Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May
Tan-Tan was bought by a person with the purpose of rescuing her from being sold in the remote region of Paitan. After the person bought Tan-Tan, he informed the Sabah Wildlife Department and the Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit sent her to BSBCC on August 5th, 2015. On the other hand, Boboi and Kitud were kept together in a cage before they were handed over to the Sabah Wildlife Department in Singgaron Village, Ranau district. They were originally from Pitas, Sabah and only arrived at BSBCC on October 30th, 2015.
Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan stayed together in quarantine. Boboi is like a big brother that always backs up Kitud and Tan-Tan. Tan-Tan is the little one. She likes to follow behind Kitud so that she can get more comfort. If Boboi and Kitud are not around her, she will seek for them. Kitud is dominant, even though her size is not as big as Boboi. But, she always leads them to take an adventure with her. After the health check, they were moved from quarantine to the bear house. This was the time for them to meet the sub-adult group.
The sub-adult group and also the big group was very welcoming for them to join as new members. The sub-adult group members included Sunbearo, Loki, Ronnie Girl, Momtom, Damai, Susie2, Mary and Kala. They were playing well together, even though Kitud and Tan-Tan have a smaller body size than them. Here we have a little warm story about Tan-Tan and Susie2. Susie2 had trauma with her early life. This made Susie2 avoid herself from others. But, little sweet Tan-Tan would approach her and follow her when she met Susie2. She would accompany her silently from behind. Momtom and Sunbearo, the big brothers and Mary, Loki and Ronnie Girl, the big sisters, have shown more interest to play with them. Damai has no interest to play with them. She prefers to stay in the hammock and when they try to disturb her, she will give them warning. Also, the way that Kala played was too rough for them. But they did not have serious aggression with each other. And now, they can share a cage and stay with the sub-adult group.
Before they went back to the forest, they had to go through fence training. Fence training is a training to let the bears know that the hot wire may zap them if they get too close to it.This is because all the forest enclosures are surrounded by hot wire. These three little bears are full of courage. From the first day they got zapped, they climbed on the electric fence and began barking. Now, they can move freely between the buffer cage and training pen. They even can play fight in the training pen. Most of the bears do not like the training pen. This is because every bear has been zapped in here before. But, not for Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan. From the first week, the three of them almost had been zapped everyday. But, they never gave up learning. After that, Tan-Tan knew to use her claws to get the food that was near the hot wire without getting zapped. Once one of them knew how, the rest of them would learn from her. After 20 days of training, they finally passed.
The day came! Once the guillotine door opened, their first actions were sniffing the surroundings and looking outside at the forest. They tapped on the ramp just like they were testing whether the ramp was safe for them or not. There was lots of tasty treats, fruits and honey on the ramp. They slowly stepped out and saw the outside world. Kitud was the bravest bear among them. She was the first who touched the ground. Tan-Tan followed Kitud back. When Kitud and Tan-Tan took their first steps outside, Boboi was looking at them through the guillotine door. He went in between the buffer cage and training pen, and tried to find a way out with different styles. After 20 minutes he struggled and he finally joined them in the forest. They explored the forest together. When they met with others, they’d play fight with them as well. Now they enjoy to stay in the forest. Once the guillotine door opens, they just go out and take their adventures all day long in either pen C or pen D with their big brothers and sisters. Let’s see how they enjoy life in the forest.
Watching Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan growing healthy and adapting well in the forest is undoubtedly one of our greatest pleasure. They will never again live in fear and well entitled to do anything they love!
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
In August BSBCC integrated Montom (a three year old, sub-adult male bear) and Susie (a four year old, adult female bear) into a new group with one adult, male sun bear (Fulung) and four adult, female sun bears (Mary, Debbie, Damai and Ah Bui). Montom showed positive interaction and easily adapted with his new friends. Montom and Fulung enjoyed epic wrestles together. They have spent a great deal of time sniffing, chasing, and rolling on their backs in a very friendly way. Damai is the exception and has shown less interest in play. Montom is a very sociable bear, whereas Susie is an aggressive bear and has displayed stress due to emotional trauma which resulted from her being kept as a pet. For the rest of their weeks, they integrated well and began to understand each other better. Debbie is the dominant female bear in this large social group.
