Category Archives: captivity

A Big Day for Dodop

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

Dodop was rescued from Singgaron village, Ranau district, Sabah. She was kept as a pet in a small cage. She arrived at BSBCC on 2nd June, 2016.

On June 2nd, 2016, Dr. Rosa Sipangui, a veterinarian from the Sabah Wildlife Department and the BSBCC team performed a general health check. Dr. Rosa sedated Dodop and made a full assessment of her health status. This is crucial for sun bears as it puts us in a position to immediately assess the correct diet and possible medical treatment for them. During the health check it was confirmed that Dodop is missing her all of her four permanent canines. The blood test results on the other side have shown, that she is healthy. Today, Dodop weighs 19.6 kg. She has gained a lot of weight in just one month!

Dodop finished her quarantine on 2 July 2016. Dodop settled in well. She has grown into a beautiful young female and also a fussy bear. That is the problem with cubs that have been kept in captivity with close human contact for long periods, which ends in the bears requiring a great need of comfort. People who kept her as pet completely did not know the basic needs of a sun bear. They fed her the wrong diet and made the sun bear be stressed, at times depressed with a poor physical condition and malnutritioned.

Dodop has been introduced to new large dens. The moment she was release into the large den, she barked but then without hesitation, Dodop ran in, looked around, climbing over everything but she still needed to find her surrogate mother to suckle for comfort. During the day she is in big dens with a nice view over the playground. So that she can get used to her new surroundings, where she is taught to use the climbing structures and how to forage for food. We are for example now hiding hid food in her dens so that Dodop could practice foraging skills. In the wild sun bear cubs would be with their mother until they are about three years old.  The cubs learn all the necessary behavior and survival skills that they need.

We will be anxious to see how she develops her bear skills. We hope for Dodop to become wilder, which is what we are always looking for in a rehabilitation process. In the coming weeks, Dodop will be introduced to another sun bear cub and taken out for walks to the adjacent forest reserve. Here she will be learn and develop her survival skills for the wild. Stay tuned with BSBCC to have follow ups on Dodop out to the forest story!

Here are photos of Dodop introduction to larger dens.

General Medical Check Up for 40 bears and Satellite Collaring on Second Release Candidate – Lawa

Text by Seng Yen Wah

Photos by Chiew Lin May

After a year, it’s time for the bears to do their annual health check.

We really appreciate Dr.Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam, who is a Veterinarian from the Sabah Wildlife Department, Wildlife Rescue Unit, to conduct this health check for all the bears in BSBCC with his valuable time and great efforts.

Each bear requires a full general anesthetic with the purpose of putting them under sedation for doing an extensive health check. After the bear has been darted, it takes some time for the bears to be sufficiently sedated. The bear can only be carried out from the cage once they are sedated enough.

Bear keepers carrying the bears from their cage to the medical table.

The very first thing done on a health check is to measure their weight.

Before we cover the bear by using a blindfold, we put a medicine on their eyes to prevent their eyes undergoing dryness during the health check.

Dr.Pakee and Wong were checking the bear’s dental condition.

Sun bears have strong and sharp canines.

Dr.Pakee conducted a full physical examination including dental condition, paws and wound problems. Growth measurements such as zoological length, head circumstance, neck size, chest girth and shoulder height, and the shank length was taken by bear keepers. All the measurements were recorded in measurement form. We also took hair samples and saliva for research purposes. Blood samples had to be taken by the vet and the samples will be sent to a laboratory in order to get more detail on the health status of the bears.

Dr.Pakee was taking blood samples with the help of Roshan.

Everyone was playing their part for assisting in the health check.

This is the way we do measurements on the bear’s paw.

We always need 2 people for doing a paw print. One is for holding the paw and another one is for holding the paper.

We were recording the wounds that showed on their paws.

We took photos for every claw as a record as well.

During the health check, it is a good time to clean the tartar on their teeth as well.

And also, for trimming their long and curved claws too.

Lastly, this is the chance for taking a good picture of their chest marks.

All the bears can be considered as healthy bears. However, take the bears away from the wild and keep them in inappropriate conditions can cause many chronic health problems for the bears. They will lose their instinct to take care of themselves.

Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan stayed in quarantine. Now, these three little sub-adult sun bears have moved from quarantine to Bear House 1 to join a big family. Their moving was given a hearty welcome by all the sun bears in the bear house through lots of welcoming barks.

Bear Keepers moved Boboi from Quarantine to the Bear House by using a transport trolley.

Boboi was being carried to Bear House 1.

Boboi was the first one who was moved to Bear House 1. He was depressed in the first day. He had no appetite and stayed on the hammock most of the time. Having no friend staying beside him was making him a bit aggressive. Luckily, this situation did not hold for too long. After one day, Kitud was moved to the bear house. Boboi tried his best to take a look at his dearest friend, Kitud, through the cage bar. After Kitud woke up from the health check, they could not wait to stay together. So, keepers integrated them inside a cage. They seemed so happy to have each other. They always stay together in the basket or on the hammock. Boboi grew an appetite after meeting Kitud. They were sharing a tray. After one day more, Tan Tan joined them. Finally, these three little friends met again. And, they help each other to adapt in this new environment. This is because the best enrichment for a bear is other bears.

Where are my friends?

Hey, I am here.

Let me stay with you.

When we are together with a log.

When we are together on the ground.

I see you.

I am so happy to play with my friends.

My dead wood

Did I look like a surfer?

The happy news for the health check this time is not only Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan joined a big family, but also the very big and special event for Lawa, a 9 year old adult,female bear. Maybe you will be wondering what is the special event for Lawa?  And now, we are so happy to share our happiness with you. On June 3rd, 2016, was the collaring for our second release candidate, Lawa. Lawa was surrendered to the BSBCC in 2008 when she was only a one year old cub. She had lost her mother and her forest home, and it was hard to imagine that she ever thought her life might change to be better again.

Lawa is ready to live a new life as a truly wild sun bear! Lawa showed all the signs of an excellent candidate for release after being rehabilitated for nine years. She built up her survival skills and independence and quickly adapted to forest living. Lawa is excellent in climbing trees, foraging for food, nest building and she avoids people! She has explored and stayed in the forest every day for the last nine years.

There was a sunny and challenging day. With the excellent team from the Sabah Wildlife Department, Dr. Rosa Sipangkui and Elis Tambing, Wong Siew Te (BSBCC Founder & CEO) and the BSBCC staff, Lawa was tranquilized without any upset in her forest enclosure. This was so we were able to attach a satellite collar on her before her release into the wild. Our mission of the day was to find Lawa in pen K with the presence of Cerah and Kuamut. All the bear keepers had a short meeting before going to find Lawa.  They were fully geared up on this operation. They split into 2 groups, one group went inside the pen and one group stayed outside as backup. We spent some time searching for Lawa due to her high survival skills. She showed up a few times but once she realized something was not right around her, she just ran away from the bear keepers’ eye sight. After a few attempts, finally one of our bear keepers, Thye Lim, found her. She had hidden herself in dense bamboo bushes.  With the help of Dr.Rosa Sipangkui and Elis Tambing she was successfully darted in one shot.

Dr.Rosa and Elis were preparing the dart.

Bear keepers moved Lawa from pen K to the bear house once she was under sedation for the health check and collaring. A general health check starts with weighing, she currently weighs 41.3 kg and after an assessment of potential sickness, functionality of organs and physical condition, Wong Siew Te helped fitting the collar on Lawa.

Lawa’s dental condition

We were doing measurements on Lawa’s hind paw.

Dr.Rosa was taking blood samples.

Wong helped fitting the collar on Lawa.

Finally, Lawa was collared!

After all that had been done, Lawa moved to Pen G.

After the health check Lawa was placed into the new forest enclosure. A one month observation will be carried out to make sure the satellite collar functions well and Lawa gets used to the collar. This is a precious opportunity for a bear to be released back to the wild. They belong to the wild. Captivity will never be their first choice. Natalie is the first release candidate bear. Now, Lawa is the second bear candidate for release. It’s time for her to return back to her real home, the forest. It has been a long time but it will never be too late for her to be home. Lawa is extremely curious and has started to explore her new forest environment as a wild sun bear.

