Caged, pet sun bears have a sad life. From the day they were captured and kept as pet, most of them will NEVER touch the soil, climb the trees, and dig the ground again.
Many of our rescued sun bears also have the same fate. However, with our state of the art forest enclosure, the rescued sun bears at BSBCC have the chance to enjoy the forest.
Bermuda, a 10 year old male sun bear at BSBCC, was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on October 10, 2002. He live on a concrete floor since he was captured from the wild as a little sun bear cub. For him, the ground is always a smooth layer of concrete floor, until today.
Bermuda finally passed his electric fence training lately. We let him out to his forest enclosure for the first time on Valentine Day Feb 14th. We put food, and honey (all time favorite food for bears) on the ramp to encourage/lure him out of his den. What he did that entire day was pocked his head out to reach the food and honey on the ramp without stepping a foot on the ramp.
This is a very pathetic story for all caged sun bears. To all of them, confined and locked up in a small cage is life. They do not know the world beyond the cage. Rain, soil, trees, leaf litters and other natural vegetations and natural elements in the forest all are something that they never come in contact. The only time when they walked on the forest floor was during the first few weeks or months of their life, until their mothers were killed and they were captured by poachers. To them, forest is an alien nation, fills with unknown bugs and unknown noise; the place that is so strange, unsecure and uncertain. All of our adult bears decided to stay inside the den and not wondering into the forest enclosure when we released them out to the forest enclosure for the first time. It sometime took them weeks if not months to wonder out from their den. Only the young once would go out immediately and enjoy the forest without second thoughts.
Bermuda's reaction when we let him out to the forest enclosure was not exception on Valentine Day. Over the next week or so he still kept himself safe under the protection of his den although the door to forest enclosure was staying open all day long. The food that we left on the ramp and the forest floor has attracted troops of forest bandits - pig-tailed macaques and long-tailed macaques, to enjoy their free meals. Bermuda, sometime I questioned his "male-hood," just stood in his den and watched his food being stolen away by these intelligent primates.
This afternoon as I was writing another blog on Fulung and Mary, Marianne our volunteer from UK rushed into the office, "Bermuda is out to his forest enclosure!" Wai Pak and I grasped our cameras and went down to witness this historic moment. This is the moment where he step foot on the forest floor for the first time in more than 10 years and we do not want to miss that! Although he did not wonder off far from the guillotine door of his den, we can tell from his fast pacing behavior that he was nerves and wanted to go back. Wai Pak then scattered some bread in the enclosure to encourage him foraging and exploring a bit more. He just ate the bread that was close to him without much exploration. After tens of minutes, he finally found his way back to his den and did not come out to explore again.
That was a good start for a captive sun bear willing to wonder off his den on the 7th day. Gutuk, another old male bear still decided to confine himself in his den although the door to the forest enclosure has been open for the past 3 months. I am sure Bermuda soon will gain more confidence to explore the forest enclosure. What he need is time and encouragement. In BSBCC, we will give him both!
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 11th May 2011—Poaching and illegal trade of bears, driven largely by the demand for bile, used in traditional medicine and folk remedies continues unabated across Asia on a large scale, a new report by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, has found.
Bear bile products were found on sale in Traditional Medicine outlets in all but one of the 13 countries/territories surveyed says the report entitled Pills, Powders, Vials & Flakes: The bear bile trade in Asia (PDF, 2 MB). The exception is Macao.
Products were most frequently observed in mainland China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Myanmar and Viet Nam, where they were recorded in over half of all outlets surveyed. The most frequently encountered products were whole bear gall bladders and pills—found in half of the outlets surveyed.
TRAFFIC’s research suggests a complex and robust trade in bear products. Several of the countries/territories surveyed were either producers or consumers of bear bile products, while in some cases they acted as both.
Mainland China was the most commonly reported place of origin for these products across the region.
In Myanmar, internationally sourced gall bladders were reported to come solely from Lao PDR; in Hong Kong, in cases where the source was known, products were reported to have originated in Japan and over half of those offered for sale in the South Korea were from wild sources in Russia.
Domestic trade of bear bile is legal under strict regulation within mainland China and Japan but is illegal in Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam. Regardless of the legality of trade within countries, international trade is not allowed.
