Three Newly Arrived Sun Bears Settling in at BSBCC

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May


This rescue did not change the world that we lived in, but it definitely changed the whole world of these three rescued bears!

Why does sun bear’s survival threatened? Sun bears are threatened for various reasons; one reason in particular is humans. Human activities pose many threats to sun bears and their habitat. Intensive illegal logging paired with increased agricultural expansions are just two ways in which humans are forcing sun bears out of their homes. Illegal animal trade is also leading to the extinction of sun bears. Mothers are being killed so that their cubs can be taken in as pets; many of which end up in small cages, and due to a lack of knowledge on how to properly handle the babies, often times they become malnourished and traumatised. This needs to stop if we ever want to see wild sun bears living happy and free in the rainforest!

This past July, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre received three rescued sun bears named Ronnie, Susie and Chin. These three rescued sun bears arrived at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre from the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo in Kota Kinabalu.

On July 15, 2014, 2 rescued sun bears (Ronnie and Susie) successfully unloaded at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre at around 5pm.

On July 22, 2014, Chin, an adult female sun bear is the 8th bear to arrive at the Centre this year.


We prepared a quarantine area for the bears which included a den enriched with decayed wood, climbing structures, hammocks, and green leaves. Upon arrival to the centre we unloaded the bear’s cages and secured it safely to the gate of the den. When we opened the doors the bears were hesitant to go inside. All three of them were slightly stressed from the move, but eventually each one entered its new home and began to explore.

Let the bears into their quarantine dens for the start of their new lives.

 

All newly rescued bears must undergo a month long quarantine period so that wildlife veterinarians can conduct an extensive health check, blood and hair examinations, and monitor the body measurements of the bears.

 

We conducted Ronnie physical check up at the BSBCC. It went on very smoothly with the help from the SWD vet, Dr Laura and Dr. Sandy.

Susie physical check up.

Chin physical check up.

 



Ronnie, a five month old female sun bear cub is always capturing people’s attention! Her history is still unknown but we believe that she was kept as a ex-pet and was sent to the BSBCC on July 15, 2014. Her mother was most likely killed by poachers, and now, this kind natured gentile sun bear is quickly adjusting to her new surroundings. 

Meet Ronnie, one of the youngest sun bear cub at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

 

When Ronnie arrived at the centre, she weighed only 7.9 kg and took the spot as youngest bear at the centre, as well as one of the smallest. Now her weight is 10.8 kg.


She is learning all the skills pertinent to survival in the wild. She is also enjoying this learning process very much, and loves to play in the dirt! She also likes to dig, and tear apart the dead wood around her.

So wonderful to see her grown up very fast!

Learn climbing tree time!!


If we give her ginger leaves or decayed branches, she will spend an entire day biting, twisting or tearing apart her enrichments.


During play fights, Ronnie likes to show her small curved canines and sharp claws.

 

 

Now that Ronnie is getting plenty of milk and fruit to eat she is developing a big belly too!

 

She has a nutritious diet that comprises fruits – Durian, Tarap, Mangosteen, Rambutan, Banana and etc.


Yummy! Enjoy Ronnie!

Big belly!

 

We special made a new sleeping platform for Ronnie so that she can seek shelter and hide when she encounter strange condition.



Aside from playing in her new environment, she also enjoys her nap time and snoozing on her sleeping platform.


She is simply a beautiful sun bear, and returns our smiles with an open mouth!


 

The chest mark of Ronnie similar to sun shaped with sprinkled with light black dots.

 


Susie, a 3 year old sub-adult female sun bear came to the centre on July 15, 2014. She was kept illegally as a pet by an individual who bought her from the Pensiangan Village in the Keningau District while she was still cub. He paid RM 200 for Susie. The owner’s son then surrenders Susie to the Sabah Wildlife Department on June 2014. The previous owner fed her primarily rice, meat, honey and fruits. Susie now weights 23 kg.

Susie, one of our recent arrivals at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.

 

Susie can be short tempered and rather sensitive, and is quite aware when strangers are around.  When food is present, especially her favourite varieties of fruits, she eats extremely fast. 

 

Susie has a large and broad chest mark with a “meteor” at the middle of her body.


Chin, an adult female sun bear, arrived to BSBCC from Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo on July 22, 2014. Chin is named after the primary school that she was rescued from in Tawau, a town in the southeast region of Sabah. Chin was kept at the primary school’s mini zoo for a very long time and was displayed illegally in a small metal cage. She was previously fed fruits, bread, and milk while she was kept at the school. 

