The forest is the natural habitat of the sun bears. In BSBCC, we reintroduce the rescued bears to their natural habitat - the forest enclosures, so that the sun bears can be the closest to life in the wild.
In the forest, the bears develop the skills necessary - foraging, tree climbing, nest building and self-defence - for independence.
On Betung arrival, she only weighed 1.4kg. She was tiny and weak. She looked much smaller than she should be. After six months of care, she has grown to a healthy sun bear.
Seeing the forest's beauty, and Betung found reasons to love the forest more.
Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
The Sun Bear is the smallest bear species in the world. They are listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This means that it is illegal to trade them on all international commercial trades in bear parts and products. However, illegal wildlife trade is still one of the biggest threats to all the wildlife species. So, what is wildlife? Wildlife is the animals that grow or live wild and independently in a natural condition.
Some people still believe that bear bile and gall bladder are very good traditional medicine. Poachers also poached the bears for the meats, the claws, and canines as a souvenir. Consequently, more wild sun bears are killed for it. They do not deserve being treated like this!
In Malaysia, the administrate regions are divided into three semi-autonomous ones: Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak, and Sabah. Sabah and Sarawak can make separated laws on matters in the ‘State List’ and the ‘Concurrent List’ of the Constitution, which include the wildlife law. As a result, there is not a unified wildlife enforcement law but three wildlife laws in Malaysia.
Sun bears are a totally protected species under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 in Sabah and Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716) in Peninsular Malaysia. However, Sun bears are only listed as a protected status under Sarawak’s Wildlife Protection Ordinance.
When technology is getting advanced, social media become a MUST in our life. However, exotic animals and wildlife are endangered due to advanced technology. How so? Selling them has become easy and it creates a market demand. A simple click then the purchase is done. Cuteness is a curse for wildlife. They are cute but it does not mean that they deserve to be kept as house pets. Take the sun bear as an example, the cubs stay together with the mother bear for two to three years. So, where is the mother bear when a bear cub is found alone? Have you ever wondered why the mother bear abandoned her own cub? The answer is that a mother bear will never abandon her cub unless she was killed by the hunters! What about the bear cub? It ends up being a pet for them! No reasons can be acceptable and tolerated for their deeds, what the poachers have done is unforgivable!
Sun bears are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The population of sun bears are decreasing. The forest is the wildlife’s home - a natural habitat. However, development of the country scarifies the forest to increase the country’s economic growth. And, wildlife has no chance to say No for what happened to them. They are losing their home and their friends. Extinction of species will cause ecosystem imbalance. Every species is playing their role in the forest, just like the sun bear.
Sun bears are the forest planter. Sun bears are opportunistic omnivores. They consume a variety of forest fruit. As they travel, they disperse the seed in the forest. When the seed furthers away from the mother tree, the seed will have a higher survival rate. Besides, sun bears are excellent climbers. Sharp claws are served as important tools for them to climb. One of the reasons they climb trees is to harvest honey from beehives. Sun bear loves honey and this is why they also are known as a honey bear! When the sun bears want to get honey from a tree, they use their claws and strong canine to tear the tree trunks and get the honey inside. After that, it creates a cavity in the tree that can be used as a nesting site or a resting place for other animals, such as flying squirrels and hornbills.
Termites feed on live and dead trees. They build their colonies in the host tree, which makes the tree unhealthy and hasten the decaying and rotting process of a tree. Sun bears love to eat termites. Termites are one of the important protein sources of sun bears. They will dig into termite nests and consume them. Sun bears spend time on digging. Further than termites, they also dig for invertebrates such as pill millipedes, beetle grubs, and ants. Digging contributes to enhancing the nutrient cycle in the forest and consume the termites can help to keep the forest healthy. Every species in the forest helps to maintain the ecosystem balance but the balance is slowly destroyed by human disturbance. The out of control human activities are threatening the lives of wildlife.
The sun bear is the forgotten bear species. But, they need your attention! Spread the word and let’s save the Sun Bears together!
The sun bears are arboreal animals!
Ever wonder what is the sun bear doing in the trees?
Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
There are eight bear species in this world and the sun bears are the smallest bear. Sun bears are named as the sun bear because they have the chest patch in the colour range of cream and orange which looks like the rising sun. Every bear has a unique chest mark. This is the best way of identifying an individual bear. This is because no two bears share the same chest mark pattern even when they are a twins.
Although sun bears are the smallest bear, they have the longest tongue. Their tongue can be 25 to 30cm long! The long tongue is an adaptation for licking honey and eating termites and ants. Other than invertebrates and honey, they are also eating a large variety of fruit species, especially figs. This is because fig trees produce fruit all year long. Therefore, sun bears are considered as the opportunistic omnivores. As the food is available all year round, sun bears are the only bears that do not hibernate.
Sun bears can be found throughout South East Asia. There are two subspecies of sun bears which are Malayan sun bears and Bornean sun bears. Malayan sun bears are found on the Asian Mainland and in Sumatra while Bornean sun bears are only found in Borneo. The difference between the Malayan sun bears and Bornean sun bears is their size. Malayan sun bears are bigger than the Bornean sun bears.