It is a pleasure to see a bear given the second chance to return back to where they belong! Thank you to Brad Josephs for your support in helping the fundraising for Lawa’s release. Her journey to freedom has been made possible with generous support and kind contributions from you all!


One Green Planet, 2nd January 2014

By Kristina Pepelko 

The sun bear is one of the smallest bear species in the world and also the least known, as their presence is rather hard to document in the wild due to their elusive nature. As a result, their population numbers remain unknown.

Yet, what is no secret is that these animals, like so many others in the world, are under increased threat because of human activity.

Deforestationpoaching, and the demand for traditional Asian medicine such as bear bile and “exotic” foods like bear paw soup have placed sun bears in danger and they are currently listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.

According to the IUCN, in just the last 30 years, the sun bear population has dropped off by nearly 30 percent in Southeast Asia, where they now only have the Borneo Rainforest to call home.

Thankfully, there are organizations working to help these little bear like Animals AsiaFree the Bears Fund, and the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC).

As we reported back in early December 2013, the BSBCC recently launched a new campaign called Survival of the Sun Bears to raise awareness about the important role these bears play in the Borneo rainforest ecosystem as well as the threats they face today in hopes to prevent their future extinction.

The BSBCC, located in Sabah, Malaysia, is the world’s only sun bear conservation center and is home to 28 rescued bears.

Just this past month, one of the BSBCC’s residents, a five-year-old male sun bear named Kudat, finally took his first steps in the forest.

Kudat came into BSBCC’s care back in July 2010 after he and a female sun bear named Panda were rescued from a private mini zoo called Victory Mini Zoo in Kampung Perapat, Kudat, Malaysia.

According to BSBCC’s CEO and founder, Wong Siew Te, the two bears were held illegally in a small concrete floor cage and put on display for the public day in and day out without any enrichment. Upon their rescue, they were discovered to be overweight due to improper feeding (they were fed one chicken daily) and Kudat already had a few bald patches present on his fur.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Soon after Kudat and Panda’s rescue, they were transported to the BSBCC to finally receive the care and kindness they deserved.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Here, they spent time with other rescued bears, exploring one of the BSBCC’s bear houses…

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre


…and playing with enrichment toys that staff offered them to help them develop more natural sun bear behavior.


Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Then, two years later, after receiving electric fence training, Kudat took his first steps out into the BSBCC’s new forest enclosure!

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

He was hesitant to go outdoors at first, sniffing the air near the entrance to his indoor enclosure and pacing around. But, after nearly seven days of training sessions with food laid out on a ramp, he took his first official step out on Dec. 11, 2013.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

In the days after, Kudat began exploring the beautiful forest around him, getting reacquainted with the sounds and smells of a place he once called home during his pre-zoo years.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

The BSBCC writes that he was very curious about his new environment, marveling at all the tall, climbable trees around him.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

In no time, he remembered how to be wild sun bear again — digging at dead wood in search of insects like termites and beetles, and exploring and roaming the forest in peace.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Today, Kudat is enjoying his new home and his second chance at freedom like never before, reminding us that this is the life that sun bears and other animals truly deserve.


To learn more about the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre and bears like Kudat, visit the organization’s website and Facebook, and be sure to check out the BSBCC’s Survival of the Sun Bears campaign, and spread the word!

Lead image source: Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre


Two rare Malayan sun bears found in abandoned Cambodian garment factory

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, February 22, 2013 9:15 EST

Sun bear Dawy at Phnom Tamao Zoo south of Phnom Penh in 2008. (AFP)


Two rare Malayan sun bears have been rescued in Cambodia after being discovered in an abandoned garment factory, a zoo official said Friday.

The male and female bears were rescued by officials from the Phnom Tamao Zoo and the Wildlife Alliance, who found them in the factory in southern Kandal province last week, according to zoo director Nhek Rattanak Pich.

“The bears were left with no food and no one to care for them after the factory owner fled the country,” the Wildlife Alliance said on its website.

The group said local authorities had called them after the bears were found in purpose-built cages at the factory, which closed without notice in December.

