Text by Vincent Chin Yung Fook
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
As we know, all of the Sun Bears in the (BSBCC) currently were either from being rescued or people sent the bears to the centre. In the wild, the bears are known as seed dispersers, forest engineers, and forest doctors. They climb, build nests, dig holes, forage, mate, etc and these are their normal behaviours.
But living in captivity restricts the bears’ normal behaviour by limiting the availability of their needs. Thus, with the help of enrichments, normal behaviours of the bears can be maintained even within captivity.
Enrichment is the process of improving or enhancing the quality of life. There are many types of enrichment including environmental, food, sensory, social, training, and object based.
All of these enrichments can preserve and conserve the natural behaviours of the bears. The variability of behaviour also can be increased and reduce the stress level of the bears at the same time.
Just like us, at home without the variability of things that we can do, surely, we will get stressed and try to find things to do. It is the same for the bears, instead of foraging and doing other normal behaviours, the bears might be pacing and doing other abnormal behaviours because of stress.
Preparing enrichments such as the Aussie Dog Ball and hammock for the bears can reduce their abnormal behaviour and their stress level. Spreading a little bit of honey or peanut butter inside the ball can train or trigger the sensory areas of the bears to smell and lick the balls. The existence of a hammock can encourage the bears to climb up to the hammock and rest on it.
Another example of enrichment is termite mounds. This is one of the types of food enrichments and the bears really love termites. In the forest, they would forage to find termites by breaking apart decaying woods, but here we prepared termite mounds for the bears to feed on termites.
Enrichments are just like tools or mechanisms that help bears to keep their normal behaviours. Seeing animals that stress and exhibit abnormal behaviour is just depressing. Helping them even with small things is enough. So let's take our chance to help them.
Video by Chiew Lin May
Fulung came to us as a cub where he lost his mother and was found by a villager. Fulung, 10-years old now has grown up to be a healthy and active bear. He has won our hearts through his charming and smiling bear in the centre.
We are so thankful to everyone who stood strong for Fulung’s second chance of freedom. Here Fulung would like to tell you how he learns to be a wild sun bear. Please share his story!
Text by Niklas Wellerfors
Photos by Chiew Lin May
My name is Niklas Wellerfors and I am a student from the school Spanga gymnasium in Sweden. I am doing my internship here in Borneo taking care of the sun bears. This is a very rare opportunity I have been given that not too many people are able to experience. This is a once in a lifetime experience and I am truly grateful for it. Sadly we are being sent home early because of certain circumstances. You could call it unlucky, but as I see it, I am still lucky that I even could be here for the time I was. I got so much out of it even with the lack of time. It is really crazy being able to see the rainforest and not only that but also taking care of the animals that live in the rainforest. The thing I like most about the sun bears is each bear is very different, they all have their own personality just like humans. Some bears are small and cute, and some bears are big and feisty. Some bears absolutely love carrots while some bears would really prefer pumpkin. Some bears sit like a human eating food and some bears climb up somewhere to eat. Each bear has a different sun mark. My favourite bear is Bermuda, he is big and feisty, and really likes to eat. Over the short time being here I noticed stuff like this while feeding or cleaning and it is like you slowly get to know each bear. Even though the time was too short to learn every name of the bears, I got to learn some of their personalities. Not only that, but I also got to know the staff here which are really funny and helpful. Before coming here, I knew very little about sun bears but now I know the importance of helping them. It is so great to even help a little in saving these small, cute bears and knowing I did something for them feels so good. I would really recommend everyone reading this to volunteer at BSBCC or just do something small like spreading the message of the sun bears situation.
Text by Hafsa Mohamed Ahmed
Photos by Chiew Lin May
My name is Hafsa and I did my internship as a volunteer at BSBCC. At first I had a bit of a hard time adjusting to the climate, food and the work here. But never in my life have I been so well taken care of, at every corner I had someone I could ask for help or just to converse with. Being here made me realize the important work they do for the sun bears and for the people who come and visit the centre. Prior to this trip I had little knowledge about the sun bears and how important it is to preserve them. Now I have learnt that by preserving them you make a difference for all wildlife here in Borneo. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to learn and grow as a person here and now I know that I want to do this type of work for the rest of my life. Thank you so much for your hospitality and kindness, BSBCC! I will be back soon!
Text by Muhammad Khoirul Afandi
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Hi! I am Khoirul, one of the staff for ticketing come shopkeeper at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. All of the ticketing staff had been given a task for two weeks to get experience and to gain more information about how the operations generally occur in the bear house. Since I started working here, this is actually my first time working in a bear keeper role. This was a good chance for us to gain some experience so that we, as frontline staff, can give some new information that we did not know before.
