Video by Chiew Lin May
Sun bears climb trees to forage for food, rest or protect themselves from predators.
Ah Bui is an arboreal bear. You may wonder what is it that makes Ah Bui such a good climber?
Text by Kam Kai Cheng
Photos by Chiew Lin May
Hi, my name is Kam Kai Cheng from Ipoh, Perak and I am currently 22 years old pursuing a degree in Public Relations in Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman. It is my honor to serve as a volunteer in the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre for two weeks. My reason for joining the voluntary program is to learn more about the Bornean Sun Bears and get step closer towards the nature in Sepilok rainforest. It was an overwhelming experience throughout the weeks in the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre as I learned bear habits and their health conditions. Our daily routine in the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is to clean the bear house in the conservation centre. The purpose of cleaning the cages is very important as it helps to ensure the bear can live comfortably and in good health. If cages are not properly cleaned, the bears may get unwanted diseases from the bacteria. All of the volunteers are assigned to a buddy which is an experienced keeper. My buddy was Jeniur which is from Kota Kinabalu and his nickname is BoBoii. He is very experienced in this field of work and he always likes to be funny around us. He taught me a lot of things throughout the weeks and it was an opportunity where I can learn from him.
Sometimes, we do get the chance to work in the kitchen, where we need to prepare the food for the bears. The task that we need to do in the kitchen is to ensure that all the bears will get the nutrients and diet they need. Besides that, sometimes we do have the opportunity to do fence checking and outside feedings. Fence checking and outside feeding was very thrilling as we need to walk into the jungle to finish our tasks. We need to make sure that all the fences are running well so that the sun bears can not escaped in to the wild. It is always adventurous to do a jungle walk where we will see monkeys hanging around and insects that we could never see in the city. During my volunteering, all of the bears in the Conservation Centre had a health check with the in house veterinary, so to ensure that all the bears are in good health.
Overall, I can say that the experience and knowledge I gained through the voluntary program will be unforgettable and memorable. It is not something that we can learn in a city or town but in the forest enclosure, the knowledge and experience we can get is unlimited. Therefore, I am glad that I had the chance to experience all these by volunteering myself in the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.
Text by Ng Jie Min
Photos by Chiew Lin May
Hi, I am Ng Jie Min from Bukit Mertajam, Pulau Pinang. I am currently 21 years old and studying Bachelor Of Communication (HONS) Public Relations in Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman,Kampar Campus. I do love nature and wildlife, so I decided to join BSBCC and serve as a volunteer in this semester break. This is my first time doing volunteering with wildlife and animals. In these two weeks, I learned a lot about the smallest bear in world, which is “Sun bear”. I also helped to clean their cages, feeding, prepare foods, make enrichment, and participated in their health check and did fence checking.
Thanks to have my buddy Pradeep, who introduced me to the sun bears. I now know that every sun bear has their own name and story behind them. In the food preparing sessions, it was complicated because every sun bear has their own food diet. Mostly we need to prepare a lot of fruits and vegetables for the bears, such as bananas, watermelons, papayas, pumpkins, cucumbers, mung beans, dog biscuits, bak choy, sweet potato and coconuts
Sometimes I also joined the keeper to fence check even though it is raining day. Yuckssss, it is muddy and leeches are everywhere! But I still try to face it because I know that this is a valuable lesson that I cannot get to learn in my life anywhere else. Making enrichment for sun bears is the session that I love the most. Enrichments can make those bears happier, exciting and reduce their stress. I did lot of enrichments including making Christmas present for them!
I was also assigned to observe some bears during their integrations. The most unforgettable moments was when Linggam, Susie and Kuamut love to play with each other. They keep pawing and hugging each other to show their love and kindness. I even got to join Ronnie Boy’s release attempt into Pen G in Day 10. I am happy with that because I saw improvement and hard work pays off.
I also was invited and join Dr. Boon Dental Health Check for the sun bears. BJ who is a male sun bear in the centre weighs 38kg. I helped to get its temperature every 5 minutes during the health check and helped it to clean his teeth. I gained new knowledge about sun bear’s teeth and it was fun to learn about their health. We also had a discussion session with Dr.Wong Siew Te who is the founder and CEO of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. He shared with us his own story and how he met sun bears. He spends his whole life time taking care those wildlife animals. So the name “Sun bears PaPa” really matches him a lot!
One of the tasks that I really enjoyed it was having a communication session with the visitors who come over BSBCC. They ask a lot about the sun bear living style and environment. I have enjoyed this and could tell them what I actually learned here. I also shared with them the experiences of being a volunteer for two weeks’ time in the centre.
Every lunch time, I went to the nearest cafeteria to have lunch. The cafeteria was clean and the boss was friendly. Dinner is usually at the resort Paganakan Dii. The most favourite meal I love here is the lamb chop that cooked in the traditional Paganakan flavour. Yummy Yummy Yummy!
I am a person who is used to live and stay in city areas. So in these two weeks, I learned a lot about nature and got step closer to the nature. I was very happy here because all staff in the working area is so nice and friendly. I promise myself that if I get chance to come to Sandakan again, I will be back to BSBCC to serve as volunteer again. I felt peace of mind when I saw all the sun bears in a peaceful environment. Thanks again to Dr. Wong Siew Te and staffs for teaching me such valuable lessons about wildlife in the 2 weeks’ time.
Video by Chiew Lin May
Do you remember Logan?
Since his arrival at the BSBCC one year ago, he has captured our heart through his brave spirit nature! He was found abandoned near the river and this little Logan has been separated from her mother at a very young age. Little Logan took his own time to adapt his new life to learning essential survival skills as a free sun bear- trusting his new forest home, first bear friends and surrogate mother. Even though his left paw was malformed, he never gives up trying to climb trees.
Logan, 2 years old now, has grown up to inquisitive, happy and playful bear who enjoys his life basking in the sun, foraging lots of yummy food, rolling on the forest floor and absolutely loves climbing trees play fight with friends in lush forest!
We are so grateful for all the love and care you have given him.
Catch a glimpse of Logan's beautiful journey of freedom here.
Text by Lok Yen Chi
Photos by Lok Yen Chi & Chiew Lin May
My name is Yen Chi and I graduated from University of Malaysia Sabah in 2016 with a Bachelor in Conservation Biology. I was born and grew up here in Sandakan. Having a career out of conservation made me miss working in the field very, very much. That was the moment that I decided, maybe I should go volunteering, since I have sufficient holidays to do so. Plus, BSBCC was one of the places that I have never volunteered before. So, why not?
As much as I am fascinated by the sun bears here, I found the people here are even more fascinating. These people could have chosen careers that are way more comfortable than going into the forests looking for dropped collars, travelling long distances to rescue bears, dealing with wild, sometimes unpredictable animals, and working in challenging environment, but they did not.
Instead, they chose to help the helpless, easily exploited animals like the sun bears, who will not be able to return the favours. These are the people whose intentions are genuine, worth respecting and looking up to. Be it the officers, researchers, veterinarians, staff, senior or even junior keepers, whatever they do here is for the sake of the bears’ welfare and well-being. They go way beyond what is in the job scope just to make sure the smallest bears in the world get the rightful care and rehabilitation trainings. This has doubled my already deep respect towards the people in wildlife rehabilitation.
Another highlight of my volunteering here is to see how the once scared-of-forests Ronnie Boy taking his first steps to go back to the wild. It was the sixth day of fence training when I first observed him, where he barely even dared to stick out his nose to sniff the air outside. However, at the time of me writing this, he is already brave enough to approach the entrance to the forest enclosure, stay there to look and sniff around without getting scared easily.
I am also very glad that they allowed us to help a team from UMS to check the mist and harp traps for their medical researches. To be honest, entering the forest at night was not my favourite thing to do but after this opportunity, I guess it is not as bad as I thought.
Last but not least, though it is a bit cliché, I need to express my gratitude towards Bithrenley, my buddy keeper. I am very honoured to be your first buddy in your bear-keeping career. Hopefully the bears will love the Beary Tunnel we made (Idea courtesy of Bit). Thank you too to Dr. Wong, Dr. Boon, Lin May, Thye Lim and Pradeep for constantly teaching me about sun bear conservations. To the other keepers, Jeniur, Roger, Adneen, Adrian, David, Danny, and Mizuno, thank you for sharing your amazing stories, laughter and skills with me. Of course, not to be forgotten, my friend, Nursyahidah Hassim for coming all the way from Kota Kinabalu to volunteer with me this time.
Lots of Beary Love,
Text by Pradeep Gunasegaran
Photos by BSBCC & Chiew Lin May
Linggam, a male Bornean Sun Bear, has been a long residence at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). 2020 will be exactly 10 years since he arrived at BSBCC. Linggam is about to turn 16 years of age but unfortunately he has lived a majority of his life in captivity. He was handed over to Sabah Wildlife Department back in 2004 when he was a just a little cub. He was found at a logging camp at Kampung Pinangah and was brought over to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in the beginning. As he was growing older into a matured bear, he was then relocated to Lok Kawi Wildlife Park before returning back to Sepilok to be cared under BSBCC.
