Text by Batrisyia Teepol (UNIMAS student)
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Integration is one of the rehabilitation processes which takes place at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center. Although sun bears are known to be solitary in the woods, in this center however, integration between the bears plays a crucial role in the rehabilitation of the bears. It is debatable whether this process is against the bears' nature or not. But know that the bears here in the center are restricted to a lot of things. One example of this is that space is insufficient. Further, having another bear sharing this space is the best enrichment for a bear. What is the best way to learn how to be a bear if it is not learning from one another? Bears can learn from one another as much as we humans can learn from them. With the limited amount of capacity for the bears, integration grants the idea of letting the bears live together (in the same cage).
Obviously, you cannot simply decide in an instant whether a particular bear can stay with another bear without doing integration between them first. From the word 'integration', it is pretty self-explanatory on how the process would go down. This process can be done in two different stages where the first step, 'cage by cage', is where the bears are placed in cages next to each other. This is to let them familiarize with the others' scent and presence. Second step, 'body contact integration', can only be taken if you are at least 80% sure that the bears will not try to harm each other. This step starts when the bears make contact with each other. They usually start it off by sniffing and carry on with playing which includes pawing, wrestling, showing their canines and even biting. Integration must be done with the presence of a bear keeper.
This time, we integrated two bears who were already the best of friends (Noah and Nano) with other bears who belong to their own groups. Group 1 who use forest enclosure Pen D (Wawa, Mary and Dodop) and Group 2 who use forest enclosure Pen C (Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan). The criteria which affects the target of integration is that first off, their body sizes are preferably of the same proportion. Secondly, they are of the same age or within a similar range. The main purpose of this integration is to figure out which group Noah and Nano can go out into the enclosure with.
So, let's get to know some of the bears!
Nano’s name carries the meaning of "small" and "tiny", which definitely suits him. He is at the age of 2, which is a little older than Noah, however, is smaller in size. Noah, the youngest male cub, is definitely the most playful and most energetic. In contrast, Nano is always sleepy and shy. Although their personalities are the complete opposite, they however are very close friends.
Moving on to our bears who roam around forest enclosure Pen C, Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan (all 2 years old). Boboi is much more playful and bigger compared to his friends in Pen C. Kitud, easily identified with his brownish ears, is quite shy and quiet. Tan Tan is definitely not afraid of heights as she is always climbing trees in Pen C.
For bears in forest enclosure Pen D, Mary, Wawa and Dodop (all female), Mary is the oldest as she is 6 years old, but her body is smaller compared to the other bears of her age. This is due to her unbalanced diet during her days being kept as a pet. However, despite the age difference with Wawa (known as the ‘explorer’) and Dodop (known as the ‘sleepy one’), they have a very good friendship.
So, now you have touched the surface, let's dive deeper! Keep in mind that Nano and Noah have never met any of the other bears mentioned before. In the hope of at least one of the groups would make room for our cute cubs, Nano and Noah, and embrace them into the wilderness, we integrated them.
We started the integration one bear at a time. One bear from any of the groups were placed into a cage next to Nano and Noah (‘cage by cage’). They would start sniffing from between the grill to feed their curiosity! Once we were sure and confident, we slid open the doors between the cages and there you have it, ‘body contact integration’. They would start sniffing the other's sex organs and sometimes their ears. Slowly, they would start to play.
Words alone cannot explain how beautiful and amazing integration works for our bears, so these pictures would definitely tell you a thousand words.
Once they had already been introduced to one bear at a time, then Noah and Nano were integrated with two bears at the same time. We also did the integration between the bears in the training pen, just to observe whether the bears could share their food or not.
Throughout all the days I did my observation, no aggression was found. Hoping that the other bears would welcome our little boys, Noah and Nano with bear hugs. Their gestures would teach and allow these two little bears to learn and understand the idea of how to be a bear in the wild. As Dr. Wong would say, "The best enrichment a bear could have is another bear".
Text by Nur Athirah Binti Asrif
Photos by Batrisya Binti Teepol, Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Formerly, our rescued sun bears need to undergo some bit of challenges in order for them to endure the bliss of life in the forest. After saving them from captivity or just pure cruel cases, there are some assessments that will be done in order to cultivate their lives for the better. One of the tests includes fence training. Fence training is a prominent test for the bears in order for them to be released inside the forest enclosures. This procedure is conducted as to both teach and test the bears with the existence of the hot wires. This is due to the fact that the forest enclosures in the centre are completely surrounded by hot wires to prevent the bears from escaping, getting into fights with other bears and so forth.
