Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Let’s meet our two rescued bear cubs, Kipaku and Itam.
Kipaku, is a five months old male bear cub. He was found in a forest fire site. After that, he was being kept as a house pet in Kampung Kipaku at Tambunan. He came to the BSBCC on the 18th of July, 2020. Kipaku is a bright and active bear. However,due to his history as a house pet, he is used to the presence of humans. He feels stressed and bawls when he sees there are no people around him.
On the other hand, Itam, is a seven months old female bear cub. She was found at Kampung Maimatom, Kemabong and kept in Kampung Kuala Sabinait, Pagalungan at Nabawan. When she was found, she had wounds from dog bites on her body. She came to the BSBCC on the 27th of July. Itam is an alert and shy bear. Her eyes were always focused on the surroundings.
Kipaku and Itam may come to BSBCC by a different story, but what they have in common is they both are alone now. To provide a better life for these little two cubs, giving them a new friend can encourage their social behaviour and helps them learn from each other. The best enrichment of a bear always is another bear!
This is how their friendship started.
On the 30th of Jul, 2020, was the first day Kipaku and Itam met. However, it is was not pleasant . Kipaku first gives a warning bark to Itam. Kipaku stayed in the hanging platform while Itam stayed in the basket. They both kept huffing and barking. There was not much progress during the first three days of their integration. This is due to neither of them wanting to get close to the other and they were still huffing, growling and barking.
Slowly, Itam took the first move to approach Kipaku. However, Kipaku always warns her to stay away. Itam still tries hard every time. She has no fear of Kipaku’s warning. Due to Itam’s fearless efforts and countless tries, they are getting closer day by day.
Finally after a week,we saw them begin their friendship! Now, Itam always follows behind Kipaku. They are always biting, pawing and wrestling. Kipaku still likes to paw Itam hard. However, Itam is always tolerant with Kipaku. They share food and enrichment and also sleep together. It is so lovely to see their precious friendship. We are hoping that they can grow and learn together and believe that one day they will return to the wild together.
Video by Chiew Lin May
A five-month-old male bear cub, Kipaku was discovered all alone in the forest fire area and had been kept for the past three months by a local family. He was previously fed with milk, rice, and fried fish. Kipaku was sent to the BSBCC on 18th July 2020. A seven-month-old- female bear cub, Itam was found in an orchard with a dog bite wounds on her body and appeared weak. The person decided to bring her back and cared for her wounds for 21 days before handed over to Sabah Wildlife Department. Spending years in captivity and unable to express any natural behaviours cause the cubs emotionally traumatized or too habituated with humans.
During this period of care, Itam and Kipaku took a brave step and trust on their new journey. They adapted well to their new environment. On 30th July 2020, they have met each other for the first time. They spend a great deal of their time together and enjoy the various enrichment given by their keepers. It is so uplifting to see that they are able to forget their past and it reminds us how wild they should be. We are happy that they are now safe and grow in confidence.
If a sun bear is not given the opportunity to learn these forest skills, their chances of survival in the forest are slim without the help of a rehabilitation programme. Please do not keep sun bear as a pet! Shows some love for Little Kipaku and Itam by sharing their stories!
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Text by Dr. Yeoh Boon Nie
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
A sunny day, we were excited to receive the very first satellite signal emitted from Montom’s GPS collar, indicating the released bear was exploring the new home, and passing by the adjacent forest reserve. Montom is an adult male bear that was returned to wild on 10th July. Our heart sank immediately after knowing a sun bear cub was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department and on the way to BSBCC.
Early morning on 18th July, an estimate 4 month old sun bear cub arrived in BSBCC. He came from Kampung Kipaku, Tambunan. So we named him Kipaku, straight forward, huh. While the cub care team still observing and learning Kipaku’s behavior, we received another bad news that one more rescued bear cub was arranged to BSBCC. On the late night in 27th July, Itam, an approximate 7 month old female cub arrived in the center.
BSBCC is established with the primary mission to rehabilitate the rescued sun bear. We are saddened by the fact that sun bears are still rampantly poached. And the cub, their cuteness is a curse, sought-after as pet. The morale in our team was low at that very moment.