Under BSBCC’s care, Linggam was released into the forest enclosure in 2011 after he went through his fence training. His release into the forest enclosure wasn’t a straight forward process as majority would expect it to be. Initially, he was afraid and wary of the naturalistic world ahead of him and required plenty of ‘baiting’ done to coax him into venturing into the forest enclosure and staying further away from the Bear House. This clearly shows that he was probably habituated to captive surroundings; within bars and on concrete floor and never really knowing that he belongs in the forest.
With the addition of Forest Enclosure 2 in 2015, the sun bears in BSBCC were shifted around between Bear House 1; which connects to Forest Enclosure 1 and Bear House 2; which connects to Forest Enclosure 2. Since Linggam was always released into Forest Enclosure 1 in solitary, he was shifted to Bear House 2 to give opportunity to other sun bears which could get along living a social grouping to be released into the Forest Enclosure 1. Since his relocation, he has not been into the forest enclosure. The situation for Linggam became such because of the amount of sun bears that fell onto BSBCC’s shoulders and being a matured male, he couldn’t go out with the other males and Linggam was known to be combative by his fore ‘owners’. Therefore, more sociable individuals were being released into forest enclosures while the unsociable males had to take turn going out.
Fast forwarding to 2019, an initiative was started to introduce Linggam into the forest enclosure once again. Linggam has been sitting in Bear House 2 adjacent to 5 female bears; Susie, Kuamut, Manis, Cerah, and Jelita, a stable social group of female sun bears that occupies a section of Forest Enclosure 2. It was decided that Linggam would be integrated into this social group because Linggam never showed aggression towards this group of females through the bars that separated them and if all goes well, Linggam would be able to enter the forest enclosure again but this time it would be in a social group setting.
This new adventure of Linggam’s started off with a physical interaction with only Susie in the Bear House. At the first, the slightest and sudden glimpse of Linggam, Susie barked but after getting a good amount a sniffing through a little gap, they had an approving social interaction. After a couple of days, a good friend of Susie’s, Kuamut, was introduced to Linggam. This integration was more exciting as Kuamut was equally enthusiastic about meeting Linggam. Then, Manis, the oldest female in the group was chosen to meet Linggam. Linggam appeared to be most interested with playing around with Manis compared to the other two individuals and Manis was pretty submissive to Linggam’s advances. With such approving integration results with Susie, Kuamut and Manis, another progressive step to releasing Linggam into the forest enclosure was taken. All three of the female bears were incorporated with Linggam in the Bear House, a risky step as the amount of bears have increased in a much more smaller space compared to an actual forest space. HOWEVER, Linggam was not overwhelmed with the amount of bears that appeared in front of him and the three females were not ‘battling’ out for Linggam’s attention.
After a number of integrations between Linggam and the three females, Jelita was decided to be his new social engagement. On the day that Jelita was supposed to meet Linggam, Cerah, her good friend decided to not leave Jelita alone in the Bear House. Cerah refused to enter into the forest enclosure to accompany Jelita, who was segregated into an adjacent pen. When both Linggam and Jelita were integrated, the process went on smoothly. However, Cerah on the other hand was not too happy with the setup as she could no longer see Jelita beside her. Cerah started vocalizing and crying out for Jelita. This behavior of Cerah’s then made us decide to bring Linggam and Jelita to the pen adjacent to Cerah for her to see that integration between Linggam and Jelita. Cerah did not move away from viewing her good friend and she kept calling out for Jelita. When Jelita climbed up to the hammock, Linggam pursued Jelita as well by climbing the bars. At that moment, while the bars were separating Linggam and Cerah, both of the sun bears got to sniff each other and there was no aggression exhibited. It was then, on Linggam’s supposedly first interaction with only Jelita, turned into integration with Cerah as well. ON THE FIRST DAY! During the integration, Jelita was observed trying to protect the other as Linggam would play fight with Cerah but ultimately, the integration had no aggression between the sun bears and was successful.
