Text by Nur Athirah Binti Asrif (UNIMAS student)
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Sunbears belong to the wild, in a vast forest and not in a cramped cage or behind iron bars. All the sunbears in the centre have their own despairing stories from before they were rescued. There might be more bears out there that need our help, faint voices that long to be rescued. Sunbears belong in the forest where trees become their shade and bushes comfort them as their pillows. However, not all of them have the opportunity to be able to enjoy the life they deserve. The canopies that are supposed to give them shelter are replaced with a human house, the tree branches for them to sleep and relax on are substituted with iron bars. The state of the 'homes' that are provided by humans are devastating enough, let alone the food they consume. Some of the bears are given only condensed milk by their previous owner, when their true diets range from fruits, insects and small mammals. As a conservation centre, this place provides all the essential things for the bears to experience the life they are supposed to. In the process of rehabilitation, the bears will be released into the forest enclosure after passing their fence training and integration with the other bears. For most of us at the centre, the small steps that the bears take to enter the forest enclosure is a big leap for everyone, especially the sunbears themselves.
This time around is our favorite duo, Noah and Nano. Both Noah and Nano have never been into a forest enclosure before let alone the vast jungle. On the 13th of August 2017, both Noah and Nano were given their first attempt to be released inside the forest enclosure of Pen D. As the guillotine door was opened, both Noah and Nano were full of anxiety. Both of them had never smelt the scent of the trees, nor had they seen the vibrancy of the greeneries. For them, it was like a new world that may or may not be secure for the both of them. Noah and Nano took their turns to take a glimpse outside of the cage. The rays of sunshine gave them a warmer impression of the forest. For their first attempt to be released in the forest enclosure, both Noah and Nano showed a positive response by letting their heads outside the G-door, although they had zero intention to go out in that moment.
Luckily, a great troop from the same pen which consists of Mary, Wawa, and Dodop, came down the forest enclosure of Pen D and had a visit to their new pen-mates, Noah and Nano. As Noah saw Wawa, Dodop and Mary playing under the sun and smothering their bodies with mud, Noah finally tried to walk down the ramp. Noah took a very little and cautious step down the ramp. It took him several attempts to finally touch the ground for the very first time. Noah's paw touched the wet mud but he was quick to retrieve himself and climbed back into the cage. It may have been humorous to us, but it was a bizarre experience for Noah as it was his first time experiencing the feel of the muddy texture. The weird greetings of the forest ground did not stop Noah from trying.
Wawa and Dodop, the other bears who also stay in the forest enclosure of Pen D, have helped Noah a lot in encouraging him to go down. As various foods were thrown into the pen, Noah finally went down and followed the other bears which were Wawa and Dodop. Noah enjoyed himself by playing with the water in the drainage and scraping most of the dead logs in the enclosure. Even the great amount of honey on the ground did not bother him as he was too immersed in his new surroundings. As days passed, Noah became more adventurous like he used to be.
He even climbed the trees which were guarded by Wawa and Dodop. The moment when Noah climbed the tree for the first time was such an enchanting and touching scene, showing how great it is for them to be able to enjoy the forest again. There was nothing in the world that could stop Noah in that moment as he ventured the whole forest enclosure himself. He digs every possible pit, scrapes every stray log and sniffs every inch of the greeneries.
Nano, on the other hand, is still cautious and chooses to stay in the cage by himself. Nevertheless, he always appears to be calm and has his own ways of enjoying the forest. Unlike Noah, Nano has his front legs crossed on the ramp while having his head resting on it. Nano chooses to enjoy the forest in a more calmer way and is more interested in the view of the forest rather than the touch of it.
As for now, Noah has become a part of Mary’s group and has the best time of his life everyday in the forest. Every morning when the guillotine door is opened, Noah is always there getting ready to enter the forest enclosure again to begin his new journey. On the ramp, Nano is always there relaxing and enjoying the forest with his own ways and will join Noah in the forest soon!
