Text & Photos by Chiew Lin May
Wildlife traffickers are breaking away at the dwindling populations of Sun bears that have pushed these smallest bears to the brink of extinction. Keeping a sun bear as a pet is illegal in Malaysia. Little Betung is one of the victims of illegal pet possession. She was rescued at the age of 5 months old. She had been found by a villager’s dog in an orchard at Kampung Betung, Ranau district in April 2020 and was kept in a tiny chicken mesh cage – in unfamiliar surroundings with no one to comfort her. She would have spent the rest of her life behind metal bars. During the rescue, she had severe malnutrition, was growth stunted, weak, and had a skin problem. She weighed just 1.4kg.
Thanks to the Wildlife Rescue Unit of Sabah Wildlife Department, Betung was saved and brought to a new home at BSBCC. Such a young cub needs special attention since she survives the trauma of being snatched from her mother. We did not give up and knew that a miracle will come to bring this bear back to being a healthy bear. Her appetite has come roaring back as well. Her balanced diet consists of a combination of milk, fruits, vegetables and vitamins. With her nutritious diet, she not only gains weight, her hair is also starting to grow! She now weighs 7.45kg. The chart below shows the growth curve of Betung as a cub (updated 01 December 2020). A real reward, slowly she began to make good progress and a steady recovery. She grows sweeter every day and is becoming more energetic and active.
On September 5th 2020, she is relearning to be a wild bear – getting a second chance at life!
She lacks the skills to survive in the forest because she was separated from her mother when she was far too young. During the ‘walk bear cub’, her surrogate mother will guide Betung during the development stages and teach her how to survive in the wild. Betung learns how to do and practice every day.
Betung now lives a free and happy life like she would have had in the wild. 3 months later, she has made excellent progress in the forest. Little Betung will use her strong claws to dig into soil to search for tasty snacks such as the trace elements or decayed logs in search of termites. She has plenty of opportunities to forage naturally. She is always enthusiastic about exploring new things around the forest and will lead us the way through her favourite trees! She is picking out some favourite spots. She shows to us she is an arboreal bear! She loves climbing tall trees and travelling through the lianas. She finds the bigger trees to hug! This will help strengthen her muscles. She looks incredibly excited. She is perfectly suited to life in the forest! Sometimes she will be cheeky towards her surrogate mothers. She loves blind play fighting, running or rolling about on the forest floor! She keeps up her adventurous and playful behaviour.
We will let the photos speak for themselves!
Throughout her life, Betung has only known a world of trauma. Love and patient care has given Little Betung the confidence and bravery she needs. The round-the-clock care will help her to survive from the trauma she has been through. She has realised she is safe and no one can hurt her again. The transformation we have seen in Little Betung has been simply amazing! Go Betung Go!
It will be a long road to recovery and she is slowly putting her past behind her. We all need to do everything we can to keep them safe. Little Betung can be adopted here: https://www.bsbcc.org.my/share-bear-adoption-thanksgiving-and-christmas-special-promotion.html
Text & Photos by Chiew Lin May
Four month old, female sun bear cub, Wawa was found alone without her mother in a forest reserve in Pinangah, Telupid District in 2016. She was rescued and surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department and has since been cared for at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) as of March 18, 2016. She weighed 4.5kg on arrival.
Upon her arrival, she appeared weak and dehydrated. Sun bear cubs require around-the-clock care and feeding with a special milk formula.
Enrichment programs are vital for captive sun bears as they provide positive mental and physical stimulation. These programs allow Wawa to dig for insects and allow her to climb. Wawa has quite a big appetite and is particularly fond of fruits, termites, ants and honey!
Sun bears live with their mothers until the age of 2-3 years old and until they are grown enough to defend themselves. As Wawa no longer has her mother, our bear keepers become surrogate mothers, giving her love, support, care and the knowledge she needs to be released back into the forest.
On 25th June 2016, she was integrated with Dodop and has developed a good bond! Until today, she preferred spending most of the time with Dodop.
On 17th November 2016, she took her first step to go out to the forest enclosure - first taste of freedom – in the treetops.
Exploring her new home in the dense rainforest. Every time when we started swapping the rescued bears to the new forest enclosure, Wawa was amongst the bravest rushing out to the forest to explore and play.