Introducing Chin, one of the latest arrivals to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre!

Upon arrival we discovered that Chin is missing her left hind claw, which for a human would be the ring finger on the left hand.


Chin may look like a heavy and grumpy bear but she is actually a gentle and friendly bear.


We believe that Chin was never given any enrichment when she was kept at the mini zoo, which explains her curious behaviour towards enrichment activities. Here at the centre she is finding more and more activities to enjoy! Chin loves to tear things into pieces, such as dead logs and coconuts, and is a big fan of ginger leaves! She also loves playing in the water and enjoys splashing water out of the water basin onto her chest.

Tired of play…taking a rest first!

Her first time taste the durian fruit!

Showing her special long tongue!

“Growl” Alert with surrounding sound…

 

Chin’s chest mark

 

Well, these three new bears are doing well at BSBCC now! The bears slowly put their past behind them and are learning to live like wild bears again! Next step for the rescued sun bears will be integrating them with other bears, and slowly giving them access to the natural forest enclosure. The bears are in good hands with our caring staffs, and have been nurtured back to health. Throughout the day we provide different types of enrichment for the bears, and allow them the ability to freely explore, play, and forage. These activities stimulate their natural behaviour and help to prepare them for life back in the wild. Currently the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is taking care of 35 rescued sun bears, and is delighted to care for these bears!

 

 

 

 

BSBCC towards a learning Centre for sun bears

Text and photo by Gloria Ganang

One of the aims of BSBCC was to serve as an education platform for the public to learn about sun bears. One way is through interpretative signboards at the Centre. It was in 2012 when we first started developing our signboards. The BSBCC team started making plans and getting ideas as soon as the access boardwalk and observation platform was completed.

In early 2013, Wong received an email from Ayesha Keshani and said that she wanted to help in any exhibition design works. Her offer came at the perfect time. Ayesha arrived at BSBCC a few weeks later and started working on the layout of the signboard. We never knew that there were so many details to consider in building signboards. We went out searching for materials available locally and visited places to check out which material is the best for outdoor displays. The nearby Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) was a great help! Hubert Petol, whom has been designing and building signages at the RDC for many years showed us around the park, met his team and also visited their workshop. We were truly inspired with their ongoing commitment to make RDC a learning Centre of the tropical rainforest. Material wise, we couldn’t figure out anything better.

A layout of the signboard was made, sizes were determined and Ayesha was leaving. It was the end of her volunteering period. Ayesha was still very determined to get the signage done and kept in touch through email. 

Then came Jonathan Dolan from Arkitrek, who was a great help in making the structures of the signboard. The main idea was to have the signboard strong enough so they are not easily broken by free roaming macaques and orang utan. Therefore, Jon came up with strong metal frames which should be strong enough for even people to sit on! With the helps from our grounf staff, the signboard frames were built. 

Jon and one of the signboard frames

Ronny, BSBCC staff helping out in making the structure of the signboard

In the mean time, we had Jocelyn Stokes a photographer and a student at the Oregon State University who happened to be at the Centre, doing her research on sun bears in captivity. She offered to help out with the project. We worked out the content and the text for each signboards. It was a fun process and we learnt a lot! Wong (BSBCC’s CEO & Founder), in between his busy schedule, always made himself available in adding and checking inputs of the content.

Jocelyn and her ipad!

Lin May (our Coordinator) worked so hard together with Jocelyn compiling a collection of amazing photos for the signages. 

Later in 2013, Dr. Sheala Peake from the University of Sunshine Coast, Australia (USC) came to visit us. Seeing our needs to build signboards, she introduced us to Kevin Todd, a senior lecturer in Arts and Design from the USC. Kevin worked out some signboard theme with his students and brought the designs to the Centre. All staff gets to give their opinion on which theme would be the best for our Centre.

BSBCC staff selecting their favorite theme for the signboard

Kevin showing us some idea of how the signages would look like.

We sent him contents and photos. Kevin and his students worked out their magic and turned our contents and photos into a very unique design of signboards. Thanks to the full commitment from the USC in helping us to complete the signboards and ship them here. 

We also like to take this opportunity to thank the GEF Small Grants Programme for providing the funding to build these signages.

Not forgetting our staff Thye Lim and his friends Tok Ern Lai, Laurent Pong Chun Chih, Lai Yin Yee, Susan Sam and our friends Lin Jing Fen from Asiatic Black Bear Researcher from Taiwan Pin Tung Rescue Centre who are great help in writing the Chinese translations, as well as Miss Betty Susanti, a local teacher and a good friend that has worked hard working on the Malay translations. Now with 3 language translations, we can reach more people from different backgrounds to learn about sun bears.

