Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May, Tee Thye Lim & Seng Yen Wah
Wild is life for all the wild animals. However, the pet trade is one of the reasons that has been constantly threatening their lives. The animals captured from the wild illegally to supply the demand for exotic pets. Most of the bears in BSBCC had been kept as house pets before being sent here. They were kept in a cold, empty and hard cage from a young age. This is before they even had a chance to realize that it was not a natural habitat for them. They never knew their natural habitat is the forest if they were kept in a cage. Therefore, the mission of BSBCC is to rehabilitate and to reintroduce them into the forest environment.
After the release of Kitud , Boboi and Tan-Tan in April 2019 and now one year later, BSBCC team is delighted to share with you that we have released Montom, an six years old adult male bear in the wild on the 10th of July 2020! Montom is a beautiful name that means black in the local language, Dusun. Montom was rescued from Kampung Melangkap, Kota Marudu on the 18th of January 2015 and came to BSBCC on the 21st of January 2015.
Montom’s story began on a day when there was a dog chasing away a mother bear and the mother bear left a cub behind. The cub is known as Montom now. After that, he was taken and kept as a pet in a chicken wire mesh cage and fed with human food for a year. After five years of rehabilitation, Montom has developed excellent forest survival skills. Montom is an explorer. He enjoys every moment in the forest. He loves to dig. His shiny black fur is usually coated in a dull brown colour after a whole day of digging. Climbing is one of his favourite forest activities as well. He loves to rest on a tree and let the sunlight shines upon him. He never gets bored in the forest! Montom always surprises us with his potential. He has proven that he is ready to be reintroduced into the wild!
On the 9th of July 2020, our veterinarian, Dr. Yeoh Boon Nie, conducted a final check-up on Montom. After the check-up, we moved him to a translocation cage. Keepers were closely monitoring him during his recovery from the sedation.
At 4.55 in the evening, the team was getting ready for loading up the translocation cage. This time, we decided to release Montom in the forest at the northern part of Sabah. The planted forest operates by Forest Solutions Malaysia (FSM) of Asian Forestry Company Sabah (AFCS). And hence, we have appreciated the help of FSM in this operation. At 5.05 pm, the bear release team and Montom departed, and they were on the road for an eight-hour journey. It was a long night!
After the eight-hour journey, the team and Montom arrived at the northern part of Sabah and met with the team from FSM. Due to one of our’s car condition is not suitable to go to the off-road, we swap the cage to another vehicle. Then, our release team and FSM team departed together to the release site with a four-hour off-road journey. This release operation is more challenging than any of other release operations ever! The FR is mostly hilly with steep slopes and ridges. However, it’s significance to give Montom a second chance of freedom. When we arrived at the site, the sky is still dark. Montom looked mostly calm in the cage. Maybe he knows today is the day he could be free in the forest! He had been waiting for this moment for too long!
The sky is slowly turning blue. The weather is good. Before opening the door, the team made all the final preparations and site inspections. Montom, soon you will enjoy the freedom of your true home where you are originally from. Once the door opened at 6.18 am, he ran straight into the forest and finally disappeared in the woods. We shed our happy tears for him. Montom is finally free! He is finally home! We hope he finds his happiness and enjoys the adventure in the wild. His movement will be monitored by the BSBCC team all the time. Be wild and be happy, Montom.
The BSBCC team would like to say thank you to the Sabah Forestry Department, the Sabah Wildlife Department, the FSM team and everyone who has given us support and assistance. If you would like to provide us with any support, you can visit our website to get more information. Your help will allow us to sustain our efforts in making a difference for the sun bears’ wellbeing. Sun bears belongs to the forest! Please save the sun bears and let them be happily wild in the wild. Wild is life!
Video by Chiew Lin May
Precious little Bintang had been torn from her mother by a poacher. It is a tragedy to lose sun bears from the wild. Sun bears are protected species by both national and international laws.
Watch Bintang rescue and start to explore her new home - it is a delight to see how brave she is. She is learning and loves the forest world. She looks towards a brighter future. Just look at how happy and healthy she is now! Please share her story!
