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
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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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Video by Chiew Lin May
Amaco was found by a plantation worker in the middle of the forest when he was still a cub. He was kept as a pet and fed rice and condensed milk in the last 18 years. An inappropriate diet in the pet trade can lead to long term dental damage. He stressed upon arrival.
Amaco has been on a long road to recovery since he was rescued. He loves engages with enrichments. He likes to play fight with his best friends – Chin and Panda. Please share his story!
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Sabah Wildlife Department, Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Meet little Kipaku, an active 5-month old male sun bear cub. He was being kept as a house pet by a local villager family in Kampung Kipaku, Tambunan, Sabah. The story reported to the rescue team was that they found him ‘wandering alone’ in the forest fire area.
The family then decided to hand the cub over to the Sabah Wildlife Department on July 16th, 2020. Kipaku’s story is similar with the other rescued sun bears. Sun bears are facing extinction in the wild if uncontrolled poaching activities or losing their forest homes to fire, logging and palm oil plantations are still continuing. Sadly, it is believed that his mother undoubtedly was killed intentionally or perished in the fires. He arrived at BSBCC on July 18th, 2020. He appeared dull and with dry hair on his coat when he arrived.
Thanks to the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit who saved Kipaku’s life.
Following his arrival, Kipaku was placed into quarantine. He adapted to his new life of freedom. He receives round-the-clock care from his surrogate mother by helping and encouraging him to gain back confidence and build up his strength – be WILD. He has shown tremendous growth in the last few days. He now weighs 7.20kg.
We are trying to get Kipaku to eat the nutritious food he needs to grow.
He is a grub lover and is very messy with his food!! His favourite foods are mealworms, ants and milk. He has a peculiar way of foraging his food by using his tiny sharp claws to tear it up (in a gentle way). Never mess with him when he is eating!
Kipaku wants to bark a “Huge thanks” to our lovely sponsorship, Fido Premium Milk Powder from TTL Distributions Sdn. Bhd. (http://www.ttl.com.my/) for being part of his journey. His health is now in a stable condition. He has been fed a milk formula five times a day for his growth.
Sun bear cubs remain dependent on their mothers for the first two to three years of age. Poor care and the psychological trauma of losing his mother means a lot to Little Kipaku. He has been kept in captivity, growing up alone and habituated to the presence of humans. All Kipaku knew was being scared and stressed. He will growl and bawl when no one is beside him. But lacking a fear of humans, the bear is ill equipped to survive and will be vulnerable to hunters in the wild. Throughout his rehabilitation process, we are minimizing the number of caretakers to reduce the habituation to human contact, keep his wild behaviours and slowly support increasing his independence.
His personality has begun to emerge!
He is an agile and unique bear. Kipaku can be a challenge to keep mentally occupied – stolen from the wild and never had the chance to learn survival skills from his mother. We provide a variety of environmental enrichment such as different types of young leaves, termite mounds, dead wood, logs, and branches to promote physical activity and prepare him for life back in the wild. It is heart-warming to find out that Kipaku has strong wild instincts - foraging, climbing and defence skills. He has a deep love for digging and tearing! He can spend time digging and tearing dead logs for ants or termites, and for FUN too! Through enrichment, Kipaku can have a great day, every day! He is smart and full of curiosity. He will examine, dig, play and destroy it. He shows great climbing skills and is learning to be a very skilled bear! He uses all of his senses to explore different tastes of freedom.
Kipaku will not miss a play wrestle with his surrogate mother. He will begin playing, rolling and pawing.
He loves soaking in the swimming bucket and splashes water to beat the hot day.
Kipaku tends to slow down on his busy activities and prefers to suckle on his front paw to seek comfort.
He is a baby and will vocalize his feelings. He always keeps himself busy BUT starts to become grumpy when he feels uncomfortable with something! He is excited about everything that is offered to him - these little things are simple but are making the bear world of difference to his life!