Asiatic Black Bears (predominant in this trade) and Sun Bears are both listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which prohibits international commercial trade in the species, its parts and derivatives.
An analysis of the origin of bear bile products found in these surveys makes it clear that import and export regulations are commonly flouted demonstrating a failure to implement CITES requirements to stop illegal international bear bile trade effectively and protect bears from exploitation.
“Unbridled illegal trade in bear parts and products continues to undermine CITES which should be the world’s most powerful tool to regulate cross-border wildlife trade,” said Kaitlyn-Elizabeth Foley, lead author of the report and Senior Programme Officer of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.
The study found that the vast majority of the bear farms surveyed in Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam did not have captive breeding programmes, suggesting they depend on bears captured from the wild.
“The study makes a clear case for authorities to shut down businesses selling illegal bear products and prosecute individuals caught selling, buying, transporting or keeping bears illegally,” said Foley.
“Both the Asiatic Black Bear and the Sun Bear are threatened by poaching and illegal trade. The demand for bile is one of the greatest drivers behind this trade and must be reduced if bear conservation efforts are to succeed,” added Foley.
“Even legal bear bile producers are circumventing domestic and international regulations by exporting products internationally,” said Dr Jill Robinson MBE, Founder and CEO of Animals Asia Foundation, which rescues bears from farms in China and Viet Nam.
“This report, in addition to Animals Asia’s years of research, shows that the bear bile industry is engaging in illegal practices. As pressure mounts on the wild bear population, there are serious questions to be answered on the welfare and pathology of farmed bears, and the risks to human health in those who consume the contaminated bile from such sick and diseased bears,” said Robinson.
The study’s main findings are:
• Bear bile products were observed in traditional medicine outlets in 12 out of 13 Asian countries/territories surveyed
• Bear bile products were available at 50% or more of traditional medicine outlets surveyed in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Myanmar and Viet Nam.
• China is the most commonly reported source for bear bile products
A short presentation can be viewed at:
For further information:
Kaitlyn Elizabeth-Foley, Senior Programme Officer, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Tel: ++603 7880 3940, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth John, Senior Communications Officer, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Tel: ++603 7880 3940, email@example.com
Richard Thomas, Communications Co-ordinator, TRAFFIC. Tel: +44 1223 279068, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Text by Wai Pak Ng
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre received the 20th rescued sun bear on 12th November 2010. This bear is a female adult sun bear that was kept in the Victory Mini Zoo Farm, Kudat, Northern Sabah.
Last month, Ms Reanne Potter and her husband from Australia visited Sabah including this mini zoo . They saw this sun bear and other animals kept in a very inhumane way at the local mini zoo. The couple felt very sorry to the animals and tried to help them. At first, they found Free the Bear from the internet and communicate with them. Eventually, the news was forwarded to us. Without any delay, BSBCC made a report to Sabah Wildlife Department and a rescue operation was carried out by the Wildlife Rescue Unit.
I would like to express greatest appreciation to Ms Reanne Potter and her husband who carried out their social responsibilities and care to our wildlife. Special thank you to Free the Bear for the networking and cooperation. Also, I would like to say a big thank you to the Sabah Wildlife Department for their swift respond and action.
BSBCC is glad to receive our new sun bear and named this female as Rungus, which is the name of the tribal people who lives in Northern Sabah. As usual, Rungus will be living in our quarantine area for a month before we could move her to our new bear house to start her rehabilitation training.