Interaction between Montom, Susie with Ah Bui
Interaction between Montom, Susie with Debbie
Interaction between Montom, Susie with Fulung
Interaction between Montom, Susie with Mary
Finally the day came for Montom and Susie to feel the forest floor under their paws again. Although at the beginning it was a new environment for Montom and Susie with having to share the new enclosure with other bears, they are still adjusting themselves and getting along with their new mates. The whole group will be sharing one forest enclosure! It is hard to imagine that both of the bears ever thought their life could change. Susie is still aware surroundings and is having the time of her life. It has been a delight to watch Montom and Susie grow into happy and healthy bears.
Thankfully Montom and Susie are growing stronger and are progressing well. Their natural ability gives hope to our team that in the future they will learn all the skills they need to return to their natural habitat. From being rescued to their time in quarantine to forming relationships with other bears to stepping out into the forest enclosure, giving Montom and Susie a new journey in life. Sun bear rehabilitation is a long process. It changes many sun bears’ lives. Thank you for supporting our work to help Montom, Susie and many orphaned sun bears. Let’s make second chances for them to be free sun bears in the wild.
If you miss Wong's talk at TEDxKL 2012, here is the chance to view it youtube:
Please remember to share it! Together we can make sun bear become the most well known bear!
Text by Siew Te Wong
"Come Mary my girl, come...." was the first sentence I said when I stood on the stage of TEDxKL last Saturday on July 14th. The 800+ audiences who were in the theater of Temple of Fine Arts at Brickfield, Kuala Lumpur, stretched their neck, anticipated to see Mary the sun bear walking on stage. I then clicked to my first slide: a photo of me and Mary the sun bear took last May when I walk her in the forest!
No, I did not bring Mary the sun bear to the stage of TEDxKL, instead I showed the photo of Mary the sun bear! I began my talk by asking the audiences if they know about sun bear before this TED's talk. From the stage, I saw about one third of the audience raised their hands. I then asked if they know about giant panda, a cute black and white bear from China, I saw almost EVERYONE raised their hand.
This is the problem that sun bear faced today. After 187 years sun bears was first described to the scientific world by American naturalist Thomas Horsfield in 1825, there are many people in the world still do not know much about a species of bear call sun bear. I therefore name the title of my TEDxKL talk as "Malayan sun bear: our long forgotten bear!"
TED was started in 1984 as a small conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design, to talk about how their ideas come together. Since then, the scope of TED has become even broader. TEDx is a program of local, self- organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x=independently organized TED event. TEDxKL was the locally organized TED talks held in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.
The theme of this year TEDxKL conference is "Interdependence". Sun bear is a good subject to show "interdependency" of sun bear and other forest residents, plants, animal, and all other organisms. All of these live forms, human included, are interdependence of each other to maintain a healthy forest ecosystem and better environment. By telling the sad story of Mary, I talk about the threats of sun bears and how Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is trying to help this little known bear.
At the end of the talk, I official launched the documentary "Big Dream Little Bear" which is now available online at http://distrify.com/films/597-big-dream-little-bears and our new BSBCC website http://www.bsbcc.org.my/. Big Dream Little Bear is the best example of "do what you do best to help sun bear" which was produced, filmed, directed, narrated by Howard Jackson and Audrey Low from Wildhoop Productions.
It was a great honor for me to be invited to give a talk at TEDxKL last weekend. It was an eye opening event to be able to listen to 12 others speakers' talks and learned from their experience and great works. I sincerely thank the organizer for this opportunity to talk about sun bear in front of so many live audiences last weekend and many more across the world who will view the video online. I simply cannot wait until the video is available online.
