Category Archives: Damai

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.

Journey to the forest for Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan

Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May

Tan-Tan was bought by a person with the purpose of rescuing her from being sold in the remote region of Paitan. After the person bought Tan-Tan, he informed the Sabah Wildlife Department and the Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit sent her to BSBCC on August 5th, 2015. On the other hand, Boboi and Kitud were kept together in a cage before they were handed over to the Sabah Wildlife Department in Singgaron Village, Ranau district. They were originally from Pitas, Sabah and only arrived at BSBCC on October 30th, 2015.

Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan stayed together in quarantine. Boboi is like a big brother that always backs up Kitud and Tan-Tan. Tan-Tan is the little one. She likes to follow behind Kitud so that she can get more comfort. If Boboi and Kitud are not around her, she will seek for them. Kitud is dominant, even though her size is not as big as Boboi. But, she always leads them to take an adventure with her. After the health check, they were moved from quarantine to the bear house. This was the time for them to meet the sub-adult group.

The sub-adult group and also the big group was very welcoming for them to join as new members. The sub-adult group members included Sunbearo, Loki, Ronnie Girl, Momtom, Damai, Susie2, Mary and Kala. They were playing well together, even though Kitud and Tan-Tan have a smaller body size than them. Here we have a little warm story about Tan-Tan and Susie2. Susie2 had trauma with her early life. This made Susie2 avoid herself from others. But, little sweet Tan-Tan would approach her and follow her when she met Susie2. She would accompany her silently from behind. Momtom and Sunbearo, the big brothers and Mary, Loki and Ronnie Girl, the big sisters, have shown more interest to play with them. Damai has no interest to play with them. She prefers to stay in the hammock and when they try to disturb her, she will give them warning. Also, the way that Kala played was too rough for them. But they did not have serious aggression with each other. And now, they can share a cage and stay with the sub-adult group.

Before they went back to the forest, they had to go through fence training. Fence training is a training to let the bears know that the hot wire may zap them if they get too close to it.This is because all the forest enclosures are surrounded by hot wire. These three little bears are full of courage. From the first day they got zapped, they climbed on the electric fence and began barking. Now, they can move freely between the buffer cage and training pen. They even can play fight in the training pen. Most of the bears do not like the training pen. This is because every bear has been zapped in here before. But, not for Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan. From the first week, the three of them almost had been zapped everyday. But, they never gave up learning. After that, Tan-Tan knew to use her claws to get the food that was near the hot wire without getting zapped. Once one of them knew how, the rest of them would learn from her. After 20 days of training, they finally passed.

The day came! Once the guillotine door opened, their first actions were sniffing the surroundings and looking outside at the forest. They tapped on the ramp just like they were testing whether the ramp was safe for them or not. There was lots of tasty treats, fruits and honey on the ramp. They slowly stepped out and saw the outside world. Kitud was the bravest bear among them. She was the first who touched the ground. Tan-Tan followed Kitud back. When Kitud and Tan-Tan took their first steps outside, Boboi was looking at them through the guillotine door. He went in between the buffer cage and training pen, and tried to find a way out with different styles. After 20 minutes he struggled and he finally joined them in the forest. They explored the forest together. When they met with others, they’d play fight with them as well. Now they enjoy to stay in the forest. Once the guillotine door opens, they just go out and take their adventures all day long in either pen C or pen D with their big brothers and sisters. Let’s see how they enjoy life in the forest.

Watching Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan growing healthy and adapting well in the forest is undoubtedly one of our greatest pleasure. They will never again live in fear and well entitled to do anything they love!

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.

Happy Kala and The Forest

Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May

Kala is a one year old, female bear. She is at BSBCC because her previous owner surrendered her to the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit with the intention to save her after they found her on Kalabakan-Sapulut Road near Meliau Basin. Kala got to walk in the forest with a bear keeper when she was still a cub. However, it had been a while since Kala had experienced the forest. Walking a cub is not an easy task. The task becomes harder while the cub is growing up because they can be very hard to control. Now, Kala is growing well. Hence, there is no more need for her to walk with a bear keeper. But this does not mean that she will not go back into the forest anymore.

