages will be opened and the bears will start to meet each other.
In July 2015, Kudat started to be integrated to a group consisting Julaini, Rungus, Ah Lun, Panda and Chin. Kudat is integrated one by one from the group before they can be in one big group together. The integration of Kudat started off with the bear that is the dominant in the group. Kudat is integrated with Ah Lun first. When Kudat placed next to Ah Lun’s cage, Kudat started to become curious and keep sniffing around. He climbed the cage to have a peek of the bear next to his cage. As soon as the sliding door is opened, Ah Lun went into Kudat’s cage first. When Kudat and Ah Lun met, they took some time to get to know to each other. After they feel confident about each other, they started to play with each other.
After Ah Lun, Kudat is introduced to Chin. When she met Kudat, she was curious at first. Kudat and Chin sniff around their new environment and even sniff at each other.
Besides Ah Lun and Chin, Kudat is also introduced to Julaini, a male sun bear who has the same age with him. Kudat is friendly to Julaini when both of them met each other. Both Kudat and Julaini immediately play when they met! The way they play is a bit aggressive compared to Ah Lun and Chin. Maybe it is just a way of male sun bears play with each other? Kudat and Julaini played nonstop and continue to wrestle.
Finally, Kudat is reintroduced to his long lost friend, Panda! The integration between Kudat and Panda does not make us worry when they were integrated because Kudat and Panda are best friends!
Rungus is the last bear that being introduced to Kudat. Amazingly, Kudat also shows positive reaction to Rungus when they were integrated. Like the other bears in the group, Kudat played with Rungus too! Rungus is the female bear in the group that is most interested to Kudat and they played together and ignored the other bears!
The integration between Kudat and all the bears showed positive integration except for Chin. When Kudat and Chin were integrated earlier, they played in a friendly manner. However, after some time Kudat and Chin started to become aggressive and they fighted. Kudat and Chin were then separated by cages. We tried to integrate Kudat and Chin again, but there are still aggressions occurred between them. This means that the integration between Kudat and Chin is negative. We concluded and decided that Kudat and Chin cannot be integrated to each other. Despite this, Kudat’s integration with Julaini, Rungus, Ah Lun and Panda shows positive result.
Kudat’s integration with the other bears is still on going. Hopefully, their integration can be successful in the end. When the integration is successful, Kudat, Julaini, Rungus, Ah Lun and Panda will be in one group and will step into the forest together.
An adult male sun bear's story
Text by Alla Sapiro
Photos by Chiew Lin May
This was the first day of Kudat's training to go outside for the first time. This was afternoon. We spread food and honey onto both the cage ramp and the training pen ramp as well as some on the forest floor. Within the first 30 minute session I observed him pacing most of the time. He very briefly went over to the outside doors and sniffed food a few times and seemed very curious, but was very unsure and nervous with the idea of even reaching out the door. He seemed very agitated the whole session and seemed to be upset and confused with why all the other bears got food inside their cages, where his is in this strange and foreign place.
On the second training session we prepared the ramps with food the same way. This was in the morning. When we opened the outside doors Kudat right away went to sniff the food outside the door. He then moved to the training pen and walked around and explored his surroundings. He proceeded to go back and forth from cage 2 to the training pen. He would still be pacing quite a bit, but seemed less agitated than the previous day. He came up to the outside doors and looked outside and sniffed the food with much more confidence that nothing bad was going to happen. At about 2/3 into the session Kudat finally put his paw out for a piece of fruit from cage 2. He did not retrieve fruit and brought his paw back in. A minute later he did this again and successfully retrieved and ate a piece of fruit! He then went back to the training pen and started licking honey and grabbing fruit. He continued to eat even with bear aggression barking noises in the background. It didn't appear to phase him at all. He then went to cage 2 looking for more food. He started getting agitated and started pacing. He went back and forth to the 2 ramps in search of food he could reach without stepping outside. He was unsuccessful in this and made no move to step outside. Then the session is over.