Kipaku will undergo rehabilitation at BSBCC in order to one day be returned to the wild. He begins the long rehabilitation process of learning and developing the survival skills and behaviours needed to one day survive in the wild. After recovering and passing quarantine, we will start taking him out for walks in the forest in order to prepare him for a new life in the rainforest.
Sun bears are classified as “Vulnerable” to “Endangered” by the IUCN. Human activity continues to threaten sun bear numbers and are pushing them to extinction. Please do not keep sun bears as pets and leave them in the forest to their real life. Thinking about how you can send your LOVE to little Kipaku? Adopting is a great way to give him the life he deserves. Please adopt Kipaku today! He will make your heart melt!
Text by Pradeep Gunasegaran
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) has been responsible for the care of 4 bears that were received between 2017 and 2018. These four bears are Soo (5 years old), BJ (4 years old), Kina (4 years old), and Sika (3 years old). All four of them were ‘raised’ by people as cubs before they were handed over to BSBCC through Sabah Wildlife Department or personally by the owner. Soo was bought at Sook Keningau Market, BJ was bought for RM 300 in Pitas and Sika was kept as in a pet in Pensiangan in a chicken mesh cage by her owner while Kina was claimed by her caretaker to have been abandoned by her mother by the roadside at Kota Marudu. They grew up without the care of their mothers as their mothers were probably killed by poachers but BSBCC do see potential in them to behave like wild bears due to their age and with the proper rehabilitation process in the next few years. In order to proceed with their rehabilitation process, they would need to be transferred to the Bear House. Due to the high stocking density at BSBCC, three older bears; Phin, Wan Wan and Mamatai would need to be brought to the quarantine while another two older bears; Om and Ronnie would need to be rotated in the Bear House.
The transfer process was done through three phases in order for the bears to not get too stress. During the first phase BJ and Kina were transferred into translocation boxes at Quarantine while Phin was darted. Once the 3 bears were ready for transfer, Phin was brought to Quarantine while BJ and Kina was brought to Bear House 2. The second phase was involving the darting of Mamatai and Wan Wan and then bringing them to Quarantine. By the end of Phase 2, Om and Ronnie were transferred to a different section of Bear House 2 using the sky bridge structure. The last phase was then completed with the darting and transfer of Soo and Sika from Quarantine to Bear House 2. The entire transfer process of all nine sun bears followed through really smoothly without any undesirable incidences.
In order to make the bear feel more comfortable in their new environment, each pen was prepared with a thick layer of dried leaves and also a couple of gunny sacks. The purpose of the dried leaves is to reduce any injuries that could be inflicted on their foot pad due to pacing in a new environment while the gunny sacks are for them to play with. BJ and Kina had no issues with their new environment. As soon as they were in the pens in Bear House 2, they were exploring the entire new space. Both were climbing the structures that were present such as hammock and the vertical log. BJ really seem to like the hammock while Kina liked using the vertical log. Whereas for Sika and Soo, after they woke up from anesthesia, Sika was also as curious as BJ and Kina in her own pen while Soo was alert with the new arrangement; just like how she was in Quarantine. At Quarantine, Phin, Wan Wan and Mamatai was calm after waking up. However, Phin was not used to having dried leaves underneath his feet. He was walking around the pen, taking food that was provided for him but his gait was a little peculiar. Wan Wan was preoccupied sniffing the scent of another bear named Diana at Quarantine. Mamatai on the other hand was enjoying herself with the gunny sacks that were given to her.
