Text By Seng Yen Wah
Photos By Jude Ailton George, Julamih bin Jainuddin & Seng Yen Wah
Our little Luna is growing up! Luna is a captive-born sun bear cub born on 20th May 2021 in BSBCC. Her mother, Bintang, is a seven year old adult female bear. On day 8, we noticed that Luna was less active than had previously been observed. After a quick check, we found Luna had a low body temperature, severe ear injuries and a skin infection. Due to this, we decided to separate Luna from her mother. We started to hand raise her and she only weighed 0.353kg at this time. After eleven months of day and night care, she had finally grown to weigh 18.85kg !
Luna has come a long way. We take Luna for a walk in the forest every day, where she learns and acquires skills. Luna shows her bear instinct and great potential like a wild sun bear. At the same time, Luna also has a deep bond with her surrogate mothers (cub keepers). And hence, we started introducing Kipaku, Itam, Betung, and Kukuton to Luna, as they could be her companions later. In the wild, sun bears are mainly solitary. However, integration can encourage positive behaviour in bears as they learn from each other.
It was not easy for Luna because that was the first time Luna had met other bears. Kipaku, Itam and Betung are sub adult bears. But three of them have different personalities. As a result, their friendship turned into a different outcome.
Kipaku is the youngest male sun bear in BSBCC. He is a playful and cheeky bear. He likes to wrestle with others, and he always wins with his size and weight.
When Kipaku first saw Luna, he was full of curiosity and chased after Luna. But his excess passion makes Luna feel he is rough which Luna does not like. When Kipaku plays with her and she will continue growling and huffing. Kipaku would initiate a play fight with her by sniffing, chasing, soft biting her but she cannot stand any of them. So there is always a chase and a run happens every time they meet.
Itam is the largest but friendliest bear in the group. When we first started integrating Luna and Itam, Itam showed her interest in getting to know little Luna and was always looking for and sniffing her. She approached Luna tenderly.
However, Luna began to greet Itam, pawing at Itam's face several times. But Itam remained patient and tried to get close to her. But Luna is too shy and ran around to avoid Itam.
Betung is a curious and observant bear. She likes to observe what is happening around her. But Betung is not keen on playing with others. So when she met Luna, she just came over and sniffed her, then she started to explore the environment and enrichment.
As a summary of the story of Luna making new friends, Luna prefers to be alone. She does not mind being around others, but it is okay to leave her alone. Her friends are getting to know her more and more, so they will give her space, and carry on with their own businesses. Sometimes they also get naughty with Luna. When Luna does not want to put up with that, she would warn them and stay away from them. Luna may need more time to make new friends. Perhaps, one day she can become good friends with them.
As well as Luna making friends with Kipaku, Itam and Betung,Kukuton also joined the group. Here is the story about Kukuton. Kukuton is a seven years old adult male bear. From 2015 to 2019, he was kept as a house pet in Kampung Taginambur, Jalan Belud, Ranau in Kota Belud. The owner claimed that she wanted to save Kukuton from being sold, and she had no intention of keeping him as a pet, but, as she was busy with her family, it took her four years to hand Kukuton over to the authorities. During that time, Kukuton was confined in a small cage. He was officially handed over to SWD on 13 September 2019. She paid the fine two years later when she admitted the offence under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 and was fined RM15,000 rather than be jailed for four months. Kukuton arrived at the BSBCC on 8 January 2022. Compared to his age, his body is small. He weighs just 18kg. The prolonged captivity has led to Kukuton exhibiting self-inflicted stereotypic behaviour. Integration is best for Kukuton to help reduce this negative behaviour. This is because the best enrichment of a bear is another bear.
Kukuton has shown a positive side in making new friends. He was usually timid and stayed in the corner, but he bravely took a step to get closer to others in the integration. He approached the others slowly and carefully. Kukuton can often be seen sniffing the others secretly. He usually starts to play fight with others. But the way he plays is rough, and only Kipaku could hold on. Sometimes, Itam and Betung also join the fight. As the days passed, the others slowly embraced him. And now, he seems to get along just fine with everyone else.
So lovely to see Luna and Kukuton finally have a group of companions. Luna and Kukuton can now be seen wandering around in the exercise pen with Itam, Kipaku, Betung. Their integration is fantastic. Now, they share their historical moment! We hope they will grow and learn all together. They are not too far from the next stage of the rehabilitation programme in the bear house. They are absolutely looking forward to moving to the bear house soon and seeing the forest again!
Text by Poon Siau Hui
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
BJ, the energetic five year old male bear was staying in Bear House 2. He was the 61st Bear rescued by the BSBCC. When he gets his favorite foods, he will guard his food by barking loudly.
When he was just five months old, he was purchased in Sonsogon Village, Pitas for RM 300 and then kept as a house pet. He arrived at the BSBCC on November 22nd 2018 when he was two years old. As his previous owner had fed him with rice, meat, honey, and fruits, he weighed 33.8kg.
As BJ is one of the illegal trade victims of a young age, we believe that his mother was either poached or killed. Normally in the wild, the sun bear cub will be cared for by their mother until 2 to 3 years of age.
When entering his new environment and surroundings, BJ takes time to adapt in the den. But as soon as he settled down and was no longer traumatized, he was given a chance to integrate with a larger social group of female bears – Kina, Sika, Soo, and Diana. By integrating with others bears, he can learn how to be a REAL bear and adjust his life living with bears not humans.
To proceed with the rehabilitation process, BJ, Soo, Kina, and Sika were moved to Bear House 2 and released into Pen G. But before BJ is released into the forest enclosure Pen G, he needs to go through fence training. At first BJ was afraid to go outside as this is another new environment for him. But after he tried to be brave and step out into the forest, he falls in love with it. He loves the texture of the ground which is covered with soil not concrete, the place where he belongs.
