Text by Nithisha Nair (Intern student, University Putra Malaysia Bintulu Campus)
Photos by Chiew Lin May
And so, the journey begins for the three new musketeers- Joe, Romolina and Logan- into the bear house after patiently getting through their days in quarantine.
Romolina, being the oldest of the three was kept as a pet before being handed over to our centre. Whereas Joe was found alone in the forest when he was three months old. A person then sent Joe to Lok Kawi Wildlife Park. The youngest of the three, Logan, was found on a Lokan River near a village who separated from his mother as she crossed the river leaving him behind. He was taken care for a few months by the person who found him before being sent to our centre. These three musketeers, being as young as they are, are nothing short of curious, explorative and energetic.
Due to the lack of space in the bear house, this group of sun bears ended up extending their stay a little longer than expected. But with the release of Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan on the 14th this month, new room opened up to welcome our trio.
The week started off with enrichment preparations for the sun bears. Lengths of firehose were used to construct a ‘zig zag firehose’ as well as a wooden structure that the trio will be able to use to climb and play.
This recreational enrichment will go a long way in diverting the sun bear’s attention from the stress they might face through switching homes. Besides that, we also extended our measures and collected barks, dead wood and sacks of dry leaves to be put into their cages for a more forest-like feel. The bears will also be able to dig their claws and teeth into the barks in search for ants and termites. Termites nests were also brought from the forest for the trio to feast on.
Two dens were transformed and decorated to the best of our abilities to give the bears as much of a natural environment as we could, dry leaves, tree barks, ginger leaves and termites nest were all placed in the dens alongside structural enrichments.
Then the long-awaited day finally comes and the cubs were ready to be brought to the bear house. Translocation cages were used to transport them from quarantine to the bear house. Prior to the transfer, they are lured into the translocation cages by quarantine keepers using diluted honey. Then they are weighed before being put on to the car to be brought down to the bear house.
The transfer started off with Romolina, who was no trouble at all to lure into the translocation cage and was quite calm throughout the journey. After Romolina’s transfer, Logan was next. Eventhough Logan was no fuss to get into the translocation cage, he seemed pretty anxious on his way to the bear house. Honey water and bananas were provided upon arrival to eradicate any stress caused by transportation.
All the other bears seemed very alert and peculiar to the arrival of these cubs but did not cause a commotion of any sort, which was great as any vocalization would’ve rendered the cubs more stressed. After the two bears settled down, they enjoyed exploring in their dens and was nothing short of curious and adventurous, sniffing every corner and climbing every angle. They also foraged through the dry leaves for bananas and tore through tree barks in search of insects to feast on.
After ensuring the two cubs were okay, we proceeded with a health check for the last cub, Joe. The health check was done in quarantine with a hand injected anaesthesia by Dr. Boon whilst being distracted with honey. After Joe was unconscious, a full health check was carried out to ensure that the sunbear is well and healthy. Joe was then brought into the bear house and put into a separate den until he was fully conscious and able to join in on the fun.
Once Joe was concious, the three cubs didn’t waste any of their time before exploring all three dens together. They foraged through dry leaves and dead wood, climbed ladders hung on the den basket as well as on the gates of the den, and rolled around the dry leaves goofily with one another.
The cubs will have to go through integration as well as fence training before their debut in the forest enclosure. The cubs can frequently be seen exploring their surroundings and playing around with one another, their playful yet explorative behaviour is one we hope they keep throughout their rehabilitation journey. Here’s wishing good luck to these cubs in their journey before being released to the wild, good luck musketeers!
Video by Chiew Lin May
Little Logan was missing his left thumb and his left front paw has developed abnormally but these have never made give him up in climbing trees.
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
Joe, a three month old sun bear cub, was found by a person alone in the forest at Kg.Kipaku, Tambunan. The person then sent the cub to Lok Kawi Wildlife Park on the 12th of April 2018. The bear arrived on the 22nd of January 2019. We believe that Joe was stolen from his mother in the wild. Joe appeared tame and would suckle his hind paws which are believed to be a result from being kept as a pet for long periods in captivity. He needs to learn all the skills he will require to survive in the wild – skills that he would have learnt from his mother.
We decided to introduce Joe with two resident cubs.
Joe recently completed his quarantine period. He is now one year old and weighs 22kg.
