Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
On January 10th, 2014 a six month old, male sun bear cub (Rescue No-37), was rescued from a Mini Zoo and Hot Springs in Tawau, South Eastern Sabah. Sunbearo arrived to BSBCC from Lok Kawi Zoo on the 10th of March 2014
Thin and dehydrated. His life at the Tawau Hot Spring was spent in a confinement cage. Like so many other rescued sun bears, his mother had been killed and he had been taken from the forest. Based on his teeth and malnourished appearance, it was likely he was being fed the wrong diet. His weight during the arrival was 11.6kg. Originally he was known as Tan Sri, which was the name of his owner from the Mini Zoo and Hot Spring in Tawau. Sunbearo is a special sun bear cub and has been adopted and re-named by Neways International (Australia) Pty. Huge thanks to the support from Neways International (Australia) Pty, which enables us to protect Sunbearo.
Sunbearo has a beautiful tiny crescent sun in the shape of a “V” on his chest!
He was placed into quarantine before being introduced to the other cubs of his own age.
He seemed very fragile as his muscles were not strong due to his tiny size, and he was nervous when it came to climbing. The bear care team gives him and his friends a chance to play in their dens. He was given new enrichment toys and a healthy diet.
He quickly adapted to his new home where he has become more trusting and relishes every fresh fruit. HONEY is not an exception!!
On the 24th of April 2014, Sunbearo and Loki were integrated for the first time.
He slowly started to build trust with the bears and learnt that bears can be great friends. Loki, Bintang, Montom, Susie2, Damai and Kala are Sunbearo’s bear play friends. They love playing with each other.
He enjoys having friends to share freedom experiences with. Slowly, he has put his past behind him and is learning to be a wild bear again.
A shining start to the day! On the 28th of December 2015, Sunbearo had finally overcome his fear and took his first step out on the forest soil.
It is a great pleasure to see the first glimpses of these rescued sun bears stepping out to forest for their first time! Sunbearo sniffed around the tall trees.
He knew that he deserved a better chance to express his natural behavior and learn how to become a wild bear.
He is now outside foraging, climbing and enjoying himself. He loves the opportunity and uses all his senses to forage in the soil!
Sun bears are the arboreal bear and spend their time in trees. Sunbearo and Montom will immediately climb up and wrestle on top of the trees.
His long, sickle curved claws will help him in climbing trees and scraping off tree barks for termites.
He has a strong, close bond with Loki. Sunbearo and Loki can be found loving hanging out and spending time up in the trees, watching everything going on around them.
After four years of undergoing rehabilitation at our centre, Sunbearo has grown in size, skill and confidence.
He is a fussy eater.
If there are special sweet treats in the enclosure, Sunbearo usually hoovers everything up and licks every last bit of honey without wasting it! Around feeding time at the bear house, he can often be found growling for food. But most of all, he just loves foraging for extra protein.
In regards to nest building, we have not seen any tree nest building behavior from him. He will stay a while in a nest built by Loki or Damai.
Sunbearo is doing better and is enjoying life in a natural forest.
It is amazing to see a sun bear that was literally suffering from pet trade now looking healthy, free from pain and enjoying life as a sun bear. Sun bears are threatened in Southeast Asia by rapid poaching, illegal wildlife trade and habitat destruction. Please help us fight to free the bears from their major threats. The exploitation of the greed towards this little known bear species must end.
Do you love sleeping in a comfy bed at the end of the day? So do sun bears!
Check out a two years old sub adult female sun bear, Bintang making some fabulous nest!
Did you know that in the wild sun bears build a safe, comfortable nest to sleep in? Tree nests protect them from predators as well as serve as to be comfortable, safe places to sleep. This is one of the vital skills that their mothers would have taught them in the wild… Check out how one of our rescued adult female sun bear, Damai builds her comfy nest on tree!
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Azzry Dusain, Tee Thye Lim, Seng Yen Wah and Chiew Lin May
Without the BSBCC, many captive sun bears would still live in small cages without HOPE; without the BSBCC many people in the world still would not know there is a bear species called the sun bear
– CEO & Founder, Dr. (Hon) Wong Siew Te, D.J.N
Poaching, pet trade and loss of habitat continue to pose a MAJOR threat to the survival of sun bears. Mother bears are often killed and their infants are sold in the illegal wildlife pet trade. Sun bears are very similar to humans - they cannot survive on their own without their mothers. It is tragic that sun bears are still being found orphaned. Sun bear populations have declined by more than 30% in the past 30 years, leaving the danger of imminent extinction in the wild a very real possibility.
The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre’s (BSBCC) CEO and Founder, Dr. Wong Siew Te has dedicated more than 20 years of his life to raise awareness and save the “forgotten bear species”. Wong founded the BSBCC in 2008 with the goal to conserve sun bears through a holistic approach that of improves the welfare of rescued sun bears, rehabilitation, education and research. Wong was one of the greatest sun bear conservationists.
The BSBCC has received 55 rescued sun bears since its foundation. Currently there are 44 rescued sun bears housed at the BSBCC. Sadly, we have seen a significant increase in the numbers of sun bears arriving at the centre in 2016. This trend is worrying as it shows that poaching is still going wild with rampant sale of sun bears or illegal bear bile medicine over websites and the numbers will continue to rise rapidly until drastic measures are taken to protect sun bears.
A three months old female sun bear cub Tan-Tan was bought by a person with the purpose of rescuing her from being sold in the remote region of Paitan. Most of the bears arrived at our centre will have in different conditions- frightened, stress and with wounds common to bears rescued from pet trade.
A lady decided to rescue an one years old male sun bear cub Nano when she saw Nano was kept in a small chicken mesh cage in Kota Marudu, north of Sabah. She purchased him from the seller for a price of RM1,500, with the purpose of saving his life. Nano was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department and arrive at BSBCC on November 20, 2016.
BSBCC has been able to rehabilitate these orphaned sun bears after their years of trauma from being locked up in small cages and sold in the pet trade. Most of our bears have had an extremely difficult lives having witnessed the death of their mother, traumatic experiences through being sold as a pet, suffered unimaginable abuse, infected wounds and poor diet. Being taken away from all of that they had known...many will show stereotypical behavior and will growl in fear.
This has all changed with the greatly appreciated help from Sabah Wildlife Department. They assist in providing care and medical treatment for rescued bears. Our rescued bears will receive round the clock care from our Bear care team by helping and encouraging the bears to build up their strength as well as learning to trust their cares.
Enriching the lives of these rescued bears is an important part of bear management, which improves the bears’ lives by giving them a second chance to survive in the wild. We will make sure that the bears are having their choices and freedom. Little by little, after each rescued bear has passed their quarantine period, they will move on to the next step in the Bear house – a peaceful and safe place they have deserved all their life! Integrating with new friends, giving them access to forest enclosures for them to learn pertinent skills for survival and last but not least get them ready to be back into the WILD.
Even relishing every chop of fresh fruit, playing with their enrichment, roaming the forest, foraging for insects, inquisitive, exploring, snoozing, climbing trees, finding HONEY bees, enjoying the sunshine, tapping to check weak points of dead logs and building tree nests, play fighting with their fellow bears in the BSBCC. No more pain and letting go of the traumatic life – perhaps they are enjoying the smell of freedom !!
Let look how our rescued sun bears learn become wild bear!!
Most of you still remember Mary, a two months old sun bear cub that she was held captive in a cage as pet. She was found to be very malnourished when she first came to BSBCC because her previous owner did not fed her with milk. Her growth stunted and walking in an abnormal way. Now, Mary has improved a lot where every day for her is a treat of good food, friend and freedom.
Every individual sun bear at BSBCC has their own personality. They are growing independent every day. Strong characters like Amaco, Diana, Tan-Tan, Wawa and Nano have emerged. Slowly the rescued bears realize with their new life that they are now in a different, safer, healthier, and happier bear world which is their own.
For example: Tan-Tan is the holder of the record breaking all records among all sun bear cubs we have had so far: At six months old she could construct a little nest in the tree using broken twigs and leaves. It was truly amazing to see!
Besides that, due to the emotional trauma that resulted from his being kept as pet, Nano was very stressed and in pain. After one year, Nano finally has reduced his stereotypical behavior by spending more time with his bear friend, Noah. He is on the road to recovery. We tear up just thinking how Nano has finally overcome his fear...
Sun bears are beautiful animals in nature. They deserve the chance to go back to the deep forest and to become a WILD bear. We all have two things that the sun bears do not, which is a voice and freedom. Please use your voice to help them and stop the hunting or killing of sun bears, we can make a difference to their future survival. Together we must save the sun bears!
On behalf of our rescued bears, a big bark THANKS to Wong, our supporters, funders, volunteers, friends and bear care team for taking care, supporting and loving them!
Text and photos by Chiew Lin May
On July 30, 2013 Damai, a young sun bear cub, surprised us again. Aside from her quickly developing skills of climbing trees, digging for food, and exploring the forest on her own, she built her first nest today. We are all so inspired by Damai, and her abilities to grow on her own at such a young age.
That morning, around 10:00 am, she began to look very tired, and headed directly towards her favourite tree and climbed right up! Damai has long, sharp, curved claws and sharp teeth which are good for pulling, biting, and breaking off branches. She bends the branches in different ways, depending on how she wants to use them, and builds sitting areas that look much like a bird’s nest. She builds a safe, comfortable nest out of leaves, tree branches, and other material that she finds nearby. Much like the orang-utan, Sun bears spend most of their lives in trees, and place their nests there as well. Nests protect them from predators as well as serve as comfortable, safe places to sleep. After the nest is complete, she plays happily up in the trees until she is tired, and then sleeps or sunbathes in her newly built nest for the rest of the day.
