Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
The sad part of each rescued orphan sun bear that arrive at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) is that they come from having lived through a bitter past. As sun bears grow into fully grown adult, they become dangerous and difficult to handle which will end up their lives in a tiny cage or seeking out sun bear rehabilitation centre to take their sun bear pet in.
This is what happens to our recently rescued a three years old sub adult female bear, Soo (Rescued bear No.56). It was so shock when we received a video showing that the person was playing with this bear (who is fully grown bear). She was purchased from Karamatoi village in Sook Keningau market when she was still cub and kept as a pet by a family in Nambayan village in Tambunan, located in the interior Division of Sabah for almost three years. She was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department and she arrives at BSBCC on 8th September 2017. Soo was fed with rice, cucumber and milk. Undoubtedly her mother had been killed; she is sold illegally throughout Borneo and kept in private home. Sadly many of these orphaned sun bears will never fully learn their natural way of life and lose their ability to survive in the wild.
During the arrival, Soo shows a sorrow face and traumatized. This made her keep alert. She must have been going through traumatizing experience for her. You can feel how this disgusting the pet trade is! Often these rescued sun bears take a long recovery road from the trauma of losing their mom in such a horrific way. They often suffer from physically health issues, malnutrition and poor treatment during her pet trade time.
Luckily for Soo, the Sabah Wildlife Department rescued her and she has been given second chance to survive as a wild bear. She has to go through a quarantine process for 30 days to determine her health status. On 10th September 2017 she received a health check. Dr. Pakeeyaraj Nagalinggam from Wildlife Rescue Unit, Sabah Wildlife Department performed a general health check. These include an assessment of her overall health, function of the internal organs and physical condition and potential sickness. Her weighs was 25.70kg.The blood tests result has shown she is in good health and bright bear.
At the BSBCC, Soo will receive intensive care. The most important first step is to make sure Soo is settled in this new environment. Till now she still avoids to explore new surroundings. Soo was introducing to new correct diet and enrichment to ensure she is growing healthy. But Soo only will explore the enrichment and treats on night time where the surrounding area was quiet. She will quickly move away after detecting our presence. Soo spent the majority of her time and feel safe by staying high up on cage. She is now an orphan and needs much love and care to grow into a trust and confident beautiful sun bear.
We are delighted to welcome Soo to our sun bear family! Soo has a long journey ahead of her in going through rehabilitation until she returns to the wild again. It is illegal to keep sun bears as pets! Please remember the consequences of keeping one as a pet and give them promise of HOPE! We hope to see Soo can be thriving and adapting well to her new home. She has to find the life of a free bear. We will be monitoring to see how she progresses over the coming months at quarantine.
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Azzry Dusain & Chiew Lin May
Today they saw their rescuers. Each rescued orphan sun bear needs to cope with the traumatic loss of their mother and generally ends up in the illegal pet trade. They all have a terrible start to their young lives. Surely their memories with the forest are all gone. They have never been given the chance to experience and exhibit their natural behavior.
Kina (rescued bear-54), a one year old female, was found around the village of Malak Palak, at Kota Marudu, in the northern region of Sabah. Now named Kina after the place where she was kept (originally nicknamed “Kalong” which was given by the previous owner). Her owner claimed that Kina’s mother was crossing a road and got frightened then just ran away and left Kina behind. Kina was just a bear cub and had not even opened her eyes yet. Hence, her owner took her and kept her for more than a year. We will never know exactly what happened to Kina before she was found alone in the forest. The owner then decided to surrender her to the Sabah Wildlife Department on February 2nd, 2017. Kina arrived at BSBCC on March 1st, 2017.
Kina had been kept as an illegal pet for a year. She had a relatively small head compared to her body and her canines appeared small. During the arrival she weighed 12.85kg. She showed signs of malnutrition and had been poorly cared for since she was a cub. She lacked sufficient nutrients for her growth and development due to being fed inappropriate food. She was fed rice, coconut, sugar cane and Nespray (full cream milk powder). Kina has a slender and pointy muzzle.
Upon rescue, Kina showed no fear of humans which has resulted from the habituation from the effect of being kept as an illegal pet. We are trying to wean her off close contact with humans and will introduce her to new bear friends. It was sad to see the trauma she had with the loss of her mother. She is a young energetic and playful bear full of enthusiasm. She is quickly settling into the quarantine. She is braver and accepts everything on offer. She enjoys the fun enrichment we come up with which can be seen through her love to explore around the den. Kina tries her best at demolishing dead logs to get every delicious treat out of the enrichment. However, feeding time is what she looks forward to the most. Her favourite is milk, banana, papaya, honey dew and HONEY! She will rub it over her head and body! She enjoys playing for hours with the bear ball. She tries different ways to tear, paw and roll to reach enrichment. Kina also is an expert in climbing logs by using her long and curved claws! This allows her to be happy and simply enjoy chilling as a bear!
The youngest female sun bear at our centre, Sika (Rescued bear-55), weighed 4.8kg when she arrived at BSBCC on March 1st, 2017. She was a tiny four month old, female sun bear cub. The Sabah Wildlife Department rescued Sika on February 9th, 2017 from Kampung Sikalabaan in Pensiagan district, one of the most rural areas in Sabah. Sika is named after the place that she was rescued from. Thankfully, Sika was found by a foreigner who travelled to the village. He had visited BSBCC before. He decided to call BSBCC and asked us to rescue this bear cub. He saw that the bear cub was being kept in a chicken mesh cage as a pet and had a diet mostly of condense milk, fruits and cereal.
Little Sika has stolen our hearts with her beautiful blue eyes. She is developing into a lovely and playful bear cub. Sika has a good appetite. She is currently in our intensive care where she will be given a balanced diet that comprises of milk and fruit. She shows more confidence in new surroundings. Sika has an amazing ability to climb high and hang on the platform. She is developing her muscles every day. Since Sika was just rescued and is still recovering from trauma, she prefers to spend most of her time staying high up on the platform or in the hammock to seek shelter and take a siesta. Our bear care staff also teach Sika to develop her defense skills through play fighting. She will show her small, sharp claws and small, curved canines during the play fights! Sika gets her first taste of a sweet life at BSBCC. Slowly, she will develop her forest skills.
These young bears are quickly settling into the new environment. They are in safe hands now and will settle in well at BSBCC quarantine for approximately 30 days. Bear care staff will focus more on enrichment and diet changes which will keep these rescued sun bears busy, active and stimulated. We will give them the care and nourishment they need and teach them all the skills necessary to fend for themselves in the wild. Both bears are building up their strength and are learning to trust their bear care takers.
That was the beginning of Kina and Sika’s new lives! This life of freedom and to put their traumatic pasts behind them is perfect for these beautiful bears. After they finish the quarantine, they will know only becoming WILD bears, sunshine, tall trees, nest building, bear-friends, treats, love and peace. Kina and Sika have many challenges ahead of them and much progress to make in order to succeed on their own in the wild. Sun bears are endangered and in risk of extinction. Please do NOT let sun bears suffer from psychological trauma and give them back the forest and mother bears they belong. Please help make a difference to help secure a future for sun bears like little Kina and Sika.