Category Archives: captive diet

Wildlife Heroes close up with Wong

By Siew Te Wong

I am humbled and honored to have been select as one of the 40 Wildlife Heroes across the world who featured in the Book “Wildlife Heroes: 40 Leading Conservationists and the Animals They Are Committed to Saving.”

Thank you the authors of the book, Julie Scardina and Jeff Flocken for your kindness to feature me and my work on sun bears in this book.

Thank you all of you who supported and helped me over the years, and keep supporting and helping on our work on sun bears.

Without your support, I would not be what I am today.

Without your help, we would not be achieving what we have achieved today.

Together we can, we have, and we will make a different!

 Thank you all!

 

 

  

 

Mary the moon cake sun bear

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WARNING:

Very cute sun bear baby photos.

SUN BEARS ARE PROTECTED BY LAW IN ALL RANGE COUNTRIES.

KEEPING SUN BEARS AS PETS IS A SERIOUS OFFENCE. YOU WILL BE FINE, IMPRESSION, AND CANE IF YOU DO SO!

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September 12, 2011 was the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Cake festival in Chinese Lunar Calendar. I was informed by the Sabah Wildlife Department in the morning that the Wildlife Rescue Unit will sent a baby sun bear to us at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. The rescue unit met us at the junction of Mile 32 of Sandakan Road to deliver the cub. Our team consisted of Wai Pak, Alex, Roshan and me. We left my house at 9 pm, when the neighbors were enjoying their BBQ Moon Cake Festival dinner under the full moon light on their porch.

The first meeting with Mary- in her transportation cage

The first meeting with Mary- in her transportation cage

The female sun bear cub, Mary, was surrendered by her owner from a small village near Ranau two days earlier. According to Mary’s owner, Teresa, her husband and some friends went hunting on the night of June 17, 2011 in an oil palm plantation and “found” Mary at the forest edge. They capture her and brought her back home. The hunting party claimed they did not see the mother bear (do you believe it?). Mary was about 2-3 kg at that time. Teresa fed her with some milk (cow milk powder) the first day but stop giving her the milk because of her diarrhea problem. She was given a variety of fruits, rice, bread, honey, and some meat, but no milk in her diet.

I gave her some milk on the first night. This was her first milk in three months.

I gave her some milk on the first night. This was her first milk in three months.

Three months later Mary was sent to BSBCC. The first time I saw on Mary I immediately noticed her abnormal looking: she has a relatively mature look relative to her small size. Typically, young sun bear cubs have short and round muzzle. However, Mary has a relatively long and pointy muzzle. Her body was relatively short and small. The next day I weighed her: 8.25 kg. I also noticed that she walks and moves very slowly. Cub her age (estimated 6 months old) should be very agile, playful, and active. Mary is not. Mary also likes to suck her right hind foot like all bear cubs that I have come across. She also likes to seek human fingers and suck them one by one.  In addition, Mary’s coat is brown, instead of sleek black, also a sign of abnormality.

Wai Pak used honey to lead Mary standing on the scale. She tipped the scale at 8.25 kg.

Wai Pak used honey to lead Mary standing on the scale. She tipped the scale at 8.25 kg.

Mary has a habit of sucking her hind right foot to seek comfort. Self sucking is a common behavior display by orphan sun bear cubs for obvious reason - they do not have their mother to suckle or to nurse on mother's milk.

Mary has a habit of sucking her hind right foot to seek comfort. Self sucking is a common behavior display by orphan sun bear cubs for obvious reason - they do not have their mother to suckle or to nurse on mother's milk.

We suspect Mary’s abnormal conditions (small body, slow movements, brown coat) are resulted from malnutrition and imbalance diet. She was also being confined in small cage that may restrict her growth.   What Mary needs at her age was her mother’s milk that rich in protein, fat, and other trace elements such as calcium, other minerals and vitamins, plus unlimited rooms for her body to grow. Without proper diet and sufficient space, Mary’s growth was restricted and her development was disrupted.

Mary's relatively small body and slow movement may resulted from insufficient nutrients such as calcium in her diet and small space to grow in captivity.

Mary's relatively small body and slow movement may resulted from insufficient nutrients such as calcium in her diet and small space to grow in captivity.

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I let Mary to suckle my finger to seek comfort. Suckling is an important part of bear cub development and growing process.

Mary was given dog replacement milk formula and a variety of fruits and dog chow. She is house in a spacious cage. We hope she can catch up with growth under our care. In three weeks time we will integrate her with Fulung, another sun bear cub who is few months older then Mary. We hope both of these cubs can grow normally, healthily, and happily under the care of BSBCC.

Wai Pak give Mary a special treats to gain her trust- honey!

Wai Pak give Mary a special treats to gain her trust- honey!

Mary enjoying her new den with many enrichment and toys!