This time around, two of our young bears, Noah and Nano had their turn to be tested in the training pen. Before that, a quick sharing of some back stories of these two valiant cubs.
Noah, 'The Pretender', is a 1-year-old male sun bear. It was re-named as "Noah" by the bear care team which brought the meaning of being rescued. Noah was surrendered at Nabawan, an area which is located in the southern part of Sabah. He was mistakenly thought by the villager as a dog and was found in an orchard. The villager, however, took Noah and kept it as a pet, bearing the thought that Noah is a dog. She kept Noah as a pet but then surrendered him to Sabah Wildlife Department. He was rescued on the 19th of August 2016 and was sent to Lok Kawi Zoo. Only on the 10th of October 2016 did Noah come to BSBCC. The first time he came to the centre, he has signs that show dehydration and only weight 8.6kg. Furthermore, four of his milk teeth was found to be crushed off which affected his teeth structure and arrangement.
Next, is our petite spy, Nano. Nano is a 2 years old male sun bear. He was named Nano which brought the meaning of small and tiny in the Latin language. Before he was rescued, Nano was found being kept in a small chicken mesh cage. A lady saw Nano in such condition decided to end his unfortunate life and decided to spend RM 1,500 to rescue him from the seller in Kota Marudu, north of Sabah. Nano was then surrendered by the lady to the Sabah Wildlife Department and was sent to BSBCC on the 20th of November, 2016.
The fence training was started with Noah alone, followed by Nano. A bit change of plan after a day of individual training brought them both together into the training pen. The food that was scattered inside the training pen includes bananas, papayas and watermelon. A stronger element was used which was the honey in order to attract these young bears to the training pen.
During their first fence training together, Noah seems to be really active and adventurous. Once the sliding door is opened, Noah went out to the training pen from the buffer cage with no hesitation. He forages for the food and the strong scent of honey carefully on the ground of the training pen. Nano, on the other hand, is cautious and prefer to stay inside the buffer cage and did not engage himself to rummage for food. Nano occupied himself exploring the buffer cage alone. The first zap was endured by our brave Noah during their first day of fence training. Noah tried to climb the fence and got zapped directly on his snout. His reaction towards his first zap was only followed by a bark and no other aggressive acts.
The following days of observation, Noah has the constant momentum and positive behaviour whenever the sliding door is opened. Noah is always the first to enter the training pen and ate most of the food in the training pen. Noah got zapped even more as the observation continues. However, Noah still has a very little acknowledgement of the existence of the hot wires. Noah is a very brave and is indeed a lucky bear! Most of the time, it is a close shave for Noah with the strings of hot wires. Although he is still unaware of the hot wires, he did not stop to enter and ventures the training pen. On the other side of the training pen, stood Nano, that watches Noah by the sliding door.
As days passed, Nano managed to bring himself little by little to the training pen. Nano is a very courage bear too and always show improvement day by day by bringing bit by bit of his body parts into the training pen. The first gesture was that he licked the honey trail on the sliding door. Next, was that he brought most his upper body parts to the training pen while his under body parts is still remain clung on the sliding door. The pile of tempting fruits positioned inside the training pen has shown its capability in encouraging Nano to be fearless. Nano sometimes managed to take the bananas from the training pen and brought it back to the buffer cage and eat it. Once, Nano was in full of curiosity and tried to pull one of the log enrichment from the training pen into the buffer cage. However, things had gotten better for Nano as he finally received a full courage to step inside the training pen after 14 days of assessment. His entrance was rather brief and cautious but nevertheless, it was a really an excellent improvement. As the fruit trail was positioned farther from the sliding door, Nano was not able to reach the fruit which forced him to step inside the training pen himself.
Clock is ticking and our lovely duo, Noah and Nano are almost ready to step outside and play in the forest!
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
Both male bear cubs, Nano and Noah were likely taken from their mothers and kept in tiny cages as illegal pets. When they were rescued from being illegal pets in 2016, Nano was very stressed, shy, in pain and was too fearful with the outside world,
whilst Noah was found with his milk canines crushed off for use in the illegal pet trade.
