Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
In the beginning of March, five new sun bears have arrived at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) , which include Diana, Ronnie, Phin, Sigalung and Sunbearo. A lot of hard work and preparations went into that day. It has been a busy couple of weeks for the team in taking care of, in total, 32 rescued sun bears.
There is a very attractive bear with blue eyes called Ronnie. He is a determined, smart and relaxed 8 years old adult male sun bear with strong personalities. Ronnie was kept with another female adult sun bear called “Diana”. Both of them were rescued from View Top Resort, Tawau, South-East coast of Sabah in July of 2013. Their owners said that they had been keeping the two bears together in a small concrete floor cage, and displaying them to the public at View Top Resort, Tawau. They were fed with rice and fruits. We conducted Ronnie’s physical check-up on 11st March 2014 and it went on very smoothly with the help of the Sabah Wildlife Department staffs. Ronnie's current weight is recorded as 61.6 kg, he is such a muscular bear! Ronnie always looks for food, he rest near the feeding tray even when there is no food. He also loves to stare at people who walk pass in front of him. He watches them with curiosity and is interested in things that happen around him.
Diana, on the other hand, is an adult female sun bear. Upon her arrival at the BSBCC, Diana was in a bad condition. She had an old injury hole on her right snout, bald patches on the back of her head and unhealthy gums due to fighting with bear in her previous captivity. Diana is a sensitive bear, she made warning sound to show her displeasure at the presence of human on her first day at BSBCC. Nevertheless, Diana is doing brilliantly and likes to explore the new enrichment tools that are prepared by the keepers. She also loves playing with water by splashing water out of the water container.
Phin and Sigalung arrived at BSBCC as adult male sun bears for about 6 years old. They were found by villagers near the logging camp in Sipitang district, Southwest of Sabah. Expected, their mother was probably killed before they were kept as illegal pets. Both of them were rescued and kept together at the Lok Kawi Zoo on 1st March 2014. On the first day of their arrival at BSBCC, Sigalung and Diana barked and appeared to be aggressive when the transportation cage was moved. They took a little while before stepping into their new cage.
The male adult sun bear, Sigalung is named after the name of the logging camp where he was rescued. Although he appeared to be fierce when he first arrived, he adapted quickly to his new cage. He climbed to the top of his new cage and surveyed the surroundings in the new big basket. He is healthy, adventurous, energetic and sometimes cheeky. Sigalung is very playful especially with coconuts! He can spend hours playing with and trying to open them. Besides, he also loves climbing and practices his climbing skills often. He is believed to be an amazing climber when he is out to the forest enclosure in the future!
Phin was calm on the night he arrived at BSBCC. His name, 'Phin' was given by his previous owner. He is healthy and incredibly gentle as he moves much slower as compared to Sigalung. He enjoys climbing, resting in the big basket as well as splashing water out of the water container onto his chest by using his paws. Phin also finds a great joy in foraging decayed wood and exploring the new enrichment tools.
Sunbearo was kept in a Mini Zoo Hot Spring, Tawau, South Eastern of Sabah before he was handed over to the Sabah Wildlife Department and BSBCC. Sunbearo was thin and weights only 11.6 kg. He was most likely to be around 6 months old but his size is much smaller than the other bears of his age. Sunbearo’s hair was in poor condition which could be due to malnourishment. Therefore, a more complete and nutritious diet is specially prepared for him. Now, Sunbearo physical condition has improved and is gaining back his appetite and weight slowly. Moreover, his canine teeth are developing too!
Originally known as Tan Sri, which is the name of his owner from the Mini Zoo Hot Spring Tawau, he was then re-named as “Sunbearo” in recognition of all the enabling support that the company, Neways has given to the centre. He is now in quarantine and seemed very fragile as his muscles are not as strong due to his tiny size. Sunbearo was nervous about climbing at first, whereby he used his canine teeth to support his body during most of the climbing. Sunbearo climbed and explored his new cage often and is able to reach a higher height on his own now. In addition, Sunbearo enjoys his daily playtime at the exercise pen that is supplied with new climbing structure and dead woods. He never stops being curious and always wants to explore and touch on anything that he can. Sunbearo's hesitant, curiosity and expressive face made him stand out from the start.
Sunbearo is adorable and sweet, he can melt your heart in an instant. He learns to climb and forage as well as develop the skills necessary to be a wild sun bear on his own! Like all the sun bears that are housed at BSBCC, Sunbearo arrived as an orphan. No information was given about what had happened to his mother. We may never know Sunbearo’s true story, but we are glad that he is now under our care.
It is happy to see that the bears finally receive the care and kindness they deserved in BSBCC after their rescue. They seem to be adapting to their current home well and enjoying the new experience exploring the new cages. They love playing with the enrichment tools that could encourage them to develop natural and positive sun bear's behaviours. It is also grateful to bring these orphaned sun bears back into good health. They deserve to get a second chance and lead a happy and successful life in the wild!
It is important to spread the message for sun bear.
“Please stop hunting, buying and keeping sun bears as a pet!”