On the 22nd of February 2019, Joe made his first new friends!
Once Joe entered the den, Logan and Romolina started to greet him by growling!
Both started sniffing around while Joe was busy with exploring the new den first. Once the door opened, Logan started to play fight by biting and rolling with Joe.
Logan has shown to be a more fun-loving bear that always initiates play with Joe.
They can wrestle for hours and hours…nonstop PLAY!!
Logan began spending more time with Joe while Romolina always seemed curious and she would paw Joe in a gentle way. Romolina would still like to maintain her independence and is less interested in joining to play. We found Joe being hugged by Logan when they met.
Joe has had a new experience by learning how to defend himself during play fights and wrestling.
We are glad to see Joe has been having a good time with his new friends, Logan and Romolina. These three bears have a close bond and share their food or enrichment together too. Little Romolina and Logan were quick to accept Joe.
The three bears have been venturing out to the larger exercise dens which are filled with different types of enrichment.
They share their dens which can enrich Joe’s life and help stimulate his natural behaviour.
They enjoy playing, exploring and making us fall in love with their beautiful smiles!
This is important for the rescued bears to help them recover from trauma and start to put their past behind them.
Interactions between Joe, Logan and Romolina have shown to be positive. Joe now has a place full of love. Hopefully, this relationship can help Joe become a more confident and stronger bear!
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
An one year old, male sun bear cub just arrived at the BSBCC. This brings to the total of 46 rescued sun bear at BSBCC currently. Joe (Rescue No.61) was found all alone crying in the forest. His history is still remaining unknown. A person rescued him and sent him to Lok Kawi Wildlife Park on March 2018. Joe has safely settled in BSBCC quarantine. He weighs 22.8 kg.
The team will now be looking after little Joe literally around the clock. There is a long way to go for Joe but he deserves a better life!! Stay tuned with BSBCC to have follow ups on Joe story! Meet Joe!
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
On the 2nd of March 2017, a sun bear cub was handed over to the Sabah Wildlife Department named BJ. He was found after being purchased in Sonsogon village, Pitas, and was sold for the price of RM 300 and then was kept as a pet. He arrived at BSBCC on the 22nd of November, 2018. He is a two year old, sub adult male bear weighing 32.20kg.
After living alone in a cage, BJ was finally free from trauma and now has made some friends for the first time in his life. On the 14th of December 2018, BJ was integrated into a larger social group of female bears – Kina, Sika, Soo and Diana, who would help him adjust to his new life and learn how to be a bear again!
Here we can see how the introduction went:
As soon as BJ saw his new friends, he stood up on his hind legs, began sniffing and pawing them to start play fighting! They showed their strong canines and sharp claws!
He was such a handsome and kind bear towards the group. It is good to know that he is welcomed by them and they also rely on each other for comfort, protection and love. Although sun bears are by nature solitary animals in the wild, the bond between a mother and her cub is strong during the time they are together. During the integration, sun bears can learn from each other as they communicate and play together.
BJ has proven himself to be a friendly bear. He also smiles which shows a few wrinkles on his face.
It is great that BJ has accepted this wonderful new friendship. Kina and Sika are BJ’s bear play friends.
Sometimes, BJ wants to play with Soo and Diana, but both of the female bears seem to ignore him. Once BJ started sharing the large dens with the other female bears, he immediately began exploring. He has found the simple pleasure of good friends. He is a happy go lucky bear who loves running around the dens and convinces the others to play with him by sniffing or pulling them. He is always filled with curiosity and enjoys exploring the enrichment around the dens.
They spend their days wandering around the dens, digging up the dead wood, climbing on the structural enrichment and sharing their toys. They are doing things together and seem to enjoy each other’s company.
For the rest of their first week together, there was no aggression found and they were accepting of each other as it did not take too long for them to become social. Now he has four lovely female bears to keep him company. It was a delight to see him grow into a healthy and loving bear where he could truly be himself.
Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Soo is a four year old female, sub adult bear. She was purchased with the price of RM350 when she was still a cub in Karamatoi Village in Sook Keningau market. After that, she was kept as a house pet in Nambayan village in Tambunan for two years. She was rescued by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and transferred to BSBCC on the 8th of September, 2017. Soo is very alert with her surroundings. She easily gets stressed and starts to pace aggressively when she hears loud, machine noises. This stereotypic behaviour is the consequence of her past life of living as a caged pet. She took a long time to adapt herself. There must be a way to help her more. Maybe it is time for her to have bear friends!
