Text and Photo by Tee Thye Lim
At Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), the confiscated orphan sun bear will go through the electric fence training before they release into BSBCC forest enclosure. This is a very important phase where the bears will take their first step onto the forest floor after they have been keep in the cage for a long time.
Some of the bear may take 1 day to enter into forest, some of them may take 1 week, and some of them even spend more than 1 month to put four of their feet on the soil.
On 5th March 2013, the guillotine door which connected from our BSBCC bear house to the forest enclosure has been opened to let the sub-adult sun bear group - Natalie, Rungus, Ah Lun and Julaini to access to the forest.
As expected, the "Group Leader" - Natalie, is the first one who lead the group to explore the condition around the guillotine door. But none of them step into the forest on the first day.
On 7th March 2013, Natalie still "checking" the surrounding by letting out her feet at the guillotine door. Sometimes they will attracted and feel curious to the macaques who roaming near to the forest enclosure.
12th March 2013, this is the day where most of BSBCC team members have been waiting for !!
10:28am, Rungus, walking down from the ram to get the food and honey. Excitement, precaution, and curiosity were all shown on Rungus face and her movement.
She started to explore the surrounding by sniffing around and straight went inside the forest without waiting for Natalie, Ah Lun and Julaini !!
2.30pm, the "Group Leader" - Natalie, started to get confident to step out again. She try to get food which scattered in the forest enclosure. Slowly, she step on the forest floor, alert to everything surrounded her. Natalie found a dead wood just near to the guillotine door and she digging on it for around 10 minutes before she went into forest to meet with Rungus.
Have a look at the photo to check out what are Rungus and Natalie doing for the first day stepping out into forest !!
Text by Shauna Tay, Photos Siew Te Wong
Natalie, our baby of the centre, is becoming our wildest. Being a young cub, she is somewhat controllable when taking her outdoors. We are able to walk side by side with her into any patch of forest and let her do her thing. She’s now become so confident in climbing and foraging that it makes you realise how wild these bears are meant be.
She’s improved with each time I’ve seen her out. Wai Pak and Paul had said that previously when they took her out she just wanted to play and interact with them. However now she doesn’t take any notice of us. She shoots up trees and climbs to the very top with all her strength.
It was amazing watching this 6 month old sun bear sync in with her wild instincts and naturally make her way up the trees and branches. She knew that clawing at rotting wood would find her termites, and that climbing higher up a tree would find her new sights and smells she hadn’t encountered before.
Although we can see she knows what to do in her habitat, it doesn’t erase the fact that she needs her mother. Sun bear cubs usually stay with their mothers until they are 2 years old. Now, this 6 month baby cub has no mother, and probably doesn’t remember much about ever having one. It makes you sad thinking about how she could be out in the wild with her mother if it weren’t for hunters and poachers. This is the harsh world we live in.
While working against that, we have hope for these bears. They’ve lived hard, unnatural lives, but with BSBCC’s dedication we hope they’ll soon be able to have that life they’re meant to live.
Text by Paul Clenton
Linggam is a very handsome, 6 year old male bear with a gentle and friendly personality. He was first brought to Sepilok as a cub (only 3.5kg) in August 2004 after being found at a logging camp at Kampung Pinangah. After a stay at Sepilok Linggam went to Lok Kawi Zoo. He was transferred back from Lok Kawi due to reported aggression problems (though that has never been observed here) and lack of space. Since coming here he is noticeably healthier though perhaps slightly underweight. Linggam is currently undergoing training and this week was finally able to go out into the forest enclosure.
I was watching him discretely while he took his first tentative steps out into the natural world. The transition to a wilderness environment is challenging for an adult bear which has grown up in a world of iron and concrete, but as I observed him it was obvious to see he was constantly thinking, calculating the safe distance to go from his doorway. Some might criticise him for not just running off outside and climbing a tree, but it is this caution he was demonstrating that keeps bears away from hazards in the wild. His approach did not surprise me; he seems the most pensive of bears, when I reflect upon howe he interacts with his enrichment items.
I look forward to observing him over the coming days and weeks to witness his discovery of the wonderful piece of rainforest habitat he now can call home. Watching a bear simply “be a bear” is an incredible thing to do.
Natalie has started to eat some more solid food. She gets 2 trays of rice a day, just like the other bears. The only difference is that her tray has only about 1/4 the typical serving. Awww, baby! She looks so adorable when she tucks in to her rice porridge with her little paws resting either side of the tray. She also gets several servings of milk, served like some posh coffee with chocolate flakes, only her warm drink comes with dog biscuits!
Sun bear, the world smallest bear, is also the world most arboreal bear.
They are equipped with soft food pads and strong curved claws that help them cling and grip on tree trunks and branches.
Since little, their instinct of climbing and exploring the height are strong.
They climb the trees for few purposes: finding food, rest and sleep on trees.
It is advantage for the sun bears to seek shelter on tree because there forest floor is always wet in the tropical rainforest.
Also, predators that known to pray on sun bears are often found on forest floor.
Sun bear are very agile on trees, to a point that they look more like apes, such as chimpanzee, than a bear.
They start climbing at young age because it may take them a long time to master the skill of tree climbing.
At five months old, Natalie the sun bear cub is slowly improving her tree climbing skills.
Although clumsy sometime, the clumsiness is an important learning process for Natalie to be a skillful tree climber!
Natalie is one of many sun bear cub rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department that sent to Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.
BSBCC aims to conserve sun bear and educate the public on the plights of this little known bear.
We need your help and support to make this happen.
Please visit http://www.bsbcc.org.my/
Please help us spread the words and share this video.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/03LerWmK970" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Please view BSBCC's new video of Natalie the sun bear cub digging and excavating decayed wood!
Please help us spread the words about this video.
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Last week on Feb 13th, I finally landed at Kota Kinabalu International Airport at the capital of Sabah. This was the day that I have been long waiting for; the day when I can return to and serve to my home country. I am glad and relieved that I finally finished the prolonged education process in the US at the age of 42. This joy is not only cherished by myself and my family, but also by many friends, colleagues and supporters across the world.
Over the following few days my schedule was packed with meeting officials from Sabah Wildlife Department, NGOs and the LEAP team, accompanied by their handshakes. "Wong is back!" However, these warm welcomes were also accompanied by the bad news of more baby sun bears having been confiscated by the Wildlife Department or being kept as pets by villagers. Even worse, was the sad news of the death of Ah Chong on the morning of Feb 15th. Ah Chong was a sweet but old male sun bear who came to us 10 years ago. The necropsy of Ah Chong performed by Dr. Diana Ramirez on the next day indicated that his death was due to Congestive Heart Failure caused by an abnormal heart that associated with genetic abnormality. May you rest in peace Ah Chong! You will be missed in our life always!
On Feb 18th, I finally travelled from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan where the BSBCC is based. Wai Pak picked me up from the Sandakan airport. We went straight from the airport to the BSBCC to see the sun bears. It was really good to be back again to see that both the facility and the bears are growing. The sun bears greeted me with their curious sniff on my hand, which I think they still recognized my smell except for a few newcomers whom I had never meet who had no idea who I was.
My first meeting with Natalie the baby sun bear was an unforgotten one. Her loveliness and adorableness is something beyond anything human language can possibly describe. Her condition is much more stable now with increased appetite and she is slowly gaining weight. Her diarrhea problem, which was a concern during the first few weeks after her arrival also seem to be under control. She has passed the most vulnerable stage as an infant and starting to eat solid food and growing stronger. Her relatively big eyes, small ears, short but soft hairs really caught my eyes and my heart. Beside the cuteness of her little black hairy body, I really hope that we all can understand the reason she is here because of poaching, illegal logging, pet trade, with high likelihood that her mother had been killed.
During the first few days I am at the centre everyone on the ground was working really hard: Wai Pak the project manager had overseen all of the operations on the ground and was working around the clock; David and Daniel the animal keepers keep busy with their daily routine taking care of the bears with the helps from volunteers Marianne Sim, Paul Clenton, Janine Pickwick, and John Lane; A group of 15 volunteers from Raleigh International working tirelessly to build the perimeter fencing of the outdoor enclosure. Thank you all for all your help!