On the following day after the transfer process, Phin, Wan Wan and Mamatai were doing well at Quarantine. Our main priority was with the four that were at Bear House 2. BJ, Kina and Sika consumed all of the food given to them and they showed sign that they were doing well in Bear House 2. Kina clawed the log that was available to her; Sika was resting like any wild bear on the log structures while BJ was in the basket. Because of their calmness, they were all integrated together to ensure that they continue to benefit out of this social enrichment. Soo was on the only bear which was on high alert to her surroundings. She stayed at the highest point in the pen and only came down when the keepers left Bear House 2. In the evening, a few keepers were selected to sit in front of her and coax her with food. Then reason for this exercise was not to get her to be used to the keepers but to be calmer with the presence of the keepers as the keepers would need to provide her with supplementation, medication and application of topical medication in case of any injuries. By the end of the day, Soo came down and took the food that was given to her by the keepers and she also took her supplementation. She also was no longer at the highest point in the cage as she was exploring the ground and eating the ration of food provided for her. Over the following days, the four of them continue to behave positively. Environmental enrichments such as Aussie Dog balls, Fire Hose Pockets and coconuts were also provided to them and they did not hesitate interacting with the enrichments provided. With all these positive progresses, in the upcoming weeks or months, BJ, Kina, Soo, and Sika will undergo fence training in order for them to continue with the rehabilitation towards becoming like their wild counterparts. We at BSBCC hope that the rehabilitation process will go well and we would rejoice to their release into the natural habitat some day in the future.
Text by Nithisha Nair
Photos by BSBCC & Chiew Lin May
One in a million- Om is an adult male bear at the age of 14 years old, who currently resides in the second bear house and spends his time under the daylight in Pen G. He is considered to be one of the ‘originals’; the earlier bears who claimed their spots in our centre. He arrived at BSBCC when he was 5 months old on the 4th of August 2005, after being found at a plantation spot in Telupid. As his rescue was well before many, the reason for his confiscation or rescue is unknown and not under record. Aside from losing his left fore claw, he arrived in a healthy condition.
Om had been in quarantine for a lengthy period of over four years, until he was eventually transferred to the new bear house on the 7th of July in 2010. His transfer included a physical health check upon arrival at the new bear house where he showed optimum health!
Om was integrated with a bear named Ah Chong, another male bear, on the 10th of April 2010, they both went through fence training the next day together. Ah Chong was the only bear that Om has ever and will ever be integrated with, as Om is a dominant male bear. Any integration attempts at this age with another male will result in fights, therefore Om is now spending his days solitarily in BSBCC since the death of Ah Chong in February, 2011.
Once they were deemed to have passed the fence training, they were both released to Pen D together. This marked their first steps in the forest since their arrival.
Long after the death of Ah Chong, Om was released to Pen G in February, 2016. This is now considered Om’s pen as it is where he has resided up till this date.
Om is a bear who loves his enrichments, and adores his food, he may be a vicious bear, but to me, he is nothing short of independent and well behaved.
Sun bears, being a part of the wildlife, require exposure to the forest and have their very own survival instincts, regardless of if they were raised in captivity or if they spent every minute out in the wild. Thus, keeping them as pets would not only bring harm to the bear’s physical health, but would also harm the owner as well, once the bear starts to develop their own natural instincts.
When sun bears are kept as pets, they lose the part of them that is needed to survive once they live in the wild. Often, bears that are rescued from being kept as pets completely lose the ability to be released back into the wild. They either lose important survival instinct characteristics or are often disfigured in terms of being declawed to ensure the health of their ‘owners’. Their claws are extremely valuable to their survival; thus, the lack of these things prevents them from being released as their chances of survival are severely reduced.
I would like to end this by saying that the bears are a part of our ecosystem, a part of wildlife and a part of the forest. Let’s do our part by ensuring they remain that way.
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by BSBCC & Chiew Lin May
I was still an infant when I arrived at the local mini zoo in 2008. I was found in Tawau district of Sabah and was later sent to Kudat district, in the northern part of Sabah.
My friend and I were displayed in a mini zoo as panda bears, but instead we are Bornean Sun Bears.
The reason behind this was to attract visitors or inexperienced animal managers, who apparently did not have the knowledge or skills to care for the animals that they received, which could be why we were mistaken as species we are not.
We were fed with chicken daily which led us to have bigger body sizes compared to other sun bears our age.