Sun bears are a forest-dependent species. Their large, sickle-shaped (curved) claws are important tools for them because they can spend most daylight hours foraging, digging and climbing. Sun bears are the arboreal animal. They are the excellent climbers. They often take naps on the tree. Sun bears climb trees in the wild to not only find fruits and look for honeybees but also to avoid predators such as pythons. I wonder if you know that sun bears can build a nest? It can be a tree nest or a ground nest. Sometimes people are confused between an orangutan’s nest and a sun bear’s nest. They look alike but sun bear’s nest look messier. Mostly they use the tree leaves and tree branches to build up the nest. They can spend a few days building a nest. However, not every bear has the ability to build a nest. Therefore, they will borrow other bear’s nests. People say sharing is caring and sun bears as well!
Sun bears not only spend time in the trees but also spend time on the forest floors. They are more likely to dig for snacks such as termites, ants, pill millipede and others. Or else, they are foraging for fruit in the forest. They grip on the tree bark or rip apart the decayed wood for getting yummy, crunchy snacks. The different types of invertebrates are the important protein source for them.
Sun bears are having outstanding sense of smell and excellent hearing. Among all the senses, the bear's eyesight is considered as not good. They are near-sighted but they can detect form and movement at a long distance. They depend on their senses to be alert to their surroundings. This is their wild instinct to protect and defend themselves.
"Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius." - Edward O. Wilson.
Sun bear is the least known bear species. Therefore, they need your attention for saving them from extinction.
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 & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
There are two bear stories that began in the year of 2016 at BSBCC.
The story began at a place named Nabawan, an area in the southern part of Sabah. One day in 2016, a villager saw a dog in her orchard. When she tried to look closer, she noticed the dog has round ears and sharp claws. She then realized the dog was actually a sun bear! The sun bear had been kept as a pet ever since. On the 19th of August 2016, the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) rescued him and sent him to Lok Kawi Zoo. The bear came to BSBCC when he was five months old and weighed 8.6kg on the 10th of October 2016. When he was just brought here, his four baby teeth were supposed to be more curved and sharper but were found being reduced to a squarish and smoothen condition which affected his teething structure and arrangement. Despite this condition, he has healthily grown into a four-year-old sub adult male bear and is named Noah.
Another story happened in Kota Marudu, an area in the north of Sabah. This story belongs a six years old adult male bear named Nano. Back in 2016, Nano was kept in a small chicken mesh cage. A lady saw him and wanted to end his unfortunate life. She knew the bear was going to suffer in that small cage and she then decided to purchase Nano for a price of RM1,500 to save his life. After that, she surrendered Nano to the SWD and that sent him to BSBCC on the 20th of November 2016. When he first arrived at BSBCC, he just weighed 9.7kg at the age of two years old.
Noah and Nano were each other’s first bear friend! They always stay together. They look different and have quite different personalities. For instance, Noah is a happy bear and an explorer. He seems like having nothing to worry about in his life and is always curious about everything! Noah has a brighter colour snout and a longer body shape. On the contrary, Nano is shy. He is very alert to the surroundings and gets stressed easily. Nano has a shinier coat and a smaller body size. Noah’s friendly efforts had changed Nano’s life day by day. Nano has changed from being aggressive and inactive to peaceful and active. Due to their friendship and interactions, Nano has become braver and brighter!
After a year of rehabilitation, Noah and Nano explored the forest for the very first time in 2017. Noah was excited about the adventure outside. He was confident and enjoyed freedom. However, Nano showed more distress to explore a new environment. Nano timidly took his time to go out, but Noah never gave up on him. After a few months, Nano finally put his trauma behind him and enjoyed the forest activities with Noah. Even though they are “beary” good friends, they still fight sometimes. However, if Nano is in trouble, Noah will run towards Nano and get him out of the trouble. No bears in BSBCC can bully Nano! Nano feels more secure whenever Noah is around. They just can’t leave each other alone!
Noah and Nano really enjoy their daily forest activities such as digging, foraging, and climbing. Noah is like Nano’s big brother. Noah starts the adventure of the day and Nano is happy to be his follower. They both are foodies. Before and during the food giving, Nano always guards food and Noah will respond as if they are communicating in Bear Language. It is a joy to see them always together like a Best Bear Friends! Hope they gain more courage and sharpen their forest survival skills to ready themselves for their release together in the wild one day!
Video by Chiew Lin May
"Sniffing out honey bee nests,
Digging for termites,
Climbing on favourite trees,
Develop my survival skills!" - Logan, the Sun bear
Stay Safe . Stay home . Stay healthy
Video by Chiew Lin May
"Time is running out! The next ten years will be crucial. If we fail, a lot of species will become extinct." - Dr. Wong Siew Te (Founder & CEO BSBCC)
The sun bears is the world's smallest bear species. They can be found in the tropical rainforest of Southeast Asia. Major threats from poaching, illegal pet trade and deforestation are pushing sun bears to extinction. If no action is taken, the remaining population will be wiped out soon.
Please keep the fight to save the species against the threat of extinction!
Video by Chiew Lin May
What was the highlight of your weekend?
"I think mine was foraging the bird's nest fern!" - Little Romolina