Category Archives: conservation

Make a life by what we give

Text by Thong Wai Keen
Photos by Seng Yen Wah

Dear all,
Hi, I am Thong Wai Keen from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I am a conservation biology student from the University of Malaysia Sabah. The reason I decided to volunteer in Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is that I am convinced that a good center itself will be a great platform for a fresh graduate to learn and apply what I studied back in the University.

To some of us, volunteering may be something that allows us to earn a wonderful lifetime experience with the beautiful animals and spectacular nature. In my experience, I realised volunteering is simply giving and sharing what you have with those who are in need. It can be your time, your money or even your love to the mother nature. For me, volunteering is working on animal welfare with lots of patient and persistence are needed.

I served in two roles as part of my work with the volunteering program. Taking good care of the bears and their welfare is one of our major works. I assisted the staff in cleaning cages, preparing food, feeding, fence training and making bear enrichment. I learned to treat the bears with extra care and respect. It’s amazing to see the bears eat well and growing healthy in a clean environment.

I am helping on fence training for Dodop and Wawa.

I am helping on fence training for Dodop and Wawa.

Time for making bear enrichment!

Time for making bears enrichment!

Time for making bear enrichment!

Time for making bear enrichment!

Time for making bear enrichment!

Time for making bear enrichment!

Time for making bear enrichment!

I was also educating the visitors by conveying the information about sun bears to them on the platform. It’s a natural role for me as I really love to share my knowledge with people and it’s really satisfying to see the visitors so interested in the fun facts about sun bears. After all, making visitors to understand and share with the world that sun bear does not belong to us, the zoo, the center but the forest is what matters the most. I believe the power of education can create a stronger sense of conservation within people to share an awareness to save our wildlife and our planet.

Last but not least, I would like to express my utmost gratitude to Dr. Wong Siew Te, the founder of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), the Sabah Wildlife Department, Land Empowerment Animal and People (LEAP), Sime Darby and all the BSBCC staff for working so hard to save sun bears and dedicated to release all of them back into the wild. Thank you!

Best,

Thong Wai Keen

Specialties of the Sun Bear

Text and Photos by Seng Yen Wah

There are no words that can tell how much I love to walk in the forest in the sun.

There are no words that can tell how much I love to walk in the forest in the sun.

Every bear carries different baggage arriving to BSBCC. But they learn everything necessary from the beginning in the forest enclosure with their friends.

In nature, sun bear cubs stay with their mothers until they two to three years old. When people take cubs away from their mothers, they also take away their chance of learning the survival skills from their mothers as well. If people only keep them as a pet in a small cage, they can never learn what they need to survive in the wild. This is the reason why our integration program becomes so important for the bears.

The best enrichment for a bear is another bear. When they spend their time with their friends, they can learn relevant skills from them. Besides that, socialization can help to reduce bears stereotypical behavior. The forest enclosure provides them with a natural environment and enough space where they can explore with lots of activities, such as foraging, digging, climbing and play fight with each other.

Loki, you see I found a watermelon here and lots of delicious fruits. –Sunbearo

Loki, you see I found a watermelon here and lots of delicious fruits. –Sunbearo

You got one and I got one too.

You got one and I got one too.

There is no one to disturb our nap time.

There is no one to disturb our nap time.

Sun bears are the smallest bears among the bear species. But, they have the longest tongue amongst their peers. Their tongue is about 25cm to 30cm long. They not only use their long tongue to lick the honey out of bee nests, but also eat small insects found in decayed wood, such as ants and termites. By using their long tongue, they can reach the deep inside of bee nests or decayed wood to get themselves lots of yummy treats.

Sun bears have a keen olfactory sense. In order to encourage them to utilize their sense of smell, food is scattered around in the forest enclosures by bear keepers. This will encourage them to do more foraging. In the forest enclosure, they can also forage for the small insects.

Let me use my sense of smell to find the small insects for my yummy snack.

Let me use my sense of smell to find the small insects for my yummy snack.

I think I found a small insect in the dead wood.

I think I found a small insect in the dead wood.