Thank you very much for all your supports! More plans are coming to make the Centre a great learning platform about sun bears and a worthwhile experience for visitors !

Georgie’s Experience

Text and Photos by Georgie Kaye

Hello! My name is Georgie Kaye and I am from Yorkshire in the north of England, UK. I have just completed my studies at the University of Cumbria and have achieved a 2:1 level degree in Animal Conservation Science BSc!

I decided that as my studies were coming to an end it was time to spice up my CV with some more relevant volunteering experience. I’d done plenty of research projects and even helped to coordinate at a conservation biology conference, but I’d never taken part in any extensive animal husbandry.

However, gaining experience was not the only reason. Bears have always been my particular interest and passion, especially the lesser known tropical species. I searched for bear projects in a number of different countries but none seemed as dedicated and passionate as the BSBCC team. They really understand the importance of educating the public about sun bears as the majority of people have no idea these bears even exist! Therefore I decided straight away that I wanted to be a part of this project and support it as much as I absolutely can. I organised everything with my friend Jodie (who has also shared her own story) and off we went….

We arrived on the 10th of June at the Sepilok Jungle Resort. Straight away you notice the beautiful trees and all the different sounds of the forest, then you notice the pond with huge fish! So much nature already and we’d only been off the bus for 2 minutes…

The same evening, after settling in to our room (and adjusting to the heat!) we met some of the team and other volunteers we would be working with. I can’t emphasize enough just how friendly everybody is at BSBCC. That night we fell asleep to the incredibly LOUD rainfall outside! You get used to this, I promise.

The next day we got to work! Now, the work itself is not particularly difficult BUT add the heat and jet lag and you have a tiring combination! Don’t worry though, the staff take good care of you and as long as you drink PLENTY of water you’ll be fine! Some of the tasks include preparing the fruit and veg (a lot of it!), preparing the ‘bear porridge’ (rice), carrying and scattering the fruit and veg outside for the bears, cleaning the indoor cages and preparing fun enrichment for the bears to keep them entertained! If you can think of a few different things that will help to stimulate the bears and get them active then don’t hesitate to tell a member of staff, they love new ideas!


Lots of bear names to remember, but with time you’ll get the hang of it! All the bears have their own personality and preferences. Some are sweet and quiet, like Mary, and some love to Splash and mess around, like Bermuda! During your time there you’ll definitely get to know your own favourites.


The work is important and it is essentially why you’re there, but the staff understands that you would also like to explore the local area, particularly if you’re from another country like me! There’s plenty of other things to see, like the canopy walks at the Rainforest Discovery Centre just down the road or busy markets in Sandakan. If you love your food Wong knows all the best places to eat so just ask! If it has his recommendation then you’re definitely up for an excellent meal. If you have a sweet tooth I can personally recommend the cake from the ‘Fat Cat Cake House’ in Sandakan!

If you want to know more about life as a volunteer or more info about the bears and conservation then take some time to read the other volunteer blogs or even get in touch with the BSBCC team! You don’t need a conservation degree, you don’t need husbandry experience, as long as you absolutely want to help and think you can dedicate yourself to caring for bears then get in touch!

Little Mary here looks forward to seeing you!

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New Life Post, 09 July 2014

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This is Sim’s story

Have you ever wondered what you want to do to spice up your boring life? Have you ever thought about going off the grid and want to try something different? Why wait? I encourage you to seize the day. Be a leader, not a follower.

Hai, my name is Chooi Ying Sim but everyone just calls me Sim. I am a chemist and also a certified nurse assistant from Montana, USA but mostly I’m just an ordinary Malaysian Chinese girl who’s trying to find her place in the world.

I first met the founder and CEO of BSBCC, Siew Te Wong, back in 2008. He was pursuing his PhD in Wildlife at the University of Montana and I my Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry. I visited Brother Wong in the summer of 2012 and discovered an amazing opportunity to be involved, first hand, in the rescue of the Sun Bear. Well, long story short, here I am and this is my story.

Just a quick side note. I’ve never been a great writer or possessed a good memory, so I always have my Canon S95 with me to capture all the beautiful moments.

Enjoy!

8th of June 2014, my first day as a volunteer. I was greeted by a skinny guy named Thye Lim, 27 years old , and he explained all the rules and regulations I was required to follow. There was one key rule he emphasized the most though, no unauthorized feeding of the bears, as safety is extremely important. Next, he got me my nametag and gumboots and I was put to work right away with a lovely lady from Holland named Jaike.


