Text By Leonardo Jainih (Intern Student)
Photo by Chiew Lin May
The primary goal of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) is to promote sun bear conservation in Borneo by creating the capacity to rehabilitate and release suitable ex-captive bears back into the wild forest again. In order to achieve this goal, one of BSBCC’s efforts or actions is by allowing the bears to explore and forage the beautiful forest enclosure around them. Building up a forest enclosure is not as simple as just putting up a fence as sun bears love to dig the ground and to climb over the fence. The fence cannot be too close to the tall trees in the habitat or the more adventurous chaps might be able to venture out into the wild. From rehabilitation program, it actually encourage the natural bear behaviour and reintroduce them to the forest environment. For example, they dig to find food such as earthworms, termites, ants and bettles, climbing trees to sleep, search for honeybees and feed on fruits. In August this year, some exciting for the bears (Cerah, Jelita, Susie, Kuamat, Lawa and Manis) to experience await them. They are all adult female sun bears aged from 8 to 9 years old except for Manis (14 years old). The bears had been waiting for their new forest enclosure (Pen K) after they were moved to the second bear house when medical check were conducted on them weeks ago.
This process of releasing the bears to their new forest enclosure start with slowly open up the guillotine door for them to start their new chapter of life. Fruits such as papaya, watermelon, rambutan and honey dew were scattered around the ramp and on the forest floor. Usually, the bears will start sniffing their new environment and surely eats the fruits prepared for them. However, almost all the rescued bears at BSBCC had this one tricky habit which was trying to grab the fruits at the ramp and left at least their hind leg inside the den, as if to say, “I bet you would not close the quillotine door as long as parts of my body is still inside the den”.
Cerah was the first bear to come out from her den and began her journey to the new forest enclosure (Pen K). She was hesitant to go outdoors at first, sniffing the air and fruits near the entrance to her indoor enclosure. However, after nearly a week with food laid out on a ramp, Cerah took her first official step out to the forest.
As expected, it took a while for the bears to venture, but after a few sniffs and a scan through the new forest enclosure as well, they became more curious and anxious. No one said that this was an easy task as there were few bears took about 6 months to finally stepped out from their den and foraging the forest.
Cerah is one of Jelita’s bestfriend and roommate. She is a clever and curious young lady-bear, who tends to welcome new faces with a friendly sniff. Whenever new enrichment activitiy is introduced, Cerah is not one to follow her stomach. Unlike Jelita, Cerah is always curiously to seek out and explore the new toys before finding the food, even if it is one of her favourite treats. That is why Cerah was the first one to come out from her den to the forest enclosure.
Finally, Manis was the last bear among all six bears stepped out from her den and start exploring her new environment with high curiousity. In the end, Manis get to shares her enclosure with five other sun bears (Cerah, Jelita, Susie, Kuamut and Lawa). Despite all of this she equally likes her own space and if she is not in the mood for company, she lets the other females know quickly to leave her alone. It can be concluded that this plan is a successful one as it took only a month for all the bears at Pen K step out to the forest enclosure everyday. In no time, they remembered how to be wild sun bear again by digging at dead wood in search of insects like termites and beetles, and exploring and roaming the forest in peace.
Our hope is that one day they will confidently walked out and be ready for the wild forest but this is not an easy task. It really requires a huge amount of resources if it is to be done successfully. Therefore, it is very important to help them to remember how to be bears again so that they can survived in the wild without our help.
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
Chin was rescued from the Tawau district where she was kept at the primary school’s mini zoo. On October 20th, 2014, we relocated Chin to our BSBCC bear house to join a gorgeous group of bears. We started to introduce Chin to other female adult bears so that they can live together. Integrating sun bears is a helpful process through which the bears can develop and learn pertinent skills for survival in the wild. We hoped the integration would go well.
Chin was introduced to the adult female bears which included Susie, Kuamut, Tokob, Cerah, Jelita and Lawa. Because it would be too overwhelming for Chin to meet all six sun bears at the same time, one by one introduction was started for the first seven days. Through the expressions of Chin’s behaviour, she could not wait to play with other female bears. Five of the female bears were very pleased to have a new playmate, inquisitively sniffing and offering a friendly paw to Chin. Chin is very playful bear! A few months on, they continue to enjoy and learn to understand each other better, and no aggression was noted. They would play chase, climb around and share enrichment with each other. Their friendships blossomed.
