Category Archives: Cerah the sun bear

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.

 

Integration Chin with the Adult Female Bear Group

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

Chin was rescued from the Tawau district where she was kept at the primary school’s mini zoo. On October 20th, 2014, we relocated Chin to our BSBCC bear house to join a gorgeous group of bears. We started to introduce Chin to other female adult bears so that they can live together. Integrating sun bears is a helpful process through which the bears can develop and learn pertinent skills for survival in the wild.  We hoped the integration would go well.

Chin was introduced to the adult female bears which included Susie, Kuamut, Tokob, Cerah, Jelita and Lawa. Because it would be too overwhelming for Chin to meet all six sun bears at the same time, one by one introduction was started for the first seven days. Through the expressions of Chin’s behaviour, she could not wait to play with other female bears. Five of the female bears were very pleased to have a new playmate, inquisitively sniffing and offering a friendly paw to Chin. Chin is very playful bear! A few months on, they continue to enjoy and learn to understand each other better, and no aggression was noted. They would play chase, climb around and share enrichment with each other. Their friendships blossomed.

Here are couples of photos shows the integration Chin with the other female adult group.

 

Integration Chin with Cerah

Bears being Bears

Chin (back) was so excited and she like to displayed a “dancing move” to her friends.

Cerah showed dominance over Chin !!

 

Integration Chin with Jelita

Jelita (front) tried to show Chin (back) that she has the strength too !!

After tired of play, finally Chin can lying down on ground floor to rest.

 

Integration Chin with Lawa

Lawa (back) started to accept Chin’s (front) presence. Both of them play happily !

Chin (right) sniffed on Lawa (Left) and was very curious.

 

Integration Chin with Susie

 

First met with Susie!

All of the strong claws and canines were showed up during the play fight.

Always cheerful Chin!

 

Integration Chin with Kuamut

 

Say “Hi” to Kuamut!

Tired from play fight, both had a rest and were gasping for breath.

Taking rest first! They spends the day with chasing, rolling and play fight together without aggression behavior.

 

However, Tokob did not welcome the newcomer. Tokob’s reaction toward Chin was very strong, growling and barking on a defensive way. Tokob has a very strong sense of curiosity, but maintains her distance around Chin. Tokob is very alert, and demonstrates a bit more dominance than Chin so we will have to be patient while this integration unfolds. We will continue to monitor these two bears until we are certain that they are good playmates and we will keep you updated on their progress!

 

Integration Chin with Tokob

Chin was climb upside down and aware when Tokob did not show interest on her.

 

The Tree Loving Sun Bear

Text and video by Chiew Lin May

Tropical rainforest are the sun bear’s main habitat. They are tree lover and can climb extremely well. Many of the features are specifically adapted for a more tree-dwelling lifestyle. Example the long, curved, pointy claws and they can rotate their arm just like primate do. However, sun bear faces many challenges for its survival, including destruction of forests and commercial hunting.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre  (BSBCC) would like to help and conserve sun bears.Please help us save them.Watch this video to discover what we do know about this amazing and special sun bears in their natural habitat.

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Cerah and Jelita – Wild chapter in their lifes

Text and photo by Chiew Lin May

Malayan sun bear (Helartos malayanus) need a diverse tropical rainforest to survive. They are forest dependent species. BSBCC forest enclosure highlight the needs for animals better prepared for living in their natural environment. One of the primary goals of the BSBCC is to rehabilitate and release suitable orphaned and ex-captive bears back into the wild, providing an improved long-term living environment for captive bears that cannot be released.

The BSBCC forest enclosure is an old growth forest with full-grown trees and lianas. Over the past many months, we have observed good progress on Cerah and Jelita display their wild behavior and stand a better chance to freedom in the wild.  They are an arboreal bear species. They spend a lot of their time foraging for food, resting, digging and climbing on tree canopy at BSBCC forest enclosure.

They play a vital role as seed dispersers in their forest ecosystem as when they eat the fruits contain seeds. The seeds will be carried long away from the parent tree or scatter the undigested seeds in their faeces with a way to spread out and grow in new places. The importance of seed dispersal is for the continuation of plant and species life.

Sun bears are opportunistic omnivore. Cerah and Jelita forage by using their claws to dig the decayed wood searching for natural bear food such as termites and beetle larvae. They have to forage a lot each day in order to meet their energy requirement. They are good at skimming through the forest enclosure with their nose and paws to find any kinds of food in the forest. Jelita like to sit on the ground with her body straight up and held the food with her front paws and licked it. They are feeding on fruits both on the ground and in the trees. Sometimes, their black fur makes them not easy to be spotted when they are foraging on the dark forest floor at the forest enclosure.

Cerah the sun bear use her strong jaws and teeth to open coconuts!

 

Cerah and Jelita enjoying their morning snack.

 

Decayed wood was the most common type of feeding site for sun bears to search of termites, beetle larvae and earthworms.

