Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
Loki, a female cub, was about one year old when she arrived at the BSBCC on March 24, 2014. She had been illegally kept as a pet in Ranau, a city just along the west coast of Sabah.
Sunbearo, one year old male cub, came to the BSBCC on March 10, 2014. He was confiscated from the Mini Zoo Hot Spring, in Tawau, a city in the southeast region of Sabah.
Sunbearo and Loki recently completed their individual quarantine periods, and finally the day has come for us to integrate two sun bear cubs for the first time! Fire extinguishers and buckets of water were prepared to separate them if they became aggressive with one another. Azzry, our bear keeper, helped with the observation and assessment of the introduction.
Sunbearo and Loki lived quietly side by side in the quarantine area, and after one month of solitude the sliding gate between them was opened on April 21st. Loki was curious and neared the gate to sniff Sunbearo. Sunbearo, being the naughty little boy that he is, was sure to be the first one to run into the cage where Loki belongs. Both of them instantly sniffed and explored all over the cages, tapping everything around and checking out the new climbing structures. After about ten minutes of sniffing, and no aggressive growls, it was PLAYTIME! Sunbearo initiated play with Loki, and from that point on they wrestled nonstop for an hour straight inside the big basket. The two bears took a short break, and then went right back to more playing!
These are the pictures that show how Sunbearo and Loki play fight.
The following day was more fun! The playing continued and the bears chased, rolled, and climbed around the exercise pen together. Sun bears have uniquely loose skin around their necks, so that if they are bitten by another bear they can escape from it. They also come equipped with strong sharp claws that they can use to protect themselves from harm. The integration of the bears went extremely well! Sunbearo also began to suckle on Loki’s ear to seek comfort. The first time he tried to do this she refused to let him, but after about twenty minutes she finally trusted him and allowed him to suckle on her ear.
We are so glad that they socialised well together; especially Loki due to the high stress levels she had when she first arrived at the Centre. She is now a happy bear and enjoys wrestling with her new companion. Compared to Loki, Sunbearo demonstrates a more dominant personality. He is definitely the boss! It seems they are beginning to understand and comfort each other more and more every day.
This has been such a wonderful experience seeing such a successful integration of two bears without any aggression whatsoever. We have honestly never seen such active, curious, and happy bears! We are hopeful that these cubs will grow, learn, develop, and explore their new environment together so that one day they will be rehabilitated and released back into the rainforest of Borneo.