Sun bears have very strong canines and sharp claws. They are the excellent climbers. With the help of their curved shape claws, the can climb up trees reaching to 60m heights. Sun bears are the arboreal animals. They climb up on trees for sunbathing and resting. Besides that, there are using their claws for tearing apart the dead wood to get their important source of protein, the small insects as well.

These leaves smell good!!

These leaves smell good!!

Opps, my belly.

Opps, my belly.

Let me do some exercise.

Let me do some exercise.

Should I climb up higher?

Should I climb up higher?

I think I need to take a rest first.

I think I need to take a rest first.

You see how I’m using my canines to bite on the tree branch.

You see how I’m using my canines to bite on the tree branch.

I got busy foraging here.

I got busy foraging here.

Sun bears are a forest dependent species. The expertise of sun bears in their habitat makes them survive in the wild. However, poaching issues are still threatening their survival even though sun bears are a totally protected species under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment of 1997. Poachers are continuously hunting them illegally for consumption, medicine or decorative purposes. Please save the sun bears. They deserve to stay in the wild free and happy. Thank you!

Please save the sun bears.

Please save the sun bears.

2 weeks in BSBCC

Text and Photos by Jacquelyn Jepiuh

After volunteering at BSBCC for a very short  2 weeks, I’ve gained so much insight about how a centre like this works. I’m currently go studying Zoology and Conservation biology so I really wanted to gain more experience in the conservation field. I found out about this volunteering program by simply googling ‘Animal conservation in Malaysia’ and came across an organization called APE Malaysia. I immediately applied for the program they had running during my semester uni break in July and luckily they accepted me! This was also my first time of hearing about BSBCC. After researching into the centre, I was amazed by how much progress they had made since they’ve started – with the release of Natalie and the upcoming release of Lawa – and why haven’t I heard of this place sooner!

Upon arriving the centre, Jess (also another volunteer) and I were warmly greeted by all the staff and briefed on the health and safety issues. The first day of work was the hardest, in my opinion, as the heat really got to me. As a Malaysian myself, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to how hot and humid it really gets here, I just get used to sweating a lot. However, as the days passed I learnt to really enjoy doing the hard work for the bears. I learnt a lot about their arboreal behavior and also the importance of making enrichment for them. The most interesting days I experienced here would be filming for a show on the discovery channel and as APE volunteers, we got to be a part of it! Even though talking in front of the camera was extremely awkward and there were some technical difficulties, I enjoyed making all the enrichments for the bears and seeing them enjoy the enrichment made it all worth it.

A hammock: an amazing enrichment for the bears to imitate having nests above the ground

Beautiful Jelita! 🙂

Mark, Sumira and I getting filmed testing the hammock for Bermuda!

I would like to give a big thanks to Wong and all the staff of BSBCC for being so welcoming, especially to the bear house and maintenance team for being so nice and entertaining – there was not a day I wasn’t laughing or smiling. Also, a special thanks to the APE team, Mark and Sumira, for taking such good care of us and teaching us about everything. Everyone I’ve met here are so dedicated and passionate about their job. I have no regrets and it has been such a great opportunity to spend my break productively with amazing people and animals. I want to wish everyone good luck with their future endeavours and good luck with the release of Lawa, I hope everything runs smoothly!

Lots of love,
Jackie

Honey Month with The Honey Bears

Text and Photos by Wong Chung Li


BSBCC is a place where I have lovely experience for both my volunteering days and my school tour. Back when I was still a student from Yu Yuan Secondary School on 2013, I had a precious chance to visit BSBCC with my classmates along with teachers before it was opened one year later. It’s a fruitful and fabulous tour as we could see the bears which we have never seen. In addition, the staffs were telling a lot of interesting facts to us and the ways we can conserve these cute creatures. At that time, I hope that I could do something for the bears.

However, I have postponed the plan until three years later. It’s my summer vacation of my university, so I decided to join BSBCC as a volunteer for a month. On my first induction, I was given instructions and rules I have to obey. This boosted me up and I really can’t wait for it to be started.