 

Sun bears are good tree climbers because that is where they can find their food.  In the forest enclosure, Cerah and Jelita climb like a wild sun bear. They are excellent climbers and are thought to sleep in trees. It is lucky to saw the interesting behavior of the sun bears climbing up the trees. They usually spend most of their day sleeping and sunbathing on the tree or forest floor in the forest enclosure. After napping, they spend much of the time foraging for food.

Both of them climb like a wild sun bear in the BSBCC forest enclosure.

 

Jelita rolled her long tongue out when it yawned.

 

Here are some of photos showed the Cerah and Jelita difference resting/ sleeping postures.

 

 

 

 

Jelita taking a nap after finish the corn on tree !!

 

These trees will provide bedding sites for sun bears. Those branches also make a nice place to build a nest for resting or sunbathing during the day. Cerah and Jelita enjoy exploring the natural environment at BSBCC forest enclosure.

A sun bear’s nest found in tree at BSBCC forest enclosure.

 

Cerah and Jelita enjoy exploring the natural environment at BSBCC forest enclosure. While studies of sun bears in the wild indicate they live solitary existence, most likely due to competition for food but Cerah and Jelita are best pals. They will share food, comfort and protect each other together. Cerah have strong sense of curiosity.  She will stay alert and avoid with presence of human and surrounding sound in the BSBCC forest enclosure. She will quickly climb trees to seek shelter and safety.

BSBCC forest enclosure is a perfect dwelling place that the rescued sun bears can roam freely by day and night. Cerah and Jelita has learned from experience and developed technique in survival skills. Observed them venture and acclimate to life in the forest.  This showed a positive sign of independence and given the sun bears the best chance of survival in the wild. Both of the sun bears are fascinating in the forest enclosure. Watching the change of both of the sun bears grown healthy and adapt well in the forest is undoubtedly one of our greatest pleasures.

Cerah and Jelita like to play together in the forest enclosure.

 

 Help us spread the words about the forgotten species – the sun bears! Together we can make a difference!!

Join our Facebook page to get the latest news from BSBCC at here
www.facebook.com/sunbear.bsbcc

 

Why BEARTREK is important to sun bear conservation?

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Cerah the sun bear climbing a liana

Sun bear holds many world’s records.

Sun bear is the world’s smallest bear species. However, they have the longest tongue, longest claws, and largest canines relatively to their size if compares to other bear species.

They are the world’s most arboreal bear species. Yet, sun bear is the world’s least known bears. They are the least studied bear species. I often refer them as the forgotten species.

Sun bears are nothing but amazing and fascinating! I knew it from years of studying them and working closely with them. It is ashamed that very few people in the world know much about them. For such an little known species, what sun bear need is an army of media coverage, range from the smallest smart phones, tiny news papers columns, articles in magazines, books, internet websites, youtube videos, TV programs and documentaries, and all the way to big screen feature-length films in cinema. Yes, feature-length films like movies!

As sun bear biologist, I am frustrated all these years by having difficulties to reach people, many people indeed, to share the stories and the plights of the sun bears. That frustration however, was slowly disappeared when Chris Morgan first contacted me about a proposed full length feature film call the BEARTREK in 2005. BEARTREK is a wildlife film produce by Wildlife Media Inc. features Brown bears in Alaska, Sun Bears in Borneo, Andean Bears in Peru, and Polar Bears in Canada. Wildlife Media is making a difference for bears and other wildlife through direct project funding and awareness-building.

“Film can change the world”

For BEARTREK, it will change the fate, the future, and conservation of sun bear. The numbers of people BEARTREK will reach and the amount of influence BEARTREK on sun bear is beyond anyone’s imagination. It will be huge, be vast, be significant. Many people across the world will see sun bear, learn about sun bear, and know how special sun bears are for the first time in their life from BEARTREK. All of this knowledge is important for us to save sun bear from extinction as well as their habitat from deforestation. It has been 5 years now I anticipate the project to be completed. At the beginning of each year I pray that the movie will be completed in that year because we need the world to know about the plight of sun bear and their conservation issues urgently. Sun bears and their tropical rainforest habitat need immediate attention and have no time to wait.

“What is good for bears is good for people” is what Chris Morgan always said. “Protect bear habitat and you will protect fresh water, healthy forests, and clean air. No other species captures the human imagination like bears. They amaze us with their power, appearance, intelligence, and adaptability; attributes that have led to human admiration and respect for millennia.” Like all film productions, BEARTREK is no exception of in need funding to achieve its goals. I am urging you to support Wildlife Media and the production of BEARTREK. I am thankful to those of you who have supported BEARTREK. I also thank Chris, Joe and this team to put this movie together.

We need BEARTREK to hit the cinema screen at no time!