TEDxKL, you are awesome!
Text by Gloria Ganang and photo by Siew Te Wong
Koko, a female sun bear yearling has been joining Mary and Debbie (both female sun bear yearlings) for almost a month now. Koko came into the BSBCC earlier this year on the 20th February. She was transferred to Mary and Debbie’s den a month after her arrival which is after her quarantine period. Although it was a new environment for Koko at the beginning to share dens with other bears, she did very well gradually adjusting herself and getting along with her new mates. Koko connected with Debbie almost instantly during their first encounter with each other. Debbie, being the playful one among them is such an essential work out pal for Koko. They would tease, climb around and play chase with each other besides sharing their enrichment toys.
It took a while for Mary to familiarize with Koko until they finally mingled. Mary is the less playful one. However, Koko would often try to get her attention by giving her quick bites or taps on her back. This encourages Mary to respond back very quickly from the distraction and they usually would end up rolling around and show each other “who’s boss”!
Having an additional member in the group would keep the yearlings equipped with better and fun daily activities. They also keep each other warm during cold nights and rainy days by staying close to each other inside their artificial nest. We hope for the best for these sun bear yearlings throughout their growing period at the centre. Koko, Mary and Debbie are here because they have been confiscated from individuals who took them away from their natural habitat. They might end up growing up in small cages as house pets or even killed for their body parts. Help our sun bears by spreading the words on their threats!
Text and photos by Siew Te Wong
We integrated Debbie the sun bear cub with Mary and Fulung for the first time on March 10th. The entire process started 10 days earlier on Feb 28th when we moved Mary at opposite side of the hall way to the den next to Debbie. Debbie's reaction toward Mary was very strong, huffing and barking on a defensive way whenever Mary made a move. Lack of sun bear's communication skills, poor Mary seemed to be confused and do not know what to do except sucking her feet (Mary suckles when she wants to seek comfort). We have to keep the den between Debbie and Mary empty to reduce contact between the two young bears because of Debbie's reaction.
The next day Debbie seemed to accept Mary's presence. She did not seem to be defensive nor aggressive and did not bark and huff at Mary like what she did a day before. She just watched Mary on a very curious way. We let Mary entered the middle empty den so that both bears can have contacts through the bars. Immediately Debbie was very interested on Mary, touching and scratching her gently whenever Debbie can reach Mary through the bars. Sometime Mary responded to Debbie by playing with her. However, Debbie was more proactive while Mary just sitting there to suckle her feet without paying much attention to Debbie. The induction between Debbie and Mary seem fine through the bars.
The next step was to move Fulung the yearling male sun bear on March 3rd to join Mary so that three of the sun bear yearling/cubs can be place together as a group. This time Debbie did not react much to the presence of Fulung. She seemed just fine to have Fulung as her neighbor without any conflict or aggression over the following week.
Finally the big day arrived on March 10th, we integrated Debbie with Fulung and Mary. Fulung is about one year and four months old. He is the biggest and oldest among the three bears. Mary is about one year and two months old and Debbie is the youngest, age about 8 month. Here I let the photos speak for themselves:
In order to prevent them from being too excited when first meet, we scattered their fruit snack- pumpkin and banana on that afternoon, on the floor. Just like what we expected, Fulung (left) and Debbie (right) get busy searching and eating their afternoon snack: banana (preferred) first, and pumpkin later. Mary was at the back of the den, checking out Amaco (an old male bear) behind the wall.
After all the banana was gone, play time begun. Like usual, Fulung would is always advantage being a bigger bear. He shows off his dominancy by standing up right on his hind limbs. Debbie, although being the youngest and smallest, never feels threatened by Fulung's size. She displays her jaw and teeth. Her message is clear, "do not mess around with me!"
Debbie on the right now standing up to show off her teeth and claws. She just never gives up quickly!