Fence training is a very important step before the bears can go out to the forest enclosure. This is because the forest enclosure is surrounded with high voltage hot wire. The hot wire is to prevent the bears escaping from the forest enclosure.

In the beginning, we made a food trail for Kala and encouraged her out to the training pen. The training pen was a strange place for her and hence why we prepared lots of food and her favourite, honey, to encourage her. She was doing well. After that we scattered food near the fence and observed how she responded with the hot wire. Unsurprisingly, she was zapped by the hot wire. After she had been zapped, she ran back to her cage and did not going to the training pen anymore. After a few tries, she became alert when she went inside the training pen. She knew that once she was too close and accidently touched the hot wire she would get a zap. Hence, she kept a distance with the hot wire. Besides that, she knows how to avoid being zapped by the hot wire. She was using her claws to grab the food near the fence. When she was able to walk in between the buffer cage and training pen with confidence, this meant that she had passed her fence training.

After fence training, it was time for her to go back to the forest. In order to encourage Kala out to the forest enclosure, we prepared an attractive food trail on a ramp. Once the guillotine door opened, Kala showed her curiosity with the new environment. She sniffed the guillotine door and the ramp first. Then she took a look at the outside and sniffed the forest.

Smells are different here.

 

When she was trying to grab the food on the ramp, she placed a front leg out and then both front legs touched the ramp. But, her two hind legs were still inside the cage. She was trying so hard to get the food on the ramp. Once she grabbed the food, she brought it inside and ate it in the cage.

Let me think a while. Hmm.. In or Out?

 

Tasty and juicy fruits on the ramp and that are why I am here.

After days passed, there was a sunny day on the 6th of June. When Kala tried to grab the food on the ramp, the ramp was too slippery and she slipped on to the ground.

I am on the ground.

 

After she touched the ground, the very first thing she did was explore the environment. She walked and sniffed around the forest enclosure. There were lots of things that attracted her attention, soils, trees that she had not seen for a while. When she saw the trees, she climbed up them.  When she saw soil, she started digging it. There are lots of activities that she can do in the forest enclosure. She spends her days in there.

This is my dream land, the forest.

Tree, I love trees.

What is that on the ground?

I am tearing off a big dead wood.

Here got a big tree.

Yeah, I am climbing up on a tree.

Let me enjoy this beautiful sunlight.

I got a bit sleepy now.

Soil is her favourite enrichment since she was small. She’s smelt, touched and tasted the soil. Even when she feels tired, she lays on the soil and continues to play with it.

This is my soils.

Friends are so important for humans and also for bears. Kala joined a big family with Sunbearo, Loki, Ronnie Girl, Momtom, Susie2 and Damai. They encouraged her when she went to the training pen and also back to the forest as well. And now, Kala can learn survival skills from her friends such as foraging and digging in the forest. They love playing and enjoying the natural environment together. Sometimes they play fight with each other and sometimes they forage together. In the forest Kala learns and plays with her friends and the most important thing is that she is happy.

What are you doing out there, Loki?

I should learn from Susie2 that how she foraging.

 

Kala is not a lonely bear

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

Photos by Chiew Lin May

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

” HELLO” – Kala and Ronnie

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

” I see you” – Kala

“Let me get closer” – Kala

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

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

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

” I’m ready to play! ” – Ronnie

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

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

” See my canine !” – Montom

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting the Life They Deserve

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

Montom (Left) and Susie (Right)

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

Interaction between Montom, Susie with Ah Bui

Ready for integration with other new friends!

The older group was very curious about Montom and Susie.

Interaction between Montom, Susie with Debbie

Interested sniffing from both before Montom put a friendly paw.

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

?

Interaction between Montom, Susie with Fulung

Both of the bears was discovered a new friendship.