You can learn more about BEARTREK and Chris Morgan’s works at:

http://www.chrismorganwildlife.org/

http://wildlifemedia.org/

http://chrismorgan.posterous.com/

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Chris, Wong, and little Cerah the sun bear, all were featured in Beartrek

Chris, Wong, and little Cerah the sun bear, all were featured in Beartrek

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aaBear waken up

 

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Bear Necessity – A Walk on the Wild Side with Wong Siew Te

Original posted at http://www.ecoknights.org.my/component/content/article/28/1317-bear-necessity-a-walk-on-the-wild-side-with-dr-wong-siew-te.html

Wong’s notes: Thank you Ecoknights’ founder Yasmin Ras for interviewing and running this interview at their website. Thank you!

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A special EcoKnights spotlight this month focuses on Malaysian wildlife biologist Wong Siew Te, CEO of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sabah. The EK crew was very privileged to have met Wong last year during the Borneo Eco Film Festival, organized with the kind assistance of Anton Ngui.

Born in 1969 and raised in Penang (a state in the northern Peninsular Malaysia), Wong has always been an animal lover. It all started when he had a special interest in wildlife when he was studying for his animal husbandry and veterinary degree. When the opportunity came to take wildlife biology seriously, Wong jumped at the chance to work with his then academic advisor Dr Christopher Servheen on an ecological study of the sun bears. Armed with passion and dedication, his academic study on these threatened bears led to a conservation achievement in which he was then appointed as the Co-Chairperson of the Sun Bear Expert Team for the IUCN/SSC Bear Specialist Group from 2002-2005. EcoKnights salutes Wong for his amazing dedication and effort in studying and working on the ecological conservation of the sun bear for the last 13 years.

Today, Wong is the CEO of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, which he founded in 2008. He was also a fellow of the Flying Elephants Foundation, which awards individuals from a broad range of disciplines in the arts and sciences who have demonstrated singular creativity, passion, integrity and leadership and whose work inspires a reverence for the natural world

Here’s an up, close and personal interview with Wong Siew Te.

me_and_sun_bear_baby

(Picture on the right: Wong and a sun bear baby; Photo credit: Wong Siew Te)

EK: Can you tell us about your background (education and career), your current position at the Conservatory and what your roles are there at the Conservatory?

WST: I work closely with animals all my life. Since I was a little tot, I kept all kind of animals as pets. After high school, I went to Taiwan to obtain a diploma in Animal Science and Veterinary. Four years later, I pursued my bachelor degree in Wildlife Biology at the University of Montana, USA, followed by a Masters degree and a PhD degree all from the same university. Unfortunately I did not earn my doctorate at the very end due to unforeseen circumstances. I studied the ecology of Malayan sun bears for my Masters degree and the effects of selective logging on bearded pigs on my doctorate. In 2008, I founded the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sepilok, Sandakan, Sabah and have hold the position of Chief Executive Office since then.

me_and_studied_wild_sedated_sun_bear

(Picture on the left : Dr Wong and studied wild sedated sun bear; Photo credit: Wong Siew Te)

EK: Have you always been interested in conservation? How did it start?? Is your family supportive? Do your children understand what their dad does for a living?

WST: I love animals since childhood and have kept all kind of pets: birds, fishes, cat, rabbits, mice, turtles, civets, and many carnivorous insects. My father was the one who brought me these pets at that time and gave me a lot of encouragement to keep these pets. During my teenage years, I became a pretty successful breeder breeding birds, fishes, and dogs. However, I did not have any interest in conservation until I was 20 years old simply because I never know about conservation until then. My career with conservation started from bird watching during my teenage years before I actually know there was an outdoor activity call “bird watching.” During my first year of study in Taiwan I joined the “Bird Watching Society” in our university and started to know about conservation. After I earned the diploma in Animal Science and Veterinary program, I worked as a research assistant for a wildlife professor at the same university in Taiwan.

Wong_and_rescued_orangutan_in_Taiwan_rescue_centre_1994

(Picture on the right: Dr Wong and rescued orangutan in Taiwan 1994)

During the two years as a research assistant, I was involved in several research projects on fauna surveys, setting up of a rescue centre for endangered species, and radio-telemetry studies on barking deer in Taiwan. All of these activities helped my future research and conservation works in many ways. My family has been supportive of my work although they wanted me to be with them all the time. I think there is no perfect world when you are in the field of conservation. We gain at the same time lose a lot as well. My eldest daughter somewhat understands my conservation work. She has been talking highly about my work in school to her friends. My youngest daughter who is 7 still needs a few more years to understand what her father does for a living and why I am always not around the family, especially to her friends.

EK: Please tell us about the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), a bit of history, the goals and what the centre hopes to achieve? Has the centre reached some of the goals it was set out to do?

WST: I first had the idea of setting up a centre to rescue caged sun bears back in 2004 when I did a survey of captive sun bears across Malaysia. During the survey, I encountered many captive sun bears locked up in small metal cages kept as pets, displayed to attract tourists, or some of them were confiscated by the authorities. Sun bears are a protected species in Malaysia. However, the lack of enforcement on the wildlife protection laws and lack of capacity, interest, and resources to properly house these bears has caused all of the sun bears to be housed in substandard, pathetic and disgusting condition. In addition, sun bears remain as the least known bear in the world and one of the most neglected large mammals in SE Asia. Therefore there is a need to set up a facility that helps sun bears with a holistic approach. In 2008 I set up the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) with the partnership from Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department and LEAP, a NGO base in Sabah.