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Dodop and Wawa, both one year old female juvenile bears. They have a different story to tell how they arrived to BSBCC. Dodop was rescued by the Sabah Wildlife Department from being kept as pet in a Singgaron village in Ranau district. Her milk teeth had been found missing but now her permanent teeth have grown well. On the other hand, Wawa was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department. She was found in the Forest Management Unit (FMU) 16, Pinangah in Telupid District. They stayed together in quarantine and moved to bear house on 10th of October 2016.
Dodop and Wawa adapted well in the bear house. Due to the capacity of the bear house being limited, Dodop and Wawa were integrated with our sub-adult group. The sub-adult group is consists of 11 bears: Sunbearo, Loki, Bintang, Montom, Susie2, Damai, Mary, Kala, Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan. Limited capacity is not the only reason to integrate bears, 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. Wawa is a friendly bear. She likes to be friends with others by initiating play fights. Compared with Wawa, Dodop is very shy. But, everyone likes to approach her. The sub-adult group liked both Dodop and Wawa. They stay, they play and they sleep together now.
Fence training is a must before the bears are allowed out to the forest enclosure. This is because all the forest enclosures are surrounded by hot wires in high voltage. Having hot wires prevent the bears from escaping the forest enclosure. And hence, the fence training is a learning process for the bears in order to let them know the hot wire will cause them pain if they touch on it. Fence training could be a long period or short period training because it varies with different bears since they have different personalities.
Dodop and Wawa are fast learners. Even though, they had a bad experiences for the first day of the fence training; both were zapped for few times in the first day, because they climbed the fence. When they panicked, they climbed up higher but they did not know that there still were more hot wires waiting for them. When the bear keeper realized they climbed to the electric fence, the keepers did switch off the fence immediately and waited for them to climb down, just switch on the fence again. After they got zapped, they barked and ran back into the buffer cage. After that, their fence training turned negative. So, we tried to introduce Dodop and Wawa with their friends and let them go to the fence training together. This showed positive results. They entered the training pen again lead by their friends. After few weeks, finally Dodop and Wawa passed their fence training! They took the food by using their claws and without getting zapped by hot wires anymore.
On 17th November, 2016, it was a sunny day. And, it was a good day for Dodop and Wawa going out from the cage. Once the guillotine door opened, they apparently felt curious about the world behind the door. They were sniffing the forest scents and keep looking outside, the new environment! And, Wawa took her very first and brave step to step on the ground. Once she touched on the ground, she could not wait to explore everything inside the forest enclosure. She has since proven that she is the explorer! Just in one afternoon, she explored the whole forest enclosure and she met her friend, Boboi, Kitud and TanTan. They were sharing a coconut as well. After that, they were playing and exploring together, it is so lovely!
Dodop is not like Wawa. She took some time to come out from the cage. She keeps looking outside when Wawa was having fun with others. So, she put her four paws on the ramp and kept looking around to find a good ways to touch on ground. She really does not like to step on the muddy area. She was trying hard and finally she went out to the forest enclosure. And, Wawa was waiting for her to explore the forest enclosure together. Their release to the forest enclosure is the chance for them to learn more from their friends. Not only for Dodop and Wawa but for every bear, the BSBCC has a dream that sun bears can be given back to the wild again. We at the BSBCC really hope to help for dreams to come true.
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Wawa is a 11 months old female bear. She was found alone in the Forest Management Unit (FMU) 16, Pinangah, Telupid District on March 11st, 2016. She was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department and sent to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo after that. She arrived at BSBCC on March 18th, 2016. She appeared weak and showed signs of dehydration when she arrived.
Dodop is a one year old female bear. She came to the SBCC on June 2nd, 2016. The Sabah Wildlife Department rescued her from being kept as house pet in a Singgaron village in Ranau district. She had been found with missing all of her milk teeth. But now her permanent teeth have grown into strong and sharp canines.
Both of them have been growing well in quarantine. So, now is the time for them to meet their big brothers and sisters in bear house. They had to undergo a general health check by Dr. Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam, a veterinarian from Sabah Wildlife Department, Wildlife Rescue Unit first. Both of them had been proven healthy. Their new friends could not wait to meet them and gave their greatest welcoming bark to them.