Morning

Ok! I have to drive 10 miles daily from home to work on early morning. As volunteer, I was offered a chance to stay in Bjorn Hala, a staff house which accommodates some staffs and volunteers but it’s a bit crowded then. On morning, we are assigned to different works according to the schedule but usually we have to prepare the foods or do fence checking first. Fence checking is an inspection of the voltage of our fences surrounding the forest enclosures and confirmation of the bears staying in the forest. We have to remove some branches trapped between the fences which lower the voltage. After that, we back to bear house and do our following works. Sometimes, I was assigned to clean cages. At first, I felt that the faeces and the dirt in the cage smelled unpleasant. After one month of “training”, I can say loudly that I can endure and get used to it already haha!

In cleaning cages, I learned that the faeces of the bear reflect what they eat and the different behaviour of different bears. A few naughty bears love to distract and disturb me from the neighbouring cages and when they grab the things, I can barely get it back due to their overpower strength. In doing kitchen works, I also learn of what bears eat every day and some special diet for some bears.

Afternoon

After preparing the second meal of porridge, we will go outside feeding. Outside feeding enables me to see bears playing in the forest in a short distance and have trained my stamina on carrying buckets of fruits and walk on the forest. When feeding is done, we will do some enrichment for the bears. Bears do pacing while they stress out. Some may injure themselves by doing so. The purpose of doing enrichment is to reduce their pacing behaviour and somehow encourage their climbing and foraging skills. I really enjoy this activity. It gives me a sense of achievement when the bears play it and try to suck the foods out.

After coming here, I start to differentiate each bear by looking at its appearance other than its unique chest mark. I also understand how complex the process of placement of bear from integration to fence training to forest enclosure and finally release is. The release of bear requires a lot of energy and money but it allows the bear to enjoy the wild again. Our bears all have sad past when they were still cubs. So I really hope that they can live happily afterwards.

Mr Wong, the CEO & Founder of BSBCC is a kind and knowledgeable wildlife biologist who has studied sun bear for 20 years. He always shares his stories and experience with us during his free time. He has a lot of books inside the office and he can always remember where the information comes from. His stories of building up the BSBCC and sacrificing his personal life are really inspiring. Other than sun bear, Mr Wong study birds well too. After I tried his foods, I believe he will become a famous chef if he didn’t become a wildlife biologist.

I would like to thank all the staffs, especially the bear keepers and maintenance team which I always work with (Forgive me for not mention the names one by one). Given my limited ability to speak Malay, they can still communicate with me well. They are so friendly and patient in teaching me the ways to use some equipment. We have chit-chatting a lot and know about each other well. I also love to listen to their working experience and other stories.

I would like to give credits to Lester, my buddy. This is because he really helps a lot and provide professional advice to me on doing our enrichment called “Swing Along” for one of our bear called Along. As I know, Along still hasn’t stepped on our enrichment yet haha. Besides, he is a funny guy and always influent in atmosphere. Without him, we always feel like we lack something. At last, I would like to say that it’s a great honor to work along with you guys and being a part in helping sun bear. Thank you!

Helping Lawa be Wild Again

Text and Photos by Brad Josephs

The sun bear, with its 18 inch long tongue, 7 inch long claws, is the smallest and one of the most endangered bears on earth.

Sun bears are mostly arboreal, meaning they love to climb. They specialize in foraging for fruits and insects high in the canopy of tropical Asian rainforests.

This past April I had a two week gap between guiding trips in china and Borneo for natural habitat adventures this past April and I could think of no better to spend the time than support the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center (BSBCC.). The founder of the program, Wong Siew Te, is one of the great conservation champions of today. click here to read about Wong, The Sun Bear Hero of Sabah. http://www.alaskabearsandwolves.com/the-sun-bear-hero-of-sabah/

Wong was actually in my freshman class at the university of Montana wildlife biology program in the mid 90″s, and we remember each other, but i transferred to UAF before I really got to know him. He went on to become the first sun bear biologist and founder of the BSBCC, which focuses on public outreach and education, rescuing orphaned bears, or those confiscated by local authorities from the illegal pet trade, and rehabilitating them through introduction into semi wild enclosures. The final goal is to release rehabilitated bears that have regained wild instincts back into the wild to bolster numbers and genetic health of existing wild populations.

Wong took me as a volunteer and my duties were diverse. I cleaned the bear house daily, prepared and dispersed meals of rice, fruits, vegetables and eggs, collected treats such as fresh leaves and insects from the surrounding jungle, photographed the Bears for the center’s use, and set up an Instagram account to supplement their social media campaign. I learned so much and it felt so good to work up a sweat every day to help care for these orphaned sun bears, and take some pressure of the dedicated staff.

During dinner one night I asked Wong what I could do to help him the most and he said he needed funding for the release of a female bear named Lawa, a nine year old female bear who was rescued as a orphaned cub and rehabilitated at the BSBCC. Lawa is an excellent climber, builds nests in trees to sleep, forages for termites and other insects, and shows a healthy disassociation and avoidance of humans, which is a crucial behavior for released bears. She has been a candidate for release for a year, but the funding wasn’t there. It costs around 13000 U.S. Dollars to charter helicopters for Lawa and the staff to reach a safe wilderness zone, and pay for the radio collar equipment to track Lawa after her release. Monitoring and documenting the status of a released bear is crucial for biologists to learn how rehabilitated bears adjust to the wilderness.

Lawa is quite elusive, and this is the only photo I got of her as she was normally high in the canopy, or hidden in the jungle of her large (300 square meter) enclosure. You can see the wild in her eyes.

I decided to try a Gofundme campaign to see if I could help with the financial constraints. A few days later I received an email from Natural Habitat Adventures saying that they would like to sponsor the campaign with an impressive 5000 dollars! I was so proud of my company, but not surprised since we are the most conservation focused travel company in the world.

After 10 days around 40 generous donors put up 5000 dollars into the GoFundMe campaign, including one of my high school friends, Ben Bourne, who gave $1000. I guided my trip in early May, which includes a visit to the BSBCC. Tim Brown, one of the travelers in my group pulled me aside and told me that he wanted to donate as much as was needed to finish the campaign, and donated $3000 right there. It was done in three weeks! Lawa will be a wild bear again before this summer is over.

My time volunteering at BSBCC was the most rewarding things I have done in many years. I learned that sun bears are a species unknown to the world, and are in dire circumstances as a species due to poaching and habitat loss. Building a rapport with the bears, and with the dedicated workers specializing in sun bear conservation was an amazing experience. I would recommend this program to anyone who is passionate about wildlife conservation, and can withstand hard work in an oppressive tropical climate.. I hope to return again to support this program, as it needs lots and lots more help. Lets keep fighting!

Sun bears at the BSBCC’s semi-wild forest enclosures interact with each other. As Wong told us, the best enrichment for sun bears in captivity are other sun bears.

Sun bears are the smallest of the world’s 8 bear species, but they are as tough and intense as any animal I have ever encountered.

Damai napping on a branch, exhausted from exploring the forest enclosure, searching for food we hid for her, as well as termites and other natural food sources.

Every sun bear has a unique honey colored chest patch. This is the famous, charismatic Fulung.

Intimate moment with a curious sun bear at the BSBCC.

Wong spoke to our group about his work conserving sun bears during our visit to the Sun Bear Conservation Center in Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.

We watched this sun bear find a nice place to relax in the treetops from the observation platform at the Sun Bear Conservation Center. Sandakan, Borneo.

My Volunteering Experience

Text and Photos by Viktoria Forstén


My name is Viktoria Forstén, I´m a 19 year old animal lover from Sweden. I got the amazing opportunity to volunteer at the BSBCC through a scholarship from my school. For that I am forever grateful. I travelled across the globe together with my three friends Emelie, Evelina and Kim, and it was the greatest experience of my life.

First of all I want to say how amazing everyone at the center is. That goes for Mr Wong, the bear keepers and everyone working in the office. I feel so blessed to have gotten to meet you all and working alongside you guys.

Unfortunately we live in a world full of destruction, made by us. If we shorten the earths’ lifespan into 24 hours then that means we’ve been here for one day. If we keep looking at it in that perspective, do you know how long it has taken for us to destroy forests and made so many animals go extinct? Three seconds. In three seconds we have done all this, and yet we keep doing it. This isn’t supposed to be a depressing text but it’s true. When I first saw how much rainforest that has been burnt to the ground and been replaced with palm tree plantations it broke my heart. We call ourselves Homo sapiens, which means wise man. But if we are so wise then how could we let this happen? How could we destroy our home that has done nothing but give us life? This earth that we call ours is so beautiful and brings us so much joy. We have the pleasure to explore the deepest of oceans, climb the highest mountains and watch how life begins and how it ends (naturally). We share this earth with amazing creatures and can even create strong bonds with some of them. We have the nerve to claim this earth and everything that comes with it, ours… But we are only guests here. Now you’re probably confused as to how this has anything to do with volunteering at the BSBCC. The point I’m trying to get across is that we have, and are currently ruining not only the sun bears’ home but all the other animals’ home too. By volunteering you are trying to help make a difference to save this species, but how can we save them if their home is being taken away from them in such a raging pace.

In all this chaos there is still a few good people out there, people like the BSBCC crew, who I would call heroes. We need more people like that, to clean up the mess we’ve created. I’m happy centers like this one exist but at the same time I’m sad that we’ve done so much damage that we now need to put a massive amount of money and energy into something the nature once had under control.

What the center does for these bears deserves an award, honestly. Personally I didn’t mind the hard work because I thought it was a lot of fun. My favorite task was getting dead logs from the forest and giving to the bears as enrichment. Since all of the bears can’t go outside due to their traumatic past, enrichment is very important. We used lots of natural materials like logs, leaves, bamboo etc. to give the bears. It was usually made to hide food inside of it, for example we made little nest like balls made out of leaves and grass that we stuffed with fruit and honey. Even fire hoses were greatly appreciated; those were used to put peanut butter inside of them so that the bears got to utilize one of their natural behaviors, which are using their long tongues to get food.

This is what I call “the rope log”, an enrichment made for the bear Amaco.

When you volunteer you get to see a totally different side of the bears that you don’t see as a visitor. It is great being on the platform watching them foraging for food, climbing trees and behaving like a bear should behave. Although once in the bear house you get a feel of each and everyone’s different personalities. My favorite bear was Chin because of her playful ways; I could sit and watch her play with her logs all day long, if that was possible.

If you’re coming from a colder country like me, the climate change is going to have an impact on you. I remember how red and sweaty I would get from cleaning the cages in the morning. The key is to drink lots of water. Even walking the daily feeding route made me look like a tomato. Being pale and not being used to the heat made me look all kinds of crazy, the staff probably thought I was going to pass out several times but I was fine, haha! It was fun and that’s all that matters.

Let’s talk about our accommodation! The volunteers live in a big house kind of, with numerous rooms, an outdoors kitchen with an amazing view and a few toilets and showers. It is simple living but I guess that won’t be a problem for anyone coming to Borneo to volunteer. I loved it anyhow! The place is called Paganakan Dii and there’s even a café that belongs to the accommodation that serves drinks and food. An advice from me is to not cook your own dinners. It is way cheaper, faster and easier eating at the café.

The kitchen view

The gorgeous view over the house!

This is what the accommodation looks like, the rooms and kitchen at the top floor and toilets + showers behind the white doors downstairs.

I’m not going to lie I was a little nervous about meeting the staff for the first time. I’m somewhat of a shy person and the fact that we had to communicate in English was a bit nerve-racking to me. Once I met everyone there was nothing to worry about at all. They were so nice to us and they made me feel really welcome. The language barrier was not a problem; they were really good at explaining everything in English so that we understood. They told me that I was going to cry on my last day, because apparently that is very common among all volunteers. I did not think they were going to be right, but believe me when I say this, you will cry. Saying goodbye to the bears on our last day felt like someone had died. I was crying rivers, it was kind of bad.

Being there for five weeks was truly the best time of my life. The mixture of the warm weather, the cool insects, the amazing people I met and the bears made the experience awesome. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have gotten that opportunity. For everyone reading this, please consider going there to volunteer, I promise you it will be a time worth remembering.

I love leeches; here is my one and only leech I had the pleasure to feed 

Mamatai enjoying the outdoors

A huge thank you to the bear keepers and everyone at the center for making our time there better than ever imagined! I miss you and the bears!

Huge hugs/ Viktoria

 

 

Time to make a difference

Text and Photos by Shannon Samuel

I am a Zoology student from Western Sydney University in Sydney Australia, ever since I was a kid I have wanted to make a difference to the life of everyone, my love has always been the love of animals, a good friend of mine reminded me when I got down that I was the ‘voice for the voiceless’, animals have no voice when their home or family is getting destroyed they can’t yell and scream and say stop. If they can’t who can, my aim is to make the lives of many magnificent animals better in particular the lives of these beautiful sun bears happier.
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Previously I had volunteered in Borneo at the Sepilok Orang-utan centre however after visiting the BSBCC multiple times I was adamant to come back and volunteer with the Bears. I spent two weeks in Borneo at the BSBCC working with these amazing creatures.

The duties and activities ranged from pouring porridge to cleaning the enclosures to doing education, and enrichment. There were many exciting and wonderful adventures to be had. I loved the enrichment time after lunch in the afternoon, I found it fun to think up ideas to challenge the bears. I loved that it challenged me to think of enrichment that would take the bears a while to destroy. I loved the hands on creating that it involved. It was so much fun to give the bears the enrichment after giving them their dinner, I could have stayed and watched them for hours.

I had the wonderful experience to involved during the second week of the program in some conservation education, this is what I love, I hope that one day I can be doing conservation education and research as a career, these are the things that I have trained for my whole life. It would excite me to able to talk to the visitors of the BSBCC and encourage them to make donations or sponsorships as well as shed some light into the conservation of the Bornean Sun Bear, it was a wonderful experience to be able to complete in a place I love so much.

?I loved the two weeks that I spent volunteering in the BSBCC so much, it is a life changing and a once in a life time experience, to have the insight into the world of bears is something astonishing. I have made so many new and grand friends on this experience and it is one of the many reasons why I want to come back many times in the future.

Natalie reintroduced to the wild, the last step towards her true home

Text by BSBCC

Photos by BSBCC & Scuba Zoo

Finally able to breathe true freedom in the wild…

Natalie, the beautiful adult female sun bear at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) forest enclosure

Natalie, the beautiful adult female sun bear at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) forest enclosure

Just before Christmas 2010 baby cub Natalie was rescued from illegal pet trade and sent to Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) on December 23rd. It was claimed that she was found alone and abandoned by her mother. However, we suspected that her mother was killed by poachers and she was captured and illegally kept as a pet.

A 5 year old adult female beautiful Natalie built up her survival skills, independence and learned to behave like a wild sun bear. Her improvement in her survival skills in the forest enclosure has been excellent. She became an exceptional climber and tree nest maker.  After learning in BSBCC for five years Natalie is ready to be released back to where she belongs – the forest. The ultimate goal of BSBCC is to return rehabilitated sun bears back to the wild and on Sunday May 17th, 2015 it was time to follow this goal; BSBCC started the journey to release Natalie back to the protected forest. Previous to her journey she was fitted with a satellite collar to keep track of her even after her release.  In order to transport the sun bear to the forest as far as possible we chose to use a helicopter. After a long discussion, Wong decided that the helicopter model Layang-Layang Aerospace Sdn Bhd (BO105) was suitable for our purposes because it could fit transportation cage. This is the first time that a captive sun bear got reintroduced to its natural habitat in Sabah using a helicopter and is monitored post release with the help of a satellite collar. Natalie is ready to live a new life as a truly wild sun bear in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The experience she has gathered throughout her 5 years at the rehabilitation centre will help her explore her true home in the core area of Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The core area encompasses 120500 hectares and is a pristine rainforest with no human disturbances but lots of big trees, fig trees and a variety of wildlife.

It was a challenging day. All hopes and prayers were solely for this release activity to go as smoothly as planned. The release team’s preparations already started at 3pm on May 16th, 2015 at the bear house of BSBCC when Sabah Wildlife Department vet, Dr. Laura Benedict started the sedation process. A full physical health examination showed that Natalie was completely healthy at 45kg of weight. Dr. Laura Benedict inserted a microchip into Natalie’s body.