 BSBCC_logo

The primary goal of this project is to promote sun bear conservation in Borneo by (1) creating the capacity to confiscate, rehabilitate and release suitable orphaned and ex-captive bears back into the wild; (2) providing an improved long-term living environment for captive bears that cannot be released; (3) educating the public and raising awareness about this species; and (4) achieving increased protection for sun bears and their habitat through ongoing research, increased knowledge and awareness, and further protection of habitat.

Over the last four year we have been working hard to raise funds to set up the centre. Although the centre is not yet fully established and not yet open to the public, we have achieved several goals such as rescuing and housing 27 rescued pet sun bears, conducting many education outreach programs for school groups who wish to learn more about the sun bears and their habitat.   

EK: I understand fundraising is always a tough part of conservation. How has it been in terms of support from the public, corporate organizations and government? Who are your supporters and/or funders so far?

WST: The supports from the public, corporate, and government has been moderately encouraging over the past few years. Majority of our construction funds were provide from tax payers money through government funding, whereas our operation fund come from public support and corporates. Our funders include Sabah State Government, the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia, several zoos in US, and many individual online donations and Facebook funds raised from small donors across the world.    

EK: What kind of manpower and financial requirements does the centre take to sustain itself? Is it sufficient? How can a reader of this article help?

BSBCC so far has four full time staff- 2 animal keepers, a project manager, and me as the CEO. Our typical monthly expenses range from RM15, 000-RM20, 000. Over the past four years we have over 700 volunteers helping us on various tasks to taking care of our bears and setting up the centre. All of these man power and expenses seems a lot but it is at the minimum level. It is not sufficient. When we open to public, the staff capacity will increase from 4 to 17 staff, this mean that we need more funds to pay salaries and other relevant expenses.    

Like all conservation programs in the world, the amount of conservation works we can achieve to help save any species is dependent on the amount of funding we can generate. Our efforts to help save sun bears in Malaysia are no exceptions.

First, we need to raise sufficient funds so that we could set up the centre, run the conservation programs, take care of the rescued bears, etc. We need funding to do them all. The most direct way for you to help our efforts is donating fund or help us raise fund. They can make the donation online at: http://www.leapspiral.org/content/suppor… or write to me at [email protected].

We also have a Facebook page cause setup where people can join our cause and make their donations at http://www.causes.com/causes/95651.

Unlike tigers, pandas, and rhinos where most people know more about, the sun bear is the least known bear in the world and one of the neglected large mammals in Southeast Asia. The lack of knowledge about the species and their plights among the public is a big obstacle for the conservation efforts to save sun bears. Everyone can help us to raise awareness of the sun bears simply by spreading the words about our cause and the sun bears. Internet has become an important tool to communicate with friends across the world.

 Joining our Facebook cause  http://www.causes.com/causes/95651) and repost our blogs  http://sunbears.wildlifedirect.org/), could help us spread the words and message for sure.

The last thing about how other people can help us is what I always tell people on how they can help us: “do what you do best to help us!” If you are a writer, you can help us write about sun bears and our work; if you are a film maker, help us produce a film about the sun bears; if you are a scholar, help us conduct studies on sun bears, etc. In short, do what you do best! 

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(Photo on the right: Sun bears on tree; Photo credit: Marc Anderson)

EK: Can you share some of your successful, emotional/sad and difficult moments at the centre? The challenges you and the centre had to face?

WST: To me, the setting up of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre from nothing to what it is today is the biggest success story. In addition, rescuing every pet sun bear and bringing them to our centre are all successful stories. Imagine all of our rescued sun bears were capture from the wild since they were cubs after their mother were probably killed by poachers. They were then being locked up in small metal cages for a long time until they were rescued by the Sabah Wildlife Department and sent to us. At our centre, these sun bears are no longer confined to small cages and no longer displayed the very serious stereotypic pacing behavior. They have access to the forest enclosure where they can climb the tress, dig the soil and break decayed woods to look for insects and other invertebrates. Last February I came back from US and saw these rescued sun bears foraging in the forest enclosure for the first time. I broke into tears seeing them live like wild bears. I am so happy all the hard work finally pays off. No one has any idea how much effort I put in and how much sacrifice I have made to make this happen. This is the first step for BSBCC- to improve their welfare. I have done it. No, WE have done it!

The challenges that I and the Centre have face since the beginning have always been funding. Excluding the operational expenses, the capital or the funding on buildings required more than RM 5 million. These are by far the biggest challenge that I have to face when I decided to found this project almost four years ago. Luckily thanks to many very dedicated person and partners, we are more than half way to raise the funds and heading towards the right direction. Looking at the fact that the global economy took for a negative turn when the Centre was set up, I must say we have pulled through one of the most difficult times.

 

EK:  What gives you strength?

