Written by Pradeep Aggi Gunasegaran
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Ronnie or also known as Ronnie Boy is one of the forty-three residents Bornean Sun Bears at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). On the eventful night of 10th of March 2014, Ronnie Boy was among the five sun bears that were involved with the transfer activity from Lok Kawi Wildlife Park to BSBCC. While the history of Ronnie Boy ending up with human beings is unknown, he spent approximately eight years of his life at a resort in Tawau with Diana, another rescued sun bear at BSBCC. The both of them spent the early part of their lives in a small concrete floored cage as they were exhibited to the resort’s visitors. The owner of the resort then decided to hand over both Ronnie Boy and Diana to Sabah Wildlife Department in July 2013 and they were housed in Lok Kawi Wildlife Park for slightly more than seven months before the transfer activity was carried out.
Ronnie Boy was assumed to be eight years of age and he also appeared to be a physically healthy and muscular adult male Bornean Sun Bear. However, he was still subjected to a health check upon his arrival at BSBCC and he was diagnosed with a heart condition by the veterinarian. Due to that, extra care is given to ensure that Ronnie Boy gets the best diet possible under BSBCC’s care. He went from just merely eating fruits and rice to being fed with a variety of food from fruits, vegetable, egg, and many more to keep him healthy. Today, Ronnie Boy is 15 years of age, still healthy, muscular and looking charming with his pair of blue eyes.
Throughout the years of being under the care of BSBCC, Ronnie Boy has always been a calm adult male bear. Sun bears are solitary individuals in nature but he does not seem to be unfazed by the sight of other male bears nearby. He often spends his time relaxing in his den by sitting on the edge of the basket provided, clinging on to the bars with his forelimbs while resting his head against one of his forelimbs. Besides the basket, Ronnie Boy is also hooked on hammocks. He would lie down in his beloved hammock with his head resting on the edge. In that position, he would just observe keepers and volunteers who happen to walk pass by his den. While he is always in state of tranquility, he gets excited when environmental enrichment is provided to him. He does not get frustrated if the environmental enrichment is complex instead he would spends hours interacting with it.
Although Ronnie Boy is always calm in the bear house, he does have an issue that troubles him. For years, the bear care team has been trying to release Ronnie Boy into the forest but it has not been fruitful. Ronnie Boy is often afraid to take the steps out of the guillotine door into the forest enclosures. He is fearful of the outside world probably due to the condition he has been living in since young where he has only grown up to know concrete flooring and metal bars as his safe haven. We may be heading into the blue but for as long that Ronnie Boy is under the care of BSBCC, efforts will carried out for him to some day have his paws feeling the earth and grass while his body is soaked under the sunshine and rain. We hope that some day, Ronnie Boy will experience the world like any other wild Bornean Sun Bear!
Text by Pradeep Aggi Gunasegaran
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Rescued Bear Number 56 which goes by the name Soo maybe be well known among the loyal supporters of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) but for those of you who are new to our cause, here is a little flashback to the beginning of Soo’s life. The details that were provided to us spoke briefly about Soo being traded in a market at Sook, Keningau in the year of 2015. She was purchased by her owner for RM 350 and then lived as pet for two years in the interior division of Sabah. In 2017, Sabah Wildlife Department rescued Soo and handed her over to BSBCC when she was already at the age of three years old. There is no doubt that Soo’s mother would have been killed for her to be sold in a market. A mother bear would always try her best to protect her cub just as like it was potrait in a recent trending news (June 2021) which mentioned that a young American woman pushes off a brown bear to save her dogs. If you would have seen the entire CCTV footage, you would notice that the brown bear had two cubs and the mother bear became defensive when the dogs started barking frantically.
Like any other sun bears that end in BSBCC, Soo also underwent a health check upon arrival. However, unlike many sun bears which arrive in poor health conditions, Soo’s blood work indicated that she was healthy. While her general health was in order, Soo was not adjusting well to the surrounding. She was always in heightened alert state as keeper were around in the day. She would only eat her food and play with environmental enrichment after the keepers leave at the end of the day. The changes to her behaviour were subtle as she would aggressively start pacing if there is the slightest form of stressor such a single loud noise. As her behaviour slowly improved, it was decided that Soo’s rehabilitation process would take a positive turn by integrating her with Sika, Kina, BJ; three young sun bears and Diana; our adult female sun bear. At the beginning of the integration, Soo was apprehensive and confused at time when it came to interacting with the other bears. Although, it was difficult for her in the beginning, she eventually got along with all the other sun bears and she was able to eat, play and sleep together with them. Soo remained vigilant to the presence of keepers but having other sun bears around her did allow her to be more relaxed in comparison to her early life as a solitary bear since arriving at BSBCC.
