Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
After Sunbearo and Loki were reintroduced into the wild in January of last year, we are happy to announce that we have successfully released Wawa, a six-year-old adult female sun bear, back into the wild on February 26, 2022. She is the 11th bear to be reintroduced into the wild by the BSBCC.
Wawa arrived at the BSBCC on the 18th of March, 2016. When she arrived at the BSBCC she was just four months old. She was spotted by the Forest Management Unit (FMU) 16, Pinangah, Telupid District. At that time, when the officer brought her to the FMU, she appeared weak. The next day, they surrendered Wawa to the Sabah Wildlife Department. After that, she was sent to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo and then to the BSBCC.
Ideally, the bear cub will stay with their mother until two to three years old. However, Wawa was found alone, without her mother by her side. She suffered from the loss of her mother. Due to emotional trauma, Wawa was afraid of her new environment. She would become grumpy and start growling. She felt safer and prefered to stay in the den rather than out in the forest.
For Wawa to gain confidence, her keepers provided her with different natural structural enrichments, in a larger exercise den, to enrich her daily life and encourage her natural bear behaviour. Every day she practised her “wild bear skills” such as digging, foraging and climbing. These skills are essential for survival in the wild. Wawa slowly adapted to her new surroundings.
On 17th November 2016, Wawa took her first and brave step out onto the ground in the forest enclosure. Once she touched the ground, she could not wait to explore everything inside the forest enclosure. She has since proven that she is an explorer! She has excellent climbing skills and is one of the most adventurous and outgoing bears in the BSBCC. She is superb at exploring and investigating both the enrichment and the environment. She explores, plays, climbs and rests in the forest. Wawa is vigilant. She is aware of her surroundings. When a stranger is gradually approaching her, she will give a warning bark or even chase them away. She gains strength, confidence and develops her independence. After six years of rehabilitation in BSBCC, she now has the opportunity to live in the wild again!
On 25th February 2022, our resident veterinarian, Dr Yeoh Boon Nie, assisted by the bear care team, conducted a final check-up on Wawa. After that, we transferred Wawa to a translocation cage, and her keeper cared for her wellbeing by closely monitoring from sedation to recovery. At 11.55pm in the midnight, the night sky was clear. The team loaded the cage onto a vehicle. Everything was ready! The bear release team and Wawa were set off for the forest reserves.
After few hours drive, we finally arrived. The sky was still dark. Wawa looked alert in the cage. The team wait for the sky to turn bright. The team then inspected the release site and made final preparations. When everything was ready, the moment finally came. Once the door opened at 6.29 am, Wawa ran out from the cage and soon she disappeared into the deep forest. It was an emotional moment to see her being released into the wild. The real freedom now belongs to Wawa. We hope she enjoys her new adventure in the wild. Her movement will be monitored via satellite collar by the BSBCC team. Stay wild, Wawa!
Last but not least, the BSBCC wants to thank the Sabah Forestry Department, the Sabah Wildlife Department, Yayasan Hasanah, Yayasan Sime Darby and everyone who has been following and supporting us. We can't do it without you. The pandemic covid-19 has affected our centre and caused a huge impact on our income from ecotourism and this is expected to last much longer. Your help will allow us to sustain our cause to promote sun bear conservation in Borneo through animal welfare, conservation, rehabilitation, education and research, giving captured sun bears a better home and restoring their right to live in the wild. Your support will make a difference in the life of the sun bear! Every little bit counts! For more information, please visit our website at: https://www.bsbcc.org.my/index.html.
How do you spend rainy days?
Sun bears live in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia. Their outer layer of fur sheds water. Their coat is thick to protect against heavy rain or branches fall. Sun bear learn how to cope in the rainy season - either play or stay out from the rain. Wawa is waiting for the rain to be over so she can continue to play in the forest.
Sun bears play a vital role in seed dispersal and in maintaining the health of the forest ecosystem. One of the threats to sun bears is the loss of habitat because of the demand for land to grow palm oil or infrastructure. Please help use protect sun bears, their critical forest home, and their future.
Text & Photos by Chiew Lin May
Four month old, female sun bear cub, Wawa was found alone without her mother in a forest reserve in Pinangah, Telupid District in 2016. She was rescued and surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department and has since been cared for at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) as of March 18, 2016. She weighed 4.5kg on arrival.
Upon her arrival, she appeared weak and dehydrated. Sun bear cubs require around-the-clock care and feeding with a special milk formula.
Enrichment programs are vital for captive sun bears as they provide positive mental and physical stimulation. These programs allow Wawa to dig for insects and allow her to climb. Wawa has quite a big appetite and is particularly fond of fruits, termites, ants and honey!