 WST: laughs*). I do not know what gives me strength. However, what I do know is that I love animals, I love bears. I feel very happy if I can help them when they are in trouble and needed helps. Or perhaps my nature of optimism and tenacity gave me strength to do what I have accomplished. Last year I “walked” our rescued orphan sun bear cubs: Natalie, Fulung, and Mary, in the forest. They treated me like their mother and trusted me to protect them. At that time I was thinking what would be a more meaningful career to do in my life than helping these orphan cubs return to the forest? After all these years in this field, I felt like the closer I work with animals, the more strength and energy I have to help them. Perhaps the wildlife and the forest give me the strength and energy to continue working closely with wildlife. This is like a positive feedback loop that fuels me do more and more work in conservation.

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(Photo on the right: Dr Wong and Fulung; Photo credit: Wong Siew Te)

EK: What are the threats and issues the sun bears are facing in this country? What are some of the ways that need to be emphasized and/or enforced? What is the reality/future of sun bears in Malaysia? Globally?

WST: Sun bears in Malaysia face the threats from habitat lost, poaching for their body parts, and keeping bear cubs as pets. The threat from habitat lost accelerated since the 60″s when vast lowland rainforest in Malaysia were cleared for agriculture and development until recently. Over the last few years, poaching has been a serious threat to sun bears in Malaysia, partly fueled by the international wildlife trade. Keeping sun bear cubs as pets was exacerbated by both forest clearing and poaching activities when loggers and poachers killed mother bears and captured their cubs.

Sun bears are a totally protected species in Malaysia. No one is allowed to kill, to harm, to sell, to keep and to harass sun bear. However due to the lack of interest to enforce wildlife protection laws by the authority and lack general conservation awareness of sun bears by the general public, unlawful activities of killing and harming sun bears persist.

In order to save sun bears, the wildlife authority and law enforcement agencies MUST enforce wildlife protection laws seriously. Any offenders MUST be prosecute and punish with maximum penalties in order to deter any illegal activities of killing and harming sun bears. General public and wildlife conservation NGOs must work closely with the authorities to give information, be the watch dog, and unsure enforcement is carry out properly in favor of the protected wildlife such as sun bears.

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 (Photo on the left: Caged sun bear; Photo credit: Wong Siew Te)

 The sun bear is a forest dependent species. The amounts of forested lands remain in this country reflects the amount of habitat available for the sun bear. In Malaysia we have lost about 50% of our forested land. Much of these forests were prime sun bear habitat from the lowland dipterocarp forest. Therefore deforestation in this country has to be halt completely at any cost if we were to save sun bears and important wildlife species in Malaysia.

The future of sun bears in Malaysia and in the world is pretty challenging. There are two inherent reasons that make the future of the sun bear bleak if the current trend that threatens sun bear continues. First, the natural density of sun bears in the forest is always low in the first place. In Borneo the density of sun bear is relatively much lower than the endangered orangutans. Second, the reproductive rate of sun bear is very low. Female wild sun bears are estimated to produce 4-5 cubs in her life time. With the low density and low reproductive rate, additional killing of any sun bear individual in the wild may bring serious consequence to the population.

In Malaysia, about 50% of our forest covers remains after several decades of deforestation and human development. This also means that the sun bears have lost at least 50% of their habitat. However, compare to other Southeast Asian countries where sun bears are found, the deforestation and the poaching activities in Malaysia is relatively mild. Because of this reason, Malaysia is the last stronghold for the survival of sun bears in Southeast Asia. In Borneo, Sabah is the last stronghold for the Bornean sun bear also for the same reason.

EK: How does the Conservatory contribute to the conservation of the bears and how far ahead in terms of efforts does the centre have?

WST: As mentioned earlier, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre aims to conserve sun bears through improve animal welfare, raise conservation awareness through education, conducting research to know more about this little known bears, and help sun bear cubs returning into the forest through rehabilitation program. All of these activities contribute toward the conservation of sun bear and they all have to act side by side through a holistic approach, so to speak. So far we have rescued 27 sun bears from the fate from being locked up in small cages and improve their animal welfare issues through our animal husbandry and facilities. Although BSBCC has not yet open to the public and start our education program in full swing, we have worked with many school groups and outreach programs over the past three years. Right now as we speak the construction work for the observation platform and boardwalk that link the entrance to the platform is ongoing. We still lack the funding to construct the visitor briefing area. Once the construction for these two components is done we will open to the public and launch a full education program to educate the visitors on the plights of sun beats and their habitat. We hope the centre will be partially open to public by later this year and fully open early next year. Several research projects are on planning and will conducted later this year as well. All and all, we are not far to achieve what we plan to achieve for BSBCC.    

EK: What is your advice to students who are in university studying environment or conservation? And especially if they want to take the path you took? What does it take to be you? What are some of the attitudes or philosophies one has to adopt in this field?