Both Kipaku and Itam shared the similar background, but the two have distinctive different personality in insecurity. They both were kept as household pet after being found alone in the forest. What happened to their mother? Mama bear will not abandoned her cub unless she was threatened or died.
Kipaku is a sweet chubby bear that attached to human. He cry when no keeper around to keep him accompany. He was “trained” to eat fried fish with rice, and hence he dislike fruits and vegetables.
Itam, on the other hand, is a fearful bear that constantly wary of surrounding. Any noises will startle her. She barked and charged at keepers every morning. She would tip toe walking to explore the cage. She relaxed when no human around.
Dear Kipaku and Itam, we feel so sorry that you both loss your mother and endure terrifying event at your infant age. We will take care of you now. Your wild instinct and lessons taught by your mother will guide you through this rehabilitation journey. Five years later, hopefully, we will return you home, like Montom!
We have not giving up.
Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Itam,is a lovely bear with a slightly round body. She is seven months old, the youngest female bear in BSBCC.
Itam was originally from Kg Maimatom, Kemabong. But, she was found at Kg. Kuala Sabinait, Pagalungan, Nabawan. The owner of an orchard heard his dogs were barking. When he went to have a look he found Itam alone. At that time, Itam appeared weak and had some dog bite wounds. The owner was kept her for 21 days. After that, he decided to surrender Itam to Sabah Wildlife Department when she was being kept at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park. On the 27th of July 2020, Itam came to BSBCC.
On her arrival, her weight was 11 kg. She has a shiny coat and a unique chest mark. Unfortunately, we found,whilst conducting her general body checkup,that she has a severe dental problem. We believed that it may be caused by her stress-related behaviour - cage biting. Itam is not picky on food. She will try every new food that is offered to her. Her top three favourite foods are milk, egg, and fruits. Now, she weighs 12.35kg.
Most of the time, Itam is shy. She spends more time resting. The basket is one of her favourite places to hide. She is always seen peeking from the basket. Other than that, she enjoys staying on the hammock and resting with the belly up. If she wants to have a better view, she prefers to stay at the hanging platform. When she is resting, nothing bothers her. She chills and relaxes!
However, Itam is very alert to the environment. She always keeps her eyes wide open to observe her surroundings. Her moves are always careful and quiet. When you look into her eyes, they look alert with fear. A story lies in her eyes. She always stays in a corner or stays up high. Once she feels threatened, she charges and gives a warning bark. Then, she hides. We do not know what happened to her before. But, we believe that she has suffered a lot and this has caused her to be traumatized.
Sun bears are excellent climbers. However, Itam is clumsy in climbing. Instead of using her claw, she is using her paw and teeth to support during climbing. In the wild, cubs will be attached to their mother until two to three years old and,during this period,the cubs will learn from their mothers. However, Itam is now alone. Itam always looks up and looks as though she has many thoughts in her head. Maybe she is missing her mother and her natural home.
We can help her now by encouraging her more natural behaviour. We provide different types of enrichment for her so, she will be able to learn to be a real bear.
In BSBCC, She will receive intensive care. It will take her time and patience to forget her trauma. We are believe that she will grow into a confident young sun bear ready for her second chance of life at the BSBCC.
Video by Chiew Lin May
Ready to venture out into their forest!
Logan and Romolina are playing in the rain!
Video by Chiew Lin May
Amaco was found by a plantation worker in the middle of the forest when he was still a cub. He was kept as a pet and fed rice and condensed milk in the last 18 years. An inappropriate diet in the pet trade can lead to long term dental damage. He stressed upon arrival.
Amaco has been on a long road to recovery since he was rescued. He loves engages with enrichments. He likes to play fight with his best friends – Chin and Panda. Please share his story!
Video by Chiew Lin May
Day 7: Favourite! Termite Mound!
BSBCC runs a number of enrichment activities for the sun bears in their care. It promotes physical and mental stimulation or to ensure the sun bears' well-being.
Little Kipaku learns to break the termite mound and feeding on termites!