Video by Chiew Lin May
Mary, the sun bear lost her mother to poachers. She was found dwarf who rescued and arrived at BSBCC in 2011 at the age of two months old. Thankfully, she is now safe, learning the delights of bear life and making and enjoying life. She has a great personality!
Please help us continue to protect them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Your support provides the care and love that keep them healthy. Please share her story.
Video by Chiew Lin May
Did you remember Kuamut?
Rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department in January 2009. At the time of her rescue, she was found had a 2kg of heavy metal chain with a brass lock tied on her’s neck. Kuamut was given medical treatment and care needs to help her regain strength and trust.
We are happy to see her grow into confidence and live a happy life of freedom bear now. Here Kuamut would like to tell you about her life and journey to freedom at BSBCC. Donate today and help the rescued bears during this unprecedented crisis.
Please share her story!
By BORNEOTODAY REPORTERS
KOTA KINABALU: International and local scientists, government officers as well as NGO players convened for the past two days at a local hotel here to identify major recommendations for the conservation of the Malayan sun bear in Sabah.
These will be included in a State Action Plan, just a few months after three other plans, for the proboscis monkey, the Sunda clouded leopard and the Bornean banteng, were approved by the State Cabinet.
For the next two days, Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) are jointly organizing the 2nd International Symposium on Sun Bear Conservation and Management.
Experts from the region will present updates on sun bear population status in the different species range countries such as Cambodia, India, Indonesia (Sumatra and Kalimantan), Lao, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam and West Malaysia, said Dr Wong Siew Te, CEO of BSBCC.
“Several open forums will present the opportunity to discuss some critical issues on sun bear conservation such as poaching and trade; sun bear release, translocation and monitoring; sun bear captive breeding; implementation of Global Status Review and Sun Bear Conservation Action Plan; and ex-situ research prioritization,”he said.
“On the second day of the symposium, we will present to the different stakeholders the several recommendations we plan to include in a Sun Bear Action Plan for Sabah.”
ProfessorBenoit Goossens, DGFC director said they hoped to come up with a long-term vision for the future of the sun bears in the wild in Sabah.
“Uncontrolled hunting of sun bears for Traditional Chinese Medicine, pet trade and habitat loss and fragmentation are considered to be the major threats to the survival of the sun bear in Sabah,” added Professor Goossens.
“It is therefore critical to increase effectiveness of enforcement on the ground, improve the intelligence of the different government departments, and establish connectivity between sun bear populations in the state.”
For the past year, the Sabah Wildlife Department has worked with its partners to produce conservation action plans for most of the Schedule 1’s (Totally Protected) terrestrial species.
Last May, the State Cabinet adopted the proboscis monkey, Sunda clouded leopard and Bornean banteng action plans 2019-2028.
The Elephant Action Plan and Orangutan Action Plan 2020-2029 are being finalized, and focus is now on producing the Sun Bear Action Plan 2020-2029.
“It is crucial that those three new plans are adopted and implemented by the Sabah state government as they are backed by scientific research and expert opinions as well as input from industry leaders and several government departments,” added Professor Goossens.
The Technical Working Group Meeting on the Sun Bear Action Plan and the 2nd International Symposium on Sun Bear Conservation and Management were funded by BSBCC and DGFC.
The organizations that contributed to the two-day technical working group meeting on the sun bear action plan were Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Foundation, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, Danau Girang Field Centre, WWF Malaysia, TRAFFIC, Animals Asia, Free the Bears and Sunway University.
Video by Chiew Lin May
Meet the magnificent animals on earth...Sun bears!
Illegal hunting and pet trade has directly affected the sun bear population numbers. The time to act is now! Please help to save the sun bears from extinction.
Visit www.bsbcc.org.my for all the latest news and find out more about how we are working to protect sun bears.
Video by Chiew Lin May
"It hard to say goodbye but it is their destiny!"
Three sun bears were released back into the wild in Tabin Wildlife Reserve on April 14th, 2019 after four years of rehabilitation at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC).
Watch how Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan have been prepared for their new life in the wild!