She is an agile climber. We are always impressed by her agility and balance!
Wawa shimmies right up the tree and loves the sounds of the humming insects! Highly intelligent and inquisitive by nature! Climbing trees, digging for termite nests, and developing the strength and the skills she needs seem to be her favourite activities throughout the day. She loves to play in the dirt so much that her body is full of wood chunks and mud! Wawa has expressed natural avoidance behaviour towards people and barks when sees someone approaching (one of the better candidates for release).
She also reveals her own world of how to survive in the forest, foraging her own food, building nests, climbing trees, and recognising threats. She came from the wild and that is where she belongs, in the forest. It is gradually clear that she is ready to be released back to the wild!
You can make a difference and help every sun bear in our care live their best life in the forest home!
Video by Chiew Lin May
Day 68: Betung growing up! Every sun bear has a different story. She has been deprived of a suitable living in the forest, an appropriate diet, and has been unable to behave as she would in the wild. She needs to go through a long rehabilitation process to restore her wild nature and recover where she had been stolen from. It is a tragedy to find a sun bear cub without its mother.
Bark bark hooray! It was such a delight to see her overcome her obstacles. She is simply AMAZING! Fortunately, she has shown tremendous growth in the last two months. She is a strong little bear and no doubt she made stronger by the love she has all around her! Thank you for your kindness, support, and love for Little Betung.
Her smile will definitely brighten up your day today! Help us give Betung the life she deserves. Please adopt Little Betung today at https://www.bsbcc.org.my/share-bear-a... ! With love and tender care, Betung soon becomes a strong little bear.
Please help share Little Betung’s story and love with the world!
Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Today is the day! The 100th days of Kipaku in the BSBCC.
Before Kipaku sent to BSBCC, Kipaku had been kept for three months at Kampung Kipaku, In Tambunan. His owner claimed that they found him in the forest fire site. Then, they surrendered Kipaku to Sabah Wildlife Department, and he finally arrived at BSBCC on the 18th of July, 2020. On his arrival, he weighed 7.1 kg. Now, his weight is 14.8kg!
One hundred days passed! Kipaku no longer the little cubs anymore. Yet, he just eight months old cub. He grows up with his size, strength and skills! Losing his mother at the same time, he lost his chance to learn from his mother. Under the rehabilitation of BSBCC, Kipaku is taking his second chance for his life. Kipaku carries his instinct and learns to be a real bear.
Kipaku is a playful and curious bear. He is such a good explorer. He never let go anything that offered to him. The enrichments, tree branches, dead woods these all are his favourite toys to play! Using his canine, claws to bite and tear is encouraging him a natural bear behaviour.
Kipaku is a forest lover. He loves to climb. There are no limits on how high he is able to climb. While on a tree, he gets his freedom; he explores every branch,, takes a nap on a branch and even crosses to another tree. There is nothing that bothers him when he stays up in the trees. All Sun Bears are excellent climbers. They climb for foraging beehives, resting and also to avoid predators. Kipaku’s climbing skills are excellent.
Digging might be his second favourite forest activity. When Kipaku is digging deep and foraging in the woods,he is searching for yummy snacks to fill up his small belly. Besides that, the small invertebrates he finds are the vital protein source for the bears. Kipaku’s foraging and digging skills are both excellent.
During his first days, Kipaku was introduced to a female cub, Itam,with the hope they would become friends. The first meeting was unpleasant. However their, friendship and bonding are growing day by day. During the day, he does not go out to the forest. He spends his time with Itam. Now, they cannot leave each other! They play fight with each other, rolling on the den floor, playing run-and-chase. They share everything, enrichment, food. Sometimes they may be growling at each other protecting their food, but only for a short moment. The next moment, they will be sleeping or playing together again. They are a lovely pair of bears.
The progress of Kipaku during his time at the BSBCC is excellent! However, he still needs more care until he can be released in the wild. Saving animals is not an easy task, but it does make a difference to the lives of the animals. Please support us, we cannot do it without you.
Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Do you still remember the little Betung?