This is the third day of training. This took place in the morning. The ramps were prepared with food the same way. As soon as the doors were opened Kudat went to the door in cage 2 and grabbed and ate food. He then went to the training pen and went directly to the outside door and did the same. He then spent some time in cage 2 out of sight. He grabbed and ate some more fruit from cage 2. He moved to the training pen and stood up to look and sniff outside. Then the session is over.
Morning to afternoon we opened the doors for Kudat for the whole day during bear house operation hours. We did not observe where Kudat could see us, but hidden from afar. Kudat did not step on the ramp.
Using our same new tactic we observed from afar and kept the doors open the whole work day. Kudat finished the porridge and fruit he could reach without taking a step on the ramp.
We did the same food arrangement on the ramps and again left doors open all day and observed from afar. Kudat again finished the food he could reach but he did not step out.
Same food arrangement, doors open all day and viewing from afar. Kudat at what he could reach and he did not step out.
Azzry had the idea to try something different today. The doors were open the whole working day like normal and viewing from afar, but he didn't put any food on the ramp and simply threw a coconut outside. Kudat went and sniffed at the door, then he went to the training pen door and looked out and sniffed. Then he went back to cage 2, climbed down the ramp, grabbed the coconut and carried it back to cage 2 to eat. We were so proud of him!
Food was spread on the ramp and Kudat was allowed to go out to pen D for the work day. He just grabbed the food he could reach and didn't step out.
Same arrangements. Tommy saw Kudat go outside and quickly go back to the bear house.
No food was spread on the ramp and Azzry put the coconut outside. It took Kudat 25 minutes of sniffing looking and then finally goes outside and grabs the coconut and brings it back into the cage to eat. For the evening feeding he just goes right out and eats. He stays out for a long time and explores his surroundings, but stays close to the ramps. Azzry saw him playing with mud.
Food was put outside and Kudat went out during evening feeding and brings his food back to the bear house. He was alert with sounds of the forest and people being around and working. He stayed outside the longest so far and roamed and explored his surroundings, but again didn't go too far from the door to Pen D. He also interacted with Manis, a female adult sun bear who is next door in Pen E. This day was a success in Kudat becoming much more comfortable and acclimated to his surroundings. Good job Kudat!
This day food was not spread on the ramp and the door was opened in the morning. Kudat didn't even hesitate and he went outside right away. He stayed outside the whole day and explored his entire surroundings. He didn't come back till the end of the work day. This was a very positive result that Kudat is completely confident that he is safe to go outside and enjoy himself in the forest.
Text by Wai Pak Ng
I am not sure you still remember I posted an article about 2 “Panda” that live in a mini zoo in Kudat, Northern Sabah in this blog last year. It is such a shame that my country men name these two Malayan sun bears as "Panda!". Besides that, these two sun bears were kept in a small cemented floor cage without any enrichment and display them to the public to attract more visitors to the zoo. That was a very typical example that wildlife is being manipulated and explioted in this part of the world.
Fortunately, the newly formed Wildlife Rescue Unit from Sabah Wildlife Department carried out an operation to confiscate these two illegal kept sun bears last month and sent to BSBCC. BSBCC promised to give these two rescued “Panda” a new life and a chance to go back to their real home.
According to the rescue report, two sun bears were still infants when they arrived at the local mini zoo in 2008. They were both came from Tawau region, southeastern Sabah, presented as gifts to the zoo owner (probably "gift" with a lot of money involved!"). The owner calls both of them as “Big Big”, with a sign board written as “panda” in English and Chinese. Since then, “Panda” were the main attraction of the zoo. The local is just need to pay as low as RM5 (US$1.50) for adult, and RM3 (US$1.00) for children to visit the zoo.
These two bears are now staying at our quarantine area in the old bear house. They were very tame and get used to the new environment very fast. In their file, I name the male bear as "Kudat", and the female as "Panda". Both of them are quite healthy and bigger size compare to other bears with the same age in our centre. This might due to their heavy meat consumption (they were fed a chicken each day!) by their previous owner at the mini zoo.
Once they pass the quarantine period, Kudat and Panda will be transfer to the new bear house and join with others. I sincerely hope Kudat and Panda's sad story will give our people a clear message: it is not right to exploit wildlife to just amuse our own kind!