Here are couples of photos shows the integration Chin with the other female adult group.
Integration Chin with Cerah
Integration Chin with Jelita
Integration Chin with Lawa
Integration Chin with Susie
Integration Chin with Kuamut
However, Tokob did not welcome the newcomer. Tokob’s reaction toward Chin was very strong, growling and barking on a defensive way. Tokob has a very strong sense of curiosity, but maintains her distance around Chin. Tokob is very alert, and demonstrates a bit more dominance than Chin so we will have to be patient while this integration unfolds. We will continue to monitor these two bears until we are certain that they are good playmates and we will keep you updated on their progress!
Integration Chin with Tokob
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
This rescue did not change the world that we lived in, but it definitely changed the whole world of these three rescued bears!
Why does sun bear’s survival threatened? Sun bears are threatened for various reasons; one reason in particular is humans. Human activities pose many threats to sun bears and their habitat. Intensive illegal logging paired with increased agricultural expansions are just two ways in which humans are forcing sun bears out of their homes. Illegal animal trade is also leading to the extinction of sun bears. Mothers are being killed so that their cubs can be taken in as pets; many of which end up in small cages, and due to a lack of knowledge on how to properly handle the babies, often times they become malnourished and traumatised. This needs to stop if we ever want to see wild sun bears living happy and free in the rainforest!
This past July, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre received three rescued sun bears named Ronnie, Susie and Chin. These three rescued sun bears arrived at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre from the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo in Kota Kinabalu.
We prepared a quarantine area for the bears which included a den enriched with decayed wood, climbing structures, hammocks, and green leaves. Upon arrival to the centre we unloaded the bear’s cages and secured it safely to the gate of the den. When we opened the doors the bears were hesitant to go inside. All three of them were slightly stressed from the move, but eventually each one entered its new home and began to explore.
All newly rescued bears must undergo a month long quarantine period so that wildlife veterinarians can conduct an extensive health check, blood and hair examinations, and monitor the body measurements of the bears.
Ronnie, a five month old female sun bear cub is always capturing people’s attention! Her history is still unknown but we believe that she was kept as a ex-pet and was sent to the BSBCC on July 15, 2014. Her mother was most likely killed by poachers, and now, this kind natured gentile sun bear is quickly adjusting to her new surroundings.
When Ronnie arrived at the centre, she weighed only 7.9 kg and took the spot as youngest bear at the centre, as well as one of the smallest. Now her weight is 10.8 kg.
She is learning all the skills pertinent to survival in the wild. She is also enjoying this learning process very much, and loves to play in the dirt! She also likes to dig, and tear apart the dead wood around her.
If we give her ginger leaves or decayed branches, she will spend an entire day biting, twisting or tearing apart her enrichments.
During play fights, Ronnie likes to show her small curved canines and sharp claws.
Now that Ronnie is getting plenty of milk and fruit to eat she is developing a big belly too!
We special made a new sleeping platform for Ronnie so that she can seek shelter and hide when she encounter strange condition.
Aside from playing in her new environment, she also enjoys her nap time and snoozing on her sleeping platform.
The chest mark of Ronnie similar to sun shaped with sprinkled with light black dots.
Susie, a 3 year old sub-adult female sun bear came to the centre on July 15, 2014. She was kept illegally as a pet by an individual who bought her from the Pensiangan Village in the Keningau District while she was still cub. He paid RM 200 for Susie. The owner's son then surrenders Susie to the Sabah Wildlife Department on June 2014. The previous owner fed her primarily rice, meat, honey and fruits. Susie now weights 23 kg.
Susie can be short tempered and rather sensitive, and is quite aware when strangers are around. When food is present, especially her favourite varieties of fruits, she eats extremely fast.
Susie has a large and broad chest mark with a “meteor” at the middle of her body.
