The Integration between Ronnie with Sunbearo and Loki

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

Like most mammals, bear cubs require intense maternal care during their first few months of life.  As cubs grow and gain mobility, they romp and play, but they never stay far from their protective mothers, who keep them safe from predators and other mishaps.  The mothers also teach cubs the secrets of survival— where to find food, and what to eat.  – Siew Te Wong

The rescued sun bear cubs have to learn to live together. The interactions between bear cubs can help them to develop and learn some skills that are needed in the wild. On August 25, 2014, we introduced Ronnie to other sun bear cubs, Sunbearo and Loki. However, when Ronnie was moved to quarantine area during her first arrival at BSBCC, she was not very welcomed by Sunbearo where Sunbearo kept growling at Ronnie. Therefore during the first integration, our team monitored them with extra cautions and were prepared for a sudden fight between them.

Luckily, after opening the sliding gate between their dens, Sunbearo was the first to initiate the play and it was Ronnie first contact with other bears. Both of them spent the most of the time playing at the small platform and basket. On the next day, Ronnie was integrated with another bear cub, Loki. Loki was very curious towards Ronnie and barked on her during their first meeting. When the two bears met, both of them played and wrestled immediately.

 

Integrate with Sunbearo. Sunbearo was waiting to enter next den and meet Ronnie.

Ronnie first meet with other bear!

The next day meet with Loki.

Looking at Loki how she tear the log.

Loki giving Ronnie a bite on her tiny canines.

Loki giving Ronnie a bite on her tiny canines.

On August 29, 2014, we integrated Ronnie with Sunbearo and Loki. Ronnie body size is small as compared to Sunbearo and Loki. They are now learning to enjoy their life again after suffering the pain from the loss of their mothers and being kept as pets by illegal poachers.

PLAYTIME !!

Seeming that they begin to understand each other better…

Showing a lot of teeth and claws in these play fight!

 

Sometimes, Ronnie continues to play even though she is already tired and exhausted. They like to climb, chase, and bite with each other. These three bears are getting along very well and showing no signs of aggression.

This integration is a great successful!

Tired after play!

Lovely!

 

Dreaming…..

The three sun bears are living together in the big den.

Learning the skills that need to cope in the wild.

Foraging for food.

She is enjoy eating fruits. Using her small claws as a fork to grab the fruits.

Climbing skill.

Playing with some enrichment.

 

However, Ronnie seems to be the dominant one if there is food. She becomes slightly aggressive by growling and barking to whom trying to approach her. She also makes it clear that she is no longer interested in playing but to continue eating. Nevertheless, the three of them still mingle well as Sunbearo and Loki perceived the message from Ronnie clearly!

Even busy with explore in the den, Ronnie still will keep alert with surrounding sound!

 

Over the past few weeks, they explored, played, wrestled, climbed, foraged and rested together in the big exercise pen. Ronnie is now able to live in community and loves her new companions. She seems to become more playful and active in the presence Sunbearo and Loki.  All of us are very excited to see her begins her new life with other bears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Loki !


Loki, one year old orphan female sun bear cub arrived at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre on March 24, 2014. She had been confiscated by Sabah Wildlife Department who discovered her living in the backyard of an inn where she had been illegally kept as pet for about five months. Her previous owner purchased her from a friend in Ranau on west coast of Sabah and had named her “Ooi”.

The story of her background is still unclear but sad to think that her mother has certainly been killed. Loki has made tremendous progress during her time at BSBCC and has acquired many of the survival skills she that she will need in order to survive in the wild. We look forward to the day when she will live in the Borneo forests that she loves!

Steve Denim from UK, who has a passion for sun bears, adopted this very special sun bear cub and changed her name to “Loki” as a way to remember his cat who had been struck by a car. On behalf of the sun bears, we want to say “Thank You” to Steve Denim who continues to support Loki though the BSBCC adoption program. His continued support helps to rescue and care for this orphan sun bear ensuring her well-being and future care.

 

Loki arrived at BSBCC on 24th March 2014. Delivered by Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit.

Having a good snooze!

 


Integration with Sunbearo and Ronnie

Although sun bear is solitary in the wild, sun bear in captivity appear to benefit from social interaction.

Loki was very stressful and shy when she first arrived at the Centre. Now she has changed so much especially after integrate her with Sunbearo (one year old male sun bear cub) and Ronnie (6 months old female sun bear cub). They love to spending time together playing, chasing, foraging, climbing and resting.

Lovely to see them playing freely and enjoying themselves!

They enjoy and happily spend time exploring their den.

The joys of the play fight!

Loki is very sociable bear that like to join and hanging out with Sunbearo and Ronnie.

 

 

Enrichment for sun bears

Enrichment improves the well being of bears in captivity and improves reintroduction success by encouraging natural behaviours to survival in the wild. Enrichment activities include logs, tyres, dead wood, branches, twigs, dried leaves, fresh plant material, and etc.

Enjoying some tasty treats.

 

FOOD

In the BSBCC, food enrichment introduces the necessary variation onto the diets of the bears.

Loki absolutely loves food and enjoys eating variety of fruits, termites, invertebrate and honey!

Sniffing out hidden pieces of fruits.

 

Little Loki is starting put her past behind her and is learning to be a wild bear again. Thanks to Steve Denim, she is able to enjoy the freedom to live her life as a sun bear!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank You to Steve Denim!

Steve Denim from UK, who has a passion for sun bears, adopted this very special sun bear cub and changed her name to “Loki” as a way to remember his cat who had been struck by a car. On behalf of the sun bears, we want to say “Thank You” to Steve Denim who continues to support Loki though the BSBCC adoption program. His continued support helps to rescue and care for this orphan sun bear ensuring her well-being and future care.

Certificate of Adoption

Thanks Giving Gift

 

Adventures with Sun Bears: Volunteering at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

My name is Jenny Slater and am 21 years old. I’m from the UK near a city called Coventry, in the Midlands and Warwickshire areas. I had just finished my degree in Ecology from the University of Sheffield and was taking a break before starting my PhD in Plant and Soil Science in October.I was in Sepilok to work with the Orang-Utan Rehabilitation centre and was shown the BSBCC as part of our introductions to the Sepilok area. I inquired with a friend if we could help out on our days off, as it seemed they needed the help much more than the orang-utan centre, due to much less staff. It was agreed we could help out for 5 days over our 2 months in Sepilok.

 I volunteered at BSBCC on the 20.7.14 for the first time and helped in general animal husbandry by helping to prepare food including 50kg of washed and cut up bananas! Feeding the indoor bears was a matter of skill as we have to fling the food, e.g. sugar cane, coconuts, various fruit, on top of the cages. We were lucky to get so close to them but it was good that the morale within the centre was to respect the bears, so we didn’t spend too much time gawking at them, allowing them to get on with their daily business of climbing, sleeping, eating, drinking and washing. Feeding the outdoor bears was also great, which also involved throwing skills, but this time to avoid hitting the bears and avoid giving the food to wild pig-tailed macaques.

The big males were nearly bigger than some of the bears! We also helped in creating more enrichment and platforms for the sun bears – although I think it was more enrichment for us with all the sawing, hammering and chiselling!

Before I did my next day volunteering, Natalie the bear escaped on the 24.7.14 and caused havoc within Sepilok, closing the whole area to tourists for a few days. She still had not come back when I did my next volunteering days on the 28.7.14 and 29.7.14. As such, the ‘outdoor’ bears had not been allowed out so the place was a lot smellier than before and tensions were higher among the bears; they are really scary when they barked! On the 28th we only helped prepare food as the staff looked for Natalie in the afternoon. On the 29th 5 bears were allowed out – the first time since Natalie’s escape. I also did a full day of preparing fruit and cleaning everywhere in the kitchen! The enrichment we made was little packages made from natural vegetation with organo or curry powder in them. Of course we spent the afternoon making them for the bears to destroy them in 5 seconds! We were also allowed to feed the bears their porridge, allowing even closer interaction with them. They really are beautiful, special animals.

The next day I volunteered was the 12.8.14 and, thankfully, we didn’t have to prepare the back breaking work of 50kg of bananas as the bears were fed local fruit like durian and rambutan instead. We also got to clean some of the cages and I really appreciated how important a power-washer is for a place like this. This enrichment activity was to make a new hammock for the bears. This involved power washing some hosing to clean it then sawing it into smaller pieces, drilling holes in it and screwing it together. Again I’m sure these activities are more enriching for us than the bears! It was good to know we were making a difference to the quality of life of the bears though.

 The last day I volunteered was the 14.8.14 and it was quite a sobering day; Koko the bear was sick and it was suspected she had eaten a durian seed. Although we helped food preparation and cleaning, the atmosphere was tense as the WRU helped get her to a clinic in Mile 8 for an x-ray. On a positive side to the morning, we got some lovely photos of the outdoor bears. However, the x-ray confirmed the problem was a durian sick which meant a 7 hour drive to KK. Although Koko had had an anaesthetic at 11.30am she was still drowsy at when she left BSBCC at 5pm. As everyone was preoccupied with Koko we helped prepare food for the next few days. As a good bye, we had photos with the whole BSBCC team which was a lovely memento.

On the 17.8.14 I paid a visit to BSBCC to check on Koko. She had made it back OK from KK and they had successfully removed the seed and it was hoped she would make a full recovery. I went to say goodbye to the staff on 29.8.14 and was greeted with bad and good news. Koko had sadly passed on the 17.8.14, about 4 hours after I had inquired about her. An autopsy revealed she had another durian seed stuck in her throat that hadn’t been noticed on the x-ray and hence not removed. However, Natalie had returned! She was some kilos lighter and covered in ticks but had gained muscle and was generally in good health. It was lovely way to end my experience on high.

 BSBCC is one of the animal charities I have worked with and one, in my opinion, which needs advertising in countries like the UK to continue their excellent and much-needed work. The staff I worked with during my time at BSBCC are why this project survives and are assets to the project. Some of the horrors these bears have endured and the emotional scars are shown through repetitive, abnormal behaviours. However, with some of the TLC that BSBCC offer, I have no doubt that these bears will become fully rehabilitated, make a full recovery, and be released back into the wild.

 

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Sin Chew Daily ( ????), 14 August 2014 

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Rest in Peace, Koko (20 February 2012 – 17 August 2014)

We are sadden to announce that Koko, the 3½-years-old sub adult female sun bear who lived at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre for three years, has passed away on August 17th, 2014.  A post- mortem on Koko was carried out by Sabah Wildlife Rescue Unit Veterinarian, Dr. Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam on August 18th and found her lung suffered from serious infection. In addition, the post-mortem also found a durian seed obstructed in her esophagus. Koko’s death was due to respiratory failure caused by chronic lung infection and presence of the durian seed worsens her sickness.

Koko was captured by poacher in Keningau and kept as pet while poacher was looking for a potential buyer. She was then surrendered to Sabah Wildlife Department and sent to BSBCC on 20th February 2012. Koko was a precious, energetic and playful bear! She had a beautiful diamond shaped chest mark. During her early years at BSBCC, she integrated with Mary, Debbie, Ah Bui, Bongkud, Fulung and Damai. She usually play fighting with her bear friends, tearing the tree bark in search of termites, climbing trees, taking nap on top of the tree canopy and enjoying her life like a wild sun bear.

She is now in peace; her spirit will always be with the friends who saved her…
May you rest in peace Koko, you will be missed – greatly and eternally.


 

 

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

Text by : ???