She arrived at the BSBCC on the 26th of August, 2020. Betung was wandering alone and found by a dog in an orchard at Kampung Betung, Ranau. After that, she was kept for five months. Then, her owner surrendered her to the Sabah Wildlife Department. On her arrival, she only weighed 1.4kg. She was tiny and weak. She looked much smaller than she should be. Other than that, she is also suffering pruritus and multiple alopecias on her body. She is the smallest, weakest sun bear that we had ever received.
Now, Betung has settled well in the quarantine. The bear keepers, Adrian and Danny, are taking care of her around the clock. The keepers are her surrogate mothers. They spend their time bonding with her. Betung likes to sit on their laps, resting and of course she loves to play with them too. She is little, but she never gives up during their play fights! She will show her small but sharp canines and paw with her tiny front paws to let you know how she strong she can be!
To improve her health condition, we decided to give Betung a walk in the sun. Having some sun can help her obtain Vitamin D and boost her immune system. During the first walk, she showed curiosity about her surroundings.
Betung tried to climb during the walk. However, she is too weak and unable to climb to any great height. Her muscles and strength need time to build up. To encourage her to climb the keepers will show her a tree and go with her. It took some time, but It’s working! Now she spends more time on a tree, especially when the keeper is on there too. Now, she is more active outdoors.
Every time she goes out, we will get her ready in a box. She loves to stay in the box. She feels safe and finds this fun! After she arrives in the forest, she walks out of the box and begins the day’s adventure. Digging is one of her favourite activities in the woods. Tearing, digging and biting will never make her bored. After exploring, she often keeps her mouth open because the wood debris is in her mouth, and she does not like it. She will keep using her front paw to remove the debris or sometimes she will need help from the keepers.
In the forest, everything for her is huge! But she keeps walking without any fear. She is courageous. When there is a breeze, she enjoys it! It is delightful to see how much she enjoys the forest!
The rehabilitation of Betung may be long. However, the team at the BSBCC will do their best to give Betung a better life! Please share your love with her; she needs your help. You can help to make her life different!
Text By Dr.Yeoh Boon Nie
Photos By Seng Yen Wah
“Yay, Betung is 2.0kg today!” the joyous shout from the cub care team at the BSBCC.
Betung is a malnourished sun bear cub rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on 21st August 2020 . Her background story was similar to many other rescued cubs at the BSBCC. They claimed she was found walking alone in the forest and then raised by a villager since April 2020.
Betung, however, is different.
Inappropriate care and chronic malnutrition resulted in possible irreversible damage to her health. Betung was terribly stunted and estimated as being 6 months old. A healthy sun bear cub at this age can easily achieve 10kg. Unbelievably,when Betung arrived at the BSBCC on 26th August 2020 she was a mere 1.4kg.
At day 33 in BSBCC, Betung weighed 2.0kg. A 600g weight gain may seem insignificant to most cubs. But for Betung, this gain indicates a promising health healing process. The cub care team cheered at this moment.
Raising her is by far the most challenging task in BSBCC. Not just because she is tiny but also her health status is severely compromised. Her blood test showed reduced red blood cells, white blood cells and total protein, which are consistent with malnourishment. Her immune system is also severely impaired. She is weak,easily succumbs to infection and is bald due to mites and fungal skin infection. In addition it was discovered she suffered from hypocalcemia,shown from the thin bone cortices in the radiography result. This finding also implied that a minor traumatic impact such as a fall, can break a bone. Betung is very delicate and fragile.
Another challenge we faced in raising Betung was she did not respond well to the milk substitute we have used in the past 8 years. Her gastrointestinal absoption disorder was worrying us. Her appetite and weight gain was inconsistent at the beginning. We had to source special milk formula for Betung. Fortunately with the introduction of a new formula, she appetite has greatly improved the team is relieved that her weight is now steadily increasing day by day. She has even started to pick up solid food and has transformed into a bright and playful sun bear.
Betung’s case emphasises the importance of nutrition in one’s growth.
We pray both that her stunt growth and impaired health condition are reversible and that she will grow into a normal adult sized sun bear.
Time will prove it. A 25kg grown up Betung will be a beautiful sun bear.
P/s: Please adopt Betung to make a difference.