The bears are now being cared for at the zoo, its director said, adding that he did not know why they had been kept at the factory.

The Malayan sun bear is found primarily in Southeast Asia and is classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Bears are among many species that have been decimated by wildlife trafficking in Asia, which is fuelled in large part by China’s massive appetite for exotic meats and animal parts for traditional medicine.


Animal activists and conservationists see red

Tuesday February 19, 2013

[email protected]

PETALING JAYA: Animal activists and conservationists want those behind the fatal poisoning of a horse and a Sun Bear at the Malacca Zoo to be caught, prosecuted and punished severely.

Dr Sharmini Paramasivam, of zoo animal welfare group myZOO, said a thorough investigation must be carried out to determine the motive behind the poisoning.

“We must take this very seriously and ensure our animals are not suffering. Placing animals in captivity means taking full responsibility for their well-being and health,” she said.

Zoo Negara deputy director Dr Muhammad Danial Felix described the killing as a “national outrage”.

Condemning the crime, he said the guilty must be harshly punished.

“Maintaining tight security at the zoo, including during the feeding of animals, is extremely important.

“If it is found to be an inside job, the culprit may killed the animals as a way to get noticed,” he said.

Wong Siew Te, founder of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, said the sun bear was a “Totally Protected species” in the peninsula, adding that the maximum penalty for killing such animals under the new Wildlife Conservation Act (2010) was a fine of RM100,000 and a jail term of up to three years.

The Sun Bear is classified as “vulnerable species” in the IUCN Red Book Listing of Threatened Species in 2007.

Wong said its global population had been declining over the past 30 years and if the trend continued, it would join the “Endangered Species” or “Critically” endangered species.

“The punishment for this crime should be significant and widely reported to deter potential offenders and raise awareness, “ he added.

Malacca SPCA chairman Vincent Low described the poisoning as a “dastardly and uncouth” act.

He said the heinous crime could be an inside job or committed by former workers who still had access to the animal enclosures.

Animal Concerns Research and Education Society executive director Louis Ng said the zoo management should take urgent measures to ensure only authorised staff were allowed into enclosures or places where animals were fed.

Wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic South-East Asia’s regional director Dr William Schaedla said that if the poisoning was found to be premeditated and intentional, the culprit must be prosecuted and harshly punished.

Related Stories:
Perhilitan sends team to probe deaths
Cops on the trail of animal killers

Mystery of the sun bear at car porch

Sunday November 4, 2012

KOTA KINABALU: How a sun bear cub ended up at a car porch of a house in Damai, a bustling housing area here, is likely to remain a mystery.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said the three-month-old female cub found by a resident two days ago could have been illegally reared.

“When our officers went back to the place to ask about it the next morning, no one owned up to it,” he said.

Damai is a mere 10-minute drive from here.

Ambu said those found guilty of rearing or possessing protected species such as the Borneon sun bear could face a mandatory jail term between one month and a year.

The presence of the 4kg cub was known when the dog belonging to the house owner Blue Lum, 38, kept barking on Thursday night.

The cub is now at the Lok Kawi zoo. It will be sent to the Sepilok Borneon Sun Bear Conservation Centre.

Eastbourne resident fundraises for Jonny the sunbear


Eastbourne resident fundraises for Jonny the sunbear



 A Lower Hutt woman was so moved by the plight of an Indonesian sun bear she’s started a fundraising campaign to build it a new enclosure.


Small steps: Carol Gorham of Lowry Bay hopes Lower Hutt schools and residents will get behind her campaign to help build a new enclosure for Jonny the sun bear.

Carol Gorham has never seen Jonny the bear in person, but conservationist friends emailed her about his plight, and sent her photos from his home in Seblat near Bengkulu city on Indonesia’s Sumatran island.

”His cage is two metres by one, which is really tiny for him. He can barely stand up in it, and he’s out in the hot sun as well, which is awful,” Mrs Gorham says. Sun bears can reach five foot when standing.

Unfortunately Sumatran jungles, which still house some of the world’s biggest wild animals like tigers, bears and elephants, are seen as easy targets for poachers.