Today marks the first week I am back to Sabah. Over the last seven days, we discussed many plans and events that to be take place in the near future: a fund raising event that will take place in Sepilok that involves local corporate and community; a fund raising event took place on facebook, an ambitious research project using camera trapping data, GIS, and radio-telemetry techniques to study the important of corridors at Kinabatangan River area involving multiple focal wildlife species including sun bears; a phylogenic study on sun bear across SE Asia; and on Feb 24th, I am going to Krau Wildlife Reserve in Peninsula Malaysia to assist a graduate student studying wild sun bears.
A busy schedule lies ahead for sure for sun bears and the development of BSBCC.
I am finally home. It is good to be home!
Text and Photos by Wai Pak Ng, Acting Project Manager, BSBCC
Happy New Year! This is what I want to wish my fellow readers / supporters / sun bear lovers and friends. I know a lot of people, including you, want to read more about Natalie, the latest rescue bear cub. I am sorry to keep you all waiting.
Natalie arrived at BSBCC on the 23rd Dec 2010. Since then, she got use to our centre very fast. The bonding between me and Natalie grow stronger day by day. It is much easier to handle her now compare to her first week where she bitten me with her sharp milk teeth if I make her uncomfortable due to my clumsiness.
In the wild, sun bear cubs follow their mother up to two years. Unfortunately, little Natalie is now an orphan and she is totally depends on us. It is a great responsibility for us to make sure Natalie is healthy and ready to get back to the forest where she truly belongs.
Milk is still the main food for her. Her front teeth were just erupted, and we will slowly introduce her with some soft solid food. Besides feed her five times a day, I also walk her around the centre regularly. Very soon, I will bring her into the forest enclosure.
Text: Siew Te Wong; Photos: Wai Pak Ng
Two days before Christmas day on the 23rd, Wai Pak received a call from the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), saying that a sun bear cub was on its way to be sent to BSBCC. Hour later, a SWD officer from Lahad Datu delivered this baby sun bear at BSBCC.
We did not know what the story behind this sun bear cub was. What we knew was someone surrendered this sun bear cub to the SWD Lahad Datu office, and the SWD office immediately sent this cub to us. We name this female sun bear "Natalie". She marks the 21 sun bears we currently house at BSBCC. Weighing just a bit over 5 kg and probably 3-4 month old, Natalie appeared to be healthy although suffered from a bit of malnutrition. Wai Pak and I had a long skype conversation to talk about the care and husbandry of Natalie, as taking care of baby sun bear could be challenging because we are not a sun bear mother after all.
Natalie is active and playful over the past few days since she was with us. She also attaches and bonds with Wai Pak well and quickly. Wai Pak walks her around the centre and Natalie follows Wai Pak closely without wondering away. At this age, Natalie is still heavily depends on her mother for survival. It is no surprise to see Natalie's attaching behavior to Wai Pak because all sun bear cubs at this age need the tender loving care and adequate nursing from their mother.
Natalie is both unfortunate and fortunate. She is unfortunate because she is a victim of habitat loss, poaching and pet trade (although we do know the story behind Natalie at this point, investigation is ongoing but slow due to the holiday season). However, she is fortunate because she was sent to Sabah Wildlife Department and the care of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. We will try our best to take good care of her for sure.
The BBC documentary "The Orangutan Diary" told the moment of truth and desperate dilemma of hundreds if not thousands of adults and infant orangutans being homeless, killed, and orphanized due to logging, habitat destruction, oil palm plantation development, poaching, and pet trade; in short, "human activities" on this once pristine island of Borneo. The same faith applies to other wildlife species, such as sun bears. Many sun bears like the orangutans show in The Orangutan Diary being killed, babies being orphanized and kept as pets, because of these "human activities" on this landscape. Over the past three months, there were about a dozen cases of sun bear infants being captured as pets, many end up in orangutan rescue centres, seek my advices on care, medical attention, husbandry and rehabilitation of the orphan sun bear cubs they have rescued. The numbers of these orphaned sun bear cubs concern me as I believe there are many more unreported cases. The case like Natalie represents a tip of an iceberg.
I am glad that Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre has been established thanks to enormous efforts and helps from many parties, especially Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department, LEAP and many generous donors to make this project possible. BSBCC is essential to provide adequate cares, halfway and permanent home for many rescued sun bears. BSBCC is also crucial to raise conservation awareness and to conserve sun bears in many ways.
Please help us. We need your help to help sun bears like Natalie!