After staying at BSBCC’s quarantine section for few years, Soo was transferred to bear house with her friends Sika, Kina and BJ in 2020. It was another stressful yet a necessary process that had to be endured by Soo in her rehabilitation program. This time around, there were more sun bears around where she could either see them or catch their smell and of course, there were also more keepers and volunteers around as well. Soo spent her first week clinging to the top of the den, refusing to shift dens for cleaning to be done or even coming down to take her food as long as she knew that keepers were still in the bear house even if they were not standing in front of her. Once she settled down in bear house, the next step in her rehabilitation process was undergoing fence training. Surprisingly, Soo was first to pass fence training among her friend. As soon as Sika, Kina and BJ passed their fence training, all of them were released into Pen G, a small forest enclosure. This time around the transition from a small enclosed space; which was very familiar to her to a large open space was tremendously difficult for Soo.
After a few of month, Soo did not touch the soil in Pen G and it was decided that her entire group would be shifted to Pen K as an effort to get Soo living her life as a wild sun bear. When Soo, Sika, Kina, and BJ were released into Pen K, the initial results were similar as Soo refused to step down to venture into the forest while the others were quick the enjoy the much bigger forest enclosure. It also took Soo few month before she gathered the courage to step on the concrete flooring of Pen K, a flooring that is much familiar to a sun bear like Soo. After a combine of seven months, the bear care unit spotted Soo venturing into the forest enclosure. Although she was brave enough to indulge herself with nature, by afternoon, Soo would be back to bear house, on the all too familiar concrete flooring, waiting for the keepers to bring her back into the bear house later in the evening. In March 2021, Soo and her friends were once again shifted to Pen G as per the rotational practice under BSBCC. Unfortunately, the cycle repeats itself for Soo as she has yet to set her paw onto the ground of Pen G at this point of writing.
The rehabilitation process undergone by Soo with BSBCC has been a long and slow process. The reaction that Soo has been giving throughout the process clearly indicates that she is a traumatised Bornean Sun Bear. The actions of us, the human-beings have robbed her the essence of living her life as a sun bear; especially when she was a mere cub which could have lived peacefully with her mother for at least two years, learning the way of a sun bear.
Sun bears are a totally protected species, protected by the law in Sabah. It is illegal to hunt, to be kept as a possession or to be involved in any activity that could cause harm to a sun bear. Sun bear cubs are cute but it is also a reason for the depleting population of sun bears in the wild and the growing cubs end up having a traumatising lives just like Soo’s. Please say no to illegal wildlife trade and if you happen to see any sun bears being sold, you can alert the Sabah Wildlife Department or BSBCC.
As for Soo, BSBCC would continuously put in the effort to aid her with the rehabilitation program. We would also like to convey our appreciation to Perbadanan Insurans Deposit Malaysia (PIDM) who is adopting Soo under the My Bear Adoption Programme which further aids in our cause to give a second chance to the rescued Bornean Sun Bears in Sabah.
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 Mohammad Naqiuddin bin Alipudin
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Kala is a 6 year old, adult female sun bear in BSBCC. She arrived at the BSBCC in January 2015 as a cub and she was separated from her mother at an early age. She was actually being illegally traded and someone bought her with the intention of surrendering her to Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit. Upon arrival at the BSBCC, she showed signs of dehydration, emaciation and malnutrition; basically in a very poor condition.
However, Kala is treated full of care here and has been progressing into a strong adult sun bear. She was introduced back to her natural habitat, the forest, on June 2016.
Kala loves wandering in the forest, foraging in the soil, biting tree bark in search for foods such as invertebrates like earthworms, termites and pill millipedes. With her sharp claws and full set of canines, she has no problem to bite through the tree bark or any wooden logs. Walking around the forest alone is really her thing. She would find her favorite spot and just sit there, sunbathing under the rich sun rays before going back to foraging again, or sleep on dead logs.
She loves being in the forest, just like how humans like being at home. Most of the time, almost every day, she doesn’t go back to her den and spends the night out in the forest. As adventurous as she might be, she’s still learning several survival skills and hopefully, she will soon be completely rehabilitated and able to be released and live on her own in her natural habitat, away from humans.