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

Interaction between Montom, Susie with Mary

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


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

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

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

Montom was curious with this outside door.

Susie was pricking up her ears and looking around alertly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rescued bears enjoy a new forest enclosure

Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Tee Thye Lim & Chiew Lin May

BSBCC provides care and a second chance for the rescued sun bears to live in the forest by accessing the natural forest enclosure. In the past few months, one of the BSBCC forest enclosure (Pen D) has been temporarily closed for upgrading. We have built a new pool, and have planted new plants in the forest enclosure to keep the bears happy and stimulated. Besides that, there was one part of the area that had been damaged by our active young sun bears, causing exposure of tree roots which would eventually cause the tree to die. So we have built a concrete retaining wall in the forest enclosure to stop erosion and to prevent the large tree from collapsing.

Forest enclosure (Pen D) for rescued bears, showing a retaining wall and new pool.

Forest enclosure (Pen D) for rescued bears, showing a retaining wall and new pool.

 

On May 17th 2015, the construction of the forest enclosure was finally done. The six adult bears (one male and five females) group including Fulung, Bongkud, Ah Bui, Mary, Debbie and Damai explored their new surroundings. As expected, it took a while for the bears to venture, but after a few sniffs and a scan through the forest enclosure they became more curious and confident.

In the tropical climate of Borneo, the pool allows the rescued bears to cool down their body. They are free to swim, play, wrestle, and splash in their new pool! Thanks to the generous Buildtech for helping us construct the retaining wall and new pool for the rescued bears.

Look at them now, digging for grubs, climbing trees, playing together, explore the pool and learning how to be just like a wild bear!!

They happily settling into new encironment

Tapping and exploring the new pool

Fulung is make sure the new concrete retaining wall is safe to use

Ah Bui wondering where is the previous big hole gone?

They are adventurous and attempt to climb trees

They are adventurous and attempt to climb trees

They love digging dead wood in search of insects to keep them busy all the time.

Enjoy sunbathing too!

After the tummy is full, it is time for napping

The bears have much better care with to keep them happy and stimulated!

 

 

Damai, Into the Forest Enclosure!

Text and  Photo Chiew Lin May


Look who is moving on up! In June this year, something exciting happened in the forest. Damai, a beautiful two-years-old sub adult female sun bear with black eyes full of curiosity and energy is finally stepped onto the forest floor on last week 3rd June 2014.

 

Damai peeks out!

Slowly take time to coming out a bit.

Damai takes a brave steps towards the new forest enclosure.

Finally all the way out!

Currently, Damai shares her enclosure with six other sun bears, namely Mary, Debbie, Koko, Ah Bui, Fulung and Bongkud. It was observed that once Damai was out in the forest enclosure, she tried to avoid the other bear friends. She ran, stood on her hind legs and kept growling, this might be due to her fearfulness and insecurity in the new environment. The other bears were curious and puzzled, they seemed like “What happening to Damai?”  All of them, especially Koko tried to approach and sniff her. It took sometimes for Damai to feel more relaxed and began to explore the surroundings. The door of bear house will be kept open for one week so that Damai could go in and out as she wishes until she gains back her confidence and sense of security.

Meet with her new playmates in the forest enclosure. Debbie also checks out what happen to Damai…

First time came out to forest enclosure and start to ventured into her new environment.

Damai will growling and huffing when she feel not comfortable with other presence.

Sun bear is so comfortable and feel so secure in trees.

Better forest enclosure where Damai can build up the strength and skills she need to survive in the wild.


Damai is independent in nature. She knows what she wants and tries to take care of her own needs all by herself.  She seldom interacts with the other female playmates except for Fulung, the sub adult male bear. When the other female bears try to approach her, she will start growling, try not to have anything to do with them and walks off alone into the forest. It seems that the other five female bears have to be gentle with little Damai.

 

She likes to gaze up into the trees and into the sky.

Sniffing at a tree.

Great tree climber!