Then, Linggam’s integration with the female sun bears was continued with days where Linggam would be integrating either with just two or three female sun bears. After sometime, another big step was taken by getting Linggam to interact with all five female sun bears concurrently in the Bear House. The female bears had no issues being put together in the forest enclosure but they would get feisty when placed together in the Bear House. We feared that any form of aggression between the female individuals would trigger the aggression within Linggam causing the entire initiative to go south. Thankfully, the 1st integration of all six individuals worked out perfectly. Linggam was able to play fight with any individual while the other individuals who were not actively interacting with Linggam could just continue with any activity in the Bear House. It was such a heartwarming process to see Linggam’s social skills with the groups of female sun bears. His behaviour was NOTHING LIKE mentioned before. No aggression just pure playfulness from him and he was good a reading their body language.
Today, Linggam is being sent out to the training pen for him to familiarised with a miniature enclosure with electric fence. Upon the completion of this training, he will finally be released back into the forest enclosure with Susie, Kuamut, Manis, Cerah, and Jelita. Hopefully with the help the female sun bears, he would not be scared of venturing into the forest enclosure like before. Besides that, Linggam is also afraid to climb into the high structures in the Bear House. Maybe being in a social group, he will slowly be encouraged by the other sun bears to climb up a tree someday. The thought of seeing Linggam finally behaving like his wild counterparts is what BSBCC is all about, REHABILITATING OUR BORNEAN SUN BEARS!
Dear Santa 🎅,
We have been a good bear all year!
We are doing well and practicing our survival skills and to be a wild bear.
It is the season holiday of the year to make our wishes come true!
This Christmas, buy them a gift including delicious fruits, hammocks, honey pots, enrichment toys, medication and protect sun bears from extinction!to edit.
Video by Chiew Lin May
"Time is running out! The next ten years will be crucial. If we fail, a lot of species will become extinct." - Dr. Wong Siew Te (Founder & CEO BSBCC)
The sun bears is the world's smallest bear species. They can be found in the tropical rainforest of Southeast Asia. Major threats from poaching, illegal pet trade and deforestation are pushing sun bears to extinction. If no action is taken, the remaining population will be wiped out soon.
Please keep the fight to save the species against the threat of extinction!
Video by Chiew Lin May
"Hanging out here for the weekend"
Little Romolina and Logan decide to do digging up for termites today!
Text by Nithisha Nair
Photos by BSBCC & Chiew Lin May
One in a million- Om is an adult male bear at the age of 14 years old, who currently resides in the second bear house and spends his time under the daylight in Pen G. He is considered to be one of the ‘originals’; the earlier bears who claimed their spots in our centre. He arrived at BSBCC when he was 5 months old on the 4th of August 2005, after being found at a plantation spot in Telupid. As his rescue was well before many, the reason for his confiscation or rescue is unknown and not under record. Aside from losing his left fore claw, he arrived in a healthy condition.
Om had been in quarantine for a lengthy period of over four years, until he was eventually transferred to the new bear house on the 7th of July in 2010. His transfer included a physical health check upon arrival at the new bear house where he showed optimum health!
Om was integrated with a bear named Ah Chong, another male bear, on the 10th of April 2010, they both went through fence training the next day together. Ah Chong was the only bear that Om has ever and will ever be integrated with, as Om is a dominant male bear. Any integration attempts at this age with another male will result in fights, therefore Om is now spending his days solitarily in BSBCC since the death of Ah Chong in February, 2011.
Once they were deemed to have passed the fence training, they were both released to Pen D together. This marked their first steps in the forest since their arrival.
Long after the death of Ah Chong, Om was released to Pen G in February, 2016. This is now considered Om’s pen as it is where he has resided up till this date.
Om is a bear who loves his enrichments, and adores his food, he may be a vicious bear, but to me, he is nothing short of independent and well behaved.
Sun bears, being a part of the wildlife, require exposure to the forest and have their very own survival instincts, regardless of if they were raised in captivity or if they spent every minute out in the wild. Thus, keeping them as pets would not only bring harm to the bear’s physical health, but would also harm the owner as well, once the bear starts to develop their own natural instincts.
When sun bears are kept as pets, they lose the part of them that is needed to survive once they live in the wild. Often, bears that are rescued from being kept as pets completely lose the ability to be released back into the wild. They either lose important survival instinct characteristics or are often disfigured in terms of being declawed to ensure the health of their ‘owners’. Their claws are extremely valuable to their survival; thus, the lack of these things prevents them from being released as their chances of survival are severely reduced.
I would like to end this by saying that the bears are a part of our ecosystem, a part of wildlife and a part of the forest. Let’s do our part by ensuring they remain that way.
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90000 Sandakan, Sabah,