In the bear house, Kala stays with Susie 2 in the same den and her neighbour, Bintang. All three of them went out to the forest together. When Bintang had a grumpy moment, she would growl at both Kala and Susie 2 after the door is opened. However, it didn’t affect their bonding at all as there is no aggression. Susie 2 sometimes growls back. As for Kala, she is one chilled bear. In their den, she will rest alone on the platform and remain unbothered.
Even during feeding time, unlike other bears who are so eager to get fed first, Kala would only come down when she really is hungry and she has no problem sharing foods with Susie 2.Kala is not really fond of new people which is really good being part of her natural instinct. When she feels threatened, she knows how to defend and fight for herself with a warning bark. She is cool around other sun bears but not around human. She is always observant. When any keeper enters her neighboring dens to clean, she lies down and watches from above, sometimes sniffing then barking but when she gets bored she falls asleep!
Kala is not only an adorable sun bear but also strong and brave. Her journey whilst at the BSBCC has been positive and she still consistently improves, mastering skills for what it takes to be a wild sun bear and keeping in touch with her natural instinct. She loves the forest, the air, the sun’s rays and playing in the greens that grow on the rich soil. Hopefully, she will soon be fulfilling all the criteria of a wild sun bear and able to be released in the future. Good days are coming Kala!
Dodop was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department in 2nd June 2016, where she was found kept as a house pet in Singgaron villager, Ranau district. Demand from the wildlife trade leads to sun bears being illegally stolen from the wild to become pets, attractions in zoos or used in traditional Asian medicine.
Having been kept long in captivity and habituated to people, she has lost the natural instinct to survive in the wild. Fortunately, with the help and care from our team, Dodop has finally learned what it is like to be a wild sun bear. She loves hanging out on the tree! Please share her story!
Video by Chiew Lin May
“And soon there will be here - taking first steps into true FREEDOM!”
The bears have blossomed into the wild bears they were meant to be!
Here Sunbearo and Loki take you on a journey to release into their protected forest. It was encouraged to see how they take a huge step to begin their new life. Wishing them well on their journey to freedom!
Sun bears release program are very costly. Please support and help us give sun bears a second chance at a life in the wild. We are incredibly grateful for the support from our supporters, volunteers for always be there for making sun bears return to the wild.
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 By Dr.Yeoh Boon Nie
Photos By Seng Yen Wah
“Yay, Betung is 2.0kg today!” the joyous shout from the cub care team at the BSBCC.
Betung is a malnourished sun bear cub rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on 21st August 2020 . Her background story was similar to many other rescued cubs at the BSBCC. They claimed she was found walking alone in the forest and then raised by a villager since April 2020.
Betung, however, is different.
Inappropriate care and chronic malnutrition resulted in possible irreversible damage to her health. Betung was terribly stunted and estimated as being 6 months old. A healthy sun bear cub at this age can easily achieve 10kg. Unbelievably,when Betung arrived at the BSBCC on 26th August 2020 she was a mere 1.4kg.
At day 33 in BSBCC, Betung weighed 2.0kg. A 600g weight gain may seem insignificant to most cubs. But for Betung, this gain indicates a promising health healing process. The cub care team cheered at this moment.
Raising her is by far the most challenging task in BSBCC. Not just because she is tiny but also her health status is severely compromised. Her blood test showed reduced red blood cells, white blood cells and total protein, which are consistent with malnourishment. Her immune system is also severely impaired. She is weak,easily succumbs to infection and is bald due to mites and fungal skin infection. In addition it was discovered she suffered from hypocalcemia,shown from the thin bone cortices in the radiography result. This finding also implied that a minor traumatic impact such as a fall, can break a bone. Betung is very delicate and fragile.
Another challenge we faced in raising Betung was she did not respond well to the milk substitute we have used in the past 8 years. Her gastrointestinal absoption disorder was worrying us. Her appetite and weight gain was inconsistent at the beginning. We had to source special milk formula for Betung. Fortunately with the introduction of a new formula, she appetite has greatly improved the team is relieved that her weight is now steadily increasing day by day. She has even started to pick up solid food and has transformed into a bright and playful sun bear.
Betung’s case emphasises the importance of nutrition in one’s growth.
We pray both that her stunt growth and impaired health condition are reversible and that she will grow into a normal adult sized sun bear.
Time will prove it. A 25kg grown up Betung will be a beautiful sun bear.
P/s: Please adopt Betung to make a difference.
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!
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.