Below are some pictures I took showing how much food we prepare in one day, as well as the cleaning of the bear cage and drain. While it didn’t require a lot of brain cells to complete these tasks it definitely took a lot of muscle! So be prepared to be sore head to toe for the first couple days. I recommend soaking your feet in hot water at night and massaging them. This will help with your tired and swollen feet and give you a good night’s rest.


“No worries, you will be a true strong woman.” This is what one of the bear keepers, Azzry, told me. He is very funny and I marveled at his dedication to his work. He wasn’t kidding either, after a week, I felt stronger and looked fitter. So it’s not just chopping fruit, feeding the bear, carrying the fruit, cleaning the cage, collecting leaves, creating enrichment for the bear, etc. It’s also a great way to get into shape. But don’t worry it’s not all work and no play, as you get the routine down, you can start to have more fun and be more creative with the food you prepare.

You would start writing the bear’s name on the food; start to decorate the sweet potatoes with long bean seeds. That was not all yet, you will get to ride on our VIP scooter that could fit up to 5 persons that would take you straight from the office to bear house or you could chose to hike 2km into the jungle and look at the beautiful waterfall.

Speaking of fun, have you ever taken a group picture using a camera trap? I have! We noticed some mud on a tree around Pen B and decided to setup a camera trap to see who it was. We had to test the camera first of course, so, picture time!

And Ladies, you don’t have to be afraid to let loose. Don’t worry about the messy hair and sweaty shirt. Get into the woods, pick up the dirt and feel the wonder of nature first hand. And since the BSBCC takes care of 33 bears total, trust me, you can just be one of the guys.

In the BSBCC, Sun Bears aren’t the only animals we take care of. We also have uninvited guests sometimes, the macaques and orangutans. The leader of the macaques is called Shaman King and he always leads his gang to our outdoor enclosure to steal food from our bears! And then you have the orangutans who always come to the bears house and try to steal the food through the gate. A lot of effort is put into deterring these ‘little’ rascals with the least amount of harm, because as pesky as they may be we still love them and want them to live pain free.

 

Sometimes on a hot day we made popsicles for the bears using the fruits we had, usually guava and watermelon. We took the fruit and blended them in water and then froze them. People were not encouraged to eat these popsicles of course!

Your creativity will find a home when you volunteer at the BSBCC. You will learn how to sing with a rake in the street. You will get into a bear cage and pretend to be one of the bears! Sometimes you’ll climb into a bear hammock and get poop on your jeans just so you can live like a bear!

What is the best thing about being a volunteer at the BSBCC? It is the connection you get to make with the Sun Bears. The first week you learn how the husbandry works for the bears. Then during the second week you go to the observation platform and learn how to educate the visitors about the Sun Bears. You might encounter some funny questions or may find yourself surrounded by macaques and have to keep calm and make sure the visitors are safe. But don’t worry you’re not alone, the BSBCC has an amazing group of cheerful and helpful staff members that will be with you every step of the way.

Also, you have the unique opportunity of taking close up shots of the Sun Bears. You can’t buy moments this valuable with money.

But I know what you’re thinking, there’s got to be more to the area than just volunteering with the BSBCC, right? It’s an excellent question and the answer is YES. There’s an area called Sandakan and I went on a boat ride organized by Future Alam Borneo. I wasn’t prepared for this of course and only had my BSBCC t-shirt and jeans on. It was quite a ride for most of us on the boat since we weren’t used to the way the dragon boat rides on the water but we managed to make it back to shore safely and in one piece.


Going around and trying cheap new food is also exciting. I recommend you go to Wati, a small stall outside the center. You get a big plate of fried rice for only RM5.


Or if you want some seafood you can try Sim-Sim and while its not the best it’s definitely affordable. 

And don’t forget to check out the Ba Lin rooftop restaurant for some high end cocktails and pastries. 

If you’re a meat eater though I would recommend you try a stall that’s a 10 min drive from the center, there you can get some wild boar meat. You will love it!

Or if you’re lucky enough, Brother Wong, who is the best cook I’ve ever met, will make you a gourmet dinner. I stayed with him during my stint volunteering here and he made some amazing food. Below is one of his noodle dishes.

Of course food is not all you get. You can meet a lot of new friends especially if you stay in one of the nearby resorts. I met these fun gentlemen who were planning to build new facilities in West Malaysia to protect the Sun Bear.