By Dr. Vicki Stokes -BSBCC volunteer; Photo: Dr. Vicki Stokes and Wai Pak Ng
On September 10, Toby the youngest bear at the centre was moved from the quarantine area to the new bear house. He immediately started exploring his new enclosure and was quick to climb and discover the basket bed. He was particularly interested in the bears in the adjacent enclosures, which is a good sign that he may socialise well with other bears. For the first night Toby was left in the enclosure on his own so that he could adjust to the surroundings before interacting with other bears. The next day he was introduced to the young bears Julaini and Ah Lun in the enclosure adjacent. Toby was quick to initiate interaction with Julaini, playfully climbing on his back and following him between enclosures, but Julaini was not interested. Toby was then introduced to Ah Lun, a young female and they really hit it off. They spent the remainder of the afternoon playing and tumbling. Ah Lun is about twice the size of Toby, but it did not deter Toby from wanting to play and interact, and being a good little climber he was quick to follow her around the enclosures. There were many funny moments when Toby toppled over when standing on his hind legs to spar with Ah Lun. He is still not quite strong and co-ordinated enough to balance on his hind legs, but he will quickly develop these skills now that he has other bears to play with. After an afternoon of play, the bears were pretty tired and retired to their beds for a nap after some food. The following morning, all three bears cuddled up together in a basket bed, followed by an afternoon spent playing. Toby is settling in really well to the bear house – he is exploring, climbing, eating well, resting and interacting nicely with the other bears, all important for his development into a confident and independent bear.
By Wai Pak Ng
Ah Lun, our new rescued sun bear cub at the centre had a very fast adjustment in her new den after settle down in her new den. This one-year-old female sun bear once was kept in a tiny iron cage for many months can now stretch all her legs and climb like a primate. Even though she sometimes fells down from where she was when trying to get a good latch-on from her still weak muscle, she never gives up and climbs up high again without showing any sign of fear. That’s the spirit of a typical sun bear, never give up! Bravo, Ah Lun! I am sure you will get all your muscle strength very soon.
Remember, our natural forest enclosures are out there waiting for you, tall trees, yummy honey, crunchy decayed woods and many more! Can’t you hear the birds are calling on you?
Text by Wai Pak Ng
After the medical check up by Dr Seik Ni, both new comers were put into the empty dens at the end of our new bear house. Ah Lun was having a very deep sleep in the first two hours, whereas Julaini waked up much earlier from the sedation.
Once they were recovered from the sedation, they were so curious to their environment, the sounds of the forest, the smell of others bears around, the floor they stand on and the wall they touch. Even though they still keep inside the cages, they are now having more space to stand, stretch their body, or even climb.
I am quite surprise that Julaini did not need extra time to get his muscle functioning, and started to climb to the top of his cage! Compare to Ah Lun, I would say Julaini is much more adventurous. Julaini also remind me that the first day when Suria was released to a larger cage from her translocation cage, Suria fall down as she did not have the muscle strength to hold her body.
I tried to approach them nearer so that I can get their close up pictures. However, they were quite defensive. Even though Ah Lun, the 19 kg female cub started to growl and bark at me when I stand in front of her cage. Besides that, they do pace around their cages, showing their anxiety as I am a stranger to them.
Both of them did show some stereotypic behavior in their first day here. I think that were inevitable for captive animal that being kept in a stress condition for a long time. Lucky enough as they were being rescued at their early age before they form any permanent stereotypic behavior.
For sure, BSBCC will try their best to provide them a better facility and enrichment programme to reduce their stereotypic behavior and eventually gain back their natural survival skills in the forest. Let’s pray for them!
By Wai Pak Ng
All the BSBCC staffs were very excited in the beginning of the second half 2010 because we are ready to rescue more pet sun bears in this region after our new bear house finally completed last April. Today, there were two sun bear cubs being rescued and sent to our centre to start their new life.
Both juveniles, Ah Lun, a female, and Julaini, a male, were both kept as pet in a two small iron cages for some months since they were born. With the help from the newly established Sabah Wildlife Rescued Unit by the Sabah Wildlife Department, both bear cubs were transferred to Sepilok and arrived at BSBCC in the early morning on the 3rd of July.
Dr. Seik Ni was the veterinarian in charged of the whole translocation who also did the medical checkup for these rescued cubs. We were pleased to know that both cubs were in good health and good conditions. However, these two new comers still need to be quarantined for a month before they can have any contact to other existing bears at BSBCC. Our initially plan after their quarantine period is to form another young cub group with another female bear in the centre, Suria.
There are still a lot of sun bears being kept in a very bad living condition without proper diet and health care in Sabah. Hopefully, with the close cooperation with the Sabah Wildlife Rescue Unit, we can help to conserve this little known sun bear in our country.
