Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by BSBCC & Chiew Lin May
Sweet Manis has been at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) since August 2009. During the arrival, she was suspected to be pregnant. However, her pregnancy was later found to be a pseudo pregnancy. Manis means “Sweet” in Malay language.
Manis was found having health problems which caused changes in skin colour and dryness. Her health condition has improved with intensive treatment and care. She has received health checks since arriving at her new home. Manis settled into the new environment very quickly. A nutritious and balanced diet was given to her.
Being kept as a pet for years can have an effect on the sun bears physical and mental health. Manis will show more stereotypical behaviours in the dens. It is believed that she was never given any enrichment when she was kept at the zoo, thus leading to her stereotypical behaviour. The volunteers and keepers provide different types of enrichment to encourage Manis’s natural behaviour and for stimulation. Manis is a curious bear that is keen on interacting with the new enrichment toys offered. She now has dry leaves as a bed which she has never had before.
After she finished quarantine period, Manis soon moved to the next stage of her rehabilitation. In 2010, Manis was integrated with the larger adult female bear group – Cerah, Jelita, Kuamut, Susie and Lawa.
Manis and her friends were moved to the new bear house on 7th April 2010, after the construction of bear house 1 and forest enclosure 1 was completed.
Integrating them with other bears will enable them to share and roam the forest enclosure together. It also allows Manis to continue to learn more wild sun bear behaviours. Besides, there has been a significant change in Manis’s behaviour since she has bear pals. Over the years, we have watched her grow into a gentle and dominant adult bear. She is the “grandmother” of the group.
Preparing for life in the wild can be a long process. Sun bear cubs will live with their mother for two to three years to learn the skills they will need to become wild sun bears. But for Manis’s case, she will not be able to be released in the wild due to her old age. But in BSBCC, Manis will be given a second chance to survive as a wild bear in order to let her have the freedom to live in the rainforest.
On July 2012, it was the first time for Manis to begin exploring the forest world when she was released into the forest enclosure and was able to be free to forage, climb, play, explore the world and acquire a variety of other survival skills.
Despite her age, Manis tends to spend more time on the ground than climbing high in trees. This includes looking for termites and taking naps. Manis has adapted well to life as a sun bear and is leaving her past behind her. She enjoys the forest and displays absolute enthusiasm!
We cannot imagine the future for sun bears if they continue being caught and sold as house pets, or their home continues to be lost. We must protect sun bears and their forest. Please help to stop illegal wildlife trafficking.
Susie was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on 07 August 2008. She was being kept as an illegal pet. The owner claimed that Susie was dancing inside the cage. Susie has lost everything –mother, love, wild instinct.
Fortunately, she has given a second chance. Now she is safe and having a lot of fun learning about forest life. She has grown into a beautiful strong bear! 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.
Day 134: The best enrichment of a bear always is another bear!
Most of the rescued bear in BSBCC is being separated from the mother bear and kept as a pet, which causing they spend most of the time having contact with human (direct or non-direct) in the unnatural environment. After living alone in a cage, on 25th December 2020, Little Betung finally free from trauma and now has made new bear friends for the first time in her life.
Through integration, it will help to change these bears' lives and provide them with more physical and mental stimulation, reduce stress, and allow them to learn vital survival skills. Rescued bears learning from each other (bear copying bear behaviour) facilitate the rehabilitation process in our centre - building up their confidence for stepping out again into the forest floor, climbing trees, and self-defense.
Interactions between Betung, Kipaku, and Itam have shown to be positive. Itam & Kipaku help her adjust to her new life and learn how to be a bear again. They enjoy playing, exploring, and making us fall in love with their beautiful smiles!
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photo by Sabah Wildlife Department & Chiew Lin May
A sub adult, male bear was rescued on the 5th of December 2009 in Taman Formosa, Penampang Baru, Sabah. He was found trapped in the farm and was kept in a small iron cage for a very long time. He was then brought to the Lok Kawi Zoo and sent to BSBCC on the 3rd of July 2010.
He is now safe, and we will give him the best chance of surviving in the forest. He was named “Julaini”, after the head welder who constructed the new bear house. During the arrival, he was a very aggressive bear, but now Julaini has become a big favourite for us – nicknamed wrinkled bear!
He has adjusted very well to his life at BSBCC.
During his rehabilitation, proper nutrition and various enrichment activities are given to stimulate his bear behaviours and to help him recover from the psychological trauma of being kept in captivity. Bear care staff will always introduce different types of enrichment toys and new treats for him. He enjoys fruit, coconuts and honey. On the 26th of May 2011, Julaini together with Ah Lun got to meet their new group of bears friends.
During the electric fence training, he appeared to be more nervous compared to the other bears. We never gave up on Julaini and used different types of his favorite food to lure him out to the forest. Julaini has a cataract on his left eye, but this did not let him give up easily in learning to be a wild bear. On the 13th of March 2013, Julaini finally took his huge first steps into a lifetime of freedom in the forest.
He walked slowly and calmly sniffed the forest air!
It was a blessing to watch him be a wild bear again and we were unable to control the smiles on our faces.
Julaini’s eyes widened with the thrill of TALL trees, dead wood, termites and blue sky around him!
Julaini is brave and finds the strength to venture out to the forest.
Julaini can be seen roaming around in the forest with his best female pal, Ah Lun, where they will forage, play fight, protect and get comfort together.
Julaini is not keen on climbing trees. Julaini loves to find a big tree trunk and fall asleep there.