WST: This question can have a very long answer. For myself I have been through a non-typical path. For example I love animals pretty much all my life; I have many animal experiences since I was a kid; my ambition when I was 7 year old was to be an “animal expert”; I started bird watching before I know there was an activity call bird watching; I have two years of field and veterinary experience before I started my bachelor degree in Wildlife Biology. All of these shaped me of what I am today. However, other students should not be discouraged if they do not have the experiences I had. Everyone is unique and has their own back ground to do well in the field of conservation. My advice to students who are in university studying environment or conservation is that what they are studying is important to the entire humanity, entire world and all living organism on Earth. I know many of the students who study environmental study or conservation may have been “assign” to study the course or these courses are not their first choice.

However, if they start to develop the interest when studying the course they still can do well and contribute to this field. One characteristic that allconservations and environmentalists have is that they all have very strong interest and passion on this field, regardless of when they started to develop their interest or passions. For me I develop the interest and passion when I was very young. However, I met many great conservationists and wildlife biologists who developed their interest when they did their Master degree or even later in life. The important thing is to follow your heart. This field may not necessary bring you glamour or high financial rewards. However, it will make you contribute to the society, humanity and make your life “worth it” at the end. In this field, environmentalists and conservationists put the fate of environment or wildlife that they are fighting for before their own personal benefit and agenda. They do not expect a “reward” from what they are doing and sacrificing. What they want is to improve the situation and condition of the issues that they are working hard and fighting for- a better tomorrow for the environment, wildlife, and planet Earth.               

EK: Why is it important doing what the centre does and what you do?

WST: Like mentioned earlier, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is working on the conservation issues of sun bears through improving animal welfare, education, research, and rehabilitation of sun bears. All of these conservation issues that the sun bears faced are very urgent, meaning someone has to help sun bears desperately to solve the problems such as pet sun bears, poaching issues, and habitat destruction issues. Unfortunately sun bears are a forgotten bear species. Very few organizations in the world aim to conserve sun bear and working on their conservation issues. In Malaysia, the plight of sun bears received very little conservation attention. In view of that, BSBCC develops unique tasks to help and conserve sun bears in many ways. The final mission is to save sun bear from extinction, preserve the rainforest habitat of sun bears and much other wildlife, and educate the public about the sun bear and wildlife conservation issues. Without BSBCC, captive sun bears will continue to suffer in captivity and wild sun bear population is likely to decrease to a point where there is too late to anything- brink of extinction.

Although BSBCC is focus on the conservation of sun bear and its habitat, I am not and I will not. It is true that my work has been focusing on sun bears for many years; however, my interest in conservation and research is not restricted to sun bears. My interest is very broad. It includes the conservation of all wildlife especially mammals and birds, tropical forest ecology, human disturbances in rainforest ecosystem, and climate change. I hope my work can inspire younger Malaysians to love and to conserve nature, environment, and wildlife.

As a local Penangite, I hope I can be a role model for other Malaysians to involve and supports conservation because conservation needs all of us working together to make a big difference for our wildlife, nature, and environment. Eventually conservation in our own country has to depend on our own countrymen, our own resources, and not foreigners and foreign resources.          

EK: What are some of the special moments you had with the bears? Please describe it.

WST: There are a lot of special moments I had with wild sun bears which I studied and the captive sun bears at BSBCC. I will mention few of these special moments here:

a) The first time I saw one of my radio-collared wild sun bear on a tree was when he was feeding on wild figs in a fruiting fig tree about 45 m above the ground. Together with him on that tree was a female orangutan with baby, a female binturong with baby, a family of gibbons, many squirrels, and hundreds of birds. All of them were feeding and roosting on the same tree. It was a SPECTACULAR sighting which I will never forgot! That was also the first time that I learn the sun bears are very arboreal and good climbers.

b) The first time I caught an emaciated sun bear in August of 1999 was a special moment too. That was the first time I learned about the tough life of sun bears living in the wild. The famine episode where many bears and wild pigs died from starvation has change the perception of what and how we think about the tropical rainforest.

c) The first time I “walked” a sun bear cub in the forest was very special moment. In 2007 we filmed BEARTREK the movie in the rainforest of Danum. I took Cerah (an 8 month old female sun bear cub) into the forest for the first time for the filming. Cerah was an orphan cub rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department and her mother was probably being killed by poachers. I have no idea what her respond will be at that time when I let her out from her cage. Surprisingly she decided to “follow” me in the forest like a well trained dog, just like she would follow her own mother. Sun bear cubs are programmed to follow their mother for obvious reasons. They are totally dependent on their mother for food, safety, knowledge of finding food, and establishing territorial. It was really special to see her treated me like her own mother.

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(Photo on the left: Dr and Cerah. Photo credit: John Prudente)   

d) “Big tree, little bear and tiny termites” was a special moment when I walked Mary another female sun bear cub in the forest.  It was a scène where Mary stopped at the base of a big dipterocarp tree and fed on termites in a decayed wood. The scene made me think of the inseparable relationships between big trees, sun bears, and termites in the forest ecosystem. All of them have evolved for millions of years in this forest ecosystem and in need of each other to survive. However, human activities in recent years have disrupted these unique relationships and jeopardize the integrity. Whether or not sun bears will make it to the next millennium will very much dependent on the human activities and how we treated our nature and the environment.      