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Sabah Wildlife Department, Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Meet little Kipaku, an active 5-month old male sun bear cub. He was being kept as a house pet by a local villager family in Kampung Kipaku, Tambunan, Sabah. The story reported to the rescue team was that they found him ‘wandering alone’ in the forest fire area.
The family then decided to hand the cub over to the Sabah Wildlife Department on July 16th, 2020. Kipaku’s story is similar with the other rescued sun bears. Sun bears are facing extinction in the wild if uncontrolled poaching activities or losing their forest homes to fire, logging and palm oil plantations are still continuing. Sadly, it is believed that his mother undoubtedly was killed intentionally or perished in the fires. He arrived at BSBCC on July 18th, 2020. He appeared dull and with dry hair on his coat when he arrived.
Thanks to the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit who saved Kipaku’s life.
Following his arrival, Kipaku was placed into quarantine. He adapted to his new life of freedom. He receives round-the-clock care from his surrogate mother by helping and encouraging him to gain back confidence and build up his strength – be WILD. He has shown tremendous growth in the last few days. He now weighs 7.20kg.
We are trying to get Kipaku to eat the nutritious food he needs to grow.
He is a grub lover and is very messy with his food!! His favourite foods are mealworms, ants and milk. He has a peculiar way of foraging his food by using his tiny sharp claws to tear it up (in a gentle way). Never mess with him when he is eating!
Kipaku wants to bark a “Huge thanks” to our lovely sponsorship, Fido Premium Milk Powder from TTL Distributions Sdn. Bhd. (http://www.ttl.com.my/) for being part of his journey. His health is now in a stable condition. He has been fed a milk formula five times a day for his growth.
Sun bear cubs remain dependent on their mothers for the first two to three years of age. Poor care and the psychological trauma of losing his mother means a lot to Little Kipaku. He has been kept in captivity, growing up alone and habituated to the presence of humans. All Kipaku knew was being scared and stressed. He will growl and bawl when no one is beside him. But lacking a fear of humans, the bear is ill equipped to survive and will be vulnerable to hunters in the wild. Throughout his rehabilitation process, we are minimizing the number of caretakers to reduce the habituation to human contact, keep his wild behaviours and slowly support increasing his independence.
His personality has begun to emerge!
He is an agile and unique bear. Kipaku can be a challenge to keep mentally occupied – stolen from the wild and never had the chance to learn survival skills from his mother. We provide a variety of environmental enrichment such as different types of young leaves, termite mounds, dead wood, logs, and branches to promote physical activity and prepare him for life back in the wild. It is heart-warming to find out that Kipaku has strong wild instincts - foraging, climbing and defence skills. He has a deep love for digging and tearing! He can spend time digging and tearing dead logs for ants or termites, and for FUN too! Through enrichment, Kipaku can have a great day, every day! He is smart and full of curiosity. He will examine, dig, play and destroy it. He shows great climbing skills and is learning to be a very skilled bear! He uses all of his senses to explore different tastes of freedom.
Kipaku will not miss a play wrestle with his surrogate mother. He will begin playing, rolling and pawing.
He loves soaking in the swimming bucket and splashes water to beat the hot day.
Kipaku tends to slow down on his busy activities and prefers to suckle on his front paw to seek comfort.
He is a baby and will vocalize his feelings. He always keeps himself busy BUT starts to become grumpy when he feels uncomfortable with something! He is excited about everything that is offered to him - these little things are simple but are making the bear world of difference to his life!
Kipaku will undergo rehabilitation at BSBCC in order to one day be returned to the wild. He begins the long rehabilitation process of learning and developing the survival skills and behaviours needed to one day survive in the wild. After recovering and passing quarantine, we will start taking him out for walks in the forest in order to prepare him for a new life in the rainforest.
Sun bears are classified as “Vulnerable” to “Endangered” by the IUCN. Human activity continues to threaten sun bear numbers and are pushing them to extinction. Please do not keep sun bears as pets and leave them in the forest to their real life. Thinking about how you can send your LOVE to little Kipaku? Adopting is a great way to give him the life he deserves. Please adopt Kipaku today! He will make your heart melt!