Let’s introduce you Soo’s friends, Diana (12 years old female adult bear), Kina (three years old female sub adult bear), and Sika (two years old female sub adult bear). Kina and Sika integrated on the 19th of November 2017. After that, Diana joined Kina and Sika on 13th of April 2018. And on the 2nd of September 2018, Soo meet them all for the first time.
Soo is curious about the appearance of a new bear beside her cage. She sniffed on the sliding door. The sliding door opens slowly and Sika is waiting for her at another side. This is the first time Soo met a bear. Soo is anxious. She vocalized with Sika when Sika came close. She would like to play with Sika but she doesn’t know how to do it. She shows defensive behaviour which Sika does not like. Therefore the first time is not pleasant.
The second day of integration is Kina’s turn. Kina shows more curiosity about Soo. She tried to initiate play fight with Soo, who is still nervous about her first friendship. Soo demonstrates a big response to Kina’s approach, but this did not stop Kina and still tried getting close to her. If Soo is being stressed at the moment, Kina will not disturb her.
Soo took her time and she tried her best to become friends with Diana, Kina and Sika. They are getting along well now! Only sometimes, Diana is on her temper and shows her aggression to Sika and Soo by vocalizing. But, there would never be a problem for them to stay together. They play fight with whoever they want. They share their food and also rest together. It is so good to see Soo’s improvement since her first arrival. We really hope Soo can live in a better life with her bear friends and we hope to see her grow into a strong and brave bear!
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Logan and Romolina are the bear cubs we have at BSBCC. Both of them are estimated at eight months old. Even though the same age, Romalina has permanent teeth and canines, whereas Logan still has his milk teeth and canines, with a curved shaped jaw. Logan has a bigger body size than Romalina, due to the gender difference. Both of these cubs have come to BSBCC with a different story.
Logan is a male bear cub. He was found at Lokan River, Kulu-Kulu Village in Sabah. When he first arrived, Logan was small and skinny, with the owner claiming that Logan was abandoned during the crossing of a large river with his Mother, leaving his left front paw maggoty and hairless. As a result, his left front paw has developed abnormally. The owner surrendered him, after keeping him for roughly three months, to the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) on 19th of May 2018, who sent Logan to BSBCC on the same day.
Romolina is a female bear cub. She was kept as a pet for roughly three months at Romol Village, Sapulut. The villager surrendered her after Bob Hartley and Virgil Joon Gunting negotiated with the villager. They sent her to the SWD who the transferred her to BSBCC on 7th of July 2018.
As these bears are of such similar ages, we decided to brighten their day and integrate the bear cubs. Logan is a friendly bear. He is curious about the presence of other bears and wants to get close and initiate play fighting with his new friends. Romolina decided to make things difficult. Romolina is more attached with humans and this integration was the first time she became close to another bear. She started to defend herself by vocalizing and tries to give a warning to Logan, as she felt insecure. However, Logan is brave and playful, therefore tries his best to get to know about Romolina despite her insecurity.
The day starts to get better. Romolina still uses her vocalisations, but only to warn Logan that she does not like his methods of play. However both bears show that they enjoy playing with each other through their soft biting and pawing. They spent more time playing in the hammock than on the ground. Time on the ground was spent chasing and running after each other within the enclosure, just like the characters from the cartoon “Tom and Jerry”. Both bears fill each other’s times with fun and excitement, showing they really enjoy being around each other.
Pacing has shown to be one of the stress-related behaviour. This stress-related behaviour may have been caused by the bear’s past life, especially if kept within small cages such as Romolina. When they are integrated, Logan will interrupt Romolina’s pacing which has helped to reduce her stress-related behaviours and time spent performing them. This has shown to be an alternative way and also the best way to help her!
Logan and Romolina have been sharing food together but only when it is not Romolina’s favourite food, corn. Romolina wants all the corn to herself and will give Logan a warning if he tries to take her corn away. Other than that, sharing the food has been successful. Sometimes they fight but it will not affect their friendship. We really hope Logan and Romolina can grow up happily together, gain the courage and strength to return to the forest together!