My suffering ended when I was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on the 6th of July 2010, and was brought to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) on the 10th of July, 2010.
During the arrival, no external wounds were found on me, except my friend, Kudat showed his fur coat had multiple alopecic patches. We were both placed into Quarantine.
On the 8th of August 2010, after I completed my 30 day quarantine period, I was growing well and I was then a ten year old, adult female sun bear.
I have beautiful mauve-coloured eyes. I started to enjoy the delights on offer in this new environment.
Rescued sun bears at BSBCC are given a second chance to live freely in the BSBCC forest - free to explore, forage, climb and play as wild sun bears.
On the 20th of December 2013, I was undergoing fence training, which is one of the BSBCC’s rehabilitation processes that is before the bears can go out to the forest enclosure.
This stage is very important because the BSBCC forest enclosures are surrounded by electric fences that prevent the bears from escaping. However, up until now this fence training had not worked with me due to the fact that I still bared the scars from years of trauma after being locked up in a cage for entertainment purposes.
The bear care staff never gave up on me by trying to introduce me with new bear friends (Natalie, Ah Lun, Julaini and Rungus), to help improve my social and survival skills, and gain trust towards these rehabilitation processes.
It would take time for me to learn to trust the outside forest world.
On May 20th 2014, I had a traumatic injury on the rostral area due to an aggressive bite from a male, adult bear in the neighbouring cage.
Thank you to Veterinarian, Dr. Laura who helped me by reconstructing suture of the tissue on my rostral area. The bear staff kept a close watch on me and took care of my diet. Slowly, my snout improved.
On the 1st of July 2015, I was moved to another cage near Amaco (the oldest bear). I loved having these new dens to explore. I loved splashing in the water and taking lots of baths in the dens.
BSBCC provide the best care for all the rescued sun bears in our Centre, different enrichment activities are given by bear care staff in order to stimulate our natural behaviour and keep us occupied.
I am a big foodie and enjoy the bear’s main diet of fruit, coconut and HONEY!
I am very inquisitive and am always quick to come whenever there are YUMMY treats. There are different types of climbing structures and I take great joy in climbing them. I love the opportunity to play with a number of toys. I will figure out a toy by tapping on them with my superb sharp-curved, long claws and by checking them carefully. We love volunteers designing comfy bed for us!! It brightens our day!
My best friend is Amaco who is a male bear. The integration has really enriched my life.
Most important is that I am the first play pal for him. I am very sweet towards him so we love playing together. We are playing and wrestling non-stop. We share a very close bond and can be seen hanging out together.
However, I am sorry that I do not get along well with Chin, as sometimes she will get feisty if I wrestle with her which will end up in small brawls during play fights.
This year something has changed my life! With the help from our lovely volunteer, Khairunnisa Faisal and keeper, Adrian. Here I started to put my past behind me and recover from my traumatic years in captivity. A huge smile crossed my face as I received the life that I deserve!! I was finally brave enough to take my first step out to the forest after five years of training. I love to explore the grassy forest enclosure, forage for my favourite termites and rest in the hammock. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to try learning as a wild bear!
BSBCC are delighted I have been able to let go of the previous trauma in my life.
I have overcome my fear and feel completely at home! Sun bears are classified as a Totally Protected Species under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment, 1997. Please STOP keeping sun bears as pets! We DO NOT belong inside cages. Years of being kept as illegal pets have left many of us suffering from long term disabilities and physiological trauma. It requires considerable time and expense to restore the wild behaviour to us that have been victims of the illegal wildlife pet trade. If you care about us, you would not want to be left out of the fight for our survival. Please be our voice!
Video By Chiew Lin May
"Only we understand, can we care.
Only if we care, we will help.
Only if we help, we shall be saved." - Jane Goodall
Poaching and illegal pet trade have brought sun bears and other wildlife to the brink of extinction.
Let's work together to protect them from extinction!