If you have a couple days off from volunteer work you can go to the Kinabatangan River and go on a boat cruise or go on a night walk. You can go on the Oxbow Lake as well and look for wildlife and lots of birds. The wildlife and scenery here is truly beautiful and I would highly recommend you go on the boat ride and experience it for yourself.

I like the term work hard, party hard. We had a farewell party at a fancy resort. All the laughter and fun we shared that night made for a wonderful memory.

So my friend, how do you feel now after reading my story? Your first thought is probably, “Wow, she wasn’t kidding about the taking lots of pictures thing.” :-) I want you to know that before coming to the center I was at low point in my life and I am grateful I got to spend time with such an amazing organization.

 I may not have the best wildlife or science knowledge or be the strongest in the center but one thing I’m sure of is I’m not alone and I’m learning everyday.  “Knowledge becomes wisdom when it becomes personal experience” That is what I got from the BSBCC, and if you volunteered here too, I’m sure you’d agree with me.

Last but not least though, the biggest gift I gained from this experience, is friendship. I hope you decide to share the new adventures of you life with us. If I can do it I believe you can too.

 Thank you BSBCC and see you again!

 God bless you and KCCO~!

6 weeks Voluntary Work at the BSBCC

Hi! My name is Jaike. I’m from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and I had the opportunity to work for six weeks as a volunteer at the BSBCC. And I can tell you, they were 6 great weeks! If you are thinking of doing voluntary work with animals, don’t hesitate and come along!

This is me, at SimSim’s, a very nice fish restaurant in Sandakan, where we had dinner with all the volunteers, Wong and some of the crew.

For me, the choice of becoming a volunteer ‘something with endangered animals and somewhere in a forest ‘ was very clear for me since a long time. I wanted to help out where help was needed, and at the same time gaining experience working with animals, it just wasn’t clear to me where and what exactly. When I read about the BSBCC, I knew instantly that this was the place I was looking for: a group of very dedicated people who not only take care of previously captured sun bears, but also make sure they enquire enough skills to be released into the wild again and ‘dehumanise’ them. And if that is not enough, they also actively teach local communities about the importance of preserving the natural habitat of sun bears and all the other species that live in primary and secondary forest (and cannot live only in oil palm plantations which are sadly enough covering the biggest part of Borneo). And there is even more!  The place is build from scratch and with knowledge gained by doing years of research – both processes still going on as we speak – by Siew Te Wong, a dedicated biologist who has the capacity to pass his enthusiasm and dedication through to his crew.

What does it mean to be a volunteer at the BSBCC?

Of course, the longer you stay, the more you learn, and the more chance you have of experience some great things.

 

Isn’t this a nice way to eat a coconut?!? Down below the bear house where the daily maintenance is done.

The basic maintenance is a daily routine: chopping 57 kilos of fruit and 16 kilos of vegetables, preparing four huge pots of rice porridge, and feeding the 31 sun bears, indoor and outdoor (there are also two very young sun bears, but only two staff members may take care of them). And there is of course the cleaning of the cages. This fills about the whole morning, the feeding also a part of the afternoon.

The afternoon is mostly used for enrichment: making climbing structures for the indoor cages or devices that make the feeding more exciting for the sun bears, or collecting leaves, broken termite nests or big logs of wood in the forest. Or you will go to the visitors-platform to give information to the tourists while watching the sun bears. But the other volunteers who were here the last two weeks of my stay (Sim and Jodie & Georgie) will probably tell you more about it, so I will tell you about my first four weeks, when I was the only volunteer.

In the second week of my stay, sun bear Natalie wounded herself pretty bad on the sole of her paw. The vet was called, and after an anaesthesia-shot, she was lifted from her nest into the cage into my arms to carry her to the table so the doctor could clean the wound. Can you imagine: 35 kilo of thick black fur with paws and head lying on my shoulders! Sadly enough I don’t have a picture to proof it, but since then this beautiful lady stole my heart! And she is not only the most beautiful sun bear, she is also very clever ánd a candidate to be released into the wild. Read her story elsewhere on this website!

Now isn’t she beautiful or what?

In the weeks following, I participated in two completely different big projects.
The first one was making a gigantic hammock for the outside-enclosure for sun bear Kudat. He has a small enclosure for himself because he cannot socialize in a group (which is in fact quite normal, because they are solitary animals). To make this enclosure more exiting, we made this hammock to give him more climbing opportunities and provide some shade on the forest-floor. The making took four of us about a week, and a lot of sweat, bruises and muscle-pain! Not to speak of the hanging of the 90-kilo structure!

Phase 1: the making of the hammock

Phase 2: the hanging of the hammock

Phase 3: Kudat uses the hammock!