BJ really learnt a lot on how to be a real sun bear again,bonding with his friends. Hopefully one day he will fulfill all the criterias which a wild sun bear should have and have a chance to feel the freedom in the rainforest.
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by BSBCC & Chiew Lin May
Sweet Manis has been at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) since August 2009. During the arrival, she was suspected to be pregnant. However, her pregnancy was later found to be a pseudo pregnancy. Manis means “Sweet” in Malay language.
Manis was found having health problems which caused changes in skin colour and dryness. Her health condition has improved with intensive treatment and care. She has received health checks since arriving at her new home. Manis settled into the new environment very quickly. A nutritious and balanced diet was given to her.
Being kept as a pet for years can have an effect on the sun bears physical and mental health. Manis will show more stereotypical behaviours in the dens. It is believed that she was never given any enrichment when she was kept at the zoo, thus leading to her stereotypical behaviour. The volunteers and keepers provide different types of enrichment to encourage Manis’s natural behaviour and for stimulation. Manis is a curious bear that is keen on interacting with the new enrichment toys offered. She now has dry leaves as a bed which she has never had before.
After she finished quarantine period, Manis soon moved to the next stage of her rehabilitation. In 2010, Manis was integrated with the larger adult female bear group – Cerah, Jelita, Kuamut, Susie and Lawa.
Manis and her friends were moved to the new bear house on 7th April 2010, after the construction of bear house 1 and forest enclosure 1 was completed.
Integrating them with other bears will enable them to share and roam the forest enclosure together. It also allows Manis to continue to learn more wild sun bear behaviours. Besides, there has been a significant change in Manis’s behaviour since she has bear pals. Over the years, we have watched her grow into a gentle and dominant adult bear. She is the “grandmother” of the group.
Preparing for life in the wild can be a long process. Sun bear cubs will live with their mother for two to three years to learn the skills they will need to become wild sun bears. But for Manis’s case, she will not be able to be released in the wild due to her old age. But in BSBCC, Manis will be given a second chance to survive as a wild bear in order to let her have the freedom to live in the rainforest.
On July 2012, it was the first time for Manis to begin exploring the forest world when she was released into the forest enclosure and was able to be free to forage, climb, play, explore the world and acquire a variety of other survival skills.
Despite her age, Manis tends to spend more time on the ground than climbing high in trees. This includes looking for termites and taking naps. Manis has adapted well to life as a sun bear and is leaving her past behind her. She enjoys the forest and displays absolute enthusiasm!
We cannot imagine the future for sun bears if they continue being caught and sold as house pets, or their home continues to be lost. We must protect sun bears and their forest. Please help to stop illegal wildlife trafficking.
Susie was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on 07 August 2008. She was being kept as an illegal pet. The owner claimed that Susie was dancing inside the cage. Susie has lost everything –mother, love, wild instinct.
Fortunately, she has given a second chance. Now she is safe and having a lot of fun learning about forest life. She has grown into a beautiful strong bear! Please share her story!
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photo by Sabah Wildlife Department & Chiew Lin May
A sub adult, male bear was rescued on the 5th of December 2009 in Taman Formosa, Penampang Baru, Sabah. He was found trapped in the farm and was kept in a small iron cage for a very long time. He was then brought to the Lok Kawi Zoo and sent to BSBCC on the 3rd of July 2010.
He is now safe, and we will give him the best chance of surviving in the forest. He was named “Julaini”, after the head welder who constructed the new bear house. During the arrival, he was a very aggressive bear, but now Julaini has become a big favourite for us – nicknamed wrinkled bear!
He has adjusted very well to his life at BSBCC.
During his rehabilitation, proper nutrition and various enrichment activities are given to stimulate his bear behaviours and to help him recover from the psychological trauma of being kept in captivity. Bear care staff will always introduce different types of enrichment toys and new treats for him. He enjoys fruit, coconuts and honey. On the 26th of May 2011, Julaini together with Ah Lun got to meet their new group of bears friends.
During the electric fence training, he appeared to be more nervous compared to the other bears. We never gave up on Julaini and used different types of his favorite food to lure him out to the forest. Julaini has a cataract on his left eye, but this did not let him give up easily in learning to be a wild bear. On the 13th of March 2013, Julaini finally took his huge first steps into a lifetime of freedom in the forest.
He walked slowly and calmly sniffed the forest air!
It was a blessing to watch him be a wild bear again and we were unable to control the smiles on our faces.
Julaini’s eyes widened with the thrill of TALL trees, dead wood, termites and blue sky around him!
Julaini is brave and finds the strength to venture out to the forest.
Julaini can be seen roaming around in the forest with his best female pal, Ah Lun, where they will forage, play fight, protect and get comfort together.
Julaini is not keen on climbing trees. Julaini loves to find a big tree trunk and fall asleep there.
He also never misses his favorite treats –termites and honey! He learns all the skills he will need to survive in the forest.
Over the past 10 years, Julaini has been given the chance to return to his natural habitat.
He seems to have a wonderful time and has proven to us that he is one of the loveliest bears in the centre.
There is a lot more freedom ahead for Julaini to enjoy!
Sun bears are vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The global population of sun bears has declined by 30% in the last 30 years. This is due to the increasing threats to the species’ survival from illegal hunting, pet trade and deforestation, which has led to the rapid decline in sun bear numbers. It acts as a reminder to us all how important the need to protect sun bears from extinction truly is. Please give them a voice!
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!