Video by Chiew Lin May
“The best GIFT you could have given to them was a lifetime of FREEDOM!”
Montom released back into the wild on 10th July 2020 after five years of rehabilitation at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC).
This is wonderful and really makes us know that he deserves it! We wish him the very best with his new freedom of life in the wild!
Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May, Tee Thye Lim & Seng Yen Wah
Wild is life for all the wild animals. However, the pet trade is one of the reasons that has been constantly threatening their lives. The animals captured from the wild illegally to supply the demand for exotic pets. Most of the bears in BSBCC had been kept as house pets before being sent here. They were kept in a cold, empty and hard cage from a young age. This is before they even had a chance to realize that it was not a natural habitat for them. They never knew their natural habitat is the forest if they were kept in a cage. Therefore, the mission of BSBCC is to rehabilitate and to reintroduce them into the forest environment.
After the release of Kitud , Boboi and Tan-Tan in April 2019 and now one year later, BSBCC team is delighted to share with you that we have released Montom, an six years old adult male bear in the wild on the 10th of July 2020! Montom is a beautiful name that means black in the local language, Dusun. Montom was rescued from Kampung Melangkap, Kota Marudu on the 18th of January 2015 and came to BSBCC on the 21st of January 2015.
Montom’s story began on a day when there was a dog chasing away a mother bear and the mother bear left a cub behind. The cub is known as Montom now. After that, he was taken and kept as a pet in a chicken wire mesh cage and fed with human food for a year. After five years of rehabilitation, Montom has developed excellent forest survival skills. Montom is an explorer. He enjoys every moment in the forest. He loves to dig. His shiny black fur is usually coated in a dull brown colour after a whole day of digging. Climbing is one of his favourite forest activities as well. He loves to rest on a tree and let the sunlight shines upon him. He never gets bored in the forest! Montom always surprises us with his potential. He has proven that he is ready to be reintroduced into the wild!
On the 9th of July 2020, our veterinarian, Dr. Yeoh Boon Nie, conducted a final check-up on Montom. After the check-up, we moved him to a translocation cage. Keepers were closely monitoring him during his recovery from the sedation.
At 4.55 in the evening, the team was getting ready for loading up the translocation cage. This time, we decided to release Montom in the forest at the northern part of Sabah. The planted forest operates by Forest Solutions Malaysia (FSM) of Asian Forestry Company Sabah (AFCS). And hence, we have appreciated the help of FSM in this operation. At 5.05 pm, the bear release team and Montom departed, and they were on the road for an eight-hour journey. It was a long night!
After the eight-hour journey, the team and Montom arrived at the northern part of Sabah and met with the team from FSM. Due to one of our’s car condition is not suitable to go to the off-road, we swap the cage to another vehicle. Then, our release team and FSM team departed together to the release site with a four-hour off-road journey. This release operation is more challenging than any of other release operations ever! The FR is mostly hilly with steep slopes and ridges. However, it’s significance to give Montom a second chance of freedom. When we arrived at the site, the sky is still dark. Montom looked mostly calm in the cage. Maybe he knows today is the day he could be free in the forest! He had been waiting for this moment for too long!
The sky is slowly turning blue. The weather is good. Before opening the door, the team made all the final preparations and site inspections. Montom, soon you will enjoy the freedom of your true home where you are originally from. Once the door opened at 6.18 am, he ran straight into the forest and finally disappeared in the woods. We shed our happy tears for him. Montom is finally free! He is finally home! We hope he finds his happiness and enjoys the adventure in the wild. His movement will be monitored by the BSBCC team all the time. Be wild and be happy, Montom.
The BSBCC team would like to say thank you to the Sabah Forestry Department, the Sabah Wildlife Department, the FSM team and everyone who has given us support and assistance. If you would like to provide us with any support, you can visit our website to get more information. Your help will allow us to sustain our efforts in making a difference for the sun bears’ wellbeing. Sun bears belongs to the forest! Please save the sun bears and let them be happily wild in the wild. Wild is life!