By SayLin Ong
I am into my final week of volunteering in BSBCC. It definitely feels like time is passing by much too quickly. I am hoping to accomplish as much as I can in the remaining days before I fly home with Yuru.
It is important to keep our mindsets in line with that of BSBCC. It is after all Phase 1 of the project now, and much needs to be done to prepare the bears for Phase 2. The aim is to empower the bears with the confidence to step out into the outside enclosures, exposing them to their natural habitat. In our first 2 weeks, good enrichment ideas were implemented, much credit to Mark and Yuru. Some of these devices are still being utilized by the bears. It is always an achievement to come up with enrichment devices that the animals do not get bored of easily.
From now onwards, we will attempt to implement enrichments with specific goals in mind. 3 bears are of particular concern to us, namely Ah Chong, Bermuda and Manis. Ah Chong is a mature male, somewhat too comfortable in his den. He is definitely the heaviest of the 12 bears in the centre, almost always ground-dwelling, contrary to his species description. Upon being tempted by tasty bananas smeared with honey, his rare display of arboreal skills almost warrant a round of applause from all of us watching.
This here is an unflattering picture of Ah Chong’s rear. The problem with him is that he is curiously afraid of stepping out into the training enclosure, a big area meant for acclimatising bears to the outside enclosures. Our challenge is to try and coax him out, to let him know that everything’s alright outside his comfort zone. More details can be seen in Mark’s post @ http://matahari-bears.tumblr.com/post/644289648/chong-day-one.
Today was the 2nd day using the same method for Ah Chong. He showed an improvement in response to the ‘stimulus’. It was evident that he was very frustrated, with both his best friend Om as well as the log stuffed with treats barely beyond his reach. He constantly looked out at Om, paced around impatiently and tugged at the sliding gates much to our amusement. We held our breaths every time he leaned through his doorway. Hopefully in the coming days, he will be tempted enough to venture out and stay out.
This here is Bermuda, showing off his powerful frame. He was practically in that position for at least 15 minutes trying to tackle his enrichment device. A simple concept designed by myself to encourage Bermuda to be more constructive. I was surprised that he didn’t destroy everything in minutes, the positioning might have made things difficult for him.
Bermuda has the tendency to be reclusive, often not bothering with the leaves and branches that we provide in his den. After meals, he’d regurgitate and eat up the liquid expulsion repeatedly, a sign of boredom that captive animals display. I hope to provide enough enrichments to interest him and hopefully pry him away from his bad habits. He still went back to his rather unsightly habit today after last feeding, hopefully we’ll have better luck tomorrow.
Manis is a special little girl whom everyone has a soft spot for as well. She has the tendency to display the typical pacing behaviour that would make all caretakers worried. She was taken in from a zoo, probably one that did not provide much space nor enrichment for her, thus leading to her pacing behaviour. When she is not socialising with the rest of the females, she would usually be walking in circles in an anti-clockwise direction. It is heartbreaking to see that even her head is tilting in that particular direction while she circles. She also ranks the lowest in her group hierarchy, often not able to participate in enrichments provided to sharing.
This was the device Amanda, Mark and Yuru came up with, an adaptation from the Macaw enrichments back in Night Safari. We managed to confine her to a single den of her own, thus giving her a chance to enjoy her enrichment without competition from the other 3 girls. Manis was so occupied that she left her dinner half eaten!
She did however go back to her pacing habit shortly after. We plan to continue such enrichments for all 3 bears in the hope that they will respond better in time to come.
Posted May 30, 2010 at 12:24pm
The moment that we all have been waiting for are finally here. After all the sun bears were settling down in their new home, the next challenges for us would be the electric-fence training, integration of different bears, and the introduction of the bears to the new forest enclosures were something that will happen over the next few days. These processes are all crucial and important parts of the “bringing the sun bear a better home.”
On April 9, we first introduced the young female group to the hot wire (electric fence) training pen so that the bears could learn to avoid the hot wire in the forest enclosures and will not escape. This is also the day when Annemarie Weegenaar from AAF have to leave us to go back for the moon bears in China. It is like the fellowship of bears slowly leaving again. Separation is always sad. However, we understand that the moon bears in China needed Annemarie's cares and loves for the moon bears.
