Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Azzry Dusain, Tee Thye Lim, Seng Yen Wah and Chiew Lin May
Without the BSBCC, many captive sun bears would still live in small cages without HOPE; without the BSBCC many people in the world still would not know there is a bear species called the sun bear
– CEO & Founder, Dr. (Hon) Wong Siew Te, D.J.N
Poaching, pet trade and loss of habitat continue to pose a MAJOR threat to the survival of sun bears. Mother bears are often killed and their infants are sold in the illegal wildlife pet trade. Sun bears are very similar to humans - they cannot survive on their own without their mothers. It is tragic that sun bears are still being found orphaned. Sun bear populations have declined by more than 30% in the past 30 years, leaving the danger of imminent extinction in the wild a very real possibility.
The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre’s (BSBCC) CEO and Founder, Dr. Wong Siew Te has dedicated more than 20 years of his life to raise awareness and save the “forgotten bear species”. Wong founded the BSBCC in 2008 with the goal to conserve sun bears through a holistic approach that of improves the welfare of rescued sun bears, rehabilitation, education and research. Wong was one of the greatest sun bear conservationists.
The BSBCC has received 55 rescued sun bears since its foundation. Currently there are 44 rescued sun bears housed at the BSBCC. Sadly, we have seen a significant increase in the numbers of sun bears arriving at the centre in 2016. This trend is worrying as it shows that poaching is still going wild with rampant sale of sun bears or illegal bear bile medicine over websites and the numbers will continue to rise rapidly until drastic measures are taken to protect sun bears.
A three months old female sun bear cub Tan-Tan was bought by a person with the purpose of rescuing her from being sold in the remote region of Paitan. Most of the bears arrived at our centre will have in different conditions- frightened, stress and with wounds common to bears rescued from pet trade.
A lady decided to rescue an one years old male sun bear cub Nano when she saw Nano was kept in a small chicken mesh cage in Kota Marudu, north of Sabah. She purchased him from the seller for a price of RM1,500, with the purpose of saving his life. Nano was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department and arrive at BSBCC on November 20, 2016.
BSBCC has been able to rehabilitate these orphaned sun bears after their years of trauma from being locked up in small cages and sold in the pet trade. Most of our bears have had an extremely difficult lives having witnessed the death of their mother, traumatic experiences through being sold as a pet, suffered unimaginable abuse, infected wounds and poor diet. Being taken away from all of that they had known...many will show stereotypical behavior and will growl in fear.
This has all changed with the greatly appreciated help from Sabah Wildlife Department. They assist in providing care and medical treatment for rescued bears. Our rescued bears will receive round the clock care from our Bear care team by helping and encouraging the bears to build up their strength as well as learning to trust their cares.
Enriching the lives of these rescued bears is an important part of bear management, which improves the bears’ lives by giving them a second chance to survive in the wild. We will make sure that the bears are having their choices and freedom. Little by little, after each rescued bear has passed their quarantine period, they will move on to the next step in the Bear house – a peaceful and safe place they have deserved all their life! Integrating with new friends, giving them access to forest enclosures for them to learn pertinent skills for survival and last but not least get them ready to be back into the WILD.
Even relishing every chop of fresh fruit, playing with their enrichment, roaming the forest, foraging for insects, inquisitive, exploring, snoozing, climbing trees, finding HONEY bees, enjoying the sunshine, tapping to check weak points of dead logs and building tree nests, play fighting with their fellow bears in the BSBCC. No more pain and letting go of the traumatic life – perhaps they are enjoying the smell of freedom !!
Let look how our rescued sun bears learn become wild bear!!
Most of you still remember Mary, a two months old sun bear cub that she was held captive in a cage as pet. She was found to be very malnourished when she first came to BSBCC because her previous owner did not fed her with milk. Her growth stunted and walking in an abnormal way. Now, Mary has improved a lot where every day for her is a treat of good food, friend and freedom.
Every individual sun bear at BSBCC has their own personality. They are growing independent every day. Strong characters like Amaco, Diana, Tan-Tan, Wawa and Nano have emerged. Slowly the rescued bears realize with their new life that they are now in a different, safer, healthier, and happier bear world which is their own.
For example: Tan-Tan is the holder of the record breaking all records among all sun bear cubs we have had so far: At six months old she could construct a little nest in the tree using broken twigs and leaves. It was truly amazing to see!
Besides that, due to the emotional trauma that resulted from his being kept as pet, Nano was very stressed and in pain. After one year, Nano finally has reduced his stereotypical behavior by spending more time with his bear friend, Noah. He is on the road to recovery. We tear up just thinking how Nano has finally overcome his fear...
Sun bears are beautiful animals in nature. They deserve the chance to go back to the deep forest and to become a WILD bear. We all have two things that the sun bears do not, which is a voice and freedom. Please use your voice to help them and stop the hunting or killing of sun bears, we can make a difference to their future survival. Together we must save the sun bears!
On behalf of our rescued bears, a big bark THANKS to Wong, our supporters, funders, volunteers, friends and bear care team for taking care, supporting and loving them!