Orphaned sun bears who have been given a second chance of survival in the wild, thanks to your support for our work! To make a donation or find out other ways to help, visit the BSBCC website at www.bsbcc.org.my
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May, Tee Thye Lim & Seng Yen Wah
One of the missions of the BSBCC is to promote sun bear conservation in Borneo through animal welfare, conservation and rehabilitation. Giving captured sun bears a better home and restoring their rights to live in the wild by enabling the rehabilitation and release of suitable orphaned and ex-captive bears back to the wild. In the past four years the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) has released four bears in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Natalie (16 May 2015), Lawa (24 July 2016), Debbie and Damai (7 March 2018).
The released candidates are independent, forest loving bears that are skilful in digging, foraging, climbing, and nest building (can be either tree nest or ground nest) and the most importantly they know how to avoid humans. Even though the sun bears have been made a totally protected species under the Sabah Wildlife Enactment in 1997, people are still trying their luck at hunting a sun bear in the forest. There is no acceptable reason for hunting a wild animal; however, it is crucial that sun bears must know how to avoid humans.
We are pleased to share that we broke our record this year by releasing three bears in one go. They were released into the core area of Tabin Wildlife Reverse, in Lahad Datu, Sabah on the 14th of April, 2019. These released were Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan and were all sub adult bears. Each bear has their own story and were rescued from different places within Sabah.
Boboi is a four year old sub adult male bear. He is the only male bear in the release group and the first male bear that we released in the wild. Boboi has a best bear friend, Kitud, she is a four year old sub adult female bear. Boboi and Kitud were kept together in Singgaron Village, Ranau district. However, they originally were from Pitas, Sabah. Both of them were handed over to the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and arrived at BSBCC on 30th of October, 2015. Boboi loves to spend his time with Kitud and he always feels comfort and security when Kitud is around. Boboi has a wide and bright chest mark. However, Kitud has a thin and incomplete “U” shaped chest mark. Besides, her chest marking another discernable feature is that she has brown coloured ears. Kitud is a curious and adventurous sun bear. She likes to stay up high and enjoys playing with the tree branches. Her daily activities are filled with climbing, digging and foraging in the forest.
Tan Tan is another four year old sub adult female bear. She came to the centre slightly earlier than Boboi and Kitud, on the 5th of August, 2015. Tan Tan was rescued from the remote region of Paitan. The person bought Tan Tan with the intention of saving her life. After that, he/she informed the SWD and the Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) who sent her to BSBCC. Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan stayed together in quarantine. Tan Tan is a great climber, she broke the record at BSBCC for which bear has climbed the highest and she knew how to build a nest from just six months old.
A day before departure, the veterinarian from BSBCC, Dr.Yeoh Boon Nie, sedated Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan for a final check-up and the keepers assisted to transfer them to the translocation cages. The team cared for them well through close monitoring. On the 14th of April 2019, at 3 am, the sky still dark, but the bear release team and the bears are getting ready for the long journey of the day.
After the three hours’ drive, the team and the bears reached the Tabin Wildlife Reserve. However, the core area of the forest could not be reached by road. Therefore, the helicopter, model Sabah Air Aviation Sdn Bhd (Bell 206) Longranger Underslung took us the rest of the way there. A group of team members went on the first trip for the preparation and site inspection of the location. The site inspection is used to evaluate and identify the suitability of the release site. Then, the second and following trips included one group of the team member with the bears.
Everyone waited for Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan to arrive at the core area. The first bears to be brought over were Kitud and Tan Tan together, then Boboi. To all be released together. The team carried them with heavy footsteps. It is no easy job to release three bears at once. Everyone was getting tired and sweating a lot. Nevertheless, no one was complaining, because they know that it is totally worth it for the bears and this is what they want.
There were noises coming from every direction; clicking, rustling, bird song, and mammalian call. The rainforest smells earthy and the scent fills the air. It is a new home for them! After the four years of rehabilitation process at the BSBCC, now a new adventure and new chapter of their lives are just beginning. Once the door opened, Tan Tan and Boboi ran straight to the forest. On the other hand, Kitud was exploring her new environment. After few minutes, all of them disappeared in front of our eyes, into the forest. The feeling is complicated for us. But, we are so glad that they finally get the happiness they deserve! Their movement will be monitored via satellite collar. Be brave and strong Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan!