The second project was the observing of young sun bear Damai. She had to do an integration training to socialize her with a group of five other females and one male of the same age (two to four years old, Damai being the youngest) ánd a fence training. Since both trainings were successfully completed, she can go outside to a big outside enclosure with the six others to climb in trees, play around, and learn new skills to eventually use in the wild. The result of the observing can be read on Damai’s blog elsewhere on this website, which I had to write.

Damai loves to climb in a tree!

Another fun day was the day a filmcrew came to make a documentary about the BSBCC. Sabah’s 2011 beauty queen presented herself as a volunteer-for-a-day, doing all the daily maintenance we (and maybe you?) have to do.  With a tiny role for me being interviewed, broadcasting on national TV in August 2014.

 

 

 

What else can you expect?

By working ‘backstage’ and staying in the resort, you definitely have the chance of seeing a lot of Sabah’s wildlife. Orang utans, macaques, squirrels, hornbills and kingfishers, beautiful butterflies, cobras and vipers, water monitor lizards an small lizards, weird looking insects and colourful birds (the owner of the resort, mr. Johnny, can tell you all about them!), and I was lucky to see and be sniffed at by two baby-pygmies elephants who were in quarantine at the next door Orang utan center.

Now this is a view of sun bears you only get to see as you work in the BSBCC, and not as a visitor

By going into the jungle with some of the staff members you learn about the spirit of the forest, about iron trees and the fruiting of dipterocarp trees, about the sound a black cobra makes, about the traces bearded pigs leave and how a gibbon sounds and many things more, and learn some Malaysian along the way.

By eating dinner made by Wong you will have the best meal of your whole Asia trip, wow, that man can cook! Ask for the recipe of his fish in babana leaves! And going with some crewmembers to, for instance, a Chinese or an Indian restaurant, or to the night market in Sandakan makes you feel less a tourist but more in union with the place.

But every upside has its downside. Yes there are musquitos and leeches. Yes, it’s very hot and humid. And yes, the meals at the resort are very western orientated without any chilies in the rice or noodles (or beans in tomato-sauce for breakfast, yuk!). What meals are concerned, the opinions differ though, I didn’t like it much, but others loved it. Sometimes Mr. Johnny or his wife or mother gave me something of their Chinese meals though, which were much better. And after 9.00 p.m. there is nothing to do anymore, so without company it can be a little bit boring in the evening. But there are pretty much always other guests, and some of the staff of the resort likes to chat or have a drink with you.

For me, this amazing experience has ended. I will start a journey through Borneo in a few days. I made many new friends, and want to especially thank Lin May, Thye Lim, Azzrye, Mizuno, Tommy, David, Rizan, Gloria and Inna and last but not least Wong to make this an experience I will never forget! (But with this remark I don’t mean that many others of the crew weren’t remembering able, everybody was great, so also thanks to all of you!) Tarima kasi!

 

Damai, Into the Forest Enclosure!

Text and  Photo Chiew Lin May


Look who is moving on up! In June this year, something exciting happened in the forest. Damai, a beautiful two-years-old sub adult female sun bear with black eyes full of curiosity and energy is finally stepped onto the forest floor on last week 3rd June 2014.

 

Damai peeks out!

Slowly take time to coming out a bit.

Damai takes a brave steps towards the new forest enclosure.

Finally all the way out!

Currently, Damai shares her enclosure with six other sun bears, namely Mary, Debbie, Koko, Ah Bui, Fulung and Bongkud. It was observed that once Damai was out in the forest enclosure, she tried to avoid the other bear friends. She ran, stood on her hind legs and kept growling, this might be due to her fearfulness and insecurity in the new environment. The other bears were curious and puzzled, they seemed like “What happening to Damai?”  All of them, especially Koko tried to approach and sniff her. It took sometimes for Damai to feel more relaxed and began to explore the surroundings. The door of bear house will be kept open for one week so that Damai could go in and out as she wishes until she gains back her confidence and sense of security.

Meet with her new playmates in the forest enclosure. Debbie also checks out what happen to Damai…

First time came out to forest enclosure and start to ventured into her new environment.

Damai will growling and huffing when she feel not comfortable with other presence.

Sun bear is so comfortable and feel so secure in trees.

Better forest enclosure where Damai can build up the strength and skills she need to survive in the wild.


Damai is independent in nature. She knows what she wants and tries to take care of her own needs all by herself.  She seldom interacts with the other female playmates except for Fulung, the sub adult male bear. When the other female bears try to approach her, she will start growling, try not to have anything to do with them and walks off alone into the forest. It seems that the other five female bears have to be gentle with little Damai.

