Category Archives: enrichment

Back to the Forest

Text by Lam Jia Ern
Photos by Chiew Lin May and Seng Yen Wah

11 months later and I’m back.

December 2016

January 2016, I was attending the BSBCC for my wildlife placement. December 2016, I’m back again to help out with the caretaking of the ever growing family of 42 fur babies.

Working again with the bear team was better than the first, but with the added number of bears, there were some stressful times while working, especially on the day the bears received their deworming medication. It was a great opportunity for me to work with the friends and people that have shared their knowledge with me about the bears again. My admiration and respect for their ongoing dedication has grown tenfold.

After being a book nerd for 9 months, I was definitely out of shape. Carrying the bears’ food during feeding time and fence-checking was enough to make me out-of-breath most of the time. It had become a mission of my buddy, Azzry, to get me back to tiptop shape. With fence checks every few days and trekking into the enclosures to gather the plants we needed to make our enrichments, it was surely a challenge. Under the brutal training that Azzry had set for me, I felt stronger at the end of my 2 weeks. Volunteering here at the BSBCC won’t be an easy job; it will be a strength and stamina training ground for most. To those that work under rigorous conditions every day, I applaud you.
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During my first time at the centre, I didn’t get much of a chance to learn about the many ways we could keep the bears occupied with enrichments. This time around, with the help of Azzry, I had managed filled that empty space of knowledge of mine. The creation of enrichments is no easy feat, especially for me, as it requires some creativity, which I obviously lack, to think of something new and exciting for the bears. With a whole forest-full of plants that we could use, along with some fruits and the bears’ most prized treats, peanut butter and honey, we managed to create some new enrichments for the bears to play with.

“Crown Prince” for Linggam, the prince of BSBCC

“Planetary Nest Ball” for Amaco and Panda

“Stick Paradox” for my baby boy, Gutuk, and Chin

Thank you again to everyone at the BSBCC for welcoming me back with open hearts and for putting up with me. And a special thank you goes out to the bear team and Dr Wong for sharing your pool of knowledge about the sun bears with me. I hope I wasn’t much of a bother and I wish nothing but the best to everyone there. I hope to meet you guys again in the future!

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

After the 30 days

Text and Photos by Seng Yen Wah

Hooray! After 30 days, finally Noah finished quarantine. Noah is a 6 months old male bear cub. He was found in a villager’s orchard in Nabawan, a southern part of Sabah. After she realized Noah is a sun bear, a totally protected species in Sabah, she decided to surrender Noah to the Sabah Wildlife Department. And, this is the story how Noah came to BSBCC.

Opps! You found me!

He grown up so much compared to the day he first arrived! His body weight now is 12.70kg. He has started to eat solid food and his favorite foods are banana, papaya and of course Milk!

I think I got a bit hungry right now!

I think I got a bit hungry right now!

Noah is an energetic and playful bear. He is much enjoying his time playing especially with his bear care keeper. A bear cub is ideally attached to his/her mother until it two to three years old. But, now Noah is alone being just six months old. A mother will never abandon her own child. The only reason for the mother to be with her cubs would that she had been killed most likely by poachers. And make no mistake, poaching is still happening around us. So, please said No to poaching sun bears, instead help us save them. A bear cub needs a mother. A mother raises her child with lots of love and teaches her baby how to survive in the wild. Separation of mother and cub is unforgivable for any reason. The poachers deprive a bear cub almost everything, their mother and their natural habitat.

Why the poacher brought me away from my mother? I miss her!

Why the poacher brought me away from my mother? I miss her!

Our bear care keepers spend their time with Noah and try to give Noah as much love as possible even though they know their love cannot compare with that given by his mother. So now, Noah likes to play fight with bear care keepers. He likes to take a challenge and never gives up. Bear care keepers are taking a huge responsible to take good care of him and teach him the skills that he could survive in the wild such as defense skill. Noah likes water very much. He likes to cool his body down by lying on the ground just like he is ‘swimming’ but on the ground.

