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 and Photos by Chiew Lin May
Sun bear cubs are extremely adorable. The rescued bears we have received were taken from the wild and became victims of the illegal pet trade. To obtain the cubs, their mothers are usually killed before their young are snatched. Kipaku’s story begins from a lifetime of being a house pet. Kipaku had been kept for three months by a family in Tambunan, after they claimed they had found the cub wandering alone around the forest fire area. He was fed with fried fish, milk and rice – an inappropriate diet! The owner decided to surrender the cub to the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit on 16th July 2020, and he was sent to BSBCC on 18th July 2020. Kipaku quickly adjusted to life in his new home. Kipaku’s health is improving gradually. He now weighs 10.60 kg.
Sun bears of his age in the wild would be reliant on their mother, but he has already lost his mother and his home. Without his mother’s guidance, the chances of survival in the forest are slim. Here in BSBCC, the first step of rehabilitation for Kipaku was starting a daily forest walk with a surrogate mother.
On the 6th of August 2020, Little Kipaku got a second chance to learn as a wild bear. He found the courage to set his paws on the forest floor!
His surrogate mother will accompany and assist Kipaku to develop his survival skills, the knowledge he needs to thrive in the wild and ensure he receives the best possible care. During the walk, daily behaviour and ecology is recorded.
We found out he has strong instincts – like climbing, resting high up in the tree canopy and looking for wild food. He remembers tall trees and rivers! He is quickly practicing the skills and is exhibiting good natural behaviour which he has not known since he was stolen from the wild as a cub. But there was some concern with Little Kipaku, is he too habituated to human presence. Sun bears are being susceptible to poachers upon release. Therefore, cubs will be exposed to minimal contact with humans during the rehabilitation process.
Sun bears are opportunistic and will eat almost anything – small vertebrates, termites, earthworms, larvae and their eggs. He has an incredible sense of smell. Once he locates his favourite grubs, he will quickly use his claws to tear open tree bark then slurps out the food using his long tongue.
Every day has a new tree bark to satisfy his curiosity!
He can spend hours in a day foraging on the bark. He is very smart! He is always keen on trying out new things. He will check out every corner of the forest.
Kipaku loves to snack on soil too – high with mineral nutrient! Being the youngest male bear at BSBCC, he enjoys getting into mischief and exploring around - beginning his new life where he really belongs! It is important to keep him psychologically and physically fit.
“Climb, climb and climb higher!” – His most favourite activity when he is in the forest!
He is an agile and tree loving little bear! He shows confidence when he climbs! He has strongly curved, pointed claws and naked soles – adaptations to the arboreal lifestyle. He is busy in the canopy searching for food. Sometimes, he does not care whether the tree branches can support his body weight. He just climbs through the branches and munches on leaves or tears the tree bark. When he misjudges a branch which snaps under his grasp, he will quickly grab it or fall to the ground.
He can perform a full range of natural behaviour. Doing what bears do…!! He is free to do whatever he wants –FREEDOM!
He enjoys rolling around and taking a nap in the forest canopy. He will stop by the river for a swim.
After a few weeks of outings, he has become more and more adventurous and active. He has left his past behind and continued to develop his forest skills during the forest outings.
The little bear is doing so well. It is remarkable to watch Little Kipaku explore free into the depths of the jungle. He certainly has the instincts for a future in the wild. Please keep fighting to stop poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. Let them stay where they belong to – the wild!
Text by Dr. Yeoh Boon Nie
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
A sunny day, we were excited to receive the very first satellite signal emitted from Montom’s GPS collar, indicating the released bear was exploring the new home, and passing by the adjacent forest reserve. Montom is an adult male bear that was returned to wild on 10th July. Our heart sank immediately after knowing a sun bear cub was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department and on the way to BSBCC.
Early morning on 18th July, an estimate 4 month old sun bear cub arrived in BSBCC. He came from Kampung Kipaku, Tambunan. So we named him Kipaku, straight forward, huh. While the cub care team still observing and learning Kipaku’s behavior, we received another bad news that one more rescued bear cub was arranged to BSBCC. On the late night in 27th July, Itam, an approximate 7 month old female cub arrived in the center.
BSBCC is established with the primary mission to rehabilitate the rescued sun bear. We are saddened by the fact that sun bears are still rampantly poached. And the cub, their cuteness is a curse, sought-after as pet. The morale in our team was low at that very moment.