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Romolina has just finished her 30 day submission to quarantine! She is settling in well at BSBCC. A full body check-up has been conducted by Dr.Nabila Sarkawi who is a veterinarian from Sabah Wildlife Department. Based on the growth condition of her teeth, we found out she is an estimated age of six months instead of four months old. This is because some of her current teeth which have grown through recently, are now permanent and her adult teeth.
Romolina was found alone in the forest before being kept as a pet at Romol Village, Sapulut, in the interior division of Sabah, where she lived her life in a small cage. She was rescued by Bob Hartley and Virgil Joon Gunting, who had found out that a villager was keeping Romolina as a pet. They intended to rescue her so they negotiated with the villager who agreed to hand the young cub over to them. The villager said that he/she had kept Romolina for a duration of roughly three months and fed her sausages, porridge and fruits. The improper diet caused Romolina to have a smaller body size. Now that she is being fed a proper, nutritious diet in the care of BSBCC and she now weighs 8.8kg.
Romolina seems to be attached to humans. When the caretakers are not around, she will suckle and vocalize to seek comfort and safety. Romolina had lost her mother bear, therefore we now have keepers as her surrogate mother. What can the surrogate mother do? Keepers will spend time and play fight with her. Play fighting could teach her how to defend herself. Defence skills is one of the most important survival skills for the bear’s natural rainforest habitats, which can protect themselves from predators.
Besides the companionship from the keepers, Romalina has also been introduced to many types of enrichments to use throughout her days. Enrichment is a common name for the bears TOYs which can stimulate the action of natural behaviours that we would observe in non-captive Sunbears. Romolina is having different enrichments from day to day! But, her favourite toy is the warm, soft and comfy towel! Romolina is a detailed explorer. She will spend a lot of time exploring the enrichments made for her. Thanks to the care taker, Jeniur who made her a circle platform. She loves to sleep up there. Before sleeping Romalina will adjust and fidget until she finds the perfect spot to fall asleep and snooze like a baby!
Romolina is a curious bear who explores her environment through continuous sniffing. She loves milk and also loves to keep the milk on her body, by soaking her body in the milk tray. But she does not enjoy her body being too wet and fur remaining damp. Romolina is a good climber. She always climbs up and down to search and explore her environment. She is always very observant to her current surroundings and will keep checking and watching events that happen around her.
Romolina has lacked a mother’s love since young age, which makes her feel insecure. The way to help her is integrating her with other bears; making a bear friend can allow them to learn from each other and spend time together. The best enrichment of a bear is another bear! We are looking forward to the integration between her and her bear friend Logan, and hope they will get along well. The cute and lovely friendship is already starting to form between these two little bears. Please stay tuned for the updates to the start of this wonderful friendship! With the help of her friend Logan, the care of keepers and the love from you all, we hope Romolina will grow to into a real bear!
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
Little Romolina is a six months old female sun bear cub who was kept in a small cage as a house pet at Kampung Romol, Sapulut, Sabah.
The owner claimed that they found the cub alone in the forest and he had kept her in his house. We believed that Romolina’s mom was killed in order to take the cub from the forest. Bob Hartley and Virgil Joon Gunting got knowledge about this cub and quickly helped save her from the villager by negotiating with him to hand over the cub. She was immediately handed over to the Sabah Wildlife Department then sent to BSBCC and placed into quarantine on the same day on July 7th, 2018. During the arrival, she was tiny and weighed 5.95 kg. She was suffering from severe malnutrition. The owner fed Romolina rice, cereals, sausages, fruits and no milk was given to her. She was also being confined in a small cage which restricted her growth. The name “Romolina” was given by the person who rescued her. She was named after the Romol village where she was rescued from.
Romolina is the youngest female sun bear cub at BSBCC. She is kept under close observation around the clock by bear care staff in quarantine.
She was subsequently found to be malnourished and showed signs of stunted growth. Consequently, her claws and teeth appeared too big for her tiny body as a result from an unbalanced diet.
Little by little she has grown to know that she is in a safe place. She adapted really well to her new environment.
During these two weeks she has gained more weight. She has a good appetite but is choosy in accepting a diet of fruits and vegetables. She loves watermelon and Honey!
Little Romolina enjoys playing with enrichment toys.