Mary now joins them. Instead of play fighting, she is more into the remaining fruits. This is a great photo to show the facial expression of Fulung (left) and Debbie (back).
Mary (right) decided to join the party. Fulung (left) let Debbie to bite his neck. With a lot of loose skin, the neck of the sun bear is like the armor of the bear to get closer to their opponent.
Now the three bears are in action together. Although a lot of teeth and claws in these play fight, they are completely harmless to each other.Fulung and Debbie have a lot of interactions at first. Mary is a bit slow by just watching.
Fulung: "I am bigger than you, Debbie!" Debbie: "So what??"
Like a wrestler, Fulung uses his bigger body to press Debbie down, and the countdown being...
After tens of minutes, Fulung started to feel boring and left Debbie.
Now is Mary's turn to play with Debbie (right).peI can tell by now Debbie (left) is very tired. She just wanted to lie down on her back and push Mary (right) away.At the end of the day, both bears are so tired!
Text and photos by Siew Te Wong
Time flies, Fulung the male sun bear cub that Sabah Wildlife Department rescued from Long Pasir last August is now more than a year old. Mary, the female sun bear cub that we rescued last September, also is a year old now. Both cubs, or "yearlings" by now they should be called, require a lot of exercises such as biting, climbing and digging and everything that you can think of to grow big and strong. After several months under our care, both of them grow bigger and strong, especially Mary.
Mary used be a lot smaller than Fulung. When we placed them together for the first time, Fulung used to me much more bigger than Mary. Fulung used to be the big bully but Mary always tried her best to fight back. Well, not really fight but play fight. Sometime we have to intervene the play fight when Mary started to be annoyed by the big bully Fulung. After all, the sun bear style play fights can be rough and damaging.
Sun bear cubs have a period where they grow very fast, typically when they are 5 to 10 months when they can gain 3-4 kg each month. Mary too, was no exception. During the first time when we mixed Mary and Fulung together Mary was about half the size of Fulung. Now after 4 months Mary caught up with her growth and reaches only slightly smaller than Fulung.
A photo worth a thousand words. Here are photos of Mary and Fulung I took during a 3 min play fight.
*Warning* Cute sun bear cub photos! DO NOT KEEP SUN BEAR CUBS AS PETS!
Few days ago Mary the sun bear and I spent the afternoon in the forest like we usually do. Suddenly we have a visitor when Mary was busy looking for termites in this spectacular liana (vine). It was a pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina). The macaque came right on top of us to feed on the fruits of kunau-kunau (local name) (Baccaurea tetandra, Family Euphobiaceae)
Few minutes later, more macaques came to check us out. We were literally surrounded by them. Pig-tailed macaques are a common primate species found in the forest of SE Asia. They share their forest habitat with sun bears. At Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, pig-tailed macaques are one of the five common primate species. Other four primates are orangutans, long-tailed macaques, red leaf monkeys, and human!
Watch the interaction between Mary the sun bear and the macaques in this video.
Feel free to share it with your friends too!
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STILL THEY COME…
BSBCC has become home to three more bears since July!
On 23rd July BSBCC helped Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) in the rescue of an illegally kept captive sun bear from a palm oil plantation near Lahad Datu, southeast Sabah. Named Amaco, the 18 year old male was in fairly good health apart from bad teeth and mouth condition, having been fed on a diet consisting almost solely of rice and sweetened condensed milk. Amaco has been given medical treatment and has been temporarily housed in the old bear house and is slowly relaxing and settling in.
The following month, Fulung, a 9 month old male cub was brought to BSBCC by SWD staff, after being surrendered to the SWD Wildlife Rescue Unit by a villager from a remote part of southwest Sabah who had had the cub for several months, after hunting dogs had apparently found it in the forest. Fulung was malnourished on arrival but is now putting on weight and is being kept temporarily in the old bear house under quarantine.