The two little cubs have had a very exciting few months! Both have moved into big dens filled with natural enrichment, and treats which keep them stimulated and healthy. This is one of the steps for the rescued bears to acclimatize themselves to living in the forest and to be given an opportunity to explore the environment and develop the skills they need to survive in the wild.
Once the door opened, Noah start peek out from the door!
Noah made his way over to an area with dried leaves and straight away started to stand on his hind legs and grab everything around him!
Noah is the outgoing and joyous bear.
Then after twenty minutes, Nano paused and was alert before stepping towards the new enriched dens!
Noah try to ask Nano to join this big playground !!
He would skim around the dens, curious about what was surrounding him - The natural enrichment!! It was such a glorious sight to see! They roamed freely and adapted quickly to their new home.
After rescue from an illegal pet, the beautiful smile on Nano when he realizes he is not alone !
Nano- have fun!!
Noah is a good, natural leader. He creates a calming and energetic atmosphere around him. He will encourage Nano to be brave and play. He became cheeky whenever he saw Nano starting to pace near the door, then he would try to push Nano and start an epic play fight! Noah did not give up and would teach Nano to fight back!
Slowly, Nano followed Noah’s footsteps, learning to be a bear again. They learned to trust each other!
Is lovely to see Nano relaxing which he deserves after all he suffered.
They still love having fun in each other’s company.
Nano stays close by Noah and learns important skills as he watches him forage for food.
They have dead wood to dig with, bear balls to play with, climbing structures to climb, fire hose baskets to forage with, a hammock to take naps in and dried leaves to roll with. They wrestle, play, forage for food, sleep at the platform and share enrichment together. Both getting stronger and more confident by the day.
Today, they wrestle, play, explore and even sleep together. They were completely in their own world!
It makes us feel sad when see these rescued sun bears suffering from pet trade. But we realized what an amazing thing it is to see how both their tragic pasts were now behind them. The important thing is Nano slowly has gained his confidence, overcome his fear and is enjoying himself every single day with his best pal, Noah. For sun bears, Noah and Nano’s lives after the horror of being kept as pets has been more than they could have hoped and now they are living the lives they were meant to live.
Well done Nano and Noah!
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Noah, a ten months old male bear cub was found when he was still young, and people thought he was a dog, until they took a closer look at him and realised that he was a sun bear. They kept him as a pet for a while until they surrendered him to Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) at Nabawan, the southern part of Sabah and was then sent to Lok Kawi Zoo. After a general health check, we found all of his milk teeth had been crushed off which effected his tooth growth and development.
On the other hand, Nano, a two years old male juvenile bear was found in Kota Marudu, the north of Sabah. A lady saw him being kept in a small chicken mesh cage and decided to save his life by buying him from the seller with the price of RM 1,500. After purchasing, the lady surrendered Nano to SWD and was then sent to BSBCC.
Noah and Nano are quite different bears. Noah is bright and active while Nano is shy and quiet. In the beginning, Noah showed his curiosity on Nano by sniffing and exploring around Nano’s cage. He climbed up on the cage bar and started looking for Nano. In the opposite side, Nano was just stayed up high on the hanging platform or hanging log. He became alert once the sliding door opened while Noah went inside his cage. Apparently, Noah is the one who approached Nano first. However, Nano showed aggressive signs by barking and growling at Noah. Feeling scared, but nevertheless Noah never gave up on him. Noah’s friendly efforts can be seen by inching himself closer to Nano day by day. Noah was trying so hard to form a bond of friendship with Nano and finally with success, Noah eventually melted him with his warm, friendly heart. Now, they can play fight the whole day. Now, they love to spend time with each other as we can always see them sharing a hanging platform together, where they like to take a rest and play.
Due to their friendship and interaction, Nano now spends more time climbing rather than just resting on the hanging platform because of Noah’s adventurous persona. Nano also now initiates play fights and sometimes paws Noah as well. Noah would never disappoint Nano, for they would hold a long play fight as Noah would take the initiative to help Nano by using the Bear way, which is playing, once realizing or noticing when Nano paces. Friendship is not easy to build up between Noah and Nano as it took them to warm up for around four months. Time is a miracle. At the moment, Nano has shown lots of improvements! He has reduced his stereotypical behaviour by spending more time with Noah and has started exploring the environment around him and the enrichment in it. It definitely takes time but we can wait for him. We really hope Nano and Noah can grow up happily with each other and one day would leave the trauma behind, gain the strength and head back to the forest together, where they really do belong.