On my two week training, the bear house offered a lot of work and required a lot of energy! The tasks given at the bear house included cleaning the bear cages, preparing a lot of food for the bears, feeding inside and outside the bear house area, completing fence checks, creating enrichment, etc.
I have gained so much experience and I have learnt so much during these two weeks that it is hard to know what to include in this blog post. I want to say thank to those who were involved in giving me a lot of information and helping me during my training program at the bear house, especially to my buddy (Danny) and for all the bear keepers.
Some of the pictures during my training program at the bear house:
Text by Gillian Gabriel (UMS Intern Student)
Photos by Chiew Lin May
This story is about Kina, BJ, Sika and Soo being released to the forest enclosure for the first time in their lives!
Attempt in releasing Kina
Among the four bears, Kina appears to be more curious about her surroundings because she is the first one that was brave enough to go out on the first day of the release. Although on the first day she spent most of the time staying on the ramp, she managed to pull herself out of her comfort zone. On the third day, Kina gracefully went out to grab some food and ate it. While enjoying all the fruits, there was the sounds of a chainsaw and blower. She continued to enjoy eating her food and went back inside the cage right after she finished eating. It seems that to Kina, food is way more important than anything else and nothing else can distract her while she is eating!
However, moments later, Kina decided to go out again and explore the surroundings. She continuously went back inside the cage every time she went out. Kina seemed so relaxed being in the outside world as she roamed around gracefully and used her incredible sense of smell to sniff around the area.
On the fourth day of release, Kina was now confident to go outside. She roamed around the forest enclosure, foraged, and at some point, she also dug the woods and the ground to find some termites to eat. Due to her high curiosity, she managed to explore almost the whole of the forest enclosure!
Apart from that, Kina is also an expert in climbing. She appears to be the most outgoing bear as she loves exploring the world by climbing up trees and enrichment. By doing so, she gets to see different parts of the forest enclosure from different views.
Kina is happy because she gets to enjoy the enrichment that was built by the bear keepers and the previous volunteer.
It was on a rainy day when Kina suddenly decided to climb up a tree. Kina is known to be the most active bear among her other friends and that is not just because she is the first one to go out into the forest enclosure, but it is because she normally prefers to live in solitary by isolating herself on top of a tree or an enrichment. Even before she was released to the forest enclosure, she loved spending her time alone, resting and climbing.
Attempt in releasing BJ
At first, BJ was afraid to go outside. He would normally stay on the ramp and watch from afar. However, his curiosity has built up as he saw his friend, Kina, gracefully walking alone at the forest enclosure. Determined enough to step out, he finally, most likely slowly, went out to the forest enclosure to experience the outside world himself. It was soon enough when BJ finally felt secure when he stepped outside. He began to love being outside.
BJ still in doubt whether or not he wanted to go outside.
Not feeling sure enough, he just spent the entire time resting on the ramp and looking at the forest enclosure from afar. Questioning whether or not he should give it a try.
Finally, he decided to go down.
Slowly but surely.
His natural instinct kicked in as he inhaled the smell of the earth.
Now that he finally has begun to trust the outside world, he has no problem enjoying his delicious food in the forest enclosure.
Attempt in releasing Sika
On the first day of releasing Sika to the forest enclosure, it was really a tough one as she refused to go out, even with many trials. Food was scattered all over the place so that she had the urge to go outside. She normally stayed on the ramp and instead of pulling herself out to experience the forest enclosure on her own, she remained still. She was not curious enough to explore the outside world and apparently, she loves staying in her comfort zone. She loves staying where she feels at ease.
Battling with her own thoughts, Sika finally made a decision to go out. But the only way she got distracted and was willing to go down was when honey was applied all over the stairs. With that, she got distracted by the delicious and sweet taste.
She climbed down step by step, licking the delicious honey that was in her way. What a great start she thought to herself.
Now that she was finally out, she got super curious with her surroundings. She was pretty amazed by the new place that she was introduced to. A new home with a lot more to explore.
Getting super curious, she sniffed around the forest enclosure, foraging and roaming around. Then she slowly started to like the outside world more than where she used to be. The taste of freedom was now in her bones.
Realizing how big the forest enclosure is, Sika then gets super comfortable staying outside. Bigger space for her to roam around. Even though she took a long time to finally decide to go out compared to her two other friends, BJ and Kina, she is the one who spends a long time in the forest enclosure. There are times when she does not go back to the cage at all. Sika also loves climbing as much as Kina does, she will spend most of the time on the tree and not want to go down.
Attempt in releasing Soo
Being kept as a pet at a very young age makes Soo less confident to interact with the outside world. Traumatized by her past, she is less active than the rest. Days of attempting to release Soo to the forest enclosure have been difficult as she only stays on the ramp or inside the cage. Not brave enough to go out.