Video by Chiew Lin May
Day 15: All she wants is loved and care Don’t miss out on a sweet Little Betung story! See how Little Betung progressed in her two weeks of the rehabilitation process. She is one of the victims of the pet trade. She was neglected for five months and kept in a small cage. When she arrived at BSBCC, her condition was emaciated, malnourished and growth stunted. Our team worked around the clock to build her strength. It is hard to imagine the life she endured before her rescue by Sabah Wildlife Department. Betung’s fighting spirit makes us reminded that she should be with her mother and free in the wild. She took every opportunity to be a bear cub!
She needed emergency veterinary care. Please buy a gift to help Little Betung the love and care she needs to recover - A healthy balanced diet, medical care and enrichment toys to keep her stimulated both physically and mentally. You can show LOVE by adopting Betung. Please share her story!
Everything was stolen from her by humans. Keeping sun bears as pets are “Illegal”. Please do not keep and support sun bear as a pet – Give back a life where they belong!
Adopt Betung: https://www.bsbcc.org.my/share-bear-adoption.html
To donate - https://www.bsbcc.org.my/donate.html
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
On 26th August 2020, BSBCC received their third rescued cub of the year. It is not a proud number and all these rescued sun bears underlying problems are the same. How much more pain and trauma must the bears have to endure? We cannot imagine a bright future for sun bears if this poaching and illegal pet trade continues at this rapid rate. They are being threatened!
Rescued at an estimated five months of age, the story reported the cub was found by a villager’s dog and she was ‘wandering alone’ in the orchard at Kampung Betung in Ranau district. She was a tiny little cub – no teeth yet. She was taken and kept as a pet for about five months in a chicken wire mesh cage. She was fed with Lactogen milk powder only. The villager was willing to surrender Betung to Sabah Wildlife Department. Wonder what happened to her mother…? A mother will risk their own life in their cub’s defence and would never abandon their cub at that young age. Little Betung would still be constantly with her mother.
Her weight was 1.4kg and she was in a poor condition, growth stunted, underweight, super weak, malnourished, emaciated and suffering with alopecia on the head and body. She has been placed into quarantine while a health assessment, nutritious diet and care plan is put into place. She receives treatment with medicated shampoo to treat her pruritus.
Betung needs to be nursed back to health before starting to venture out to the forest. She soon took her first steps on the LONG road of recovery. Little Betung is beginning to settle into her new home. The surroundings are still very new to her. She has a lot to overcome having lost her mother and forest home at an early age.
She is now in quarantine and receives intensive treatment from our vet and bear team. She requires 24 hour care and 7 feeds a day. A huge thanks to the Wildlife Rescue Unit of Sabah Wildlife Department for taking care and help us get the vet care Little Betung needed. Finally, she is now safe and loved.
Being so young she would not have been able to survive on her own - we are ready to provide Little Betung with a healthy diet, veterinary care and enrichment activities to stimulate her.
She has settled in quite well. She is keen on the new menu and loves the food she is receiving - MILK. On 29th August 2020, we moved her to a larger den filled with climbing structures, toys and treats to keep her enriched and stimulated. Slowly, she is learning that the bear world means a lot to her. She loves being in the den – ready to explore everything!
Thanks to our dedicated cub keepers, Adrian and Danny who teach the cubs forest life skills! Even so tiny and weak, Little Betung NEVER MISSES the chance to climb!! She has improved in her tree climbing abilities. But, she will take some time and think about how to get down from the climbing structure or platform, and she never stops trying!
She will find the best digging spots. She spends her day foraging and digging the dead wood. She will bite and play with the small branches or dried leaves!
She has logs to dig with, dried leaves to destroy, bear balls to roll with and a gunny sack hammock to sleep on – cubs just love this! She will keep herself entertained throughout the day. She loves exploring new smells, sights and textures. She finds dead logs very amusing and it often looks like her first time surrounded by the dead logs. She can have endless fun with them! She enjoys her quiet time and does not appreciate any disturbances as she can sometimes get quite feisty. Cubs vary a lot in the amount of sleep they need. After she finishes drinking milk, she spends her time snoozing with her bear toy or inside the gunny hammock to recover and regain back her energy.
She will make everyone around fall in LOVE with her enthusiasm and spirit.
And most importantly, Betung’s spirit, now she is able to do her favourite activities as other sun bear cubs do.