This is where I stay and I like it so much!

This is where I stay and I like it so much!

What is this?

What is this?

Just one?

Just one?

No, here got more!

No, here got more!

Let me have a bite on it!

Let me have a bite on it!

I am trying hard here!

I am trying hard here!

I got it!!

I got it!!

I am feeling shy.

I am feeling shy.

In order to let Noah closer to the forest and more space for him to explore, in the morning he can go out to exercise pen. The exercise pen is near to the forest, so Noah can smell the forest. Within the exercise pen, there are different kinds of enrichment ready for him such as hammocks, dry leaves, decayed wood, fire hoses, honey combs and so on. Therefore, Noah likes to spend his time digging the decayed wood, playing with the tree leaves.

Let me show you, my playground!!

Let me show you, my playground!!

My second playground!

My second playground!

This is my new toy!

This is my new toy!

Let me show you how I play with my new toy! Just like this!!

Let me show you how I play with my new toy! Just like this!!

At last, we hope Noah has all the courage and left his unhappy early life behind here at the BSBCC. And, we really hope Noah will back to his real home, the forest – sooner or later.

Meeting Big Brothers and Sisters in the Bear House

Text by Seng Yen Wah

Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah

Wawa is a 11 months old female bear. She was found alone in the Forest Management Unit (FMU) 16, Pinangah, Telupid District on March 11st, 2016. She was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department and sent to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo after that. She arrived at BSBCC on March 18th, 2016. She appeared weak and showed signs of dehydration when she arrived.

Dodop is a one year old female bear. She came to the SBCC on June 2nd, 2016. The Sabah Wildlife Department rescued her from being kept as house pet in a Singgaron village in Ranau district. She had been found with missing all of her milk teeth. But now her permanent teeth have grown into strong and sharp canines.

Both of them have been growing well in quarantine. So, now is the time for them to meet their big brothers and sisters in bear house. They had to undergo a general health check by Dr. Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam, a veterinarian from Sabah Wildlife Department, Wildlife Rescue Unit first. Both of them had been proven healthy. Their new friends could not wait to meet them and gave their greatest welcoming bark to them.

Before a general health check for Dodop and Wawa, Dr.Pakee had to sedate them.

Before a general health check for Dodop and Wawa, Dr.Pakee had to sedate them.

Bear keepers, Azzry and Thye Lim first moved Dodop from the quarantine to bear house and then it was Wawa’s turn.

Bear keepers, Azzry and Thye Lim first moved Dodop from the quarantine to bear house and then it was Wawa’s turn.

Dr. Pakee taking blood samples.

Dr. Pakee taking blood samples.

Thye Lim and Azzry were assisting in the health checks for Dodop and Wawa.

Thye Lim and Azzry were assisting in the health checks for Dodop and Wawa.

Dodop’s chest mark

Dodop’s chest mark

Wawa’s chest mark

Wawa’s chest mark

Before Dodop and Wawa moved to bear house, bear keepers prepared lots of enrichment for them. They not only build a platform and a hammock to provide them a resting place, but they also went to collect dry leaves and decayed wood. This is because Wawa is a playful bear. She likes to spend her time with enrichment. So, bear keepers placed different kinds of enrichment items inside the cages to help them adapt to their new environment. For the first day, Wawa seems alert to the surroundings. But thanks to the enrichment, they had adapted well into the bear house after the second day. They spend their time exploring the environment and the enrichment together.

Within the cage, bear keepers put some dry leaves and ginger leaves for Dodop and Wawa.

Within the cage, bear keepers put some dry leaves and ginger leaves for Dodop and Wawa.

In the other cage a high platform that provided Dodop and Wawa a resting place with edible leaves was placed.

In the other cage a high platform that provided Dodop and Wawa a resting place with edible leaves was placed.

Dodop curious and calm when she encountered her new environment.

Dodop curious and calm when she encountered her new environment.

Wawa first sight and first step in the new environment looking alert.