The enrichment plays a vital role in encouraging Little Romolina – to be a sun bear again! She gets really curious and stands on both her hind legs then gets excited about it! Romolina will use her long sharp claws to tear and destroy the enrichment. She always shows curiosity in new toys and treats where she will learn to dig, climb and destroy the enrichment!
She learns climbing too. She will climb up to the basket or sleeping platform or when there are treats around. As a sun bear cub she will spends most of the day sleeping on the ground or hammock platform.
She is just enjoying her new found second chance of freedom.
Poor Romolina had been kept confined in a cage alone for a long period. It can be seen that she has a habit of sucking her front left paw or rubbing her back near care takers, and she vocalizes to seek comfort and safety. She shows more attachment to humans and appears tame. She needs special care and attention. She should still be with her mother learning how to survive in the forest.
Slowly, Romolina will learn to trust the new environment and put her past behind her. It was truly a blessing when watching Romolina grow more confident and healthy. Please speak up against the illegal pet trade and protect them from extinction!
Text & Photos by Chiew Lin May
Found abandoned near Lokan River, Kulu-Kulu Village in Sabah and kept in a cage for three months as a house pet. He was then surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department and sent to BSBCC on the 19th of May, 2018. Every year, orphaned sun bears are rescued by the Sabah Wildlife Department or are surrendered by local people. Sun bear cubs are targeted for the illegal pet trade, hunted for food or used in traditional medicine. It is believed that their mother will be killed so that the poacher can snatch the bear cub. In the wild, sun bear cubs will spend the first two to three years of their lives with their mom. Without his mother to teach him the skills he needs, the sun bear becomes incapable of being released back into the wild and they must rely on our rehabilitation support.
The rehabilitation process after his arrival starts with strong bonding with his surrogate mother (bear care taker), where he slowly gains trust, strength and can be a wild bear again. The surrogate mother then will be assisting in daily walks in the forest with the bear cub to give them a second chance to learn all of the skills needed to survive in the forest.
The youngest male sun bear cub, Logan has settled happily into his new life. You can see how much little Logan has grown in that time and how chubby he is now with a weight of 15.10 kg.
This brave bear that has lost his mother endured a lifetime of suffering in captivity and has never known the wild freedom he was born to have. On the 7th of June 2018, Logan finally felt the sunshine and grass under his little paws again!
Logan will get to play in the forest, learn to forage, climb trees and explore the forest. He learns to trust every day. The surrogate mother is helping little Logan to learn just how to be a wild bear!
Day by day it is such a blissful time in the morning, he knows when we are going to start walking him in the forest. He will quickly climb down from his basket and without hesitation he will run into the dense forest. He is developing very well and showing great progress with his forest skills.
No surprise – he is always busy foraging and filling his tummy! Sun bears are opportunistic omnivores. For Logan, he loves to dig by using his sharp curved claws and strong teeth in search his favourite wild food - termites, ants, insects, pill millipedes and bird carcasses. When he finds something for his own, he is very happy about it! Sometimes Logan will stand up on his hind legs to get a better smell or view of something that attracted his attention.
Logan was missing his left thumb and his left front paw has developed abnormally, but these have never made give him up and he is always full of enthusiasm climbing trees. He loves to learn new skills and develops his small muscles every day! He is an agile climber where he uses his powerful legs, feet with hairless soles and sharp claws to climb the tree. Right after foraging he will choose a tree he loves and climb it. He learns the way to climb trees or liana and just enjoys the beautiful sun view! He is so brave! He always wants to make the most of what he has got! Only sometimes he will easily get tired after he tries to climb too many trees.
When he gets excited roaming the forest he will start to play fight and wrestle with his surrogate mother. He loves to play with anything and everything.
He is a very active little bear! He knows the way to the stream and enjoys dipping, chilling in the stream or laying his snout deep in the water to beat the hot weather! Logan takes great pleasure enjoying his freedom each day in the forest.
For little Logan, his newfound freedom has meant to him: tearing decayed wood, finding his favourite food such as termites, sun bathing, and soaking in the stream. We cannot wait to see the next challenge he has to learn to grow every day.
Looking at these pictures, it is hard believe he is a huge part of the forest life now and is also catching his daily experience in life. Watching him is like watching any bear cubs in the wild!