However, she still tries to fight her trauma by taking baby steps and she still tries to build up all her courage. Even though she only stays on the ramp most of the time, she is still able to witness the outside world from the cage.
Instead of using the stairs as the trail to go down, she climbed down from the ramp. This shows that Soo is really attempting to go out. However, she still needs time to be fully ready.
I hope that in the future, all of the bears, Kina, BJ, Sika, and Soo are comfortable enough to stay outside in the forest enclosure. They were kept as pets before, and being kept inside a house has now built curiosity for some of them, such as Sika and Kina. This is why when introduced to the outside world, they got so excited and preferred to stay outside. The taste of freedom excites them. However, this does not apply to BJ and Soo. Instead of building curiosity, they are in fear. Fear of what the outside world is actually like. It takes time for them to build up their trust. With that, a release to the forest enclosure is a great opportunity to give them the life that they deserve and to promote their natural instincts.
Text by Ezi Nurayu binti Abd Wahab (UMS Intern Student)
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Along, the beautiful name given by his previous owner. Yes! He is a male sun bear. He is rescue bear 49. Before he came to BSBCC, he was placed at Mini Zoo Hot Spring in Tawau and was displayed with Simone, a female sun bear, in the same enclosure. Both of them were surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department in early January 2016. After that, they were quarantined at Lok Kawi Wildlife Park.
Along showed his aggressiveness once the transportation cage was being moved and he was continually barking. He was pacing fast inside the cage and kept barking at people passing through. Maybe he felt threatened due to the new environment. But, no worries, Along! You will be safe here. Big hug!
At the time they were integrated, Along became hyperactive once he met Simone.
During my observation of Along, he kept climbing on his cage and looking in Simone’s cage to see Simone. I am so confident that he wanted to play with Simone at that time.
Along did his fence training in August 2016 and he successfully passed in that session. Finally, Along knew how to prevent himself from getting zapped by the electric fence. He was one step closer to the forest enclosure. Bravo Along!
Along’s first time stepping out to the forest was on March 19th, 2017. He improvised to adapt in the new environment. He knew not to go close to the electric fence. He was very alert with his surroundings. He kept looking into the next enclosure to see them and what they did.
As you can see in photo,, Along is frequently climbing up his cage to get himself into the basket. Then, he will take a nap in there. He is easily woken up by noise made by the other bears. So, that is why he only sleeps for a little while.
Along was enjoying himself finding the hidden dog biscuits inside the dry leaves. He is actually a very good food explorer. He is enrichments number 1 lover. No doubt! He wants to be the first to receive the enrichment from the bear keeper. Or else he will bark at you and make some noise! You can see his hot temper in this situation for sure!
By looking at Photo 7 above, don’t you feel scared? He has strong canines! But, do not worry, no harm on you! Because……he is in his cage!
He was readying himself to play with the enrichment in a standing position. He was struggling to take out the food inside the enrichment by using his long tongue. When he could not take it out, he then lost his temper. Either he tried to break the enrichment or paced in his cage.
Along was enjoying himself by playing with his swing honeycomb enrichment. He successfully pulled out the ginger leaves (on the floor already) from the honeycomb. Later then, he used the power of his strong sensory skills to explore the honey inside and licked it out by using his tongue.
As you can see in photo, he used his maximum energy to destroy the rotten wood. He was digging up the wood by using his strong claws and long tongue. He maximized the enrichment usage. No waste to the playful things is Along’s motto! Not to forget, he is a very good enrichment breaker too!
You know what? Along’s enjoyment of the enrichment can be clearly shown when he plays with the Aussie dog ball and the fire hose pocket. He played with them until his body rolled him up like a swiss roll. But, a black swiss roll version of course! Unfortunately, I cannot video him to show you. I only have words and for sure you can imagine how funny he is in that time, can’t you?
Based on my observations of Along, I have found out he paces back and forth, especially in the morning and while not in feeding time yet. He is a very good eater and his food is always finished. He can only sleep for a little while because he is easily woken due to noise which mostly he stays and sleeps on the basket in his cage.
Whatever your personality is, we still forever love you.
Enjoy your time in your current place.
Because one day, you will leave this centre and us as well!
Let’s fight together to achieve your dream to go to your original habitat soon!
Stay healthy, always……
Text by Vincent Chin Yung Fook (UMS Intern Student)
Photos by BSBCC & Chiew Lin May
Kudat, a lovely 12-year old, male bear currently being kept in Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). A little bit of story about Kudat’s past life, Kudat was originally captured from Tawau district but was sent to the Kudat district.