 

She likes to gaze up into the trees and into the sky.

Sniffing at a tree.

Great tree climber!

A sense of achievement! Here is hoping she gets the chance back to the place where she belong.

Hang out more where she belong…forest!

She looks down and see what other bears are doing…

New Home…

Little Damai climbs a tree for a better look.

Damai found her favorite food – Termites

It was a best place for Damai to take a midday nap.

Wonderful to see her climb!!

Such a big step for Damai to be out socializing.

It is glad to see that Damai’s playmate especially Fulung like to play fight with her.

Damai tends to use her front paws to chase away Koko from climbing the same tree with her.

Using her keen of smell, Damai also rip into dead wood looking for insects.

Up to date, once the door open, Damai will quickly go out to the forest and start her journey together with her friends.

But, sometimes naughty Koko will sit on the door and block the way for other bears to went out!

She getting into an energetic play mode.


When it comes to feeding time, the staffs scatter the food, Damai would usually be the last in line, while the other bears help themselves with the fruits first. Nevertheless, Damai is an excellent forager in the wild. Even with her small size, she would enthusiastically searching for insects and fruits in the forest enclosure.

 

She and her playmates are foraging together.

Damai foraged independently. She knows what she likes to eat especially termites and fruits.

Mmmm!

Damai enjoy her first taste of freedom.

Damai enjoying her morning fruits.

Look what Fulung done! He just grabs the fruit from Damai.

Damai always try getting a scent of unknown and listening to any strange noises.

Standing up right on her hind limbs to check the surrounding area.

Sun bears got their name because of the cresent marking on their chest. Damai have the special half “U”shape.

 

Remember that when come to walking in the forest with the bear staffs, Damai behaves the same way as when she was first brought to walk in the forest at the age of five months. It is amazing to watch Damai getting back her freedom, foraging for food, roaming around the forest and in tune with the new surroundings. She never hesitates to climb trees as high as she could go and keep perfecting her arboreal skills. Damai likes to gaze up into the trees and into the sky. It stole our heart to know that she is still a wild sun bear. This is such an exciting moment!

See how much she grown into a wild bear and continue to show her wild behavior!

Enjoy a happy and healthy Damai!!

Have a smile on her face!

Great enjoy freedom!

Sweetheart always!!

 

After spending hours in the forest observing Damai’s behaviour, we hope that after a few months, Damai will adapt herself with the life in the forest enclosure and with the other new bears. We are certain that one day Damai will be happy and live freely as a wild sun bear in the forest.

 

 

DAMAI HAS REACHED A NEW PHASE

Text by Jaike Bijleveld
Photos by Chiew Lin May

 

Damai is a shy and sweet little girl of 2 years old who loves splashing herself with water. Besides the two sun bear cubs Loki and Sunbearo, she is the youngest sun bear in the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). 

When Damai was only 5 months old, she was found wandering at a car park before she was brought to the BSBCC.

Young Damai climbing around a big wooden log.

In the first seven months or so, one of the bear care staffs showed her the jungle around the Sepilok Jungle, to get her familiar with the surroundings. To surprise of everybody, she started making a nest in a tree without a mother to show her how!

Damai gets to see her new home at 5 months old.

Looking for tasty termites.

Termite nests is greedily explored.

As if she has always lived in the jungle.

Damai is very proud of her first build nest!

When she was about 1 year old, it became too dangerous for a human to walk with her in the jungle, so she moved to the indoor bear house. Usually this is also the age that people, who keep sun bear as a pet, start to realize that sun bears are wild animals and their huge canines and claws can and will be very dangerous. Next stop for a captured sun bear is often a tragic one: the cooking pot, the traditional medicine store or the black market.

In the wild, baby sun bears will stay with their mother until they are 2 to 4 years old, before they take off to live a solitary life. They learn all kinds of practical things to survive. Damai lost her mother too young, so she needs to learn these things from other sun bears, although she already proved that some skills depend on nature rather than nurture!

TIME TO MEET SOME OTHER BEARS

Now she reached the age that she is not so vulnerable anymore, so it was time to start an integration process with six other bears of her age: the females Mary, Debbie, Koko, Ah Bui and Bongkud, and the male Fulung.  They all share four adjacent indoor cages, connected by sliding doors, but until two weeks ago the sliding door of Damai’s cage was kept closed until the six others went to the outdoor enclosure at day time.

Damai is about to meet Mary for the first time.

Damai gets chased away from the basket.