More information about the BSBCC can be found here.

To get updates and be more involved in their daily activities, join them on their Facebook group here.

Move by Wong’s passion and want to contribute? then click here to donate.

Sun bear climbing liana at BSBCC

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/BlQy8SHRGjo" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Sun bears in Borneo live in the lush tropical aseasonal rainforest.

With high solar radiation, high rainfall and constant warm temperature year round, this forest simply fills with life.

The forest forms multiple canopy layers, with the top layers measure average 50 m above the ground, and some “emergent” tree species reaching 70 m or more.

Under this condition, sun bears have evolved as an arboreal species to exploit the multiple strata in the forest.

Sun bears are superb climbers.

They spend a lot of their time resting on big canopy branches, and sleeping in the tree nest that they made high on top of tree.

They also forage on these multiple canopy layers, harvesting fruits, ants and other insects, and bee hives.

This is Cerah the female sun bear.

She was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department in 2007.

Her life as a captive sun bear literary transform after the establishment of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in 2008.

Here at BSBCC, she can have access to the forest enclosure.

She can climb like a wild sun bear in her forest enclosure.

She can eat termites and ants like a wild sun bear.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre aims to conserve sun bear through education, research, rehabilitation, and improve welfare for captive orphan sun bears.

We need your help to achieve these goals.

Please visit http://sunbears.wildlifedirect.org to learn more.

Please help us spread the words and spread the loves.

http://sunbears.wildlifedirect.org/

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

After exploring this liana (forest vines) for about 15 min, Cerah decided to climb higher.

She literary disappeared in the three canopy about 30 m above the ground. 

But she did not stay long up high.

Slowly she descended from the liana to the ground.

Enjoy the video.

Cerah Won!

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Host by Bears&Buds, The Largest Online Monthly Teddy Bear Magazine Circling the Earth, The Sixth Annual URSA Awards Competition is an international stuffed toy animals contest that participated by high-quality stuffed toy animal makers (artists) around the world. This year Maria Collin from Germany entered the competition by making a staffed sun bear name “Carah” base on Cerah the sun bear from BSBCC to raise fund and awareness for BSBCC and the plights of the sun bear in SE Asia.  

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And the Winner is….. CERAH!!

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Yes, Cerah won the first place at the “Large bare bears and buds” category!

 Congratulation to Maria for the job well done and Thank You for helping to raise awareness for sun bear and BSBCC!

(see.. another good example of “do what you do best to help sun bears!”)

 Here is what Maria got to say to the rest of the world:

 Maria Collin

Puca Bears
Wald-Michelbach, Hesson  Germany
I am thrilled to be amongst the URSA winners again, especially as this Sun bear was a “first” for me and definitely outside of my comfort zone – all those wrinkles! I probably developed a few more myself, trying to get hers right.
I made “Cerah” as a prize for a recent fundraiser, for the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre as my contribution to their efforts to raise awareness of, and to care for, these desperately threatened and utterly enchanting little bears.
Coming from a part of the world where real bears were hunted out long ago, it took teddy bears to guide me into the world of their real counterparts.

Creating “tribute” bears like my Cerah Sun bear is my way of expressing my appreciation for their inspiration – and looking at the real Cerah, who could fail to be inspired?
My grateful thanks to all who voted for her; it means such a lot to me!

And huge thanks too, to Valerie and Bears&Buds, for a super competition – and to all the other competitors – it’s always a privilege to be amongst you all.

Hugs, Maria

 

Here are the finalists of the competition:

http://www.cyberdendesigns.com/URSA-2011/FinalistinURSAAwardsCompetitionbyBearsandBudsTeddyBearMagazine.htm

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We got fans!

 Yes, we got fans! Not just the fans (admires) fans, but fans that blow wind.

Under the tropical climate, daytime temperature in Sandakan area may get as high as 33 C. Few weeks ago, Amir Yussof, a good friend of BSBCC and a huge fan of the sun bear noticed that the air in the bear house was stuffy and hot. He asked why not installing some fans? “Tide budget” I replied. “Don’t worry mate, I will come out with something!” He replied.

Sure enough, Amir started to come out with something: He contacted his friend, Nicola Stevens, the founder of International Aid for the Protection and Welfare of Animals (IAPWA). Immediately Nicky agreed to donate £500 for us to purchase some fans in the bear house to cool down our bears in the hot tropical climate.

We installed 3 ceiling fans and 3 wall fans from the donation given by IAPWA. Thank you!

We installed 3 ceiling fans and 3 wall fans from the donation given by IAPWA. Thank you!

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Thank you Nicky, IAPWA and Amir, we now have seven fans installed in our bear house. These fans keep the air flow better and keep the bears comfortable! 🙂

Cerah the sun bear is enjoying her siesta high on top of her den.

Cerah the sun bear is enjoying her siesta high on top of her den.