Before Dodop and Wawa moved to bear house, bear keepers prepared lots of enrichment for them. They not only build a platform and a hammock to provide them a resting place, but they also went to collect dry leaves and decayed wood. This is because Wawa is a playful bear. She likes to spend her time with enrichment. So, bear keepers placed different kinds of enrichment items inside the cages to help them adapt to their new environment. For the first day, Wawa seems alert to the surroundings. But thanks to the enrichment, they had adapted well into the bear house after the second day. They spend their time exploring the environment and the enrichment together.
The next for them is to integrate with the biggest group, the sub adult group with Sunbearo, Loki, Bintang, Montom, Susie2, Damai, Kala, Boboi, Kitud, Tan Tan and Mary. They are around one to five years old. After the integration, they have to undergo fence training to be able to release them back to the forest. In the forest, they can learn from the others and improve their survival skills as well. At last, we hope they can be back to the wild sooner or later within the rehabilitation program at the BSBCC.
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
“Growling, and bawling loudly” every day from one of the female sun bear cub, Dodop. Sun bear cubs will begin bawling long, and loud when frightened or separated from their mothers. Cubs also scream in distress like human babies. This has happened to Dodop because she was treated like a pet, kept in a house and lost her four permanent canines. She has absolutely no fear of humans and has loss of wild instinct. Usually mother and sun bear cubs will stay together in the wild for two to three years, as they should be. It is likely that Wawa and Dodop’s mothers were killed by poachers. Their mother defends them, warms them, nurses them and teaches them survival skills. Sun bear cubs require around the clock care. This is undoubtedly why Dodop looks so sad and depressed when her care taker is not around.
So our Bear Care unitmade the decision that Dodop and Wawa need to be introduced to have their first ever bear friend. Finally the big day arrived on 25th June 2016, where we integrated Dodop with Wawa. Dodop is 11 months old and Wawa is 7 months old. She is bigger than Wawa. On that day, Dodop was transferred to an adjacent den. It was a new environment for Dodop at the beginning but she quickly adapted to it.
As soon as Wawa saw Dodop, she kept barking in a deep voice at Dodop for the first 15 minutes. Dodop was shocked and barked back. But Wawa being the curious one went into the den where Dodop was located, and tried to approach, and sniff her. Wawa wrestled her and was teaching Dodop to fight back by showing small, strong canines and small, sharp claws! The cubs wrestled and pawed non-stop with one another for about 30 minutes before one of them gave up for a rest.
Wawa and Dodop share the same large dens. Wawa is willing to let Dodop explore the world but only on her terms! They spend a lot of time climbing enrichment structures, wresting each other, chasing, sharing the same enrichment and taking naps inside the hammock or basket. They have developed and acquired new survival skills as wild bears. They have big appetites! They keep putting on weight and eating a variety of food, including milk, sweet corn, banana, papaya, honey dew, watermelon and honey. Both of them tend to get more fruits on themselves than in their mouth! Wawa now weighs 16.10kg and Dodop weighs 20.90 kg. Wawa is the more outgoing of the two cubs. Dodop’s condition is continuing to improve and she has becomea more confident little cub after meeting her new friend, Wawa.
Bear cub keepers give the cubs various enrichment items – these could be dead logs, puzzle feeders, the Aussie dog ball, dry leaves, green leaves,a fire hose pocket filled with peanut butter and many others. Both of them are extremely playful and love to investigate the new toys together. They socialize with each other and explore their surroundings.
Wawa shows more dominance compared to Dodop. Although being the youngest and smallest, she never feels threatened by Dodop. For the rest of the weeks, they integrated well and cared for each other better. No serious aggression was noted. They spend more time learning how to be in a beautiful friendship, and to be happy, healthy, agile sun bears after all that they have been through. For them, life is full of happiness and filled with new things to explore which is just the way it should be for a sun bear cub.
They are many more sun bears suffering due to habitat loss, hunting and illegal wildlife trade. The number of sun bears have fallen by at least 30% over the past 30 years. We need to highlight ending wildlife trafficking which includes ending demand, strengthening wildlife laws and enforcement. We need to stand up and do our part!
