Text by Ezi Nurayu binti Abd. Wahab (UMS Intern student)
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
The time to do fence training for BJ, Soo, Kina and Sika before they could be released into the forest enclosure had come. Fence training is very important for us to do as it helps to prevent the sun bears from escaping in the forest either to another pen or out of BSBCC’s area. Not to worry as the fence voltage will never be harmful to them because it is always controllable by our respective staff. The bears will proceed to enter the forest enclosure only if they pass the fence training. These fence training sessions are completed almost every day for roughly a month.
First and foremost, let me briefly explain the history of these four bears. Kina, is rescue bear (55), followed by Sika (56), Soo (57) and BJ (61). When referring to Kina’s name, we know that she was from Kinarut District, Sika was from the village of Sikalabaan in Pensiangan district, Soo’s name was given by her previous owner because she was bought from Sook Keningau Market, and lastly BJ was from Pitas before he was handed to Lok Kawi Wildlife Park when he just five months old. All of them were kept as pets by the villagers before being rescued.
Okay, let’s begin with Sika. She was the first candidate among the four of them which we did the fence training with. But, unfortunately she was the last one who passed the fence training. On her first day of training, she was very cautious to step on the ramp to get the food. She almost finished her food (only a few pieces were left). Unfortunately, she got zapped later by the hotwire and she responded by climbing the fence. You can see in the picture (Photo 1) below how she got zapped by the hotwire. But then, Sika improved day by day. The days before she successfully passed the fence training, she already knew about the hotwire, so she kept her distance from it. She also ate the food which was placed on the ramp. She was the last candidate declared as passed because she kept avoiding going close to the food near the hotwire on her last days before she was considered passed.
Let’s move to Kina, the brave girl. She is a very good explorer when it comes to food (a little bit of a big eater). The day we observed them as a group, she was the very dominant one by monopolising the food. She already knew from training each day how to grab the food without touching the electric fence, even though the food was located underneath the fence. Maybe, because she already got zapped on her first day of training and days after, she knew how to defend herself from getting zapped later. Kina together with BJ always finished the food in the training pen. By the way, she was the second one after Soo that successfully passed in this fence training session and on March 29th, 2020, she was released into the forest enclosure (Pen G).
Congratulations to our, Kina!
Next, our one and only male bear in this group, BJ. On BJ’s first day carrying out fence training, he was really scared to walk and get his food. You can see in the picture (Photo 6) below how he tried to grab his food. He always laid down to grab his food. A few times, his front legs touched the top ramp. He never touched the ramp with all four legs at once. He was very cautious with his new and unfamiliar surroundings. So as a result for his first day, he never got zapped due to his cautious behaviour. However, this originally cautious bear became braver each day, especially when the four of them were released into the training pen together. He knew how to get his food and never hesitated to walk on the ramp and below ground as well with his four legs.
Good job, BJ
And the last bear being observed was Soo. Pity for Soo, on her first time being trained, she got zapped on several occasions. Her response to the zap was barking a few times. Gradually she became more alert to the electric fence, even though most of the time she rarely got out from her cage. But, she still went out to the training pen sometimes to get her food. Guess what, surprisingly Soo became braver recently. Even with the guillotine door closed, Soo and Kina never cared about that. They still continued their beautiful journey in the training pen by only thinking about the food. Big applause to Soo, even though she was the very inactive one during several days in observation (spent most of the time in her cage), lately a plot twist has happened, and the upshot of that is she was the first one to successfully pass the fence training session.
Bravos to Sika, Kina, BJ and Soo! Welcome to your new world!
This is the time for them to explore the outside environment on their own and be independent. I am so sure that this is what every animal wants. They can move in a much larger area compared to their cage and see the bright world. Fence training is never as bad as some people think. This is a crucial step before giving the bears their ‘dream world’.