A sense of achievement! Here is hoping she gets the chance back to the place where she belong.

Hang out more where she belong…forest!

She looks down and see what other bears are doing…

New Home…

Little Damai climbs a tree for a better look.

Damai found her favorite food – Termites

It was a best place for Damai to take a midday nap.

Wonderful to see her climb!!

Such a big step for Damai to be out socializing.

It is glad to see that Damai’s playmate especially Fulung like to play fight with her.

Damai tends to use her front paws to chase away Koko from climbing the same tree with her.

Using her keen of smell, Damai also rip into dead wood looking for insects.

Up to date, once the door open, Damai will quickly go out to the forest and start her journey together with her friends.

But, sometimes naughty Koko will sit on the door and block the way for other bears to went out!

She getting into an energetic play mode.


When it comes to feeding time, the staffs scatter the food, Damai would usually be the last in line, while the other bears help themselves with the fruits first. Nevertheless, Damai is an excellent forager in the wild. Even with her small size, she would enthusiastically searching for insects and fruits in the forest enclosure.

 

She and her playmates are foraging together.

Damai foraged independently. She knows what she likes to eat especially termites and fruits.

Mmmm!

Damai enjoy her first taste of freedom.

Damai enjoying her morning fruits.

Look what Fulung done! He just grabs the fruit from Damai.

Damai always try getting a scent of unknown and listening to any strange noises.

Standing up right on her hind limbs to check the surrounding area.

Sun bears got their name because of the cresent marking on their chest. Damai have the special half “U”shape.

 

Remember that when come to walking in the forest with the bear staffs, Damai behaves the same way as when she was first brought to walk in the forest at the age of five months. It is amazing to watch Damai getting back her freedom, foraging for food, roaming around the forest and in tune with the new surroundings. She never hesitates to climb trees as high as she could go and keep perfecting her arboreal skills. Damai likes to gaze up into the trees and into the sky. It stole our heart to know that she is still a wild sun bear. This is such an exciting moment!

See how much she grown into a wild bear and continue to show her wild behavior!

Enjoy a happy and healthy Damai!!

Have a smile on her face!

Great enjoy freedom!

Sweetheart always!!

 

After spending hours in the forest observing Damai’s behaviour, we hope that after a few months, Damai will adapt herself with the life in the forest enclosure and with the other new bears. We are certain that one day Damai will be happy and live freely as a wild sun bear in the forest.

 

 

DAMAI HAS REACHED A NEW PHASE

Text by Jaike Bijleveld
Photos by Chiew Lin May

 

Damai is a shy and sweet little girl of 2 years old who loves splashing herself with water. Besides the two sun bear cubs Loki and Sunbearo, she is the youngest sun bear in the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). 

When Damai was only 5 months old, she was found wandering at a car park before she was brought to the BSBCC.

Young Damai climbing around a big wooden log.

In the first seven months or so, one of the bear care staffs showed her the jungle around the Sepilok Jungle, to get her familiar with the surroundings. To surprise of everybody, she started making a nest in a tree without a mother to show her how!

Damai gets to see her new home at 5 months old.

Looking for tasty termites.

Termite nests is greedily explored.

As if she has always lived in the jungle.

Damai is very proud of her first build nest!

When she was about 1 year old, it became too dangerous for a human to walk with her in the jungle, so she moved to the indoor bear house. Usually this is also the age that people, who keep sun bear as a pet, start to realize that sun bears are wild animals and their huge canines and claws can and will be very dangerous. Next stop for a captured sun bear is often a tragic one: the cooking pot, the traditional medicine store or the black market.

In the wild, baby sun bears will stay with their mother until they are 2 to 4 years old, before they take off to live a solitary life. They learn all kinds of practical things to survive. Damai lost her mother too young, so she needs to learn these things from other sun bears, although she already proved that some skills depend on nature rather than nurture!