The BSBCC truly appreciate efforts and assistance from all parties to our success. It was challenging but you all made it easier. You can help us by spreading the word or by donating at http://www.bsbcc.org.my/donate.html. Your kindness will help to give the sun bears a better future!
Text by Amanda Wilson
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Every individual has a story to tell, therefore it is only right that a bear’s story is told; a life behind iron bars displayed for people to see, exploited as money boosters through mistakenly presented for something they are not. This particular case involves two sun bears who were previously displayed as Giant Pandas. One of them was Kudat, an adult male sun bear who currently lives at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) who is now 9 years old. Kudat was rescued from a private mini zoo in a district named Kudat, within northern Sabah, where he was kept alongside another adult female sun bear named Panda. They were both kept in a small cemented-floored cage together, where they were fed chicken meat everyday, which was clearly an unfit diet for a Sun Bear. Kudat was named after the district where he was rescued from, although he originally is from Tawau.
It is heart-wrenching to hear that these animals were exploited merely for human’s greed. These animals deserve to be in the wild where they can enjoy being in the forest. According to the rescue report, both bears came from Tawau and were still infants when they were presented as gifts to the zoo’s owner back in 2008 (most likely involving a lot of money). From then on, these bears were labeled as “Pandas” and became the main attraction of the zoo. Fortunately, in 2010, the bears were surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department before being sent to BSBCC. A hopeful journey for these bears began. When they first arrived at the Centre, they were quite tame and adapted to the new environment very fast. In terms of size, both bears were much bigger compared to other bears of the same age, which was probably due to their heavy meat consumption at the mini zoo previously.
As soon as they arrived at the centre, Kudat and Panda were kept in quarantine for specific amount of time before being moved to the Bear House. Due to limited space in the forest enclosure at that time, Kudat had to stay in the Bear House for a few years.
Kudat is a playful bear, although he can be perceived as aggressive, this is his manner of playing. He is a sweet and friendly bear. He loves to play with water and is one of the few bears in the centre that eats fruit peels. At the Centre, Kudat is fed with a proper diet and was able to socialize with other bears like Along and Simone. He was introduced to various types of enrichments and learnt to climb, dig and forage for food like any other bear does in the wild. In his den, he loves to lounge up in his hammock. Before he was released to the forest enclosure, Kudat successfully went through fence training. Fence training is a required process for the bears to be introduced to the electric wires. This is so that they recognize the existence of these wires that surround the forest enclosures to prevent the bears from escaping, getting into fights and so on.
For the bears to be reintroduced to the forest, it takes patience and a whole lot of courage but it is rewarding to see. Being only steps away from the outside, it took some time for Kudat to brace himself and explore his new surroundings for it was pure fear that kept him inside. The bear keepers and volunteers tried various ways to lure him out of his den from drizzling honey on the ramps and forest floor, to placing food as incentives for him to come outside. These tricks did not only help to trigger his sensory smell, but also encourage the bear’s curiosity of the situation. At first, he only took food that was close enough for his paw to grab without stepping outside of the den’s door. He also showed unnatural stretching to grab the food on the ramp whilst keeping his back feet in the door to his den. After some time, he would come out of his den only to grab the food and quickly went back inside.
It took a good two weeks or so for him to have the courage to explore the outside world. We were overjoyed and proud of him! It was touching and rewarding to see him finally roaming around and exploring the greeneries. From only stepping on cemented-floor everyday, he finally got to feel the forest floor. From being cautious of his surroundings, he got more comfortable and acclimated by day. He even climbed up trees and scraped dead logs in the enclosure. He was first released in Pen D of the forest enclosures at the centre before he was moved to Pen L. Recently, due to required maintanence work in Pen L, he had to be abstained from going out into the forest enclosure for some time. However, he is now free to go out again and climb trees, dig and play in the mud like any bear should be able to. We are hoping for more happy stories for more of our beary friends!
Climbing up on trees and playing with enrichments
Text by Ummu ‘Atiyyah Mohamed Talhah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
My name is Ronnie, and this is my story of my life as a bear at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.