Mrs Gorham’s friends are on the island working to rescue elephants and say the bear was formerly an illegal pet that was confiscated.

He is now being cared for by a veterinarian who works at the Elephant Conservation Centre in Seblat, but with no facilities and no finances to buy proper feed, Jonny’s not being kept in ideal conditions.

”When I read about it it’s really upsetting, and I thought I can try and do something for this one,” she says.

”It annoys me when people say it’s only one bear, that’s not the point.”

Jonny is not a wild bear, so Mrs Gorham’s first thought was that a zoo would be the best place for him. Unfortunately, after making extensive enquiries, all the zoos she called in Indonesia are not able to take him.

”They are very poor, and have poor conditions, and just can’t take another one, so I’m trying to find funding.”

Mrs Gorham says she hopes to raise an initial $3,000 to take care of basic costs for Jonny, like food and medical care and to draw up plans for a suitable enclosure to be built for him. In the long term she would like to raise a total of $10,000 to build the enclosure.

She hopes Lower Hutt schools might take up the cause by learning about Jonny and holding fundraising events.

She is also selling a range of skincare products each week at the Eastbourne market and on TradeMe, with all the profits going to Jonny’s cause.

While Ms Gorham says she’s in this for the long haul and recognises the project may take a couple of years, she says one day there’s the potential for the rescue centre Jonny is living at to be turned into a popular ecotourism attraction, and hopes a new cage for Jonny might help.

The same vet that is caring for Jonny is also looking after a rare Sumatran tiger that was found caught in a trap in the jungle, and had to have both front paws amputated, she says. ”That needs help too, but you’ve got to start somewhere.”

Carol Gorham’s can also be contacted about the fundraising project for Jonny on 589 9050 or [email protected]

– Hutt News

The Bears Thank You

Enrichment toys are vital for a recovering sun bear’s health. Photo courtesy of BSBCC

Several months ago, we put out a call via our Animal Care Wish List asking for donations to provide enrichment items for the sun bears housed with our new collaborative partner, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). You responded generously, and I am pleased to say we were able to send six new toys to the bears at the BSBCC. Thank you so much for your generosity!

The sun bear is a rare bear whose habitat is dwindling rapidly under pressure from deforestation. Primary causes of forest loss include illegal timber extraction and the development of palm oil plantations. Very few studies of wild sun bears have been conducted, and a population census of this species, or the Bornean subspecies, has never been conducted. However, their numbers must surely be on the decline as their habitat steadily shrinks.

One of my objectives is to find more opportunities to conduct research with sun bears, to learn more about them and facilitate conservation of this species. We have had the opportunity to observe the growth and development of four sun bear cubs born to our resident female, Marcella, but a larger sample size of animals was needed to conduct any statistically meaningful research into various aspects of their biology. Enter the BSBCC.

Siew Te Wong founded the BSBCC in Sabah, Borneo, to serve as a rescue and rehabilitation facility for orphaned and injured sun bears. “Wong,” as he is called, had conducted field work on these animals but recognized the need to provide care for bears impacted by forest loss and the illegal pet trade. In only 4 years of operation, the BSBCC has accumulated more than 20 sun bears. Some are destined for Wong’s developing reintroduction program, which will see them repatriated to the wild in time. Others are not good candidates for release and will likely live out their years at the BSBCC.

Thankfully, the BSBCC goes the extra mile to ensure a good home for its sun bears. It has several large outdoor pens that are essentially areas of enclosed natural habitat: giant trees, heavy canopy, soft forest soil, and a multitude of plants and bugs for the bears to enjoy. The enclosures are so natural that wild monkeys and birds often cruise in and perch in the canopy of their trees. The bears are carefully managed so that agreeable animals can be housed together as playmates when possible. Even so, there are so many of these animals that on any given day a few of the bears will be rotated inside so others can enjoy the outside spaces.

The BSBCC likes to provide enrichment for their indoor animals to ensure that their environment remains as stimulating as possible. And that’s where you come in. Your donations helped to aid in maintaining a quality of life for these bears that ensures their physical and emotional well-being. The photos here demonstrate that the bears are enjoying the toys immensely!