Wawa first sight and first step in the new environment looking alert.

What should I do with this new place? – Wawa

What should I do with this new place? – Wawa

After few days, Dodop and Wawa adapted in their environment. They played fought inside the cage with each other.

After few days, Dodop and Wawa adapted in their environment. They played fought inside the cage with each other.

Dodop was exploring the high platform with full curiosity.

Dodop was exploring the high platform with full curiosity.

Wawa was enjoying herself on the enrichment construction, that was composed by three tires.

Wawa was enjoying herself on the enrichment construction, that was composed by three tires.

Wawa was having lots of fun with the enrichment.

Wawa was having lots of fun with the enrichment.

The next for them is to integrate with the biggest group, the sub adult group with Sunbearo, Loki, Bintang, Montom, Susie2, Damai, Kala, Boboi, Kitud, Tan Tan and Mary. They are around one to five years old. After the integration, they have to undergo fence training to be able to release them back to the forest. In the forest, they can learn from the others and improve their survival skills as well. At last, we hope they can be back to the wild sooner or later within the rehabilitation program at the BSBCC.

Meet Noah – There is still Hope !!

Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May

He was surrendered by a villager and was found roaming alone at a villager’s orchard with his mother nowhere to be seen. Noah was handed-over to the Sabah Wildlife Department from Nabawan, a southern part of Sabah, and brought into the BSBCC on the 10th of October, 2016. We have named him “Noah”. We are unsure as to why he was found alone, he may have been abandoned, or his mother may have been killed by poachers. Noah was nervous, alert and timid at first sight during the arrival.

“Really Miss my mother and forest so much!”

Noah, one of our newest orphan arrivals at BSBCC

Noah, one of our newest orphan arrivals at BSBCC

Three weeks after his rescue and this little Noah is grown into a healthy and strong bear

Three weeks after his rescue and this little Noah is grown into a healthy and strong bear

He is now settling into the quarantine

He is now settling into the quarantine

On the 10th of October 2016, Dr. Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam from the Wildlife Rescue Unit of Sabah Wildlife Department, performed a general health check. This included an assessment of his overall health, potential sickness, function of the internal organs and physical condition. During the health check, it was found that Noah’s four milk canines had been crushed off. Because of their small and cuddly appearance, sun bears are used in illegal pet trade. This is common with captive sun bears to prevent them from causing injuries and they are easy to handle. As a pet, he suffered from loneliness, rotting teeth, and malnutrition due to improper diet and care. Little Noah nearly lost everything – just because someone was greedy.

Noah is responding well to treatment. He has been receiving a proper diet and has a big appetite which has increased his body weight. He absolutely loves milk, banana, papaya and honey which ends up being a mouthful! Noah spends hours trying his best to get every drop of delicious honey out of the enrichment logs. As soon as he smells the food, he will quickly descend to find it. He will get involved in various types of enrichment to strengthen his muscles and senses. He is mischievous and prefers wrestles with his care taker. He continues to be as playful as ever!!

Noah has adjusted well to proper milk

Tastes fruit for first time!

Tastes fruit for first time!

” Yummy! I wonder is what this taste like?”

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Honey!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Little Noah begin to develop the skills he needs to survive in the wild

Little Noah begin to develop the skills he needs to survive in the wild

Noah require lots of different types of enrichment every day to keep him healthy and happy.

Noah require lots of different types of enrichment every day to keep him healthy and happy.

Noah always enthusiastic about new enrichment

Noah always enthusiastic about new enrichment

Search for tasty treats in her very own Aussie Ball !!

Search for tasty treats in her very own Aussie Ball !!

Dig around for the Honey dew treats!!

Dig around for the Honey dew treats!!

Being curious with  pill millipede !!

Being curious with pill millipede !!

Rolling with Nest ball!

Rolling with Nest ball!

Love to see him just being bear again

Love to see him just being bear again

Chilling at the platform

Chilling at the platform

Chilling at the platform

Chilling at the platform

Snooze in a hammock in the sunshine !!