We do not know where Damai learned her nest building skills, and there are plenty of questions still left to answer. For example, do sun bears choose a specific tree to build their nest in, or are the cubs learning where to build the nest from their mothers? Will they will reuse or rebuild the nest ever? These questions leave a great opportunity to learn more about sun bears and their nest-building behaviours. This is an excellent start for Damai! Bravo, Damai!
Here are the photos shows Damai build the nest.
Have you seen a sun bear building a tree nest? I bet you have NOT!
Many people not even know about sun bear or seen a sun bear, let alone seeing one of them making a nest high on top of the trees.
Here is a rare opportunity of a lifetime to see a radio-collar sun bear building a nest in the rainforest of Borneo.
Don’t blink and please hold your breath until the end of the video.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/Vs8wrLqWsWM" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Sun bears in the wild make nest on tree and sleep on these tree nest like orangutans. However, nest building behavior is more common in forest where human disturbance is higher and large terrestrial predators like tigers, and leopards are presence. It makes sense for sun bears to make such tree nest and sleep on high on tree, some as high as 40 meters (128 feet) because it is much safer and dryer on top of tree. These nests usually consist of a pile of tree branches and twigs that are band over from the surrounding centered at a tree fork that close to the main trunk. The diameter of these tree nests ranges from a 1 to 2 meter. Unlike orangutan nest, sun bear rarely snap branches or break branches close by. I still lack of evident that they reuse these tree nests, and believe that they construct new nest every time they need one because wild sun bears tend to wonder a large range, unless there are important food resources available like a fruiting fig tree in the forest. Under this situation, sun bears tend to hang around the area until the food resource is depleted and they have to move on to forage for food. Although the metal baskets that we provide for our captive bears are very different from the natural nest, these bears still love them because these baskets give them a dry, safe, and cozy bed.
You can read more about the nest building behavior in my earlier blog:
Like all of us and all animals, sun bears need sleep (What am I talking about? Of course sun bear need sleep!). But, not many people have seen how wild sun bear sleep in the tropical forest. I bet this posting will be an interesting and eye opening for many of you who see this for the first time!
Sun bears in the wild make nest on tree and sleep on these tree nest like orangutans. However, nest building behavior is more common in forest where human disturbance is higher and large terrestrial predators like tigers, and leopards are presence. It makes sense for sun bears to make such tree nest and sleep on high on tree, some as high as 40 meters (128 feet) because it is much safer and dryer on top of tree. These nests usually consist of a pile of tree branches and twigs that are band over from the surrounding centered at a tree fork that close to the main trunk. The diameter of these tree nests ranges from a 1 to 2 meter. Unlike orangutan nest, sun bear rarely snap branches or break branches close by. I still lack of evident that they reuse these tree nests, and believe that they construct new nest every time then need one because wild sun bears tend to wonder a large range, unless there are important food resources available like a fruiting fig tree in the forest. Under this situation, sun bears tend to hang around the area until the food resource is depleted and they have to move on to forage for food. Although the metal baskets that we provide for our captive bears are very different from the natural nest, these bears still love them because these baskets give them a dry, safe, and cozy bed.
This bear nest was about 35 m (110 feet) above the ground. If this bear (Batik) was not wearing a radio-collar and I was not constantly tracking her closely in the forest, there was no way that I can figure out that Batik the sun bear was sleeping 100 feet above of me. It took me some time to locate the nest and the saw Batik with my binocular that day due to the dense vegetation and the height of the nest.
I used my Canon S1IS to zoom in to the nest (12 X) and took this photo. Because of the think vegetation and the nesting material, we can barely see Batik's muzzle and a hind paw hanging mid air.
After waiting patiently for about 3 hours under the tree, Batik finally woke up from her nap and slowly climbed down from the tree. It was really amazing to see how agile a sun bear could be when she climbed down carefully but swiftly from the tree! The dark spot on top of her was the nest she was sleeping earlier.
Another photo of Batik taking her nap. This time she did not construct a proper nest. In stead, she simply slept on branches that could support her body on top of a medium sized tree about 15 m above the ground. Sweet dream!
Here Batik made a simple nest on a small tree about 2 m above the ground. As you can see, as long there are some supports underneath the body, sun bear can really sleep like a baby! Like all of us and all animals, sleeping is such an import activity for a sun bear daily routine. They need a comfortable bed, place, or spot to sleep and rest. However, many captive bears do not sleep well in the poor living environment that their human owners provide them. I have seen many sad cases where these bears did not even have a clean, dry spot to lay down their body and have a good sleep. They try to keep their body dry and clean by just sit upright with their hand holding on the cage bars. It is a very cruel act by taking away the rights of a good sleep for the captive bears, beside their right to live freely as a wild bear.
Tree nest is one of many ways the sun bears sleep in the wild. I will write more about other ways they sleep or nap in the wild soon!