Text by Gloria Ganang
I always consider it a great privilege as well as an amazing experience to walk a sun bear cub in the forest. BSBCC’s CEO and Founder, Wong Siew Te trains his staff, including myself to walk sun bear cubs in the forest. Sun bears usually spend their first 2-3 years with their mother learning survival skills before they eventually travel solitarily in the forest. Unfortunately for little Damai, she have to rely on humans to learn these skills. Here at BSBCC, Damai gets to use the adjacent forest reserve to develop her skills and get her natural instinct stimulated.
It has been more than 3 months now since Damai first went out to the forest. She would follow us around like a shadow for her first few days. We use to lead her to decaying stumps or logs where she’ll dig and bite them into pieces. She would often find termite larvae and feast on them as much as she could. She sometimes gets bigger rewards such as beetles, beetle larvae and millipedes.
It took some time for Damai to climb up high on trees. She started climbing dead stump of 1 – 2 meters height. As soon as she gained confidence to go higher, she went impressively high up to 5 meters from the ground, and kept going higher and higher.
Damai would initially pick and climb on leaning trees or trees which are wrapped by climbers.This would assist her to carry herself up the tree by grabbing on the climbers. Gradually, she starts spending more time on the trees, breaking twigs, licking ants, grooming herself and sometimes takes naps on the tree. She now can climb on any trees using her claws and canine strength.
We sometimes may come across wild animal such as pythons, orang utans, bearded pigs and mouse deer. The loud calls of the Bornean Gibbons, Rhinoceros Hornbills, Racquet-tailed Drongos and even the “barking” sound of geckos often made Damai wary of the nearby animals. She would be the first one to react to the calls and the sounds of cracking branches or fallen leaves by standing on her hind feet and sniff around. Whenever she felt scared, she would climb up a nearby tree and look down. She would climb down as soon as she felt safe again.
Generally Damai knows how to get around the forest. She knows where to find her favorite snacks and climb her favorite tree. However, the BSBCC staff still has to observe and guide her to the forest everyday. These are some more photos of Damai’s recent activities in the forest: