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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.