Snooze in a hammock in the sunshine !!

One of the BSBCC’s missions is to give rescued bears lifelong loving care. The bears are reintroduced to their natural habitat. A huge thanks to the Sabah Wildlife Department who rescued and bought Little Noah to BSBCC. We will provide the best care possible through the rehabilitation process, so someday he can return to the wild. After completing the quarantine phase, Noah will embark on his new life. Little Noah will follow a process of gradual adaptation in the forest till he becomes an independent wild bear, then he will get this unique chance to return to the forest home he was once stolen from. We will take all appropriate steps to ensure that Noah makes a smooth transition into life as a wild sun bear.

He grown into a playful and sweet natured Bornean Sun Bear

He grown into a playful and sweet natured Bornean Sun Bear

What a lovely smile it is...

What a lovely smile it is…

Showing us just glimpse of the sun bear tongue, happy to leave his past life behind

Showing us just glimpse of the sun bear tongue, happy to leave his past life behind

Enjoying his new found freedom

Enjoying his new found freedom

We are confident that he will continue to practice the skills needed to survive as a wild sun bear in the future. Noah will spend his days learning new and vital skills in the forest canopy. We cannot wait for the day when Noah is roaming free back in the forest where he belongs.

 

 

2 weeks of Incredible Voluntary Experience, Definitely Unforgettable

Text by Khushalinie Kalayarasu
Photos by BSBCC

My name is Khushalinie Kalayarasu, people call me Khusha most of the time. It has definitely been a privilege to be given the opportunity to volunteer in the BSBCC. A remarkable experience it was and I have no regrets. In the hopes of becoming a veterinarian one day, this experience has indeed given me the knowledge and built up awareness in keeping the wildlife as safe and competent as possible for all animals to survive.

I certainly have to thank all the people that are working there. They have guided me through this journey with such compassion. I was mesmerized by their dedication towards the bears and it makes every second more worth than it already is. Seeing them show the same amount of dedication every single day has made my experience more memorable. They care so much about these bears and it leaves me felling in awe. Not only that being said, they were the same crew that has enlightened me with the knowledge about the sun bears behaviour and characteristics.

I believe that we are truly lucky to have these sun bears being a part of our wildlife habitat and the thought of them being endangered is very devastating. It took me by complete shock when I heard about how people would capture and keep sun bears for their own benefit. Poaching and illegal hunting should be taken under serious consideration as these wildlife animals are losing their habitat due to human being’s selfishness. These bears are one of a kind and should be cherished, not tortured.

These past two weeks has been an experience to never forget. Being a part of such a welcoming team and helping the bears to heal and grow in their natural habitat the best way possible was indeed the cherry on top of this experience. I would be part of their enrichment making process in order to challenge the bears hence preparing food for them. It is definitely physically challenging but I believe that this experience is truly worth it. Gaining the knowledge about sun bears have opened my eyes to the importance of the wildlife community.

My buddy and I working on the bamboo

Banana Leaves for the bears

working togetherrrrr !!

Given a second opportunity, I would embrace this amazing experience once again and share it with the world. Knowing sun bears are a vulnerable species, they deserved to be loved and taken care of. I really do hope that all of us can give back what has been taken from Mother Nature. The freedom of animals, the majestic forest and the love of an unborn bear. Said threatened sun bears should be loved equally as any other animals. This experience does more than opening my eyes to the actual world.

Once again, I would just like to thank everyone that had stood by me throughout this journey. Thank you for the opportunity, knowledge and accepting me with open arms.

Yours truly,
Khusha

Big Bear Hugs xx

The Life of Freedom is Perfect for Dodop

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

In Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) we have had a busy month with big changes for the rescue sun bear. Some introduced and meet new bear friends, give them environment which is as close as possible to life in the wild, given regular environmental enrichment to stimulate their natural bear behaviour, some going through fence training before out to forest enclosure and some learning and reintroduce to forest environment, some explore in the wild.