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
Do you remember the story of the motherless bear cub which was found by a ranger in Forest Management Unit (FMU) 16, Pinangah, Telupid District? Our little Wawa is not so little anymore. Sun bear cubs grow very fast, especially when they are 4 to 10 months old. She is now 6 months old and her body weighs 11.90 kg. She has started to learn to eat solid food. Her favourite foods are soft fruits like papaya, banana and milk!
It is one month until little Wawa finishes her quarantine period. She should be brought out to the forest to learn all the survival forest skills that she needs. Due to the emotional trauma that resulted from being kept as a pet or the suffering from losing her mother, Wawa does not want to step out from quarantine into the nearby forest and becomes more scared if we let her paws on the forest floor. She becomes grumpy and starts growling! She still feels safer and prefers to stay in quarantine compared to out in the forest. This is the problem when you keep a sun bear as a pet for long periods in captivity. We will never know exactly what happened to her. Her history was told that she was found lifeless and alone without her mother.
This is a challenge for us and our bear care keepers to encourage the cub to forage and climb trees like a wild bear. The love and care of a mother bear can never be replaced but BSBCC bear care keepers provide as much love and support as they can to the sun bear orphans. In order for little Wawa to gain trust and confidence, bear cub keepers provided many natural enrichments to stimulate and prepare her for life back in the wild. She will practice her “wild bear skills”. We let Wawa have a larger exercise den. During the day she is in a larger den with a nice view over the playground. At the den she will be able to view the forest. The den equipped facility features natural habitat enrichment, places to hide away, play objects such as termite mounds, bird nests, logs, dead wood, branches, twigs, dry leaves, and fresh plants to encourage natural behavior such as searching for food, foraging skills, climbing, etc. She is relishing the opportunity to explore the larger den. Wawa is being encouraged to climb and explore around. These are the skills essential for survival in the wild. She is particularly fond of treats and any form of enrichment. She is good at exploring and investigating the enrichment. She has explored, played, climbed, and rested in the big exercise pen. We hope Wawa has her days filled with fun and not fear!
Wawa will be given time to become adjusted to her new surroundings. She will slowly gain strength, confidence and develop her independence to survive in the forests of Borneo. She is now learning to enjoy her life again after suffering the pain from the loss of her mother. For sun bear cubs, it means that she will now get her second chance to live in the wild as she was born to do.
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
Weighing her, noting down health status, giving her warm milk formula, preparing favorite fruits, providing different types of enrichment, endless loving care of her bear cub keeper and seeing her as affectionately and protectively as her mother could.
Let read story from little Wawa to know more about her rescue and rehabilitation process:
Sun bear cubs are dependent on their mother for two to three years in order to know about survival in the forest. Wawa lost her mother and now she has to learn by herself. Wawa will soon be taken for walks in the forest. She will have a second chance to behave like the wild bear that she is. We will be looking forward her rehabilitation process. She has the strong nature of a leader!
The two-month-old sun bear cub was found lifeless and alone in a forest reserve in Pinangah, in Sabah. The forest workers who discovered her called the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), an officer of which drove the little bear to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sandakan. There, the cub, named Wawa by the officer, is now bouncing back, thanks to round-the-clock care.
Wawa is the 48th rescued sun bear to have arrived at the center, which was founded in Sabah in 2008 with the aim of providing care and rehabilitation programs for bears rescued from poachers and illegal wildlife traffickers. The center also provides a home for orphaned cubs like Wawa as well as for older captive bears that cannot be released back into the wild. The non-profit sports well-equipped facilities and has built spacious enclosures with plenty of leafy roaming grounds for the vivacious bears in its care.
Wawa, too, is now in the best of hands at the center. Despite being weak and dehydrated when she arrived, the little bear proved herself a real fighter in a welcome sign that the newborn cub was made of stern stuff and would pull through. “[A]lthough she was exhausted from the six hour drive (needed to take her to the center), she was feisty enough to bark at our staff,” noted BSBCC’s CEO Wong Siew Te. “BSBCC is taking up the challenge to raise this bear and to teach her all that she needs to know before she returns to her natural habitat as an adult,” he added.