I am one of 45 bear residents at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. There’s two other Ronnies in the centre, so sometimes they may refer to me as “Ronnie Boy” in order to not get confused. Who’s the other two? Well, one of them is Ronnie girl. She must be cute. The other Ronnie is also a “Ronnie Boy” but he’s actually a well-grown man, not a bear, working in the centre.
Sometimes I see the staff staring at me and observing me. Some say that I’m handsome. Some say that I look like a pit bull. They say that I have beautiful blue eyes that can be seen when the sunlight hits them. What I know is that I’m handsome and I have a muscular body. Calling me cute would definitely offend me.
By now you must be asking yourself, “Why is Ronnie here and not in the forest?”. Well, I was kept in a small concrete floor cage together with a friend, Diana at a resort in Tawau. We were kept to be displayed to the resort’s visitors and the small cage was my “home” for years. Luckily for both of us, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre rescued us in 2013 and I have been in good hands since then.
I was diagnosed with heart problem by the vet during my medical checkup. The centre has been taking extra care of my diet to ensure a healthy and balanced is provided to me. My favourite fruit is definitely bananas! During fruiting season they would provide us with local fruits, which I love! However, I don’t really enjoy pumpkin. I would leave it and only eat them when I’m really hungry later on. One time, one of them gave me a pill millipede, which I guess is a food source for us sun bears? It smelled funny. I squashed it, left it and don’t even bother to eat it since it doesn’t look tasty like a banana.
How do I spend my time? I love hanging around especially in my basket, like in the first picture. Unlike other bears that sleep in the basket, I would sit at the edge of the basket and balance myself by holding on to the wall with my long claws. I love chilling there and just enjoy watching the keepers. I would also watch them when they’re cleaning the cages next to mine, and sometimes I would follow the brush that’s cleaning the wall next to me. They smell funny.
Sometimes they would make special toys for me to play with during my free time. I am usually very focused on only one toy at a time. If I’m not done with an enrichment, I won’t be bothered by another enrichment. However, I will surely move on to the next enrichment when I’m done.
One time, I was given an Aussie dog ball. I love that toy! The ball was filled with my meal, porridge. I tried pouring the porridge like how I would do when drinking coconut water but I got startled when the porridge dripped on my body. Silly me! I tried many ways to get my porridge and finally found the best way for me which was to roll the ball, lick the porridge that poured out, roll, lick, and repeat until the ball was empty. Yummy!
Another enrichment they always give me is the nest ball. It’s a ball that looks like a nest made of weeds with a sweet surprise inside. Usually I’ll get bananas and some honey. Yum!
One day, I was given another Aussie dog ball. Inside, I saw a nest ball. Hmm this is tricky. I must get this! But wait, did my neighbour , Bermuda get the same thing? I climbed up my cage to peek at him and saw him totally focused on a similar ball like the one I got. I must get my treats before he does! Bermuda always thinks he’s a more macho guy than me.
I immediately went back to my ball and clawed my way into the hole of the ball to get the weeds out. By the first minute, a small nest ball came out. Turns out, the nest ball is three times smaller than the normal ones but there’s more inside the aussie dog ball. The next one was a little harder but by the fourth minute I managed to get it out and already devoured the second piece of banana. The last mini nest ball was out after five minutes and a half since I started. This enrichment was harder than usual which usually took less than a minute but good things don’t come easy!
I love almost all of the enrichments they give me because enrichment means more treats for me! However, I don’t really enjoy the termite mounds they give me. They kind of bore me. I got excited at first, scratched it a bit then leave it. I only really destroy it during the night when I got bored.
The toys they give me really help to get rid of my boredom. The toys give me something to focus on so I won’t get easily stressed out.
By now you must have another question, “Why hasn’t Ronnie been released back to the forest?”. Well, there are a few criteria in order to be a good release candidate but for now, I haven’t fully met the criteria. I am still thankful to everyone in the centre that made sure me and my friends (Bermuda included) are in the best possible environment for now. In my dreams, I am running and climbing all the tress with yummy fruits high up in the tree.
Thank you everyone who is reading my story about my journey and thank you for contributing in any small way you can, to ensure a happy life for my friends and I in the centre.