Chin, an adult female sun bear, arrived to BSBCC from Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo on July 22, 2014. Chin is named after the primary school that she was rescued from in Tawau, a town in the southeast region of Sabah. Chin was kept at the primary school’s mini zoo for a very long time and was displayed illegally in a small metal cage. She was previously fed fruits, bread, and milk while she was kept at the school.
Upon arrival we discovered that Chin is missing her left hind claw, which for a human would be the ring finger on the left hand.
Chin may look like a heavy and grumpy bear but she is actually a gentle and friendly bear.
We believe that Chin was never given any enrichment when she was kept at the mini zoo, which explains her curious behaviour towards enrichment activities. Here at the centre she is finding more and more activities to enjoy! Chin loves to tear things into pieces, such as dead logs and coconuts, and is a big fan of ginger leaves! She also loves playing in the water and enjoys splashing water out of the water basin onto her chest.
Chin's chest mark
Well, these three new bears are doing well at BSBCC now! The bears slowly put their past behind them and are learning to live like wild bears again! Next step for the rescued sun bears will be integrating them with other bears, and slowly giving them access to the natural forest enclosure. The bears are in good hands with our caring staffs, and have been nurtured back to health. Throughout the day we provide different types of enrichment for the bears, and allow them the ability to freely explore, play, and forage. These activities stimulate their natural behaviour and help to prepare them for life back in the wild. Currently the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is taking care of 35 rescued sun bears, and is delighted to care for these bears!
Text by Gloria Ganang
Raising environmental awareness to children through storytelling about animals. A brilliant approach for kids to understand about the importance of environmental protection. Joyce Malmo, author of this book volunteered in Borneo and went through tough experiences. This has changed her perspective about the world around her and she was inspired to share the amazing environmental stories to the children.
Teachers, guardians and parents out there, check out these amazing animals stories and share them to the children. It also features the story of one of our bears, Susie!
This book is currently for sale as an “eBook” as starter to generate enough fund to publish in paper format. Joyce is very kind to donate 10% of the sale to BSBCC for our education activities.
You can purchase this book online through this link:
Text by Ng Wai Pak
31st March was a special day in BSBCC. Everybody was cheered up as we were waiting for this moment for months. That’s because we were going to moved three bears into the new bear cages! Please read http://www.bsbcc.org.my/bear-talk-blog/new-bear-cages-finally-done
Susie was the first bear who moved into the new cage. Elis, SOURC ranger, sedated Susie and then she has a medical checked by Dr Cecilia. According to Dr., Susie health was much better compare to the first day Susie arrive at BSBCC last August. Anybody can tell the different on its fur and coating, it’s more shining now!
Due to the shortage of bear cage, she was put into a 122 x 92 x 106cm cage for the last few months. However, now she can have a more spacious cage to stay and hang around! Nevertheless, she can go out to the exercise enclosure that full with dried leaves and branches!
Susie was kept in this small cage for several months while waiting the new bear cage to be finished. Susie also has a new neighbor, Kuamut. She was moved into the cage beside Susie. We hope that Kuamut will get used to her new home and neighbor very soon. Of course, she also can explore the exercise enclosure just like others. If you are our loyal reader, you will remember Kuamut was a pet before with two heavy chains on her neck. Please read story about Kuamut at http://www.bsbcc.org.my/bear-talk-blog/kuamut-our-latest-rescued-sun-bear
The last bear we moved was Suria, the youngest in the centre. She was put into the cage beside Kuamut. For sure, Suria likes her new home very much. Suria was so keen on her cage and started to explore at every corner once she was recovered from the sedation. She even started to climb for the first time! However, we found out that her arm muscle was not strong enough, and need to depend on her teeth to grab on the bars. We are still optimist that Suria can build up her muscle and climbing skills very soon!
After several hours climbing, breaking log and branches, Suria was exhausted and slept peacefully in her new sleeping basket for the first time. I can’t describe how happy when I saw these three bears were released into their new and more spacious cages. However, I still have to pray harder and hope that BSBCC new bear house can be started to build soon. That is because I know more bears are still keep in bad condition, in small and dirty cages without proper care of the their “owners”. I also hope the forest will stay healthy so that the sun bears will never lose their natural home.