Health check starts with Natalie being put on anesthesia by Dr Laura Benedict, Wildlife Rescue Unit veterinarian.

Health check starts with Natalie being put on anesthesia by Dr Laura Benedict, Wildlife Rescue Unit veterinarian.

After sedation, Natalie is transferred out of her cage for a medical check up

After sedation, Natalie is transfered out of her cage for a medical check up

Dr. Diana Ramirez, Dr.Laura Benedict and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Natalie is fully ready for the reintroduction

Dr. Diana Ramirez, Dr.Laura Benedict and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Natalie is fully ready for the reintroduction

Dr. Diana Ramirez, Dr.Laura Benedict and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Natalie is fully ready for the reintroduction

Dr. Diana Ramirez, Dr.Laura Benedict and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Natalie is fully ready for the reintroduction

Dr. Diana Ramirez, Dr.Laura Benedict and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Natalie is fully ready for the reintroduction

Dr. Diana Ramirez, Dr.Laura Benedict and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Natalie is fully ready for the reintroduction

Dr. Diana Ramirez, Dr.Laura Benedict and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Natalie is fully ready for the reintroduction

Dr. Diana Ramirez, Dr.Laura Benedict and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Natalie is fully ready for the reintroduction

Dr. Diana Ramirez, Dr.Laura Benedict and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Natalie is fully ready for the reintroduction

Checking Natalie’s teeth condition

Checking Natalie’s teeth condition

Measuring Natalie’s Hind Paw

A microchip is inserted into Natalie’s body by Dr.Laura Benedict

A microchip is inserted into Natalie’s body by Dr.Laura Benedict

Natalie’s unique chest mark

 

Natalie was then moved to her translocation cage.  Natalie’s journey started on a WRU truck to Wildlife Department Quarter Lahad Datu in the east of Sabah, two hours from BSBCC. Natalie was kept in the translocation cage overnight close to the veterinarians, the WRU team and the team of BSBCC. She was under constant observation and fed with water, honey and banana. Natalie seemed to be stressed in the translocation cage, but freedom was just around the corner.

Wong Siew Te and BSBCC staffs move Natalie to translocation cage

Wong Siew Te and BSBCC staffs move Natalie to translocation cage

Natalie loaded onto the Wildlife Rescue Unit truck

Natalie loaded onto the Wildlife Rescue Unit truck

The team woke up early in the morning on May 17th 2015, and got ready at Tabin Headquarter at 6.30 am. After a full assessment, the weather was considered safe for the helicopter to land at Tabin Headquarter. Once the helicopter arrived, the operation was split into three different trips. With the first two trips the team entered the mud volcano of Tabin to evaluate and identify the most suitable release site.

Helicopter provided by Layang-Layang Aerospace Sdn Bhd arrives in Tabin Headquarter

Helicopter provided by Layang-Layang Aerospace Sdn Bhd arrives in Tabin Headquarter

Final discussion on Natalie release operation

Wong Siew Te is feeding Natalie with water

Wong Siew Te is feeding Natalie with water

First team will evaluate the release area and identify the proper release point

Wong Siew Te – the CEO & Founder BSBCC

First team will evaluate the release area and identify the proper release point

First team will evaluate the release area and identify the proper release point

Tabin rangers, WRU team and BSBCC team are assist uploaded the translocation cage into helicopter

Tabin rangers, WRU team and BSBCC team are assist uploaded the translocation cage into helicopter

Tabin rangers, WRU team and BSBCC team are assist uploaded the translocation cage into helicopter

At 10.17 am, it was Natalie’s turn to be flown to Tabin mud volcano

Once Natalie arrived, the team set up the translocation cage in the correct direction for release. Dr. Laura conducted a final check, to ensure that Natalie was ready to enter her new home!