Because it would be too overwhelming for Damai to meet all six sun bears at the same time, one by one introduction was started for the first five days. Except Mary and Ah Bui, all of them where curious, started sniffing at her and wanted to play with Damai, but only Fulung succeeded. Not because Damai wanted to play with Fulung, but simply because it was not possible to escape strong and playful Fulung!

The playing of sun bears looks a lot like a wrestling match, with a lot of neck biting and clawing, but as long as there is no growling, you know it’s just playing. Later, in the wild, the fighting skills they learn while playing are very useful when they get attacked by, for instance, a python or clouded leopard or other competitive sun bears.

No.This is not a dancing bear! Damai does not want to play with Fulung.

Fulung loves to play with Damai!

Little Mary wants to sleep and do not bother Damai.

Playful Fulung keeps on rolling and grabbing Damai, she cannot escape from him!

Play fight looks like a wrestling match.

Sometimes Damai can take control, here she is back away Bongkud.

This is still playing!

The group is getting more comfortable around Damai, Koko rolling backwards over Damai.

Time for a nap in the basket after play.

Best friends Mary (Left) and Debbie (Right) watching Damai play with Fulung.

In the following days, the number of bears integrating with Damai slowly increased, until after about 8 days the complete group could be with Damai at the same time. In the days that passed, it became clear that Damai is a girl that likes to be alone. Bongkud and Debbie manage to play fight with her for a few minutes, and Fulung still is record holder playing with Damai. The rest of the group is simply ignored or ignores Damai.  But there is no aggression either, so the integration sessions can be called successful. After all, being alone is their nature.

NEXT STEP: GET READY TO LEAVE THE BEAR HOUSE

Before any sun bear can leave the indoor bear house to the outside forest enclosure, there is training required: fence training. Each forest enclosure has a fence with electrical wire (hot wire). This is necessary to make sure that non-integrated groups won’t climb to each other’s enclosure, or that any of the sun bears won’t climb outside the enclosure where humans walk and dangers for the sun bear lure.

Honey, porridge and fruits near the hot wire.

In the indoor bear house, next to the cages where Damai had her integration sessions, is a large training pen. With honey, porridge and fruit Damai was encouraged to come near the hot wire, with a very low voltage in the beginning. The first day, the same day of her first integration session, Damai touched the hot wire while licking the honey. It scared her so much that she immediately ran back to her own cage! The next day the same thing happened, and the three following days she had just enough courage to walk into the training pen before hurrying back to her own safe cage. It took a whole week and four more ‘zappings’ before Damai understood how to get the food without touching the hot wire and walk confident around in the training pen. At that point the integration area could be extended to the training pen.

Damai learn the fence training. She loves honey!

Very careful trying to get a piece of banana without getting zapped.

This week she will be allowed to go to the outside enclosure together with the rest of her group to reach the final stage of her training: get her ready to release her back in the wild!

Last step for Damai waiting her out to the forest enclosure BSBCC.

 

 

 

Busy Saturday

Text and Photos by Wong Siew Te

After a large group of students and their teachers from Pui Gin Kindergarten visited BSBCC this morning, another 60 school students, teachers and their family from St Cecilia Convent High School, Sandakan visited BSBCC in the afternoon. 

Thye Lim gave the students a very interesting and dynamic talk about sun bears and their plight. 

Follow by observing the sun bears in the forest enclosure. I have to say that both groups that visited us today were very lucky to see so many of our sun bears actively on trees and very close by the observation platform.

For sure today there are more and more students and teachers learn about the sun bears and got to see how special sun bears are with their own eyes. 

Soon, more and more people, especially the younger generation from Malaysia will know about the plight of the sun bears.
Soon, more and more people will help the sun bears and their habitat.
Soon, not just the sun bears, but all of us, will be safe!

 

 

 

Pui Gin Kindergarten visiting BSBCC

Text and Photos by Wong Siew Te


60 kindergarten students and teachers from Pui Gin Kindergarten, Mile 7, Sandakan, visited BSBCC this morning. They got to see our sun bears climbing tress, playing on top trees, sleeping and foraging in the forest enclosures from the observation platform.

Even more excited, they got to see the bear from a spotting scope. It is simply amazing to see the reactions and big smiles of the kids watching the sun bears!


The Headmistress of the Pui Jin Kindergarten gave BSBCC a souvenir of appreciation received by Thye Lim, our centre coordinator.

Now, more and more kids know how special and how important is our sun bears and our rainforest.

Thank you for visiting us Pui Gin Kindergarten!