Wawa’s mother was likely captured or killed by poachers who may have sold her on the illegal wildlife market. The body parts of sun bears are prized around much of the region in traditional Chinese medicine for their allegedly curative properties, albeit there is zero scientific evidence for any of the claims. “There are no medicinal values of consuming sun bear parts,” SWD’s director William Baya stressed.
Sun bears are protected by law in Sabah under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, with offenders facing the prospect of up to five years in prison and/or a maximum fine of RM50,000. Sadly, however, that has not stopped some opportunistic locals and regular poachers alike from continuing to try and snare or shoot bears in the state’s forests.
“Our department would like to issue a stern warning to those who continue to poach sun bears and other protected wildlife species.” Baya said.“We will take action against those who are found to be involved in such activities.”
Berita Wilayah, 23 March 2016
SANDAKAN, 23 Mac (Bernama) -- 'Wawa' yang ditemui keseorangan di kawasan hutan simpan di Pinangah dalam daerah Telupid pada 11 Mac lalu kini mempunyai rumah baharu di Pusat Pusat Pemuliharaan Beruang Madu Borneo (BSBCC) di sini.
Anak beruang madu betina ini yang berumur dua bulan dibawa ke pusat itu Jumaat lalu dan kini dikuarantin dan dilapor bertambah baik kesihatannya.
Ketua Pegawai Eksekutif BSBCC, Wong Siew Te berkata anak beruang itu pada mulanya ditemui oleh pekerja hutan.
"Wawa masih lemah tapi dapat menyesuaikan diri dengan keadaan sekitar," katanya.
Beliau berkata tidak mungkin ibu Wawa meninggalkannya yang tidak diketahui apa yang berlaku kepada ibunya.
BSBCC akan membesarkan Wawa sebelum ia dikembalikan ke dalam hutan apabila besar, katanya.
Wawa merupakan beruang madu yang ke-48 yang ditempatkan di BSBCC.
The Sundaily, 23rd March 2016
SANDAKAN: Found alone in a forest reserve in Pinangah, within the Telupid district, a female sun bear cub believed to be about two months old is now settling into her new home at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) here.
Named "Wawa" by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) officer who drove her to the centre last Friday, the cub is currently under quarantine and is reported to be improving in terms of her health.
The cub was found lifeless on March 11 by forest workers. said BSBCC chief executive officer Wong Siew Te in a joint statement from SWD today.
Wawa is the 48th rescued sun bear to have arrived at the centre.
Describing the fact that Wawa was found alone as worrying, SWD director William Baya said: "Orphans are rescued and sent to BSBCC from time to time, indicating that their mother may have been killed for their parts as part of an illegal trade business.
"There are no medicinal values of consuming Sun bear parts."
He said they would take action against those who continue to poach sun bears and other protected wildlife species.
Offenders may face penalty of up to five years' jail term or a maximum of RM50,000 fine, or both, he added. — Bernama
SANDAKAN: A young female sun bear was rescued from a forest reserve in Pinangah, Telupid here.
The bear, found weak and almost lifeless, is now recuperating well at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sepilok here.
Named “Wawa” by the Sabah Wildlife Department officer who drove her to the centre last Friday, the cub is currently under quarantine and is said to be improving in terms of her health.
BSBCC Chief Executive Officer Wong Siew Te said the cub was found on March 11 by workers conducting forest monitoring.
They subsequently took the cub to an office operated under the Forest Management Unit (FMU) 16 before it was surrendered to the department that later sent the bear to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park near Kota Kinabalu the following day.
“Based on details given to us, Wawa appeared to be weak when she was found. Those who brought her to safety decided it would be best to only give her some water to drink.
“After several days, she arrived at BSBCC and although she was exhausted from the six hour drive, she was feisty enough to bark at our staff.
“Wawa is still weak and dehydrated but she is adapting well. We have been giving her constant care and we hope that she will become stronger in the days to come,” Wong said.
He added that it was very unlikely for a sun bear to abandon her cub and that it was not known what had happened to Wawa’s mother.
“BSBCC is taking up the challenge to raise this bear and to teach her all that she needs to know before she returns to her natural habitat as an adult,” he said adding that this was the 48th rescued sun bear to have arrived at the centre. He reiterated that it is an offence under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 to hunt or to keep sun bears.