Dodop had been kept illegally as house pet by residents in Singgaron village, Ranau district Sabah who had spent over one year in the smallest cage we had ever seen. She was found missing all four milk canines before she been rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department.

Dodop has much tame or attach to human who have been kept for long periods in captivity. She need special attention during her rehabilitation process but her wounds from being kept as pet have healed well, she shows great progress, gaining weight, no more cry or growling, four permanent canines is growing and…

growing and she love play with a nine months old female sun bear cub, Wawa. They seems have a wonderful relationship.

Next rehabilitation phase for Dodop is taking her out for walks in the forest. Having been without her mother since she was a tiny cub, Dodop has never been taught the survival skills she will need to survive in the wild. Now she will have to learn from her surrogate mother.

We are delighted that on August 14th, 2016 once the quarantine door was opened, Dodop makes a speedy getaway!

Dodop was not sure at first that she step on the forest soil, she spent her first moments of freedom just digs soil,

digs dead log and

sniff forest air.

Then her surrogate mother carried her to put her on tree which reintroduce or encourage her to climbing to improve Dodop’s mobility. She had no clue what is these big tree is all about…

but slowly she realized there were so many tall trees around her.

Real forest!

Dodop is bright and curious always.

She contact with variety of plants, trees and animal (insects, long-tailed macaques and pig- tailed macaques).

Dodop quick to settle in and started exploring environment.

Everytimes walk her in the forest, she immediately started to look for wild food first by digging it. She is quite curious and getting deep into it.

Dodop sense is tremendous, enabling her to locate termite nests! She will expose the termite nests with her long claws and lick out by using superb long tongue.

She has been eating many kinds of foods such as termites, beetle larvae, snail and earthworms.

Sun bears are arboreal living and good in tree climbers. They climb trees to get honey in the bee hives. Dodop is no exception as well.

She will climb high trees and looks though as she knows everything here!

She enjoys sunbathing on trees. She feel the cool breeze.

Sometimes Dodop will interacting more with her surrogate mother. She will play fight and learn defense skills or suckle on surrogate mother shoulder to seek comfort and feel safe being with her mother. This behavior seen in the wild where the baby will suckling for mother’s milk make the baby feel comfort and safe.

Dodop will still being guided by her surrogate mother and develop, master her forest skills she needs to become independent.

Our bear team will monitors Dodops’ behavioural development is her new home. We love learning about sun bears and have been inspired by these magnificent creatures.

Watching beautiful freedom dash about Dodop life, you will have no idea that this is the sun bear life should be!

As the sun bear cub at the Centre, Dodop is quite a character with a strong sense of nature with beautiful yellow sun bear crescent chest mark.

She is free and happy to put her old trauma life behind her.

Dodop has learnt two lessons at an early age – that is in indeed a forest out there and that there really is no place like forest home! She has never stop try and appreciate it! Please help us stop the illegal keeping and exploitation of sun bears. Sun bears belong in the wild and should not be kept as pets!

 

168 memorable days in BSBCC

Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by BSBCC

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre provided me a really good opportunity for my internship in order to complete my study in Universiti Malaysia Sabah. When people asked me, what are you doing in BSBCC? Why are you helps to clean the cages in everyday? Cleaning cages is the basic but important animal husbandry for the sun bear. Because a clean cage can helps to decrease the chances for them to get sick. In the early morning, the man power of bear care team will divide into three which are bear house 1, bear house 2 and kitchen. If you assign in the kitchen, prepare the food for all the bears in the day will be your task.

Afternoon is the time for us to make enrichment for the bears. Enrichment, actually is a toy for the bears but these toy is helps to encourage the bears to utilize their own strength. You can have a million of creative way to build an enrichment for the bears but bare in mind, animal safety always comes first.

APE volunteer, Kim and Viktoria with me and bear keeper, Roger were preparing ‘fire hose pocket’ to the bears. Within the fire hose pocket, we put a layer of peanut butter and put some dog biscuit to encourage the bears to utilize their tongue to get the foods inside.

APE volunteers and I were preparing egg carton. Egg carton have the same concept with the Sandwich. In between the egg carton, we put some treats like bananas, honey and ginger leaves. And hence, they can spend some times to get the foods in between the egg carton that tied hardly by ropes.

Ice block is an ice cream for the bears because ice block can helps to relieve their heat in the hot weather. APE volunteer, Sabine and I were preparing the fruits for making ice block.

Other than woods, bamboos are one of the general materials for making enrichment to the bears. And hence, we collect the bamboos and cut it into smaller pieces for different enrichment purpose such as bamboo feeder and many more.

When there is a good weather in the day, we went out from BSBCC and collect the dry leaves at the road side. Dry leaves are used to provide a dry cage for the bears. So the bears can enjoy a natural environment even they stayed inside the cages.

Staircase platform is an enrichment that made by my bear keeper buddy, Mizuno and I for Sigalung, 8 years old male bear. This staircase platform can provide him a resting place and encourage him to do more climbing.

I like this enrichment – Sigalung.

BSBCC is using the terms of conservation which covers with animal welfare, rehabilitation, education and research. Integration, fence training and release back to the forest enclosure are included in rehabilitation. One of the rehabilitation purpose is provides to the bears have a second chance to back to the forest along with learning and practicing natural survival skills. Within these six months, I got the chance to take part on helping in fence training and release Kala, Boboi, Kitud and TanTan to the forest enclosure, Pen D and Pen C. Besides that, they were integrated with sub-adult group, Sunbearo, Loki, Ronnie Girl, Momtom, Susie2 and Damai. And now, Mary joined them as well. There are 40 bears in BSBCC with different history. But, most of them were kept as pet before. They were kept in a small cage without experienced the real forest. How could their home become a strange place for them?  So, rehabilitation takes time for them to adapt the new environment and confront their traumatic early life.

 

Kala underwent fence training in training pen.

Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan were played fight in training pen.

Say Hi from Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan

Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan were integrated well with sub-adult group, Sunbearo, Loki, Ronnie Girl, Momtom, Damai, Susie2 and Kala.

Finally, Kala touched on the ground in the forest enclosure.

This is the way how Kala enjoy herself in forest enclosure with the beautiful sunlight.

The different ways of Tan Tan playing on a tree.

I had learnt a lot in BSBCC. And here, I would like to thank you, all the bear care team member, Thye Lim, Lin May, Azzry, Lester, Roger, David, Ronny, Tommy, Andy and my bear keeper buddy, Mizuno to guide me, share their knowledge and experience with me along my internship at BSBCC. They always make my day and lots of joy and laughter in every moment I spent in BSBCC. Thanks for all the help and taking care of me.

 

 

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!

The Bare Necessities about Bornean bears

Text and Photos by Jessica Prestage

My name is Jessica Prestage, I’m 18 years old and I am from England. I have just completed a two week volunteering programme at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sandakan. I finished school in May and I will be starting university in September. During this break, I wanted to make the most of my long summer holiday by volunteering somewhere new, that would allow me to learn about a different country and the conservation systems there. I looked at the opportunities available with a travel gap year company called ‘Oyster’. They have a lot of varied projects, but working with sun bears stood out as the most interesting. At first, I was unsure whether I would be able to travel to Borneo for this project, as it requires a long journey – in total, over 15 hours on a plane. But I decided that I could not pass up the chance to come out here and spend two weeks working with the team to care for, monitor and learn about sun bears. An opportunity like this may not come round again, so I selected this project and started booking it.