We are excited about developing our partnership with the BSBCC into a research opportunity. This will aid in the conservation of the smallest bear on Earth and could lend insight into the bear family tree. We know from our past work, for example, that sun bear mothers and panda mothers are very similar in their attentive maternal-care styles, and both pandas and sun bears differ from the less active hibernating bears like brown and black bears. What other similarities and differences between the bear species will we find?

Your gifts of enrichment were the first step in what I hope will be a long and informative road that leads to new discoveries about sun bears. Thank you again.

Suzanne Hall is a senior research technician for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, Monday: Black, White, and the Blues.

Look violent but completely harmless – The integration of Debbie with Mary and Fulung

Text and photos by Siew Te Wong

We integrated Debbie the sun bear cub with Mary and Fulung for the first time on March 10th. The entire process started 10 days earlier on Feb 28th when we moved Mary at opposite side of the hall way to the den next to Debbie. Debbie’s reaction toward Mary was very strong, huffing and barking on a defensive way whenever Mary made a move. Lack of sun bear’s communication skills, poor Mary seemed to be confused and do not know what to do except sucking her feet (Mary suckles when she wants to seek comfort). We have to keep the den between Debbie and Mary empty to reduce contact between the two young bears because of Debbie’s reaction.

The next day Debbie seemed to accept Mary’s presence. She did not seem to be defensive nor aggressive and did not bark and huff at Mary like what she did a day before. She just watched Mary on a very curious way. We let Mary entered the middle empty den so that both bears can have contacts through the bars. Immediately Debbie was very interested on Mary, touching and scratching her gently whenever Debbie can reach Mary through the bars. Sometime Mary responded to Debbie by playing with her. However, Debbie was more proactive while Mary just sitting there to suckle her feet without paying much attention to Debbie. The induction between Debbie and Mary seem fine through the bars.

The next step was to move Fulung the yearling male sun bear on March 3rd to join Mary so that three of the sun bear yearling/cubs can be place together as a group. This time Debbie did not react much to the presence of Fulung. She seemed just fine to have Fulung as her neighbor without any conflict or aggression over the following week.

Finally the big day arrived on March 10th, we integrated Debbie with Fulung and Mary. Fulung is about one year and four months old. He is the biggest and oldest among the three bears. Mary is about one year and two months old and Debbie is the youngest, age about 8 month. Here I let the photos speak for themselves:


In order to prevent them from being too excited when first meet, we scattered their fruit snack- pumpkin and banana on that afternoon, on the floor. Just like what we expected, Fulung (left) and Debbie (right) get busy searching and eating their afternoon snack: banana (preferred) first, and pumpkin later. Mary was at the back of the den, checking out Amaco (an old male bear) behind the wall.


After all the banana was gone, play time begun. Like usual, Fulung would is always advantage being a bigger bear. He shows off his dominancy by standing up right on his hind limbs. Debbie, although being the youngest and smallest, never feels threatened by Fulung's size. She displays her jaw and teeth. Her message is clear, "do not mess around with me!"


Debbie on the right now standing up to show off her teeth and claws. She just never gives up quickly!


Mary now joins them. Instead of play fighting, she is more into the remaining fruits. This is a great photo to show the facial expression of Fulung (left) and Debbie (back).


Mary (right) decided to join the party. Fulung (left) let Debbie to bite his neck. With a lot of loose skin, the neck of the sun bear is like the armor of the bear to get closer to their opponent.


Now the three bears are in action together. Although a lot of teeth and claws in these play fight, they are completely harmless to each other.Fulung and Debbie have a lot of interactions at first. Mary is a bit slow by just watching.


Fulung: "I am bigger than you, Debbie!" Debbie: "So what??"


Like a wrestler, Fulung uses his bigger body to press Debbie down, and the countdown being...


After tens of minutes, Fulung started to feel boring and left Debbie.


Now is Mary's turn to play with Debbie (right).peI can tell by now Debbie (left) is very tired. She just wanted to lie down on her back and push Mary (right) away.At the end of the day, both bears are so tired!