Sun bears live with their mothers until the age of 2-3 years old and until they are grown enough to defend themselves. As Wawa no longer has her mother, our bear keepers become surrogate mothers, giving her love, support, care and the knowledge she needs to be released back into the forest.
On 25th June 2016, she was integrated with Dodop and has developed a good bond! Until today, she preferred spending most of the time with Dodop.
On 17th November 2016, she took her first step to go out to the forest enclosure - first taste of freedom – in the treetops.
Exploring her new home in the dense rainforest. Every time when we started swapping the rescued bears to the new forest enclosure, Wawa was amongst the bravest rushing out to the forest to explore and play.
She is an agile climber. We are always impressed by her agility and balance!
Wawa shimmies right up the tree and loves the sounds of the humming insects! Highly intelligent and inquisitive by nature! Climbing trees, digging for termite nests, and developing the strength and the skills she needs seem to be her favourite activities throughout the day. She loves to play in the dirt so much that her body is full of wood chunks and mud! Wawa has expressed natural avoidance behaviour towards people and barks when sees someone approaching (one of the better candidates for release).
She also reveals her own world of how to survive in the forest, foraging her own food, building nests, climbing trees, and recognising threats. She came from the wild and that is where she belongs, in the forest. It is gradually clear that she is ready to be released back to the wild!
You can make a difference and help every sun bear in our care live their best life in the forest home!
Video by Chiew Lin May
Wawa was found alone in the forest reserve and appearing weak. We believe her mother was likely killed by the poacher. She was only four months old and had not been properly cared for. The little cub was taken to BSBCC on 18th March 2016.
Over time, we noted the amazing changes in her behaviour. Wawa is a sun bear who is here to get the most out of life – freedom + honey + trees! She extremely smart and wild who loves to stay high up on trees! Please share her story!
Text by Natalie Lian Qian Wei (Intern Student, University Science Malaysia)
Photos by Chiew Lin May
Hello everyone! Today I am going to tell you a story about a little bear making friends. Her name is Romolina, she is one year old. She is tiny, but definitely mighty (Romolina is a grumpy bear! Roar!). Not forgetting to mention that she has two friends, Joe and Logan. They live together in forest enclosure.
But first, we must know that sun bears live solitary in nature, and we can only find sun bears together during the mating season or when a mama bear takes care of her baby. Here in the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), helping sun bears to make friends (also known as integration) helps to encourage healthy bear behaviour as the bears can learn from each other of essential skills, conserve space (as we already have 43 bears!), and reduce stress. Before this, little Romolina was already integrated with the other sub-adult sun bears, which include Wawa, Mary, Dodop, Noah and Nano. The integration process was done in an indoor enclosure. However, when they were released to the forest (outdoor) enclosure, Romolina could not live with them harmoniously. This might be due to problems such as territoriality, difference in body size (Romolina has a relatively small body size, which is not good for play-fights), or Romolina’s independent personality. This left a scar in their relationships that needs to be healed.
Therefore, it gave us a mission: Help Romolina to be friends with the other bears again. Each integration session was to be carried out for 30 minutes, in the indoor enclosure of Bear House 1.
It wasn’t an easy process. Besides her bestfriends Logan and Joe, Romolina would run around, growl, huff and bark whenever the other bears approached her.
Anyway, here is a brief summary of Romolina’s interaction with the other bears she was to be integrated with:
Noah is a friendly and playful bear. During integration, Noah would approach Romolina. He chased and wanted to play with her. Little Romolina avoided Noah but there was once, Romolina was “caught” by Noah. Noah bit her in a playful manner. We were pleased that Romolina did not fight with Noah!
As for Nano, during integration, Nano was not interested to approach Romolina and was just minding his own business. Moving on we will talk about her integration with Wawa. Although Romolina would react negatively when the other bears approached her, Wawa is a brave bear as she would still try to approach Romolina. She would go to Romolina slowly, with her head bowed down. Even though Wawa was not aggressive to her, Romolina would still avoid her.
Dodop rarely approached Romolina. However, something happened between Romolina and Dodop during an integration session - A fight! The cause of the fight was an accident, though. Noah was chasing Romolina around the enclosures to play with her, Romolina panicked, ran around and unintentionally, ran into Dodop. A fight then happened between them. We then had to stop the fight rapidly using a bucket of water and a fire extinguisher.
As for Mary, integration did not go well between them too. Romolina would barked and growled at Mary. There was once, Mary attempted to bite Romolina too.