On my first day working at the centre, I was shown around with the other volunteer, Jackie. We were both part of the volunteer programme organised by APE Malaysia. Soon after our tour, we started working; the days followed a schedule, which rotated in order to allow everyone to help with different aspects of the bear house. In the morning, the tasks included husbandry (cleaning the cages), which was separated into bear house one and bear house two, preparing food in the kitchen and fence checks. This also meant that every day we worked with different team members, allowing us to get to know each other and work together. The afternoons consisted of creating enrichment; enrichment is what is used to engage the bears’ natural instincts of climbing, foraging and exploring. There were a wide range of materials that we had available to create enrichment, such as old fire hoses, donated by local fire stations, tyres, logs and branches, and bamboo. I enjoyed creating the enrichment, but personally I found the dry cages the most rewarding form of enrichment. Creating a dry cage involves laying a bed of dry leaves, collected the previous day, and adding logs and branches to mimic a forest environment. We also added log feeders, which is simply a log with holes drilled into it, each filled with treats. The normal treats used in enrichment to entice the bears to investigate and engage with it are honey, peanut butter, bananas, dog treats and banana leaves. These have strong smells, added to which the bears enjoy them – consequently the enrichment is regularly destroyed in order to access every crumb of food! The dry cage is my favourite enrichment because as soon as the bears are let back into the cage, they start exploring, digging and ripping open the logs. Dog treats and mealworms are scattered in the leaves to encourage foraging, which is often the first thing they do. It is rewarding when the bears do this as it shows that they still have their instincts and have a high chance of being released back into the wild.

In this photo, Mark and myself are creating a log feeder for the dry cage we created for Wan Wan. The reason for the cameraman also featured in this photo is that for two days we were filmed creating enrichment, for a series called Bornean Rangers. The idea of this is to show the process of rehabilitation at the centre and demonstrate how volunteers can help.

Working as part of the team here was a fantastic experience – as a volunteer, initially I was worried that I would slow the work down and be in the way, but I was quickly just another member of the team. Everyone was very welcoming, and I felt accepted as a team member and a friend. Although I was the only English person on site, everyone was eager to talk to me, asking questions about England and finding out about me. In the first few days, I struggled to adapt to the heat; this meant that I had to have regular breaks and drink a lot of water. Everyone kept an eye on me and checked on me, asking if I was okay, which made me feel comfortable and looked after. I knew that if I did have a problem, I could talk to them. However, I did not have any problems throughout the project – the team are friendly, funny and always up for a laugh. This made my time here more enjoyable, as I was getting to know people and making friends, whilst working with the bears.

This was taken the same day, on our way back down to the main bear house. We had our expert driver in front, Roger, three passengers, (WaWa, Jackie and myself), and the engine was Azzry, pushing us down the slope. This may have been a less sensible idea, as we didn’t quite manage to turn successfully at the bottom of the slope

So perhaps this wasn’t the best idea, but it was fun and we were all laughing for a long time afterwards!

During my two weeks at the conservation centre, I got to know most of the bears. Initially, I memorised the names based on which cages they were in, but as the two weeks progressed I learnt more about each bear. Their chest marks are like our fingerprints; each one is unique and can be used to identify the bear. The size, shape and colour can vary. However, some of the older bears do not climb so much, so they are recognised by their faces and behaviour more than the chest marks. I found it interesting as I got to know more of the bears, as they are all so different. Knowing their personalities made it possible to create enrichment for specific bears to try to engage them for as long as possible. Naturally, I had a favourite; but doesn’t everyone? I became fond of Along, as he was always sitting on the hanging log or hammock in his cage, watching what was going on. He’s a handsome bear, and as with most of the bears in the centre, I hope that he will be released into the wild in the near future. Some of the older bears cannot be rehabilitated, but I can’t imagine a better place for them to live than here at the centre. The staff are incredible and the facilities are brilliant; the bears have all they could ask for and more. I am so lucky to have been able to spend time here with such passionate people, who care so much for the future of these bears and other wildlife that is at risk due to human presence and actions in the natural environments. I have learnt a lot during the project and I hope to return someday to see the progress here and to see my friends again!

I cannot thank the BSBCC enough for giving me this opportunity. It’s been an unforgettable experience, with amazing people. Good luck for the future and I hope to see you again soon!