Bermuda touches soil for the first time in more than 10 years

Caged, pet sun bears have a sad life. From the day they were captured and kept as pet, most of them will NEVER touch the soil, climb the trees, and dig the ground again.

Many of our rescued sun bears also have the same fate. However, with our state of the art forest enclosure, the rescued sun bears at BSBCC have the chance to enjoy the forest.

Bermuda, a 10 year old male sun bear at BSBCC, was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on October 10, 2002. He live on a concrete floor since he was captured from the wild as a little sun bear cub. For him, the ground is always a smooth layer of concrete floor, until today.


This is how far Bermuda willing to go on the first day to forest enclosure.

This is how far Bermuda willing to go on the first day to forest enclosure.

Bermuda finally passed his electric fence training lately. We let him out to his forest enclosure for the first time on Valentine Day Feb 14th. We put food, and honey (all time favorite food for bears) on the ramp to encourage/lure him out of his den. What he did that entire day was pocked his head out to reach the food and honey on the ramp without stepping a foot on the ramp.

This is a very pathetic story for all caged sun bears. To all of them, confined and locked up in a small cage is life. They do not know the world beyond the cage. Rain, soil, trees, leaf litters and other natural vegetations and natural elements in the forest all are something that they never come in contact. The only time when they walked on the forest floor was during the first few weeks or months of their life, until their mothers were killed and they were captured by poachers. To them, forest is an alien nation, fills with unknown bugs and unknown noise; the place that is so strange, unsecure and uncertain. All of our adult bears decided to stay inside the den and not wondering into the forest enclosure when we released them out to the forest enclosure for the first time. It sometime took them weeks if not months to wonder out from their den. Only the young once would go out immediately and enjoy the forest without second thoughts.

Bermuda’s reaction when we let him out to the forest enclosure was not exception on Valentine Day. Over the next week or so he still kept himself safe under the protection of his den although the door to forest enclosure was staying open all day long. The food that we left on the ramp and the forest floor has attracted troops of forest bandits – pig-tailed macaques and long-tailed macaques, to enjoy their free meals. Bermuda, sometime I questioned his “male-hood,” just stood in his den and watched his food being stolen away by these intelligent primates.

A smart pig-tailed macaque robbed the food that we placed on the ramp to encourage Bermuda the sun bear out from his den to explore the forest enclosure.

A smart pig-tailed macaque robbed the food that we placed on the ramp to encourage Bermuda the sun bear out from his den to explore the forest enclosure.

Three macaques ganged up to rob food from the bears. The scene is like hyenas gang up to steal lion's prey in African savanna.

Three macaques ganged up to rob food from the bears. The scene is like hyenas gang up to steal lion's prey in African savanna.

The only thing that Bermuda did was watching the bandit took his food and sticks his tongue out!

The only thing that Bermuda did was watching the bandit took his food and sticks his tongue out!

This afternoon as I was writing another blog on Fulung and Mary, Marianne our volunteer from UK rushed into the office, “Bermuda is out to his forest enclosure!” Wai Pak and I grasped our cameras and went down to witness this historic moment. This is the moment where he step foot on the forest floor for the first time in more than 10 years and we do not want to miss that! Although he did not wonder off far from the guillotine door of his den, we can tell from his fast pacing behavior that he was nerves and wanted to go back. Wai Pak then scattered some bread in the enclosure to encourage him foraging and exploring a bit more. He just ate the bread that was close to him without much exploration. After tens of minutes, he finally found his way back to his den and did not come out to explore again.


Bermuda is finally out to explore the enclosure. Although not much area covered, it is a good try for sure!

Bermuda finally walking on soiled ground, not cemented floor. It may seem nothing for a bear, but for Bermuda, this is a big deal!

Bermuda finally walking on soiled ground, not cemented floor. It may seem nothing for a bear, but for Bermuda, this is a big deal!

That was a good start for a captive sun bear willing to wonder off his den on the 7th day. Gutuk, another old male bear still decided to confine himself in his den although the door to the forest enclosure has been open for the past 3 months. I am sure Bermuda soon will gain more confidence to explore the forest enclosure. What he need is time and encouragement. In BSBCC, we will give him both!