An adult male sun bear's story
Text by Alla Sapiro
Photos by Chiew Lin May
This was the first day of Kudat's training to go outside for the first time. This was afternoon. We spread food and honey onto both the cage ramp and the training pen ramp as well as some on the forest floor. Within the first 30 minute session I observed him pacing most of the time. He very briefly went over to the outside doors and sniffed food a few times and seemed very curious, but was very unsure and nervous with the idea of even reaching out the door. He seemed very agitated the whole session and seemed to be upset and confused with why all the other bears got food inside their cages, where his is in this strange and foreign place.
On the second training session we prepared the ramps with food the same way. This was in the morning. When we opened the outside doors Kudat right away went to sniff the food outside the door. He then moved to the training pen and walked around and explored his surroundings. He proceeded to go back and forth from cage 2 to the training pen. He would still be pacing quite a bit, but seemed less agitated than the previous day. He came up to the outside doors and looked outside and sniffed the food with much more confidence that nothing bad was going to happen. At about 2/3 into the session Kudat finally put his paw out for a piece of fruit from cage 2. He did not retrieve fruit and brought his paw back in. A minute later he did this again and successfully retrieved and ate a piece of fruit! He then went back to the training pen and started licking honey and grabbing fruit. He continued to eat even with bear aggression barking noises in the background. It didn't appear to phase him at all. He then went to cage 2 looking for more food. He started getting agitated and started pacing. He went back and forth to the 2 ramps in search of food he could reach without stepping outside. He was unsuccessful in this and made no move to step outside. Then the session is over.
This is the third day of training. This took place in the morning. The ramps were prepared with food the same way. As soon as the doors were opened Kudat went to the door in cage 2 and grabbed and ate food. He then went to the training pen and went directly to the outside door and did the same. He then spent some time in cage 2 out of sight. He grabbed and ate some more fruit from cage 2. He moved to the training pen and stood up to look and sniff outside. Then the session is over.
Morning to afternoon we opened the doors for Kudat for the whole day during bear house operation hours. We did not observe where Kudat could see us, but hidden from afar. Kudat did not step on the ramp.
Using our same new tactic we observed from afar and kept the doors open the whole work day. Kudat finished the porridge and fruit he could reach without taking a step on the ramp.
We did the same food arrangement on the ramps and again left doors open all day and observed from afar. Kudat again finished the food he could reach but he did not step out.
Same food arrangement, doors open all day and viewing from afar. Kudat at what he could reach and he did not step out.
Azzry had the idea to try something different today. The doors were open the whole working day like normal and viewing from afar, but he didn't put any food on the ramp and simply threw a coconut outside. Kudat went and sniffed at the door, then he went to the training pen door and looked out and sniffed. Then he went back to cage 2, climbed down the ramp, grabbed the coconut and carried it back to cage 2 to eat. We were so proud of him!
Food was spread on the ramp and Kudat was allowed to go out to pen D for the work day. He just grabbed the food he could reach and didn't step out.
Same arrangements. Tommy saw Kudat go outside and quickly go back to the bear house.
No food was spread on the ramp and Azzry put the coconut outside. It took Kudat 25 minutes of sniffing looking and then finally goes outside and grabs the coconut and brings it back into the cage to eat. For the evening feeding he just goes right out and eats. He stays out for a long time and explores his surroundings, but stays close to the ramps. Azzry saw him playing with mud.
Food was put outside and Kudat went out during evening feeding and brings his food back to the bear house. He was alert with sounds of the forest and people being around and working. He stayed outside the longest so far and roamed and explored his surroundings, but again didn't go too far from the door to Pen D. He also interacted with Manis, a female adult sun bear who is next door in Pen E. This day was a success in Kudat becoming much more comfortable and acclimated to his surroundings. Good job Kudat!
This day food was not spread on the ramp and the door was opened in the morning. Kudat didn't even hesitate and he went outside right away. He stayed outside the whole day and explored his entire surroundings. He didn't come back till the end of the work day. This was a very positive result that Kudat is completely confident that he is safe to go outside and enjoy himself in the forest.