A third new sun bear, Mary, arrived from Lok Kawi Wildlife Park on 12th September 2011. A female cub, possibly 6-8 months old, Mary had been kept by villagers in central Sabah since July. She shows signs of malnutrition and calcium deficiency but otherwise appears healthy, and has also been placed in quarantine in the old bear house. Read more about Mary.
A contract has finally been awarded to a local company for the construction of the BSBCC Observation Platform and trails to it, access boardwalk from the car park and upgrading of roads and drainage. Construction commenced at the end of September and should be finished by March 2012. Watch this space!
SPREADING THE WORD
Wong participated in the 20th International Conference on Bear Research and Management in Ottawa, Canada in July 2011, presenting a jointly authored paper on ‘The effects of selective logging on sun bears in lowland dipterocarp rainforest of Borneo’, and on October 1st gave a talk on BSBCC and sun bears at the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. Over 40 people attended and the event was covered by the national press.
In September, BSBCC was thrilled to receive a donation of GBP500 (RM2,426.05) from International Aid for the Protection and Welfare of Animals, IAPWA, a UK based NGO, to be spent on purchasing ceiling fans for the new bear house.
Both individual and group volunteers continue to be an essential and much appreciated asset at BSBCC. Here are some of the activities some of the recent individual volunteers have been up to.
September was the time for the annual health check for most of the bears – a routine medical assessment of their overall health, potential sicknesses, internal organ function and physical condition. It was also a chance to give vitamins and de-worming injections and take blood samples and even hair samples for future DNA studies. Read more...
FILMS AND FILM STARS!
The end of July saw the first ever Borneo Eco Film Festival, held in Sandakan, Sabah. Always eager to raise local awareness, Wong gave a presentation on ‘The holistic approaches of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre to conserve sun bears in Sabah’ and there was a showing of the 20 minute promo film “BEAR TREK” by Wildlife Media Inc. featuring Wong carrying out his research at Danum Valley in Sabah. The event was well attended and, hopefully, the first of many highlighting and showcasing Borneo!
Actor and avid conservation supporter Jason Scott Lee visited BSBCC on 24th September 2011 as part of an eco-travelogue being filmed throughout Malaysia for National Geographic. Jason spent a whole day filming at the Centre, enthusiastically taking part in cleaning of the bear pens, feeding the bears in the forest enclosures and walking Mary the sun bear cub in the forest. Read more…
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/l-gQ7ZSfjvY" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Sun bear is an arboreal bear. In the wild, they spend a lot of their time resting, sleeping, and foraging on tree canopy of Southeast Asian rainforest. Like Mary, sun bear cub learns how to climb when they are young. Their mother will bring their cubs to look for food when they are capable to move around. At the age of 4 or 5 months old, sun bear cubs are capable of walking, running and climbing.
So what is a big deal of Mary climbing a tree at the age of 9 month?
Mary is not an ordinary sun bear cub. Her mother was probably killed by poacher when she was about three months old. She was then captured by the poacher and kept as a house pet. Her owner has no knowledge of raise a sun bear cub.
They did not give Mary milk, which is the most important food for all baby mammals. Because of that, she lacked sufficient nutrient for her growth and development, such as calcium and other minerals to build bones in her body.
Mary has a relatively small body when Sabah Wildlife Department rescued her and sent to Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.
Her body was relatively short and small. She cannot walk and run properly like other sun bear cub her age. She has weak limbs and walk slowly. Clumsy, so to speak. We believe Mary suffered from calcium deficiency. We hope she can overcome this problem and grow well under the care of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.
Today she was climbing this dead tree and trying to find food in the tree. Although she failed to find any termite or ant colony, she did well on her climbing skill. This is a big start and a good progress for Mary the sun bear to start her new life at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC)
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre aims to conserve sun bear through education, research, rehabilitation, and improve welfare for captive orphan sun bears.
We need your help to achieve these goals
Please visit http://sunbears.wildlifedirect.org to learn more
Please help us spread the words and spread the loves http://sunbears.wildlifedirect.org/
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre