Text: Siew Te Wong; Photos: Wai Pak Ng
Two days before Christmas day on the 23rd, Wai Pak received a call from the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), saying that a sun bear cub was on its way to be sent to BSBCC. Hour later, a SWD officer from Lahad Datu delivered this baby sun bear at BSBCC.
We did not know what the story behind this sun bear cub was. What we knew was someone surrendered this sun bear cub to the SWD Lahad Datu office, and the SWD office immediately sent this cub to us. We name this female sun bear "Natalie". She marks the 21 sun bears we currently house at BSBCC. Weighing just a bit over 5 kg and probably 3-4 month old, Natalie appeared to be healthy although suffered from a bit of malnutrition. Wai Pak and I had a long skype conversation to talk about the care and husbandry of Natalie, as taking care of baby sun bear could be challenging because we are not a sun bear mother after all.
Natalie is active and playful over the past few days since she was with us. She also attaches and bonds with Wai Pak well and quickly. Wai Pak walks her around the centre and Natalie follows Wai Pak closely without wondering away. At this age, Natalie is still heavily depends on her mother for survival. It is no surprise to see Natalie's attaching behavior to Wai Pak because all sun bear cubs at this age need the tender loving care and adequate nursing from their mother.
Natalie is both unfortunate and fortunate. She is unfortunate because she is a victim of habitat loss, poaching and pet trade (although we do know the story behind Natalie at this point, investigation is ongoing but slow due to the holiday season). However, she is fortunate because she was sent to Sabah Wildlife Department and the care of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. We will try our best to take good care of her for sure.
The BBC documentary "The Orangutan Diary" told the moment of truth and desperate dilemma of hundreds if not thousands of adults and infant orangutans being homeless, killed, and orphanized due to logging, habitat destruction, oil palm plantation development, poaching, and pet trade; in short, "human activities" on this once pristine island of Borneo. The same faith applies to other wildlife species, such as sun bears. Many sun bears like the orangutans show in The Orangutan Diary being killed, babies being orphanized and kept as pets, because of these "human activities" on this landscape. Over the past three months, there were about a dozen cases of sun bear infants being captured as pets, many end up in orangutan rescue centres, seek my advices on care, medical attention, husbandry and rehabilitation of the orphan sun bear cubs they have rescued. The numbers of these orphaned sun bear cubs concern me as I believe there are many more unreported cases. The case like Natalie represents a tip of an iceberg.
I am glad that Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre has been established thanks to enormous efforts and helps from many parties, especially Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department, LEAP and many generous donors to make this project possible. BSBCC is essential to provide adequate cares, halfway and permanent home for many rescued sun bears. BSBCC is also crucial to raise conservation awareness and to conserve sun bears in many ways.
Please help us. We need your help to help sun bears like Natalie!