Both Kipaku and Itam shared the similar background, but the two have distinctive different personality in insecurity. They both were kept as household pet after being found alone in the forest. What happened to their mother? Mama bear will not abandoned her cub unless she was threatened or died.
Kipaku is a sweet chubby bear that attached to human. He cry when no keeper around to keep him accompany. He was “trained” to eat fried fish with rice, and hence he dislike fruits and vegetables.
Itam, on the other hand, is a fearful bear that constantly wary of surrounding. Any noises will startle her. She barked and charged at keepers every morning. She would tip toe walking to explore the cage. She relaxed when no human around.
Dear Kipaku and Itam, we feel so sorry that you both loss your mother and endure terrifying event at your infant age. We will take care of you now. Your wild instinct and lessons taught by your mother will guide you through this rehabilitation journey. Five years later, hopefully, we will return you home, like Montom!
We have not giving up.
Video by Chiew Lin May
“The best GIFT you could have given to them was a lifetime of FREEDOM!”
Montom released back into the wild on 10th July 2020 after five years of rehabilitation at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC).
This is wonderful and really makes us know that he deserves it! We wish him the very best with his new freedom of life in the wild!
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!
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!
Video by Chiew Lin May
“Tearing tree bark is one of my favourite hobbies!”
Bintang is enjoying play and tear up bark!
Text By Seng Yen Wah
Photos By Tee Thye Lim, Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
On the 18th of September 2018, a human-bear conflict report was made by a village known as Abai, situated at the Kinabatangan River, Sabah, Borneo. The report was about a Wild Sun Bear who entered into a house’s kitchen looking for food. The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) with the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) decided to take action and investigated this case.
In order to protect the humans in the village as well as the bears, a bear trap was set. The bear entered the trap on the same day at 11 pm. The bear was darted and a body check-up was carried out on site by Dr.Nabila, a veterinarian from SWD. The bear is male, who weighed 39.6kg. An open wound was found on his left front leg. Four of his paws were found cracked and roughed. Due to his health condition, he was transferred to Sepilok for further treatment before relocating to another site.
The bear is named as ES because he has been found at the village just 300m away from the ESCOM base camp. He was then renamed as Ace and marked as the 59th bear to have been rescued by BSBCC. Ace was staying in quarantine whilst his health improved and keepers were monitoring him closely. A full body check-up was conducted again after two weeks by Dr. Nabila and Dr.Reza, a veterinarian from Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA). Even though his front leg had healed well, his paws remained cracked and rough, however, we now believe this feature may be due to natural adaptation. After the medical check-up, a satellite collar was installed on him. The satellite collar is used to monitor his movement in the forest.
The last health check is conducted on him and found his wound clean and almost fully closed. Now he weighs 45.25kg with collar. After 46 days of treatment, we are very happy to share the news that Ace, the wild bear, will finally be back to the wild again. Today (6th of November 2018), he is being released back to Kinabatangan by boat, with the help of the team comprised of staff from of SWD, BORA and BSBCC. Ace was transferred to the translocation cage one day before we released him back to the wild. The team is gearing up at 5 am. We load up Ace and started to head to the Jetty that is located in Sandakan town. The day is cloudy and started to rain before we reach our release site. It took some time to find a suitable release site to load down the translocation cage. This is because the cage with Ace in weighs more than 100kg and is difficult to carry on and off the boat. Eventually all is ready and the time came to pull the rope that released Ace from the translocation cage, back into his natural forest home. When the door of the translocation cage opened, Ace climbed up the cage and looked at all the staff, as if he was saying goodbye and thank you for our help. He then quickly ran into the forest and finally, disappeared in front of us all, returning to his natural home. Stay healthy and stay wild, Ace!
This year, we have received a few reports about the human-bear conflict within the different states of Sabah. We believe the conflicts happen due to the loss of the natural habitat allowing for the diminishing of Sun bear food sources. As a result, Sun Bears are increasingly going near the crops and plantations, even housing areas, in order to find food for surviving. Yet, the villagers are maintaining their life through crops and plantation. So here, if you know any human-sun bear conflict or if it is happening to you, please contact SWD or BSBCC and please do not get close to the bear and never injure or kill the bear. First, Sun Bear is a totally Protected Species in Sabah under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment of 1997. Second, the bear might get aggressive and they could attack you when they feel threatened. Just bear in mind!