She is a little cub who can be very expressive. When digging into wood, you can find her keeping an open mouth or showing off her sharp canines which indicates the wood dust has stuck on her tongue – she thinks of a way to remove it!
As Little Betung surrounded herself with wood or toys, there was “a little something” that would make her SMILE!
You will wonder what has attracted Betung’s attention. She will sniff, be curious and get into it!
She will prove to be a natural fighter! Imagine the future for this little cub who would have been able to live in peace with her mother in the wild. Please remember sun bears are NOT PETS and should NOT BE STOLEN from the wild to live with humans.
Little Betung is still in the process of recovering and we look forward to seeing the difference that living without trauma makes to her – growing and thriving.
Hope one day her weight and skin condition will show improvement, then she can climb up into the trees, build her self-confidence, be free once more and safe from any harm! She still has a long road of rehabilitation ahead of her. Little Betung needs you to help with her medical recovery. Please consider helping and supporting Little Betung by donating towards the on-going care and emergency medical treatment. Grab a wonderful gift today! Your donation will be on its way to support this little one. Stay strong, Little One!
Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Let’s meet our two rescued bear cubs, Kipaku and Itam.
Kipaku, is a five months old male bear cub. He was found in a forest fire site. After that, he was being kept as a house pet in Kampung Kipaku at Tambunan. He came to the BSBCC on the 18th of July, 2020. Kipaku is a bright and active bear. However,due to his history as a house pet, he is used to the presence of humans. He feels stressed and bawls when he sees there are no people around him.
On the other hand, Itam, is a seven months old female bear cub. She was found at Kampung Maimatom, Kemabong and kept in Kampung Kuala Sabinait, Pagalungan at Nabawan. When she was found, she had wounds from dog bites on her body. She came to the BSBCC on the 27th of July. Itam is an alert and shy bear. Her eyes were always focused on the surroundings.
Kipaku and Itam may come to BSBCC by a different story, but what they have in common is they both are alone now. To provide a better life for these little two cubs, giving them a new friend can encourage their social behaviour and helps them learn from each other. The best enrichment of a bear always is another bear!
This is how their friendship started.
On the 30th of Jul, 2020, was the first day Kipaku and Itam met. However, it is was not pleasant . Kipaku first gives a warning bark to Itam. Kipaku stayed in the hanging platform while Itam stayed in the basket. They both kept huffing and barking. There was not much progress during the first three days of their integration. This is due to neither of them wanting to get close to the other and they were still huffing, growling and barking.
Slowly, Itam took the first move to approach Kipaku. However, Kipaku always warns her to stay away. Itam still tries hard every time. She has no fear of Kipaku’s warning. Due to Itam’s fearless efforts and countless tries, they are getting closer day by day.
Finally after a week,we saw them begin their friendship! Now, Itam always follows behind Kipaku. They are always biting, pawing and wrestling. Kipaku still likes to paw Itam hard. However, Itam is always tolerant with Kipaku. They share food and enrichment and also sleep together. It is so lovely to see their precious friendship. We are hoping that they can grow and learn together and believe that one day they will return to the wild together.
Video by Chiew Lin May
A five-month-old male bear cub, Kipaku was discovered all alone in the forest fire area and had been kept for the past three months by a local family. He was previously fed with milk, rice, and fried fish. Kipaku was sent to the BSBCC on 18th July 2020. A seven-month-old- female bear cub, Itam was found in an orchard with a dog bite wounds on her body and appeared weak. The person decided to bring her back and cared for her wounds for 21 days before handed over to Sabah Wildlife Department. Spending years in captivity and unable to express any natural behaviours cause the cubs emotionally traumatized or too habituated with humans.
During this period of care, Itam and Kipaku took a brave step and trust on their new journey. They adapted well to their new environment. On 30th July 2020, they have met each other for the first time. They spend a great deal of their time together and enjoy the various enrichment given by their keepers. It is so uplifting to see that they are able to forget their past and it reminds us how wild they should be. We are happy that they are now safe and grow in confidence.
If a sun bear is not given the opportunity to learn these forest skills, their chances of survival in the forest are slim without the help of a rehabilitation programme. Please do not keep sun bear as a pet! Shows some love for Little Kipaku and Itam by sharing their stories!
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