The helps and generous donation from Nicky from IAPWA was one good example of what can you do to help us improve the welfare of the sun bear in BSBCC and help out work a lot easier to take care of them. Beside fans which are already being taken care of, we still need a list of equipments awaited your sponsors and kind support. If you have the interest to help us purchase the following “wish list” items for BSBCC, please contact me at [email protected]

BSBCC’s Wish List:

2 x Water jet cleaner – RM 1500

Washing machine RM 1200

Desktop computer RM 3000

Animal Electrical weigh – RM 2000

Power drill – RM 800

2 X Transportation cages @ – RM 2000

Welding machine – RM 1000

4 x Stainless steel water tank @ RM 1500

Laminating machine – RM 500

6 x Walker-talki @ RM 1700

Thank you!

Is time for a health check!

It is time for an annual health check for the sun bears in Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. On October 7th and 8th, Dr Diana Ramirez from Wildlife Rescue Unit, Sabah Wildlife Department performed a general health check on 8 of our bears- Susie, Keningau, Takob, Manis, Cerah, Jelita, Lawa and Om. This health check is a routine annual medical checkup for all of our bears to assess health, potential sickness, function of the internal organs, and physical condition.

During the checking, the bears were first being sedated with sedative so that we can handle them safely. Once they were unconscious, Dr Diana took blood samples, give deworming and multivitamin injections, while Elis (senior ranger of SORC), Wai Pak, Roshan and me were busy monitoring TPR (temperatures, pulse rate, and respiration rate), taking body measurements and photos, colleting hair samples (for future DNA studies). This was also a good opportunity to show Roshan, who will start his MSc project studying wild sun bear next year, on the procedures of handling and taking data on the wild sun bear in the future.

The checking and handling procedures went smoothly without any complication. The team took about 30 minutes to complete all the tasks. After that, the sedated bears were placed in their den to recover from the sedative, which usually took an hour or less. We will conduct the medical check on more of our bears in the coming week. Thanks for the hard work for all staff and especially Dr Diana! Gracias!              

 

Wai Pak and me were working on Susie, an adult female sun bear

Wai Pak and me were working on Susie, an adult female sun bear

Dr Diana took blood sample of the sedated sun bear with Elis's help. I observed.

Dr Diana took blood sample of the sedated sun bear with Elis's help. I observed.

The next generation of sun bear biologists: Roshan on the left taking measurements of the bear; Wai Pak was the recorder.

The next generation of sun bear biologists: Roshan on the left taking measurements of the bear; Wai Pak was the recorder.

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This is also a good opportunity to study their chest marking. The pattern of the chest marking is unique to individual, no two bears share the same pattern is what we have learn. Also, these patterns tend to remain the same throughout their life time.

Manis the old female sun bear is having more and more yellow hairs as she gets older. This is an interesting observation because I have heard hunters mentioned about a second "kind" of sun bear in the forest which is not black but yellowish. Is this what they mean?

Manis the old female sun bear is having more and more yellow hairs as she gets older. This is an interesting observation because I have heard hunters mentioned about a second "kind" of sun bear in the forest which is not black but yellowish. Is this what they mean?

When compressing the dorsal skin of Manis the sun bear, her loose skin (like a shar-pei dog) folded into several flips and exposed her yellow furs. Now Manis look like a "banded" sun bear! :)

When compressing the dorsal skin of Manis the sun bear, her loose skin (like a shar-pei dog) folded into several flips and exposed her yellow furs. Now Manis look like a "banded" sun bear! 🙂

This is the first time Roshan handed a sun bear. This health check and handling procedure was for sure very benefit to Roshan, a student who will conduct study on sun bear in the wild.

This is the first time Roshan handed a sun bear. This health check and handling procedure was for sure very benefit to Roshan, a student who will conduct study on sun bear in the wild.

With the detailed instruction from Dr. Diana, Wai Pak also learned during this handling procedure. Here he is giving a multivitamin injection to Jelita the sun bear.

With the detailed instruction from Dr. Diana, Wai Pak also learned during this handling procedure. Here he is giving a multivitamin injection to Jelita the sun bear.

The chest marking of Cerah the sun bear was the most symmetrical among all of our bears. The black dots on the chest patch stay on throughout their life.

The chest marking of Cerah the sun bear was the most symmetrical among all of our bears. The black dots on the chest patch stay on throughout their life.

Sun bears are the smallest among the 8 living bear species. However, relative to their small size, their canines are largest among these bear species. Here is a close up photo of the canines from Om, a 6 year male sun bear in his prime age.  Note the lower right canine was broken. Wild sun bear usually suffered from broken or chipped canines as a result of biting and breaking into hard wood to find bee nest.

Sun bears are the smallest among the 8 living bear species. However, relative to their small size, their canines are largest among these bear species. Here is a close up photo of the canines from Om, a 6 year male sun bear in his prime age. Note the lower right canine was broken. Wild sun bear usually suffered from broken or chipped canines as a result of biting and breaking into hard wood to find bee nest.