TIME TO MEET SOME OTHER BEARS

Now she reached the age that she is not so vulnerable anymore, so it was time to start an integration process with six other bears of her age: the females Mary, Debbie, Koko, Ah Bui and Bongkud, and the male Fulung.  They all share four adjacent indoor cages, connected by sliding doors, but until two weeks ago the sliding door of Damai’s cage was kept closed until the six others went to the outdoor enclosure at day time.

Damai is about to meet Mary for the first time.

Damai gets chased away from the basket.

Because it would be too overwhelming for Damai to meet all six sun bears at the same time, one by one introduction was started for the first five days. Except Mary and Ah Bui, all of them where curious, started sniffing at her and wanted to play with Damai, but only Fulung succeeded. Not because Damai wanted to play with Fulung, but simply because it was not possible to escape strong and playful Fulung!

The playing of sun bears looks a lot like a wrestling match, with a lot of neck biting and clawing, but as long as there is no growling, you know it’s just playing. Later, in the wild, the fighting skills they learn while playing are very useful when they get attacked by, for instance, a python or clouded leopard or other competitive sun bears.

No.This is not a dancing bear! Damai does not want to play with Fulung.

Fulung loves to play with Damai!

Little Mary wants to sleep and do not bother Damai.

Playful Fulung keeps on rolling and grabbing Damai, she cannot escape from him!

Play fight looks like a wrestling match.

Sometimes Damai can take control, here she is back away Bongkud.

This is still playing!

The group is getting more comfortable around Damai, Koko rolling backwards over Damai.

Time for a nap in the basket after play.

Best friends Mary (Left) and Debbie (Right) watching Damai play with Fulung.

In the following days, the number of bears integrating with Damai slowly increased, until after about 8 days the complete group could be with Damai at the same time. In the days that passed, it became clear that Damai is a girl that likes to be alone. Bongkud and Debbie manage to play fight with her for a few minutes, and Fulung still is record holder playing with Damai. The rest of the group is simply ignored or ignores Damai.  But there is no aggression either, so the integration sessions can be called successful. After all, being alone is their nature.

NEXT STEP: GET READY TO LEAVE THE BEAR HOUSE

Before any sun bear can leave the indoor bear house to the outside forest enclosure, there is training required: fence training. Each forest enclosure has a fence with electrical wire (hot wire). This is necessary to make sure that non-integrated groups won’t climb to each other’s enclosure, or that any of the sun bears won’t climb outside the enclosure where humans walk and dangers for the sun bear lure.

Honey, porridge and fruits near the hot wire.

In the indoor bear house, next to the cages where Damai had her integration sessions, is a large training pen. With honey, porridge and fruit Damai was encouraged to come near the hot wire, with a very low voltage in the beginning. The first day, the same day of her first integration session, Damai touched the hot wire while licking the honey. It scared her so much that she immediately ran back to her own cage! The next day the same thing happened, and the three following days she had just enough courage to walk into the training pen before hurrying back to her own safe cage. It took a whole week and four more ‘zappings’ before Damai understood how to get the food without touching the hot wire and walk confident around in the training pen. At that point the integration area could be extended to the training pen.

Damai learn the fence training. She loves honey!

Very careful trying to get a piece of banana without getting zapped.

This week she will be allowed to go to the outside enclosure together with the rest of her group to reach the final stage of her training: get her ready to release her back in the wild!

Last step for Damai waiting her out to the forest enclosure BSBCC.

 

 

 

Damai, Sun Bear Cub Diary – Sun Bear Life

Text  by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Dawn Serene Tukalan, Gloria Ganang, Tee Thye Lim and Chiew Lin May

When Damai was 4 months old, Wong and Gloria was walking Damai out to the forest.

Last year 5th November, a tiny female sun bear cub named Damai, meaning “peace” in Malay, was brought to the BSBCC. She was rescued from a residential area in Damai, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. When we first received Damai, she only weighed 5kg and was about 4 months old. She has been in the BSBCC now for an entire year, and just turned 16 months old. Over the past year she has grown extremely fast.