He was kept and presented as a ‘Panda’ together with his female friend, Panda, at Victoria Mini Zoo, Kampung Parapat, Kudat. The bears were confiscated in 2010 by Sabah Wildlife Department after the public had complained due to animals being kept in an unsatisfactory environment. It was revealed that the bears were kept illegally.
Kudat, together with his friend Panda, were living in a small cage with no natural habitat at all. Wild animals belong to the wild and are not for entertainment. Due to increasing rates of people wanting to see wild animals, there are more people tending to illegally capture and confine animals for profit. We are fortunate enough that there are still many people who want to protect wildlife.
Last month, I was given a task to observe Kudat for his behaviours in the Bear House. For the 10 days I was observing Kudat, I noticed that Kudat was a very observant bear. Every time the bear keepers or volunteer passed by his cage, he would eventually sniff and observe them for a few seconds. Kudat likes to hear the sound of keys jingling. When a bear keeper (Pradeep) who usually hangs his keys to his pocket starts walking towards Kudat’s cage, Kudat peeks from his cage to where the sound of keys is jingling.
One of the things that Kudat likes is his hanging basket on the wall. Kudat usually sleeps in the basket and he seems so peaceful sleeping. I guess he really likes that basket. Kudat also likes to play with water. He would stand, reach into his water container and use his paw to splash water to his body.
Kudat is not as aggressive as other bears. Every time the other male bear (Along) started banging the guillotine door between the forest enclosure and Kudat’s cage trying to pick a fight with Kudat, Kudat would just sit back in his cage and enjoy his own sweet time.
Although Kudat is cute, he can be rough when he meets a female bear. When integration through body contact was made between Kudat and Simone, Kudat had a rough play with Simone. All we can say is, Kudat is really a playful bear. Indeed, they are cute and adorable, but remember, they are meant to live in the wild. The 10 days observing a particular bear was just not enough. I wish to have more time to observe and understand more about their behaviours.
Text by Gillian Gabriel (UMS Intern student)
Photos by BBSCC & Chiew Lin May
Hello everyone, my name is Panda and you might think that I am a round, fluffy, black and white bear that loves eating sugarcane. Yes, you’re right! I love sugarcane but I am not round, nor even fluffy and not a single white spot on my body. I have a black, sleek fur and I am pretty short. When I was younger, I was kept inside a small cage and was named after the sign that was pointing towards my cage.
I was kept together with another sun bear, his name is Kudat. Kudat looks exactly like me and looks nothing like a panda. The truth was revealed when I first arrived at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) on the 10th of July 2010, it turns out that I was right the whole time, I am a sun bear!
On the 6th of July 2010, Sabah Wildlife Department and the team at BSBCC finally came to the rescue!
Besides not looking round like a panda, I still have a perfectly round stomach. Probably because I love to eat! However, I am still considered as fit for my age. Lucky me!
Yes, that was me. But the picture was taken from the wrong angle, I’m slimmer, I swear!
I was unhappy back when I was kept inside the small cage. I was fed with chicken meat the whole time and there was barely enough space to roam around. However, as you can see from the picture, I finally have enough space for myself and I love sitting and leaning against a tree especially on a bright, sunny day. So relaxing!
In the forest, I love spending my time exploring, observing the environment, roaming around and relaxing. When I return back in the evening, I will splash water all over my body and as the water reaches the ground, I will lay down with my stomach facing downwards and will move my body slightly. That is just a way of me cooling myself down after a while in the forest.
How can I be mistaken as a panda? I have no dark circles surrounding my eyes but instead, my whole face is just plain dark. I am thankful enough that I was finally recognized as a sun bear.
It reminds me of when I was first brought to BSBCC, I was in quarantine for 30 days. Despite being in quarantine, the staff introduced me to new friends (Natalie, Ah Lun, Julaini and Rungus). They are so nice. I learned and developed my social and survival skills from them and slowly, I kind of trust all the staff here. They take great care of me, they feed me with healthy food and they even give me toys to play with.
All the rehabilitation processes I went through helped me to overcome the trauma due to being locked and kept inside a small cage for entertainment purposes, and these processes taught me to behave like how a normal wild animal would do.
The rehabilitation processes that I went through included fence training and the integration process. While learning and developing my survival skills, I realized that I am capable of doing a lot of things. I can crack open a coconut in seconds, can dig deep holes so that I can reach termites at the hollow of the tree branches and have an incredible sense of smell as I can smell honey from far away. Yes, I love honey so much and so do the rest of my friends here. Honey is like our main diet!
I am grateful for all the efforts given by Sabah Wildlife Department and Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) since day one. Because of them, I finally have the life that I deserve. I hope that in the future, no other sun bears are mistaken as Panda. The thing that appears to be so appealing on our chest area, is our chest mark. That is the best way to identify us.
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.