Mary enjoying her new den with many enrichment and toys!

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Keeping sun bears as pets is a serious crime.

Please report to the authority if you see any illegal sun bears being kept as pets.

A Day in the Life of a Sun Bear Volunteer

 Text by Amy Scott

Photos by: Ng Yen Fern, Marieanne Leong, Amy Scott and Ng Wai Pak.

I have just returned to Australia after spending almost 2 months volunteering at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sepilok, Sabah on the island of Borneo. I arrived at Sandakan airport on July 6th and was met by a smiling Wai Pak the BSBCC project manager and Marieanne and Fern two Sabahan volunteers whom I was to enjoy several weeks living and working with. We then did a few necessary bear centre errands, banking, shopping, a trip to the post office etc before heading back to the centre in Sepilok about 20km away where I met other volunteers, Venda and Roshan, and hard-working bear keepers David and Daniel. It was also my first meeting of the sun bears. I guess the first thing I noticed, that I wasn’t expecting, was how agile the bears were, like monkeys – climbing all over the cages and on the tyre swings and branches including upside down. It was very entertaining to watch! This was just my first day and I didn’t know then what a great experience was ahead of me.

Me with fellow volunteers, Venda and Roshan, and bear keeper Daniel.

Me with fellow volunteers, Venda and Roshan, and bear keeper Daniel.

We all stayed at the volunteer house with Wai Pak about 5 km from the bear center in a lovely rural setting. The house is a large old double story timber house with 3 bedrooms and living room/office upstairs, and downstairs the kitchen, eating area and bathroom. I came to love the house, particularly its open air style and surroundings of banana and palm plantations and an orchard of limes. I enjoyed watching the geckos in my room moving about and catching insects, and the front balcony was a great vantage point for watching amazing electrical storms and also squirrels and birds darting about in the palms next door. We had as many limes as we liked for making ‘lime cordial’ and also chilies for cooking and we enjoyed many of Wai Pak’s great creations in the kitchen (and while we’re on the topic of good food, BSBCC CEO Wong certainly makes a superb dumpling amongst other dishes! J).

Wai pak cooking up a storm!

Wai pak cooking up a storm!

Another delicious meal

Another delicious meal

The volunteer house

The volunteer house

So what does a ‘typical’ working day at the Bear Centre involve? Of course a typical day is not always typical but usually Wong would pick us all up at the house at about 8.00am and after a quick breakfast at the Sepilok cafe, of normally Mee Telur (noodles and a fried egg) and a Kopi Nai (coffee with condensed milk) we would start work at the ‘new’ bear house about 8:30. After greeting David and Daniel and a bit of pre-work ‘cheeky banter’ it was time to change into our rubber boots (gum boots if you’re an Aussie) and start the first task of the day washing the 22 trays from the bear’s early morning rice porridge breakfast. These are disinfected, scrubbed, rinsed and stacked for drying.

 

Next the fun commences! – The cleaning of all enclosures in the main bear house: Sweeping up piles of bear poo and old and wet leaves and grass, scrubbing and hosing floors and walls squeegeeing the floors dry and scrubbing of water troughs. New foliage, vines, and branches are then collected from outside for distribution around each newly cleaned enclosure.

 

The next task for the day is cutting fruit for the morning fruit feeding. A combination of fruits and vegetables (but majority fruits) are given twice a day to the bears and can include apples, oranges, snake fruit, corn, bananas, papaya, corn, cabbage, beans and water melon.

 

The morning fruit feeding is at about 11:00 and the afternoon feeding about 2:00.  Fruit is scattered and spread around enclosures to promote more natural foraging behavior. After the morning feeding, fruit is chopped for the afternoon feeding and put into large bowls in the fridge over lunch. Rice, for the afternoon rice porridge meal, is also put onto cook in two large pots. Then it’s washing of bowls, knives and chopping boards and a general tidy up of work area before lunch.

Me scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing!

Me scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing!

Venda sweeping, sweeping, sweeping!

Venda sweeping, sweeping, sweeping!

Marieanne cutting fruits

Marieanne cutting fruits

Preparing rice porridge for the bears

Preparing rice porridge for the bears

Trays of rice and sweet potato cooling ready for the afternoon meal

Trays of rice and sweet potato cooling ready for the afternoon meal

After lunch the rice is served out into individual trays for each bear to cool down prior to feeding at 4pm. Sweet potato or raw egg are mixed with the rice on alternate days. The afternoon fruit is then fed along with cleaning and collecting of foliage for the ‘old’ bear house. *The ‘old’ bear house is the original bear house (also includes quarantine for new bears) and the main or ‘new’ bear house where most bears now live was completed in 2010. Funding for an additional bear house is underway and when completed, bears from the ‘old bear house’ will be moved here.