When Damai turned five months old we began taking her out into the forest for walks. She was extremely curious about her new forest environment, and began to explore. Despite the fact that she has very small paws, she has used her keen sense of smell, and other thriving abilities, to explore the forest as a wild sun bear.

Last 5th November, 2012 a tiny female sun bear cub named Damai, meaning “peace” in Malay, was brought to the BSBCC. She was rescued from a residential area in Damai, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. When we first received Damai, she only weighed 5kg and was about 4 months old. She has been in the BSBCC now for an entire year, and just turned 16 months old. Over the past year she has grown extremely fast.

When Damai turned five months old we began taking her out into the forest for walks. She was extremely curious about her new forest environment, and began to explore. Despite the fact that she has very small paws, she has used her keen sense of smell, and other thriving abilities, to explore the forest as a wild sun bear.

She roams around the forest foraging for food including termites, beetles, larva, and other forest invertebrates. When she is not searching the forest floor for food you can find her high up in the trees sitting, resting, or escaping the danger of predators below.

On July 30, 2013 Damai surprised us all when she built a nest in her favourite tree! The surprising part was that she built the nest without ever being taught by a mother bear. I felt very fortunate that I had the opportunity to watch how sun bears build their nests in trees.

Day after day, Damai demonstrated good progress in building her strength and developing the skills that she would need to survive in the wild. Every time we walked her in the forest we could tell she was becoming braver, more independent, and was enjoying the forest more and more.

When Damai reached one year old we stopped walking her out into the forest due to potential safety hazards. However, we continued to walk her through the rehabilitation process which included introduction to natural foods, such as termites, tractor millipedes, pile millipedes, and local fruits. We also introduced her to activities that simulated natural behaviors such as digging, foraging, and climbing. She has definitely not forgotten her skills from the wild! Damai is very sensitive to new people though, and remains very cautious of unfamiliar people.

Damai is a lovely sun bear cub and a clever little girl. She is remaining active, eating fruits and vegetables, and enjoying her daily playtime with the enrichment provided by our bear staffs. She’s actually enjoying eating a bit too much, and is becoming a bit tubby.

Here are couples of photos shows Damai digging, climbing tree, playing, sleeping at the Kabili- Sepilok Forest Reserve.

Little Damai learned how to forage in search of termites.

Damai was so curious about the new smells and sounds in the forest the first time she went exploring.

Since little, her instinct of climbing and exploring in the forest is strong.

Damai was hold a termite mound. This is her favorite protein food!

Damai climbing height of tree for taking a nap.

Damai’s stature is suited for her lifestyle and allows her to climbing through the trees.

Yay~!! She was enjoy roaming in the forest with the tall trees!

Damai’s sense of smell is quite profound and she has very long claws that she uses to rip open trees for her favorite meal.

This is a very good improve that she is using her strong canines to tear the tree bark.

Sun bear is one of these mysterious bears of the jungle!

This is what Damai react when encounter dangerous from predators.

Damai was learned climbing skills on large trees and she want to get a better view from the tree.

When walked her in forest, she likes to spend more time on tree.

Damai is having a nice and relaxing nap in forest.

Tree Hugging Bear

Using her keen sense of smell, Damai is very focused on digging in search for invertebrates.

Tired after explore in forest.

She also likes to spend each day foraging in forest for wild sun bear food such as termites, ants, millipedes, beetles and other invertebrates.

Little Damai learned how to cross the river.

Using her small tiny paw, sometimes she will splash and play with the water.

It is amazing that Little Damai really become brave and independent sun bear. She also grow very rapidly.

On 30 July 2013, Damai surprisingly make herself a tree nest high above the ground using leaves and branches.

Damai was happily enjoying the sun and exploring her world.

We may never know the fate of her mother, or Damai’s mysterious true story, but we are glad she is now under our care. We will keep on observing Damai, both physically and behaviorally, with hopes that one day she can be released back where she belongs.