The BO 105 Helicopter carrying Natalie in her translocation cage landed safely on the Tabin mud volcano

The largest protected wildlife area in Sabah, Tabin Wildlife Reserve which rich diversity of plants and animals

The BO 105 Helicopter carrying Natalie in her translocation cage landed safely on the Tabin mud volcano

The BO 105 Helicopter carrying Natalie in her translocation cage landed safely on the Tabin mud volcano

The BO 105 Helicopter carrying Natalie in her translocation cage landed safely on the Tabin mud volcano

The BO 105 Helicopter carrying Natalie in her translocation cage landed safely on the Tabin mud volcano

The BO 105 Helicopter carrying Natalie in her translocation cage landed safely on the Tabin mud volcano

The BO 105 Helicopter carrying Natalie in her translocation cage landed safely on the Tabin mud volcano

Natalie is unloaded from helicopter

Natalie is unloaded from helicopter

Natalie is unloaded from helicopter

Natalie is unloaded from helicopter

Natalie is unloaded from helicopter

Natalie is carried to the release point

Natalie is carried to the release point

Natalie is carried to the release point

A 20 m rope was tied to the sliding gate of the cage. The team stood 15 m away from the translocation cage.

Preparation before the Natalie release

Preparation before the Natalie release

Preparation before the Natalie release

Preparation before the Natalie release

Natalie awaiting her release

As soon as the door of her cage was opened, Natalie straight headed into the forest. She explored everything, sniffed the air of Tabin and assessed her new environment before disappearing into the tall tree canopy of the forest. Tabin Wildlife Reserve has welcomed her into a new protected home.  The emotions running through the forest while watching Natalie enjoying her newfound freedom are un-describable. A heart-warming moment filled with tears of joy.

Once the cage door opened, Natalie quickly steps out from the translocation cage and slowly discover her new home

All of sudden she realized she was free !

Look at this precious Natalie, how can we not want to give her a second chance of freedom?

Making her way over tall trees displaying natural bear behavior. Natalie finally got her first taste of freedom in the wild

 

Wildlife Rescue Unit team, Tabin Rangers, BSBCC team and Scuba Zoo Filming Crews in Tabin Headquarter.  Thanks for all your support in helping sun bear and release work.

 

Natalie! Stay healthy, happy and keep growing gracefully!
You will always be in our hearts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sun Bears in the Sunny Tropics

 Fireflyz Issue003, Jan 2014

By Ravinder Kaur

Ravinder Kaur shares her experience and her love for these vulnerable creatures

When I was a child, a zookeeper brought a Sun Bear cub towards me. The cub placed its paw in my hand and I was taken aback. Even at such a tender age, the bear had very menacing claws! Most Malaysians are unaware of the fact that there are bears in their tropical rain forest. The smallest of all bear species in the world, the Sun Bear roams the tropical evergreen rainforest of Borneo, Sumatra, and Peninsular Malaysia.

Being omnivores by nature, they feed on termites, ants, honey and figs. They are usually solitary animals and do not hibernate. Interestingly the female bears use natural tree hollows as bathing sites. The two major threats to sun bears are habitat loss and commercial hunting. The sun bear has been listed as a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Being a Malaysian, I take pride in the fact that The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in the only sun bear conservation centre in the world. It was founded in Sabah in the year 2008 as a two stage effort to provide care, rehabilitation and release of orphaned and captive sun bears. It also aims to increase awareness about these majestic bears. For more information on these bears, talk to the expects directly at www.bsbcc.org.my

Team Retreat for BSBCC

In preparation for our upcoming sixth year of operating as the BSBCC, and our transition into being a fully-functioning education center that will be open to the public 7 days a week, we took an important day-and-a-half out of our busy bear schedule for a staff retreat.  We were very grateful to accept facilitation for the retreat from our partner organization LEAP (Land Empowerment Animal People) and leadership in team communication throughout the retreat from LEAP’s CEO and founder, Cynthia Ong.

During our time at the retreat, we created a timeline of each team member’s introduction with the centre, along with positive and negative experiences, which was inspiring and enlightening for us all. We also spend time discussing various aspects of the BSBCC that affect our overall progress, our ideals for successful rehabilitation and centre management, as well as, aspects that we look forward to developing.  It was an engaging opportunity for the BSBCC team and LEAP to reiterate our mission, goals and vision for a successful centre and healthy transition into the new and improved Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre of 2014 and beyond.

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