Text and Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Hooray! After 30 days, finally Noah finished quarantine. Noah is a 6 months old male bear cub. He was found in a villager’s orchard in Nabawan, a southern part of Sabah. After she realized Noah is a sun bear, a totally protected species in Sabah, she decided to surrender Noah to the Sabah Wildlife Department. And, this is the story how Noah came to BSBCC.
He grown up so much compared to the day he first arrived! His body weight now is 12.70kg. He has started to eat solid food and his favorite foods are banana, papaya and of course Milk!
Noah is an energetic and playful bear. He is much enjoying his time playing especially with his bear care keeper. A bear cub is ideally attached to his/her mother until it two to three years old. But, now Noah is alone being just six months old. A mother will never abandon her own child. The only reason for the mother to be with her cubs would that she had been killed most likely by poachers. And make no mistake, poaching is still happening around us. So, please said No to poaching sun bears, instead help us save them. A bear cub needs a mother. A mother raises her child with lots of love and teaches her baby how to survive in the wild. Separation of mother and cub is unforgivable for any reason. The poachers deprive a bear cub almost everything, their mother and their natural habitat.
Our bear care keepers spend their time with Noah and try to give Noah as much love as possible even though they know their love cannot compare with that given by his mother. So now, Noah likes to play fight with bear care keepers. He likes to take a challenge and never gives up. Bear care keepers are taking a huge responsible to take good care of him and teach him the skills that he could survive in the wild such as defense skill. Noah likes water very much. He likes to cool his body down by lying on the ground just like he is ‘swimming’ but on the ground.
In order to let Noah closer to the forest and more space for him to explore, in the morning he can go out to exercise pen. The exercise pen is near to the forest, so Noah can smell the forest. Within the exercise pen, there are different kinds of enrichment ready for him such as hammocks, dry leaves, decayed wood, fire hoses, honey combs and so on. Therefore, Noah likes to spend his time digging the decayed wood, playing with the tree leaves.
At last, we hope Noah has all the courage and left his unhappy early life behind here at the BSBCC. And, we really hope Noah will back to his real home, the forest - sooner or later.
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
He was surrendered by a villager and was found roaming alone at a villager’s orchard with his mother nowhere to be seen. Noah was handed-over to the Sabah Wildlife Department from Nabawan, a southern part of Sabah, and brought into the BSBCC on the 10th of October, 2016. We have named him “Noah”. We are unsure as to why he was found alone, he may have been abandoned, or his mother may have been killed by poachers. Noah was nervous, alert and timid at first sight during the arrival.
On the 10th of October 2016, Dr. Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam from the Wildlife Rescue Unit of Sabah Wildlife Department, performed a general health check. This included an assessment of his overall health, potential sickness, function of the internal organs and physical condition. During the health check, it was found that Noah’s four milk canines had been crushed off. Because of their small and cuddly appearance, sun bears are used in illegal pet trade. This is common with captive sun bears to prevent them from causing injuries and they are easy to handle. As a pet, he suffered from loneliness, rotting teeth, and malnutrition due to improper diet and care. Little Noah nearly lost everything – just because someone was greedy.
Noah is responding well to treatment. He has been receiving a proper diet and has a big appetite which has increased his body weight. He absolutely loves milk, banana, papaya and honey which ends up being a mouthful! Noah spends hours trying his best to get every drop of delicious honey out of the enrichment logs. As soon as he smells the food, he will quickly descend to find it. He will get involved in various types of enrichment to strengthen his muscles and senses. He is mischievous and prefers wrestles with his care taker. He continues to be as playful as ever!!
One of the BSBCC's missions is to give rescued bears lifelong loving care. The bears are reintroduced to their natural habitat. A huge thanks to the Sabah Wildlife Department who rescued and bought Little Noah to BSBCC. We will provide the best care possible through the rehabilitation process, so someday he can return to the wild. After completing the quarantine phase, Noah will embark on his new life. Little Noah will follow a process of gradual adaptation in the forest till he becomes an independent wild bear, then he will get this unique chance to return to the forest home he was once stolen from. We will take all appropriate steps to ensure that Noah makes a smooth transition into life as a wild sun bear.
We are confident that he will continue to practice the skills needed to survive as a wild sun bear in the future. Noah will spend his days learning new and vital skills in the forest canopy. We cannot wait for the day when Noah is roaming free back in the forest where he belongs.