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!