He also never misses his favorite treats –termites and honey! He learns all the skills he will need to survive in the forest.
Over the past 10 years, Julaini has been given the chance to return to his natural habitat.
He seems to have a wonderful time and has proven to us that he is one of the loveliest bears in the centre.
There is a lot more freedom ahead for Julaini to enjoy!
Sun bears are vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The global population of sun bears has declined by 30% in the last 30 years. This is due to the increasing threats to the species’ survival from illegal hunting, pet trade and deforestation, which has led to the rapid decline in sun bear numbers. It acts as a reminder to us all how important the need to protect sun bears from extinction truly is. Please give them a voice!
How do you spend rainy days?
Sun bears live in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia. Their outer layer of fur sheds water. Their coat is thick to protect against heavy rain or branches fall. Sun bear learn how to cope in the rainy season - either play or stay out from the rain. Wawa is waiting for the rain to be over so she can continue to play in the forest.
Sun bears play a vital role in seed dispersal and in maintaining the health of the forest ecosystem. One of the threats to sun bears is the loss of habitat because of the demand for land to grow palm oil or infrastructure. Please help use protect sun bears, their critical forest home, and their future.
We hope that you are well during this unprecedented time. Our hearts are always with everyone. We have been a GOOD bear this year! We are still the beautiful, fun-loving, and brave bears who touched the hearts of everyone we met. Because of you, we can receive nonstop loving care and begin new freedom living in the forest.
This Christmas, buy them a gift to help keep them healthy, heal from their traumatic pasts, tummy happy, enriched, have a safe forest home, and be wild. They absolutely love it! All the best things about Christmas rolled into one 🎄
Wishing you a very happy Christmas and a safe and healthy 2021. Sending a lot of love to you and looking forward to the day we can see you again. Love & Big bear hug!
To buy a special gift: https://www.bsbcc.org.my/shop.html
Background music: https://youtu.be/0qezq-rVb9s
Day 153: Agenda of the day – Be a “Forest Doctor”!
The feeding ecology of the sun bear is “opportunistic omnivorous”. Little Kipaku act as a “Forest Doctor” that helps control the forest pests such as termites. He keeps busy by digging and tearing dead log in search of yummy termites. He has an exceptionally superb long tongue which is used for extracting termites!
Today, Kipaku turns 10 months old and weighs 19.50kg.
Video by Chiew Lin May
Day 108: It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas 🎅
"Dear Santa, I love having a little cozy forest filled with branches, honey bees, tall trees, and termites! I am so excited for Christmas!” –Little Betung
It is going to be her first Christmas!
Text & Photos by Chiew Lin May
Wildlife traffickers are breaking away at the dwindling populations of Sun bears that have pushed these smallest bears to the brink of extinction. Keeping a sun bear as a pet is illegal in Malaysia. Little Betung is one of the victims of illegal pet possession. She was rescued at the age of 5 months old. She had been found by a villager’s dog in an orchard at Kampung Betung, Ranau district in April 2020 and was kept in a tiny chicken mesh cage – in unfamiliar surroundings with no one to comfort her. She would have spent the rest of her life behind metal bars. During the rescue, she had severe malnutrition, was growth stunted, weak, and had a skin problem. She weighed just 1.4kg.
Thanks to the Wildlife Rescue Unit of Sabah Wildlife Department, Betung was saved and brought to a new home at BSBCC. Such a young cub needs special attention since she survives the trauma of being snatched from her mother. We did not give up and knew that a miracle will come to bring this bear back to being a healthy bear. Her appetite has come roaring back as well. Her balanced diet consists of a combination of milk, fruits, vegetables and vitamins. With her nutritious diet, she not only gains weight, her hair is also starting to grow! She now weighs 7.45kg. The chart below shows the growth curve of Betung as a cub (updated 01 December 2020). A real reward, slowly she began to make good progress and a steady recovery. She grows sweeter every day and is becoming more energetic and active.
On September 5th 2020, she is relearning to be a wild bear – getting a second chance at life!
She lacks the skills to survive in the forest because she was separated from her mother when she was far too young. During the ‘walk bear cub’, her surrogate mother will guide Betung during the development stages and teach her how to survive in the wild. Betung learns how to do and practice every day.
Betung now lives a free and happy life like she would have had in the wild. 3 months later, she has made excellent progress in the forest. Little Betung will use her strong claws to dig into soil to search for tasty snacks such as the trace elements or decayed logs in search of termites. She has plenty of opportunities to forage naturally. She is always enthusiastic about exploring new things around the forest and will lead us the way through her favourite trees! She is picking out some favourite spots. She shows to us she is an arboreal bear! She loves climbing tall trees and travelling through the lianas. She finds the bigger trees to hug! This will help strengthen her muscles. She looks incredibly excited. She is perfectly suited to life in the forest! Sometimes she will be cheeky towards her surrogate mothers. She loves blind play fighting, running or rolling about on the forest floor! She keeps up her adventurous and playful behaviour.
We will let the photos speak for themselves!
Throughout her life, Betung has only known a world of trauma. Love and patient care has given Little Betung the confidence and bravery she needs. The round-the-clock care will help her to survive from the trauma she has been through. She has realised she is safe and no one can hurt her again. The transformation we have seen in Little Betung has been simply amazing! Go Betung Go!
It will be a long road to recovery and she is slowly putting her past behind her. We all need to do everything we can to keep them safe. Little Betung can be adopted here: https://www.bsbcc.org.my/share-bear-adoption-thanksgiving-and-christmas-special-promotion.html