Category Archives: behavior

Kala is not a lonely bear

Text by Seng Yen Wah (Intern Student from University Malaysia Sabah)

Photos by Chiew Lin May

Kala was bought by a person who with the intention of saving cub on Kalabakan-Sapulut Road near Maliau Basin and then the owner surrendered her to the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit. When she arrived at the BSBCC, she was weak. This may cause by the early separation of Kala and her mother. A small cub usually will stay with her mother until 2 to 3 years old. What is the reason will cause a mother to separate with her own cub when they are still in a very young age? The answer is, they had been killed by poachers in order to poach the cute bear cubs. We will say that, the overload cuteness of bear cubs is a horrible curse for them. Kala may have a horrific early life, but now she is growing up and starting her new happy life in BSBCC.

” HELLO” – Kala and Ronnie

Kala used to stay with our other sun bear cubs Boboi, Tan-Tan and Kitud. However the way Kala played made her little to no friends and the other little bears did not like to play with her. After Kala moved from the quarantine to bear house, she had to stay alone. And in order to find some companions for Kala, bear keepers were trying to integrate Kala with our sub-adult group, the bears Sunbearo, Loki, Ronnie Girl, Montom, Susie2 and Damai.

” I see you” – Kala

“Let me get closer” – Kala

The integration between Kala and the sub-adult group was closely monitored to see whether Kala could be integrated with this group or not. If one of the bears in sub-adult group could not be integrated well with Kala, it usually means the integration within the entire group does not work. One has to bear in mind the integration is not simply putting bears together, it is also depended on their age, weight and sex. Their age and weight have to be similar, if not the worst case scenario would be the smaller bear could be injured or during the integration.

Moreover, if the condition of any bear is of lesser healthy, the integration may have to be halted to prevent the spread of disease etc. that may cause other bears illnesses eventually.

” Can I come and play with you?” -Kala

” I’m ready to play! ” – Ronnie

Starting any integration, 30 minutes of time spent together is seen as the limit. Later, if they play well with each other, the time of the integration periods can be extended. During the integration, bear keepers have to observe and if needed step in. Before any integration starts, at least 2 buckets of water and a fire extinguisher are ready and prepared in close proximity of the observing bear keepers. So, in case of any aggression, the bear keeper can step in and use the water or fire extinguisher to separate the aggressive bears or stop aggressive behavior. If the situation becomes worse a loud horn can also be used but we see this as a matter of last resort because the sound might cause other bears distress. The ultimate separation tool in any case of aggression is the use of a water jet to separate them. All actions during the integration sessions are carefully recorded by observers in an integration form.

” Why don’t you see my canine? ” – Sunbearo

” See my canine !” – Montom

The integration for Kala is having an additional purpose, which is let Kala learn and eventually know how to play with other bears. Most of the time, Kala is the one who first enters to other bears cage. She loves to play by moving backwards without looking who she is actually with. And Kala is a very playful bear, she likes to play fight, to chase and run after other bears. However to be honest, Kalas play is really rough, she often paws and snaps after other bears. And hence, Montom, Ronnie Girl, Sunbearo and Susie2 reacted aggressive when they played with Kala during the very first days. The good news is, they are getting to know Kala better after they met for few times, at lately no more aggressive behavior was shown.

Please do not disturb, we are playing well here. – Loki and Kala

Montom and Loki are the ones who always approach Kala. Both of them have showed much more interest in playing with Kala. Sunbearo plays with Kala too, but not as much as Montom and Loki do. On the other side, Kala always approaches Ronnie Girl and Susie2. But, the way she plays seems not acceptable to them. Susie2 always tries to avoid Kala. Damai on the other hand is a solitary bear. She shows the least interest in playing with Kala among the group. Most of the time, she was just stays in a hammock and looking at Kala from hammock.

” This platform is so comfort, see me. Do you want to try? ” -Kala

Don’t be afraid. I can be your good friend. – Loki

For now, Kala was integrated with 2 of 6 bears in one session. In the future we will try to integrate her with at least 4 of the 6 bears at one time. We are looking forward to the integration of Kala with the sub-adult group and hope she can be friends with them soon. After the little bears would not play with her, we want to find her some companion. Now she will get new friends, and is not a lonely bear anymore.

A hint of the life that she should be living!

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

One of the happiest moments since her arrival at the centre has been her growing fondness of the forest, where he loves foraging and eating soil.

Our one year old, female sun bear cub Kala is growing up! Kala was bought by someone on Kalabakan-Sapulut Road near Maliau Basin with the intention of saving the cub they then surrendered her to the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit. She had never even been given the chance to experience life as a wild bear – poached from the wild as a cub after her mother was killed; this horrific life was all she had ever known.

When she first arrived at BSBCC, Kala was emaciated, dehydrated and malnourished. Back then her weight was just 3kg and she was very thin.

We are very glad that her health is now in a stable condition. She has been relying on FIDO Premium Milk Powder for her growth. A huge thanks to our most generous and certainly loveliest supporters from TTL Distributors Sdn Bhd who have given our orphaned sun bear cubs a life full of meaning and joy.

During her rehabilitation, Kala was taken out for daily forest walks to learn important forest skills by our bear care staff for almost one year. She is making good progress through gaining confidence while climbing in the trees, loving to be outside and finally learning how to be a bear. When she was about one year and three months old, she had reached the age where she was no longer vulnerable for a human to walk with her in the forest.

Our “mother bear” is leading the climbing skills to little Kala.

It is truly heart-warming to see little Kala take his first few climb on trees.

Last year in November we tried to let Kala meet new cubs and make friends (Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan). Unfortunately, Kala was not accepted by her three companions due to her rough play fighting, but we will continue to look for other bears who she might find some companionship with. This is a time for little Kala to make new friends and go out into the sunshine. On February 23rd, 2016 a veterinarian from the Sabah Wildlife Department, Dr Laura Benedict, and Wong Siew Te with our bear care team helped in the moving process. During the process, a general health check on Kala was conducted to assess potential sickness, functionality of organs and physical condition. The blood tests concluded that Kala was a healthy bear and she now weighs 23.35kg.

Process moving Kala to Bear House starts with Kala being put on anesthesia by Dr Laura Benedict, Wildlife Rescue Unit veterinarian.

After the sedation procedure, Kala was carried out of her den and put into the transportation trolley.

Bear care team help to transfer Kala to Bear House.

Reach new home at Bear House!

Dr.Laura Benedict and Bear care team perform a full health check on Kala.

Dr Laura took blood samples, give deworming and multivitamin injections, while Bear care team were busy monitoring TPR (temperatures, pulse rate, and respiration rate), taking body measurements and photos, collecting hair samples (for future DNA studies).

Checking Kala’s teeth condition

Kala’s unique chest mark! The sun bear’s name comes from this marking, which looks like a rising sun.

Carrying Kala to her new dens once the health check process has completed.

When moving Kala to her new dens, the other neighboring bears showed curiosity to the little cub. Kala’s den is designed in a semi natural style to give her a real taste of freedom and to stimulate her natural behavior in the wild.

Curious with neighbour bears !

Kala is gradually settling down to the new environment.

The bear care team has given Kala various enrichment items – these have included puzzle feeders, fire hose bags, fire hose pockets filled with peanut butter, green leaves, logs, and hidden treats encouraging Kala to forage. Little by little she tried out every enrichment and ventured around the new den. Kala is extremely playful and loves to investigate new toys! When it comes to food, she eats all her meals with relish!

 

She is playful, energetic and loves spend hours playing all kinds of enrichment.

Yummy!

 

 

She enjoys taking her nap inside the basket.

Incredibly long tongue, perfect for extract honey and insects!

These events have given Kala a new journey in life. Beautiful Kala has been so strong and brave in shaking off her past and loves her freedom today. We will continue to help Kala develop the forest skills she needs until she returns to the wild again.  The next step for Kala is she will be introduced to the bears who are the same age as her and slowly will have access to the natural forest enclosure. So stay turned!

 

Bright New World for Rescued Sun Bear Cubs – Boboi, Kitud & Tan-Tan

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

On the 30th of October 2015 we were pleased to welcome two new rescued sun bears to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.

Introducing Boboi (Rescue Sun Bear 45), a one year old juvenile, male sun bear

Kitud (Rescue Sun Bear 46), a one year old juvenile, female sun bear

Both bears were handed over to the Sabah Wildlife Department in Singgaron village, Ranau district. They were both ex-pets. Their names were given to them by their previous owners who surrendered them to authority.

The story reported to the rescue team was that Boboi originally was from Pitas, Sabah and Kitud was originally from Mengkapoh village, Ranau district. Both of them were handed over by people. They were kept together in one cage and were fed with milk, rice and fish.

On the 1st of November 2015, we conducted a health check for Boboi and Kitud. Dr. Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam from the Wildlife Rescue Unit of Sabah’s Wildlife Department performed a general health check. This included an assessment of their overall health, potential sickness, function of the internal organs, and physical condition. Boboi was 15.55kg and Kitud was 12.1kg. The blood test results have shown Boboi and Kitud are healthy.

Boboi undergoes a health check.

Kitud undergoes a health check.

We are glad to report that Boboi and Kitud are showing positive signs of improvement. Kitud is very slow paced when eating and quite well behaved compared to her friend, Boboi, who is a very cheeky and energetic sun bear. He will find ways to enjoy himself. These two bears have a very close bond and can be seen loving to hang out together. They spend their time foraging, exploring, sharing their food, play fighting and climbing together.

On December 15th, 2015 Kitud and Boboi were integrated with Tan-Tan (an eight month old, female sun bear cub). This was a special day for Tan-Tan as it was her first contact with another sun bear after a very long time. They discovered a wonderful new friendship.This allowed them to greatly improve social skills. Tan-Tan seems to become more playful when interacting with Boboi and Kitud. The three sun bear cubs are living together and are sharing one large den. All worked out well with the integration and they did not show any signs of aggression.

Here are some pictures that show how the three sun bear cubs play fight and settling into their new life.

 

 

This is what happen once the sliding gate is open…

Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan are given different types of enrichment to stimulate and prepare them for life back in the wild. Boboi is always curious, huffing on the new enrichment toys while Kitud and Tan-Tan will normally without hesitation just destroy or play with it. They like to be dirty while enjoying the never ending enrichment and love getting care from our bear care staff. They are relishing in the extra space to play, run and climb. Boboi and Kitud have quickly adjusted to their new surroundings. They get a balanced diet that comprises of milk, vegetables and fruits. They are not choosy when it comes to food and have a good appetite. These three cubs are happy to leave their past lives behind and are learning to be wild bears again.

The sad reality of each rescued sun bear cub at our center is that they came from having lived through a bitter past; usually kept or traded by humans and having been separated from their mother at a very young age. These three little rescued bears are no different. The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre’s mission is to conserve sun bears through improving animal welfare, raising conservation awareness with education, conducting research, and rehabilitating the sun bears like Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan who have a second chance at returning to life in the forest! Sun bears are in grave danger of extinction in the wild and we need to help them as much as we can. Please spread the message that sun bears belong in the wild and should not be kept as pets, no matter what the circumstances.

Sunbearo, Loki and Ronnie Journey to Wild

Text by Koo Wei Chee (BSBCC Intern Student)
Photos by Chiew Lin May

There was a project that I assigned for to upgrade myself to do something more advance besides the regular routine of what volunteers and interns can do and I got myself one, Thye Lim and Lin May gave me a big project to do, the objective is rehabilitate young sun bears Sunbearo, Ronnie 2, and Loki back to the wild.

Sunbearo, a 1 year old a male juvenile, 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.

Loki, a 1 year old female juvenile, was discovered in the backyard of an inn, where she had been illegally kept as a pet for about five months. It was confiscated by the Sabah Wildlife Department and sent to BSBCC on 24th March 2014.

Ronnie 2, a 1 year old female juvenile, has an unknown history but we believe that she was kept as an ex-pet and was sent to the BSBCC on July 15, 2014.

     They had already been integrated and became very good friends, rolling and playing around every day.

    Fence training is a session for the bears to be aware of electric fences. The place where they are trained is in a moderate size indoor enclose den called training pen with 6 lines of electric wires from top to bottom in the inside perimeter. It is a nightmare for them but a very crucial and important stage to let the bears know that they should not touch those wires or else will be zapped in an electricity. One bear is only allowed in the training in one time if the bear was the first time training in the training pen because if there were two or more newly introduced bears in the training pen and one got zapped, it will immediately thought that it was the other bear which made the torture where will result a bear fight. The fence training period depend on the bears’ progress and it may take up to three months for the bears to get used to the training pen or never. Fruits were scattered near the sliding gate to encourage the bears to go into the training pen, fruits were then scattered near the electric fence once they feel confident to enter to the training pen. Each session of fence training is 30 minutes, the keepers and volunteers in charge have to observe carefully and write down in a table quickly of any moments and behaviours of the bears during the fence training session, this is the most tiring part when keeper in charge sometimes have to recall back what has not been written after the training session. A bear is considered pass the fence training is when it can be able to move freely between cage and training pen in normal behaviour without zap be able to avoid the fence. The bears will then be able to proceed to the next training, the forest enclosure training.

It was hard to watched when we saw them got zapped the first time and they barked, becoming very stressful and will start to pace in the furthest dens they can be from the training pen. Sunbearo was the one the which got the most zap, he did not know what to do at one time but to climb up and got even worse to be zapped in the second electric wire, Lester quickly run to switch off the electricity of the training pen, Sunbearo then climbed down and run to the furthest den and started to bark and moaning, he knew the pain, looking at us and keep moaning for doing this to him.

Sunbearo stands up in the training pen and see what’s going on outside while Loki continues foraging in search of foods.

So glad to see the Sunbearo, Loki, and Ronnie are in the training pen at the same time foraging for food.

    Integration sun bear is one of the rehabilitation process in BSBCC. Integration between rescue sun bears is one of the rehabilitation process in BSBCC through which the bears can learn pertinent skills for survival in the wild. There are some facts which needs to evaluate before targeting any two or more sun bears for the integration training to prevent or decrease bear fight possibility: (1) age, size, and weight have to be similar, if they have big difference, a bear would definitely be killed if they fought; (2) the bears have to be healthy. Younger bears and group bears seem to have a high possibility in successful integration because they have less thought, more curious, and have social group experience for the group bears. Before integration process, few pails of water and a fire extinguisher have to be prepared near the integration cage in case of emergency. Integration lasts for one hour, a paper with a list of table, behaviour codes, and remarks was used to write down the behaviours of the bears in any movement during the integration, this is the detail or data which will be the appendix of the research on how those bears react with each other.

Integration Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Allow two or more bears to live in the same cage.
  • Save more cages for more rescued bears.
  • Allow bears to be less stressful where it turns out that group bears will have less pacing because they have companions to play with and to promote other positive behaviour.
  • The best enrichment for a bear is another bear

Cons

  • Bears are solitary animals, they may think is normal to have another bear as companion, becoming less defensive to wild sun bears, resulting a concern for rehabilitation.

  Sun bears appears to be solitary because their food are scattered all around the forest and they need their own territory to maintain their own food supply, thus for those integrated captive sun bears in the forest enclosure, we need to scatter enough foods all over the area to prevent them for fighting for food supply. Bears and others animal are solitary mainly due to the food shortage issue, in captive condition, foods are always been provided, so we encourage them to stay in a group to promote positive behavior development. Although there is a conflict between the bears natural characteristics and integration, it is used to assist the bears to get along well with each other so that they can be in a single forest enclosure because the main issue is about the centre’s limited number of forest enclosures and dens. Newly rescued captive sun bears need their own space, thus the integration stays an important role for the bear care unit.

 On 22 November 2015, we integrate Sunbearo, Loki and Ronnie with Montom (a 3 years old sub adult male bear) and Susie (a 4 years old adult female bear).

“Come on! Let’s play, what you are waiting for?” says Loki bites Montom’s neck softly to try to pull him to the mini platform.

Montom sniffs Ronnie as a welcome greeting to his place

Sunbearo gave Montom and Susie an alarming growl

 

   We were surprised that Sunbearo, Ronnie, and Loki had a very fast progress in the integration and fence training with Montom and Susie where they played, foraged, and eat together without aggression. Three weeks after the training, the management team decided to let Sunbearo, Loki, and Ronnie to enter the last stage of training, the enclosure training in forest enclosure.

Forest enclosure training is the practice of the applications given to the sun bears in the previous stages of all training and enrichment such as giving them the second chance to climb, toys to improve their senses of smell, sight, touch and taste, integration training and electric fence training. Before the bears went out to the forest, prepared fruit pieces are placed near the cage or guillotine door to encourage the bears to go out and eat, time by time when the bears are confident with the area, the fruit will then be placed further from the cage to encourage them to go further to the forest. At least two keepers have to take a broom and keep an eye of the bears around the forest enclosure outside perimeter to prevent the bears to climb out from the enclosure because the bears may still not get use to the electric fence and may climb up if they got zapped. The training duration for keepers to watch over is the same as training pen, it may take months to have a success for the bears to touch the ground or even not, but the training is not over as it lasts until the bear can really be able to take care of itself for example searching foods in nature, climbing trees and make nest. This is the last stage for the bears before they can be the candidates to be released back to the wild, thus this training is crucial, giving the bears a second chance to go back to their natural wild habitat in a very large area of natural forest.

Sunbearo, Loki and Ronnie are surprised to see the world outside.

“Hey Loki, I think I’ve found something there, should we try to take a look?” says Ronnie on the ground.

Ronnie in den 10, watching far away to see the world; Loki was too hungry, keep on eating through the way; Sunbearo still don’t seem dare to go out.

 Within two weeks the three bears got their first zap from the electric fence near the dens. They still got zapped because they were introduced to a new environment although they already knew there is electric fence which results an environment shock to them. In the first week, I put their prepared cut fruits near their dens to encourage them to go out and explore the enrichment and environment. When they got used to the area, I then started to put further from the den and deeper to the forest enclosure time by time to encourage them to explore more.

Sunbearo feels more comfortable with the place and starts to explore deeper to the forest

Wow! Loki is eating honey bees, she should be enjoying it to lick some honey on the ram and eat some bees as bonus protein

Ronnie, foraging on the forest floor

Loki was checking the ram to see if there’s any remaining honey left

“What are you doing there, can’t you go away?” said Loki as she was very alert to the movements of the surrounding area when she was foraging

Loki took a quick rest after foraging for so long

Loki wondering around on the A-frame platform build by our volunteers

Sunbearo was wondering how to climb down from the A-frame platform

“Ah! Where’s my food?” said Loki when she saw us but didn’t see any fruits more which we scattered on the forest enclosure

Ronnie was alert to the movements and sound on the surrounding area

  The training on forest enclosure E has some issues not only the bears character and behaviour but also the location itself as it is located near the bear house entrance. Keepers who are not in charge of the training will sometimes do their work outside the bear house which made those sound-sensitive bears to be extra alert, thus whenever there’s a sound, even footsteps of us, the bears which are still not used to it will rush back to their dens.

At 24th December 2015, it was a very special day because guillotine door was ordered to close after the bears had gone outside forest. When the guillotine door was shut down, the bears were in alert and stayed very closed to the door, but after a few minutes, Loki and Ronnie started to do what they did as usual, foraging, eating bugs, ants, and termites. Sunbearo then followed them and went even further, he went to all the areas of the surrounding fence and unluckily got zapped again, and he pulled back but not long and went deep in the forest in search for ants and termites. It was a special day indeed that all the bears start confident explore the environment.

Sunbearo, having his precious coconut on the forest floor

Sunbearo had a coconut found as a reward which we threw inside the forest to encourage the bears to explore more. Oops! Loki (on the right) saw that.

It was the first time ever for a bear to sit on this newly made fire hose hammock, Sunbearo is the one who made the record at 24th December 2015.

Sunbearo was finding his way to climb down from the mini-platform while Loki was having her precious coconut.

Sunbearo finally got his way to climb down after searching for around one minute; Ronnie (on the right) kept on searching and digging for her favorite ants and termites

“What is going on right there?” said Ronnie standing up to explore

Sunbearo had a thought once to climb the tree and he then went to forage again, we were very concern about this because the bears should know how to climb a tree to build a nest in order to be one of the candidates to be released back to the wild.

Loki wants to climb down to join Sunbearo to forage for ants

“My precious coconut water” said Loki drinking up as much as she can

On day (28th December 2015), my supervisor, Thye Lim, had a plan to make some food enrichment to be hanged on trees to encourage them to climb. It is a huge success because Loki finally climbed a tree for the first time in her life and successfully climbed her way to get the fruits as her reward. We were then felt extremely happy that Sunbearo and Ronnie also made their first time climbing a tree on the following day (29th December 2015), not only climbed a tree but several trees in the enclosure.

Loki, first climb !! Sun bear have long and curved claws that help them in climb trees.

Loki climb trees to get at the honey and honey bees in the Pipe Feeder

Sunbearo even decided to climb on the tree to have a better view !

Ronnie playing hide and seek on trees

They find a way to get the tasty food out the bamboo feeder.

Sun bear learns how to climb when they are young.

It was a nice pleasure and glad to see the bears given the second chance to touch the earth for the first time in their whole life. I like to see them exploring the environment, foraging, digging, climbing trees and sometimes stand up to watch further in alert to the surrounding area, these are what bears should do, and I really hope they can have a good progress to become candidates to be released back to the wild.

21 days to remember

Text & Photos by Myles Storey

 

I decided to work as a volunteer at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre because I am considering wildlife biology as a career and I wanted to gain some experience of working in conservation. Before I arrived, I did not know what to expect. I was afraid that I would not be allowed to do much because of my lack of experience. However, after three weeks of volunteering, I was amazed to have had the chance to work and help out in such a noble organization. The three things I enjoyed most about volunteering at the BSBCC were the environment, the people, and the work that we did.

Although I was born and raised in Sabah, I was never really exposed to our beautiful rainforests. While working with BSBCC, every day, I worked in our rainforests and that was truly enchanting. On top of that, I was lucky enough to see many of the rainforest’s wild inhabitants. Some mornings you could see hornbills soaring the sky and some evenings you could see flying foxes flying around the trees.  I saw semi-wild Orang Utans, Pit Vipers, Squirrels, birds, long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques, and a lot of different kinds of insects. With a passion for wildlife photography, I was in heaven. One day, while searching for damaged termite nests, we stopped by at a small waterfall in the middle of the jungle. It was a fun and memorable moment that I got to experience with some of the keepers.

All the porridges ready to be given to the bears

 

Me on kitchen duty. Cutting the bananas and separating them for each pen.

 

Ready to feed the Bears in the outside enclosures! Brought my camera too in case I spot any animals along the way.

 

And of course, cleaning the cages

?Another aspect of working with BSBCC that I am truly grateful for is the people I got to meet. I had the chance to work with some very passionate, knowledgeable and committed people. All the bear keepers are really friendly and fun to be around, but when it comes to work, they can be very serious and hard working. One time, a tree branch fell and broke the fence of an enclosure with seven bears. When we found out, every single keeper and maintenance worker stopped what they were doing and rushed to the scene. I witnessed a great team working together to solve a major problem. They eventually managed to lure the bears back to the bear house and the issue was resolved the next day. I even got to find out about some of the keepers backgrounds and stories of how they started working with the organization. I gained information that I can hopefully use when trying to get into conservation.

?I have to admit, cleaning the cages was a bit icky sometimes. However, I really enjoyed caring for the bears and making their lives more comfortable. When not cleaning cages, we were preparing fruits and vegetables. In the afternoon, we would make ‘toys’ for the bears for an activity called enrichment. The aim of the activity is to give the bears something to do and to occupy their time. We made bamboo feeders, PVC pipe feeders, hammocks, and used food balls. What is even more exciting, you get to see your creation being appreciated by the bears. It is also interesting to see the different attitudes and behaviours of each bear. Although 3 weeks is really not enough time to form any bonds with the bears, I was able to understand some of their characters and form some attachments to certain bears. On my last day, I was lucky enough to witness, Gutuk (one of the oldest bears), step out of his cage for the first time since they got him 3 years ago. It was a great achievement for him, and I could see the delight on everyone’s face.

Koo, Amin and Roger making PVC pipe feeders as enrichment for the Bears.

 

Me, Amin, Lester and Roger stopped by a nice waterfall whiles looking for termite nests to give to the Bears.

Me and Amin testing out a hammock that we set up for Panda (a female Sun Bear)

Bjorn Hala – the volunteer house

 

Sun rise at BSBCC

?I was sad to leave, but happy that I got to contribute in an amazing field and gain experience as an assistant bear keeper. I feel confident to say that this volunteer experience was one of the highlights of my teenage life. I am deeply grateful to the people who made this experience possible and I would definitely recommend anyone who is interested in conservation and wildlife to give this program a go. You won’t be disappointed. Where else are you going to get the opportunity to work with the smallest bears on earth and an extremely committed team in one of the most beautiful rainforest environments?

Getting the Life They Deserve

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

Montom (Left) and Susie (Right)

In August BSBCC integrated Montom (a three year old, sub-adult male bear) and Susie (a four year old, adult female bear) into a new group with one adult, male sun bear (Fulung) and four adult, female sun bears (Mary, Debbie, Damai and Ah Bui). Montom showed positive interaction and easily adapted with his new friends. Montom and Fulung enjoyed epic wrestles together. They have spent a great deal of time sniffing, chasing, and rolling on their backs in a very friendly way. Damai is the exception and has shown less interest in play. Montom is a very sociable bear, whereas Susie is an aggressive bear and has displayed stress due to emotional trauma which resulted from her being kept as a pet. ?For the rest of their weeks, they integrated well and began to understand each other better. Debbie is the dominant female bear in this large social group.

Interaction between Montom, Susie with Ah Bui

Ready for integration with other new friends!

The older group was very curious about Montom and Susie.

Interaction between Montom, Susie with Debbie

Interested sniffing from both before Montom put a friendly paw.

Debbie take a rest first after tired of play together all day long!

?

Interaction between Montom, Susie with Fulung

Both of the bears was discovered a new friendship.

Montom fought back and he try to show that he has strength too!

Interaction between Montom, Susie with Mary

There were pawing, wrestling and chasing in a friendly manner.


?Finally the day came for Montom and Susie to feel the forest floor under their paws again. Although at the beginning it was a new environment for Montom and Susie with having to share the new enclosure with other bears, they are still adjusting themselves and getting along with their new mates. The whole group will be sharing one forest enclosure! It is hard to imagine that both of the bears ever thought their life could change. Susie is still aware surroundings and is having the time of her life. It has been a delight to watch Montom and Susie grow into happy and healthy bears.

Finally free! Montom and Susie will settle into their true home – Forest.

We are using method of combining diffrence treats with encouragement, Montom was the first one began stepped out to the forest followed by Susie.

Montom was curious with this outside door.

Susie was pricking up her ears and looking around alertly.

Montom has been goes outside whenever he desires to participate in whatever adventures lay outside the forest.

Montom has been goes outside whenever he desires to participate in whatever adventures lay outside the forest.

Montom has been goes outside whenever he desires to participate in whatever adventures lay outside the forest.

When Susie first entered BSBCC, she was filled with trauma and fear. Despite her painful early years, she has blossomed into a happy bear and acclimatize herself to new surroundings.

When Susie first entered BSBCC, she was filled with trauma and fear. Despite her painful early years, she has blossomed into a happy bear and acclimatize herself to new surroundings.

When Susie first entered BSBCC, she was filled with trauma and fear. Despite her painful early years, she has blossomed into a happy bear and acclimatize herself to new surroundings.

Montom and Susie spent most of thier time wandering about new forest, digging up termites and grubs and foraging, just like they would have in the wild.

Montom and Susie spent most of thier time wandering about new forest, digging up termites and grubs and foraging, just like they would have in the wild.

Montom and Susie spent most of thier time wandering about new forest, digging up termites and grubs and foraging, just like they would have in the wild.

Susie enjoys the freedom to live and explore the forest with companions.

For now they are sharing the forest enclosure with a three years old female adult sun bear, Damai.

Thankfully Montom and Susie are growing stronger and are progressing well. Their natural ability gives hope to our team that in the future they will learn all the skills they need to return to their natural habitat. From being rescued to their time in quarantine to forming relationships with other bears to stepping out into the forest enclosure, giving Montom and Susie a new journey in life. Sun bear rehabilitation is a long process. It changes many sun bears’ lives. Thank you for supporting our work to help Montom, Susie and many orphaned sun bears. Let’s make second chances for them to be free sun bears in the wild.

Sun Bears Integration: Kudat & Julaini, Rungus, Ah Lun, Panda, Chin

Text by Bellinda Raymond (Intern Student)

Photos by: BSBCC

Kudat is a 7 years old adult male sun bear, who was named after a district in the northern part of Sabah. Before he was sent to Kudat district, he came originally from Tawau district. Kudat was kept as a display in a private mini zoo together with a female sun bear named Panda. At the private mini zoo, both Kudat and Panda were on display as ‘black panda’. Later, they were surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department and BSBCC in 2013. At BSBCC, Kudat enjoy his new environment and began to explore the forest around him.

Kudat’s last friend was Panda which is in year 2013. Although sun bear is a solitary animal when they are in the wild, BSBCC encouraged a healthy positive social behaviour among the bears at the centre. At BSBCC, sun bears are integrated according to their body size, personality and age group. Bears integration is encouraged in this centre to bring out the positive behaviour development among the bears such as defensive skills and learning from each other through socializing. The number of cages in the bear house is very limited too where for now it only can accommodate up to 40 bears. Therefore, integration is also one of the ways to save up space in the bear house where the bears are integrated so that they can be in groups.

The first step in integration is integrating the bears cage by cage. The bears will start to sniff around their new environment especially when there is a new bear next to their cage. After that, integration body contact will be carried out where the sliding door between the two cages will be opened and the bears will start to meet each other.

In July 2015, Kudat started to be integrated to a group consisting Julaini, Rungus, Ah Lun, Panda and Chin. Kudat is integrated one by one from the group before they can be in one big group together. The integration of Kudat started off with the bear that is the dominant in the group. Kudat is integrated with Ah Lun first. When Kudat placed next to Ah Lun’s cage, Kudat started to become curious and keep sniffing around. He climbed the cage to have a peek of the bear next to his cage. As soon as the sliding door is opened, Ah Lun went into Kudat’s cage first. When Kudat and Ah Lun met, they took some time to get to know to each other. After they feel confident about each other, they started to play with each other.

Kudat and Ah Lun met for the first time!

After Ah Lun, Kudat is introduced to Chin. When she met Kudat, she was curious at first. Kudat and Chin sniff around their new environment and even sniff at each other.

Kudat standing up with his hind legs while looking at Chin, which is new to him

Kudat is welcoming Chin as his new friend when they first met

Kudat is sniffing his new friend before starts to play

Besides Ah Lun and Chin, Kudat is also introduced to Julaini, a male sun bear who has the same age with him. Kudat is friendly to Julaini when both of them met each other. Both Kudat and Julaini immediately play when they met! The way they play is a bit aggressive compared to Ah Lun and Chin. Maybe it is just a way of male sun bears play with each other? Kudat and Julaini played nonstop and continue to wrestle.

Kudat wrestling with Julaini!

Never tired of playing

It looks like Julaini is not giving up to Kudat!

Oh no… guess that Julaini is tired already but Kudat still want to continue wrestling

Finally, Kudat is reintroduced to his long lost friend, Panda! The integration between Kudat and Panda does not make us worry when they were integrated because Kudat and Panda are best friends!

After being separated for 2 years, Kudat is happy to meet his best friend again!

Kudat is pushing Panda behind using his strong body!

Rungus is the last bear that being introduced to Kudat. Amazingly, Kudat also shows positive reaction to Rungus when they were integrated. Like the other bears in the group, Kudat played with Rungus too! Rungus is the female bear in the group that is most interested to Kudat and they played together and ignored the other bears!

Kudat played with Rungus while Chin watch them playing

The integration between Kudat and all the bears showed positive integration except for Chin. When Kudat and Chin were integrated earlier, they played in a friendly manner. However, after some time Kudat and Chin started to become aggressive and they fighted. Kudat and Chin were then separated by cages. We tried to integrate Kudat and Chin again, but there are still aggressions occurred between them. This means that the integration between Kudat and Chin is negative. We concluded and decided that Kudat and Chin cannot be integrated to each other. Despite this, Kudat’s integration with Julaini, Rungus, Ah Lun and Panda shows positive result.

Kudat’s integration with the other bears is still on going. Hopefully, their integration can be successful in the end. When the integration is successful, Kudat, Julaini, Rungus, Ah Lun and Panda will be in one group and will step into the forest together.

Unforgettable Memories at BSBCC

Text by Leonardo Jainih

Photo by Leonardo Jainih and BSBCC

Hey, my name is Leonardo Jainih and I am now 22 years old. I am here as an internship student from University Malaysia Sabah. First and foremost, I am truly grateful as i was accepted to work and gain knowledges at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). This is a life time opportunity where not anyone can just come and work here. I never regretted that I choose BSBCC to finish my three months internship and this centre is highly recomended to all animal lover out there. So, this unforgettable experience start with fetch by my supervisor, Mr. Tee Thye Lim at the airport and slowly introduced to BSBCC’s founder, Mr. Wong Siew Te and other staffs. After I was explained clearly about the rules and regulations of BSBCC, me and other internship students were brought to explore the surrounding areas of BSBCC from  visitors centre to outside perimeter of forest enclosure. Finally, the end of day, we arrived at the Center’s volunteer house called Bjorn Hala.

Next day, we started working at 8 o’clock in the morning and we were having our induction with the bear keeper, Mr. Roger about the rules and routines at the bear house. Bear house is divided into two areas which are first and second bear house. Every single bear has their own name and usually they got the name either from their previous owner or where the bear was found. At the same time, bear keeper taught us how to clean their cages.

Cleaning bear’s enclosure at bear house one

One of the most interesting and fun thing during cleaning the cages is that you are get the chance to observe yourself in a closer distance their behaviour in the den which is pretty cool. For example, cute little Mary will cling onto the cage waiting patiently for us to feed her, Mamatai the lowered bear struggling to reach her food on top of her cage, Fulung always standing with his two hind leg and Damai whom love to climb her favourite tree whenever she got the chance to be in forest enclosure. On the other hand, you will also continously watched and observed by the bear next to the cage that you were cleaning. They will curiously keep on watching you with the innocent look on their face doing the cleaning but some will just ignored you and continue playing their enrichments.

Working in bear house was never a waste of time as they are so many thing to do other than cleaning cages. For instance, in the morning, preparing food such as plain porridges and fruits for the bear was one of the top prioities as the cleanlinnes in kitchen has to be maintained. Moreover, making enrichments for the bear also ways to minimize stress and abnormal behaviour such as continous pacing. Enrichments includes dried leaves, bamboo feeder, nest balls, wood swing, fire hose hammock and more.

Cut long bamboo into smaller pieces

In making of bamboo feeder with BSBCC staffs

Putting wood swing inside the bear cage

In making of nest balls with BSBCC staffs

Moreover, I was also assigned to become intepreter at the observation platform where I get to talk and explain to the visitors about our centre and the bears. This assignment given actually helps to improve our communication skills and public speaking too. This is where we get to deliver knowledges that we have learned at Centre confidently and get our facts right to the visitors.

Observation platform with visitors

Another routine that I enjoy very much is outdoor feeding where we will usually follow our senior bear keeper, Mr. David to come along with him to feed the bears at the Pen A, B, C, D, F and K with fruits such as papaya, watermelon and banana. Along the way, we scattered the fruits inside the forest enclosures to allow the bears to use their sense of smell to search for the fruits. Here we get to see the bears’s eating behaviour where they will not eat the green part/outer layer of watermelon, didn’t eat the banana peel or the skin on any other fruit. Some are willing to climb all the way down to get their foods as they don’t want to miss their food and stolen by other bears or macaques.

Outdoor feeding at Pen D

Outdoor feeding at Pen C

Bears at Pen D enjoying their foods

Anymore foods for me?!

There is one week that we were all so busy as medical check up was conducted to 5 different bears. We were helped by the Wildlife Rescue Unit and an expert veterinarian, Dr. Sandy during the health check. One of them is Linggam, an adult male sun bear which is currently the heaviest bear among all of our rescued bear with 61kg. I was given an opportunity to take part in his health check and went to clinic at Mile 8, Sandakan for his x-ray appointment.

BSBCC was welcomed to set up an education booth display for an event organized by the Sabah State Computer Service Department at the Sabah Hotel, Sandakan. This event was launched by Y.B Tuan Charles Pang Su Pin, ADUN N44 Karamunting. I was asked to join this education booth to educate the participants and spread the word to them more about sun bears the smallest bear in the world.

Educate the public more about sun bear

Last but not least, my warmest regards goes out to all the staff in BSBCC who have been helpful and supportive in many ways. Every single of you has brought many laughter and put a smile on my face everyday which indirectly lessen my burden and hardship as well as standing by me through thick and thin. Every minutes spent together is special and will be cherished.

My hope is that one day they will confidently walked out and be ready for the wild forest but this is not an easy task. It really requires a huge amount of resources if it is to be done successfully. Therefore, it is very important to help them to remember how to be bears again so that they can survived in the wild without our help.

 

 

Six Adult Female Sun Bears Exploring their New Forest Enclosure (Pen K)

Text By Leonardo Jainih (Intern Student)
Photo by Chiew Lin May

The primary goal of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) is to promote sun bear conservation in Borneo by creating the capacity to rehabilitate and release suitable ex-captive bears back into the wild forest again. In order to achieve this goal, one of BSBCC’s efforts or actions is by allowing the bears to explore and forage the beautiful forest enclosure around them. Building up a forest enclosure is not as simple as just putting up a fence as sun bears love to dig the ground and to climb over the fence. The fence cannot be too close to the tall trees in the habitat or the more adventurous chaps might be able to venture out into the wild. From rehabilitation program, it actually encourage the natural bear behaviour and reintroduce them to the forest environment. For example, they dig to find food such as earthworms, termites, ants and bettles, climbing trees to sleep, search for honeybees and feed on fruits. In August this year, some exciting for the bears (Cerah, Jelita, Susie, Kuamat, Lawa and Manis) to experience await them. They are all adult female sun bears aged from 8 to 9 years old except for Manis (14 years old). The bears had been waiting for their new forest enclosure (Pen K) after they were moved to the second bear house when medical check were conducted on them weeks ago.

This process of releasing the bears to their new forest enclosure start with slowly open up the guillotine door for them to start their new chapter of life. Fruits such as papaya, watermelon, rambutan and honey dew were scattered around the ramp and on the forest floor. Usually, the bears will start sniffing their new environment and surely eats the fruits prepared for them. However, almost all the rescued bears at BSBCC had this one tricky habit which was trying to grab the fruits at the ramp and left at least their hind leg inside the den, as if to say, “I bet you would not close the quillotine door as long as parts of my body is still inside the den”.

Cerah was the first bear to come out from her den and began her journey to the new forest enclosure (Pen K). She was hesitant to go outdoors at first, sniffing the air and fruits near the entrance to her indoor enclosure. However, after nearly a week with food laid out on a ramp, Cerah took her first official step out to the forest.

Cerah is sniffing and peeking out her new home curiously

As expected, it took a while for the bears to venture, but after a few sniffs and a scan through the new forest enclosure as well, they became more curious and anxious. No one said that this was an easy task as there were few bears took about 6 months to finally stepped out from their den and foraging the forest.

Jelita and her friends are eating the fruits and sniffed their environment

Susie and Jelita taking their time to step out to the forest enclosure

Kuamut slowly taking her steps on the ramp

Kuamut carefully climbing down from the ramp to the forest

Susie taking her brave steps exploring the forest

Cerah relaxing and laying down on dead wood during the day

Cerah curiously observing the environment outside perimeter of forest enclosure

Cerah is one of Jelita’s bestfriend and roommate. She is a clever and curious young lady-bear, who tends to welcome new faces with a friendly sniff. Whenever new enrichment activitiy is introduced, Cerah is not one to follow her stomach. Unlike Jelita, Cerah is always curiously to seek out and explore the new toys before finding the food, even if it is one of her favourite treats. That is why Cerah was the first one to come out from her den to the forest enclosure.

Cerah and Jelita digging the soil to look for foods such as ants and termites

Finally, Manis was the last bear among all six bears stepped out from her den and start exploring her new environment with high curiousity. In the end, Manis get to shares her enclosure with five other sun bears (Cerah, Jelita, Susie, Kuamut and Lawa). Despite all of this she equally likes her own space and if she is not in the mood for company, she lets the other females know quickly to leave her alone. It can be concluded that this plan is a successful one as it took only a month for all the bears at Pen K step out to the forest enclosure everyday. In no time, they remembered how to be wild sun bear again by digging at dead wood in search of insects like termites and beetles, and exploring and roaming the forest in peace.

A faraway look in Manis’s eyes in the forest

Manis went back to her den from foraging the forest

Our hope is that one day they will confidently walked out and be ready for the wild forest but this is not an easy task. It really requires a huge amount of resources if it is to be done successfully. Therefore, it is very important to help them to remember how to be bears again so that they can survived in the wild without our help.

 

Enrichment project – Termite breeding

Text by Kelvin Chee Hon Yung (Intern Student)

Many enrichments can be prepared for the bears and one of the enrichment projects for me to do is the termite breeding. Yes! Is termites! I am breeding termites! Maybe it sounds wrong for many people as termites don’t have a good reputation among the public. However, every creature has their own function! In this case, termite mound is used as an enrichment for the bears as this is one of their favourites. Enrichment is very important to animals. It is a process to provide stimulating and challenging environments, objects, and activities for animals for them to demonstrate their species-typical behaviour and enhance their well being.

Giving termite mound to the bears may encourage their foraging behaviour. This behaviour is important for them to survive in the forest as well. We planted the empty containers near to our bear house so we can easily collect the termite mound. This enrichment is easily to do but the only problem is you must be patient for waiting the termites build their mound. It might takes a few weeks to months sometimes.

Me and Lester planting the empty container for the breeding project

The method is simple. Just makes some holes around the container to allow the termites to get in, then put some wood debris and cardboard then dampen it till it’s wet but not soggy. Make some holes under the container too to drain the water. Last, install it tightly into the ground. We are hoping that this method can get some good result in the future for us to harvest the termites.