The training session went well, although slow. Of the 4 young females, Jelita was the champion of all who first understand the message of the hot wire and later feel much comfortable foraging in the training pen and avoid touching the wire. The other bears- Cerah, Kuamut, and Lawa, pretty much followed Jelita but felt less adventurous to wonder around the hot wire training pen and spend most of the time in their own dens relaxing in the bear basket and playing. They never seem to complain much although the den is concrete floor and iron bars wall, maybe this is what they grow up with and get use to- without touching the real soil and without nurture of the forest.
By now we mixed these four young female up. They occupy 4 dens/cells where they can move freely as they wish. We give them and other bears plenty of enrichments such as leaves, browse, logs, ice block, kong toys, Aussy balls, coconuts, water bath, etc. to keep them busy. During the hot wire training session that last most of the day, we open the doors between their dens to the training pen so that they can come in and out of the training pen as they wish. We want to make the bears have a positive experience with these training so that they eventually learn to avoid the hot wires surrounding the enclosures and hence discourage them from climbing the fences in the forest enclosure when they go out one day. We do not want to push them to do something that they are feel less comfortable to do. We work according to their clock.
On April 12, three days after their training, we decided to let this young female group out to their forest enclosure. We open the door of the den for the first time. We thought today will marked history for the captives sun bears at BSBCC because the forest enclosure is the second items beside the new bear house that we all have been working hard for them. The moment that the bear step out from their den and put their feet on the forest's floor will be a historic moment for sun bear in BSBCC and sun bear as a species-a big step forward to save the species. However, what happen in the next few hours to the next few days after the doors of the bear's den opened was something that we did not expect - Only Jelita show interest of the outside world by sniffing the forest air over and over again. She made one step on the ramp that connect the den to the forest enclosure and hesitate to wonder any further. For the rest of the three girls - Cerah, Kuamut and Lawa, they preferred to enjoy their basket nap and stay put in their spacious den.
It is understandable why these four bears hesitate to come out to the forest enclosure. First they are still young (> 3 year old) and sense of wariness to the new environment still very strong. In the wild, they would still be accompanied by their mother who give them security in term of protection and food. Second, perhaps they grow up in a small space and confine to cages pretty much all their life and feel more comfortable in their new house now than the outside world. Nonetheless, we are sure that they will come out from their den one day to enjoy their forest, their home.
Sorry for not be able to blog last night. I was so tired to blog after another long day of moving the last four bears from the old bear house to the new one. I am so pleased to announce that I have kept my promise I made to these bears six years ago- a new home, a new life. The new home and new life of the sun bears in BSBCC would not made possible without the enormous helps from many people, including you who are reading this blog.
Like the first two days, the move yesterday went smoothly. The weather was not too hot with scatter shower throughout the entire day. We first moved Tokob, the most sensitive bear we had, follow by Manis (“sweet” in Malay), Susie and finally Keningau. The joy of placing Keningau into her den to recover from sedation was something that was difficult to describe by words. I hope that the bears understand what kind of difficulties that we all have gone through in order to give them this new home and new life. We do not expect them to repay anything except from having a stronger will to live longer and propagate their species. In fact, we the human species owe them a big apology because it was human who are being cruel to them in the first place to destroy their home, end their life, and keep them in pain. I am so glad that we have come this far, really thank you all for your helps.
Another happy news to share is all of the bears seem happy with their new home. They seem to adapte to this new home slowly. They seem to be more relax, less pacing, and spend most of their time resting and playing. I let these pictures speak for themselves.
The moving of these bears has come to an end, the next stage is electric fence training, and then releases them into the forest enclosure. I will keep you all up-dated.
The BSBCC sun bear moving team (from left to right): Wai Pak (BSBCC Acting Project Manager), Elis (SWD Senior Ranger), Rosli (SWD bear keeper), Rufina (SWD Vet assistant), Howard (Volunteer), Dr. Cecelia Boklin (SWD veterinarian), Audrey (Volunteer), Maria (Oakland Zoo senior vet tect), me- Wong (BSBCC CEO and founder), Annemarie (AAF bear manager).