During the sessions, we observed that Romolina avoided all of the bears. She would stay on top of the enclosure, away from the others. Our integration mission in the indoor enclosure thus came to an end. Anyway, let’s hope for the best for little Romolina! Perhaps, one day she will be able to be friends with the other bears again.
Video by Chiew Lin May
Sun bears love hanging out in a tree, as sun bears seem to like to do when it rains.
Video by Chiew Lin May
"Beyond the bound of joy!"
Logan and Wawa were play-fighting on the tree!
Looks how agile they are!
Text by Umadevi A/P Murrty (Intern student, University Putra Malaysia Bintulu Campus)
Photos by Chiew Lin May
We decided to integrate our three cubs with the friendly sub-adult group- Nano, Noah, Dodop, Mary & Wawa. Integration can help bears to reduce their stress-related behavior and they can learn pertinent skills from each other such as survival skills and defense skills.
NOAH – The pretender
Logan was playful and gets along with Noah. At first, Logan was excited and played well with Noah but Romolina and Joe did not really like to play with him as they stayed aside or rest on the comfortable hammock. Logan started to play biting and rolling with Noah, even wrestling for the whole time. He has shown to be a more fun-loving bear that always initiates to play with Noah. Noah tries to approach Romolina several times but she seems less interested in joining to play while maintaining her independence whereas Joe would paw Noah in a gentle way and he starts suckling to seek attention. After sometime, Joe and Noah still spent some time playing cheerily. After a few days of integration, Noah gets closer with Logan and they do love slow fights. Noah also likes sniffing Romolina’s body which makes her feel uncomfortable and run all around the cages. Romolina did learn to defend herself by vocalizing and she is SUPER FAST in escaping from others.
MARY – The lovable
Integration starts when the gate opened on 23rd April 2019 among Mary and the group of bears. Logan initiates to walks into Mary’s cage but he looks less confident in approaching Mary. As soon as Mary saw Logan, she kept growling and pawing at him for a minute. This makes Logan and his group afraid of her and they distance themselves from Mary for some time. Mary also barked at Romolina when she tried approaching her. Joe and Romolina, both bears kept suckling to seek comfort. Since the cage is full of new enrichments to boosts up the new cubs, Mary also found it energetic and she kept exploring it. Unfortunately, towards the end of integration Mary seemed to be stressed out and she starts pacing in a stereotypical pattern. Eventually, they get to know that Mary less plays with them, thus the cubs maintain their distance from Mary.
DODOP – The sleepy
When Dodop introduced to the cubs, she was busy exploring her environment while manipulating the enrichments by climbing up and down. Eventually, Dodop slowly came closer to Joe while sniffing to his body. But, Joe do not really interested with Dodop because she keeps biting Joe without releasing. Joe also showed anger towards Dodop by barking at her and avoids. Romolina shows her interest in playing with Dodop as they chasing each other within the cages, UP AND DOWN. Both bears had their good joyful time. Dodop also enjoyed mouthing and wrestling with Logan whenever the other two were fewer shows interest in play.
WAWA- The explorer
As the gate opens, Wawa being the curious one went into the den where the three cubs were located, and tried to approach Romolina, and sniff her. Romolina enjoys it and she did sniffing, mouthing and pawing in a friendly manner. Wawa wrestled her and they were playing some time happily. Logan, playful bear also did approach Wawa and they get along with each other quicker. They both wrestles for the next 15 minutes NON- STOP! They even had some rough fights which filled with fun and excitement. Whereas, Joe and Romolina were busy foragings while exploring the enrichment.
NANO - The Spy
Nano was introduced to the cubs on 26th April 2019. Nano shows his interest by sniffing at Logan’s back body and ears. Both of them vocalized at each other while Nano offers a friendly paw to Logan. Nano loves the enrichment provided in the cub’s cages and he spent a few minutes enjoying the attractive enrichment. Romolina and Joe were a little stressed and ended up in pacing in a stereotypical pattern. Joe gets angry at Nano when he sniffed Joe’s ears. Instead, Nano and Logan played chasing, climbing up and sharing the hammock while hugging and playing jovially.
In conclusion, Logan loves to spend more time in making new friends and is a very active bear. Besides that, Romolina and Joe, who is less interested in making new friends however they are still trying to patch up with other bears slowly. Joe and Romolina are also known to be the explorer and love to live in their own world. Integration between three musketeer’s bears with the sub adult group was absolutely fine and no aggression found.
Video by Chiew Lin May
Life is meant for great adventures and best friends!
Video By Chiew Lin May
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