 

Following cleaning of the old bear house time is often spent in the afternoon preparing enrichments for the bears and a large part of the volunteer role at the BSBCC involves undertaking tasks that provide environmental ‘enrichment’ for the sun bears while they are in their cages in the bear house.

 

Enrichment is the process of providing stimulation to an animal in an unnatural situation such as when in captivity that provides a more natural environment and promotes normal behaviors and activities. Enrichment also attempts to reduce repetitive or stereotypical behaviors that can be observed in animals that have been kept in small enclosures for extended periods with no stimulation. Many of the bears that arrive at the BSBCC have been in this situation.

 

In a wild situation sun bears will spend a lot of their time on the move, foraging for food, digging and climbing. They will interact with the natural environment experiencing different smells and sounds and come into contact with a variety of plant and animal species and different terrains. The BSBCC is the only sun bear center in the world that has natural rainforest habitat for the bears to roam, and seeing the bears digging, foraging and exploring their outdoor environment and just acting like wild sun bears was definitely one of the highlights for me at the center. However due to several reasons including current space limitations as the bear center expands and new bears keep on arriving, not all bears can be outside in the forest enclosures at the same time so providing enrichment to the bears while they are in their cages in the bear house is an important part of the BSBCC program. The main aim of the enrichment process is to provide as many elements as possible of bear’s natural habitat and then provide other sources of stimulation for the bear’s senses that provide extended periods of activity and interest. The longer the enrichment keeps the bears busy and interested the better!

 

 

There are various categories of ‘enrichment’ that can be provided and some of the ‘habitat’, ‘physical’ and/or ‘sensory’ enrichments prepared and provided to bears at the BSBCC include:

 

 

  • Piles of dried leaves and grass for foraging, play and bedding for the nest basket and stimulation of senses particularly touch and smell.

 

  • Foliage, braches and vines including edible and non-edible species that provide both food, shelter, bedding and in general a more natural environment providing different textures, tastes and smells.

 

  • Large logs and tree stumps for climbing, resting on and tearing apart with their claws.

 

  • Water baths for wallowing and playing in – sun bears love water!

 

  • Tyre and wooden swings and hammocks for climbing, play and resting and to provide vertical structure to the enclosure.

 

Collecting branches

Collecting branches

Making a bamboo swing for little Natalie

Making a bamboo swing for little Natalie

Myself and Alex (volunteer/ Bollywood dance extraordinaire) preparing a cage, with climbing structures and various types of foliage for the arrival of Fulong, a small young male bear that arrived a couple of weeks before I left and who is now I’m sure, growing big and strong.

Myself and Alex (volunteer/ Bollywood dance extraordinaire) preparing a cage, with climbing structures and various types of foliage for the arrival of Fulong, a small young male bear that arrived a couple of weeks before I left and who is now I’m sure, growing big and strong.

Food enrichments included:

 

  • Scatter feeding and hiding of fruits around the enclosure in different structures and at different heights to promote natural foraging behavior and extend feeding periods.

 

  • Filling ‘Kongs’ (strong rubber dog toys) with banana, one of the bear’s favourite foods- Kongs have a hole in the center and the banana is packed in tight. The Kongs are then thrown on the roof of the cage and the bears quickly climb up to take a look. It takes some skill and ingenuity by the bears to pull the Kong through the bars inside where they can then scoop out the banana with their claws which again keeps them busy for a while because the hole is small and their paws are big!

 

  • Large water ice blocks filled with various foods including fruit and/or corn and dry dog food are a favourite of the bears. Being large, solid, frozen and slippery it takes some time for the bears to access the food inside and keeps their interest for ages which is the objective!
Fruit ice blocks

Fruit ice blocks

  • Whole coconuts provide the bears with activity and interest for quite some time, eventually cracking them open with a combination of their powerful teeth and by throwing the coconuts against the walls and floor. Once they have made a hole they drink the juice by holding the coconut between their feet and lying on their backs and then break open the rest of the coconut to eat the flesh- Quite a treat to watch!

 

  • Sections of bamboo or PVC pipe are packed tight with fruit and grass and thrown on top of cages. This provides a two part enrichment one is the difficulty in accessing the food while the pipe is outside the cage which again takes some skill, and the second is ripping apart the empty bamboo case (and sometimes the PVC pipe!) which some bears take great delight in doing!

 

 

Other than the husbandry work we also conducted a couple of small studies and some field work while at the BSBCC. The first involved an assessment of trees within forest enclosures to see which trees are preferred by sun bears for climbing, and which characteristics led to this tree preference, e.g. height, species, canopy cover etc., (see blog http://sunbears.wildlifedirect.org/2011/07/15/the-joy-of-working-in-the-forest-the-volunteers-diary/). The second was a small gut passage rate pilot study, which involved mixing seeds (dried beans) with the food of several bears and recording how long seeds took to pass through the gut of the bears. This information could contribute towards learning more about the role of sun bears as seed dispersers in the rain forest and it is hoped may lead to a larger student project in the future.

 

I also undertook some bear behavioral monitoring over a period of a week in August spending a few days in both the ‘new’ and ‘old’ bear house that involved recording what activity each bear was performing every 5 minutes from various categories of ‘natural’ and ‘stereotypical’ behavior. It is a good technique to determine the rate of natural compared with stereotypical or non-natural repetitive behaviors that bears are performing and help with identifying which bears need more enrichment and how bears are improving over time that they are at the center. I found this to be a very interesting little project learning a lot more about sun bears and their behavior.

 

The Bornean Eco-Film Festival was on in Sandakan in July. It showcased a number of environmental documentaries many filmed in Sabah and highlighting local environmental issues. It included the Bear Trek film Promo showing the work of bear researchers from around the world and featured Wong undertaking his research on sun bears in Danum Valley which was fantastic to see. Wong also did a presentation on the BSBCC and issues facing the sun bears that was very well received by the audience and hopefully will lead to wider awareness of the plight of the sun bears.

 

I very much enjoyed my time at the BSBCC and in Sabah and met some great people and gorgeous sun bears which really are the most remarkable animals! At the same time I learnt a lot about sun bears and the threats they are facing now into the future and why they need our help so much. It was a great experience for me and I highly recommend it to anyone! Thanks Wong, Wai Pak, Daniel and David and all the volunteers I worked with for looking after me so well and to the sun bears for making it such a wonderful experience!

The very handsome Om exploring his forest enclosure

The very handsome Om exploring his forest enclosure

Volunteer’s Diary: Coconuts!

coconuts!

By Mark Rusli 

http://matahari-bears.tumblr.com/

Coconuts for the adult females today. Was trying to figure out a creative way to use our large stash of coconuts which were collecting dust and harvesting ants; eventually Amanda and I somehow concluded to suspend it in unreachable places. Manis got her own personal alone time with her coconut, because we were afraid her groupmates would steal it from her.

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Trying to figure out the best route to the coconut. Perhaps her former situation at the zoo had an adverse impact on her calculation skills: took a while, but she got there eventually!

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Manis managed to tear the coconut off the rope, and proceeded to rip it apart with ease. Watch those claws and teeth!

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Very quickly, she attacked the white pulp of the coconut.

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Next door, Keningau gave me a dirty look, upset that Manis was getting all the treats.

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…. And the rest of the group each received their own coconuts.

We were talking about how enrichments that successfully occupy Manis gives us a personal sense of satisfaction. Manis has this perpetual glazed, distant look, which is probably another manifestation of the psychological damage derived from her time in the zoo. To bring her back, to make her do normal “bear” things, means so much more.

Saturday, June 5th 2010 12:13am

The Enrichment for the Sun Bears Part II.

 [kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/A6gCjMZnBig" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /] 

By Wai Pak Ng 

We have 12 bears in the centre. However, we only have 3 exercise enclosures. I am sure you might ask about those bears that were not in the exercise enclosures, what they would have for enrichment. 

For those who are still waiting their turn to be released to the exercise enclosure, keepers will let them have others kind of enrichment. Ice lolly with fruits inside is every bear’s favorite especially during the hot day time. They will lick it, dig it with claws, rub it over their head and body, and some even bring it back to their sleeping basket and enjoy it!

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Colorful ice lolly with fruits and vegetables for the bears! bear7.JPG

They spend time to dig out the fruits.  

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Thanks for Maria Trenary from Oakland Zoo as they have sent us some dozen of “Kong” toy. Kong is a very hard rubber toy that is specially made for animals to bite. You can put food inside it to make it more interesting and fun.

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What our centre used to do is put in fruits like bananas, apples, dog food, honey, and sugar cane. Then we will put them into the refrigerator to make the food inside the Kong become harder and cool.

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Keningau is using all her paws to get the food out of the “Kong” toy.

I have to tell you our bears love Kong. They will spend time to dig the food, and lick it until the very last bit of fruits with their long tongue! They are not let go the Kong even though they have finished the food inside. They just like to play with the empty Kong by throwing them like a baseball!

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Other than that, we also hang tire in the bear cage. Tires are the bear’s toy that we can get free and it is durable. Our bears like to bite the tire, spin it, or even bang it on the wall! They also love to climb on it and swing themselves together with the tire.

 You can tell that the bears like tires with this video above.

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Om likes his tire very much and even sleeps with the tire. 

In my opinion, a successful enrichment is something that can attract our bears to spend their times and make them feel like they are not kept in a cage. As a keeper, I know it is challenging, but it is so rewarding to see them enjoy the enrichment.