Video by Chiew Lin May
Wild food + Freedom = LOVE
Logan has developed his foraging skills in forest. He find out a pill millipede and munching on it! Crunchy!!
Text by Alex O’Keefe (Oregon State University Student)
Photos by Sumira Muis & Chiew Lin May
Completing an internship at the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Center (BSBCC) under Ape Malaysia has been a phenomenal and breathtaking journey. As I progressed through my internship I was able to complete and partake in a number of activities that have benefited sun bears and their conservation. Some of these activities include creating enrichments, structure for maintenance and the bears, partaking in feeding, helping educate the public about sun bears and their conservation needs and conducting observations of sun bears. My specific observations were done every day for two weeks to evaluate the readiness of a male bear named Sigalung to be released into first a training pen (an outside pen connected to the inside doors of the bear house) and eventually an outside enclosure based in the forest. Having the honor to observe this bear’s progression from training pen to outside enclosure was for me exciting and something new. By the end of my observations, I would come to be attached and intrigued by the sun bear known as Sigalung.
First before describing the progress of Sigalung, here’s a little background on his journey to and time at the BSBCC. Sigalung along with a bear named Phin were rescued from a logging camp in Sipitang district, Southwest of Sabah. Likely orphaned by poachers, Sigalung with Phin were alone and would likely have been subjected to a cruel and painful life in inadequate captive conditions. Luckily Dr.Wong and the Sun Bear Conservation team found out about the bears and rescued them when they were (9 years old). Two years ago (2015) Sigalung started training pen integration. It took him more than a year to actually come out of his inside pen and explore the training pen due to fear. Often bears rescued are scared and hesitant to explore anything outside of an inside enclosure as that’s the only environment they’ve ever been exposed to pre-rescue. After more than a year of trying every single day,Sigalung climbed down the ladder connecting to the floor of the training pen and explored around. Following this moment, his confidence grew and his visits to the training pen became more consistent. Nearly a year after his landmark stride I started my internship at the BSBCC.
Two weeks in I began to observe him and his actions in the training pen. By the end of a week I had noticed a very predictable pattern for Sigalung. Immediately when his pen doors would open, he would climb down to the training pen walk in a clockwise circle and eat the food placed in the pen; all the while sniffing and exploring. By the end of two weeks I had concluded that he had comfortably and fully integrated himself into the training pen. It was now time to test our luck with the outside pen.
Before our first attempt at getting Sigalung to commit to entering the outside enclosure, I put fruit and honey outside to entice Siglung into the forest.
Once everything was set up we left the area and opened Sigalung’s inside and training pen doors connecting him to the outside enclosure.
Sigalung conducted his normal routine of climbing down and exploring the training pen. He would look at the open door leading to the forest then quickly move past it with haste signaling anxiety. This pattern of circling past the open door continued until we gave up and decided to try again the next day. The second day offered the same results as Sigalung displayed repetitive behavior comparable to the first day.The third day however, provided different and unexpected results.
The third day stared out similar to the first two days. The doors opened, Sigalung approached the doors but never went outside. He would occasionally army crawl up to the doors stick his head out and grab the food then come back inside to eat. Little progress was being made until a female adult bear named Mamatai in the neighboring outside pen appeared. She came directly face to face with Sigalung then eventually walked away into the forest. Sigalung, be it enticed or aggressive, tried to follow her until he reached the door. He like before stared out but didn’t budge. Then all of a sudden he bolted out of the door and into the forest enclosure! Continuing to sprint, he for the first time stepped on the natural forest floor.
His outside reconnoitering lasted for only five minutes as by that time he quickly ran back into the training pen then into his inside enclosure. Though only for five minutes, Sigalung had taken his first steps in becoming a real sun bear and thriving in the forest. The next two days Sigalung went into the outside pen but only for a similar duration of time. Day six would prove different. Sigalung decided on the sixth day he would not only stay out longer in the forest but also explore farther than he previously had done. Sigalung ended up walking around the entire outside enclosure area!
He had finally conquered his fear of the unknown and is now enjoying the freedom of the outside enclosure based in the rainforests of Borneo! Sigalung has truly come a long way from where he began. From capture to freedom, Sigalung can finally live out his days living as a sun bear should…in the forest.