Category Archives: integration

A hint of the life that she should be living!

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

One of the happiest moments since her arrival at the centre has been her growing fondness of the forest, where he loves foraging and eating soil.

Our one year old, female sun bear cub Kala is growing up! Kala was bought by someone on Kalabakan-Sapulut Road near Maliau Basin with the intention of saving the cub they then surrendered her to the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit. She had never even been given the chance to experience life as a wild bear – poached from the wild as a cub after her mother was killed; this horrific life was all she had ever known.

When she first arrived at BSBCC, Kala was emaciated, dehydrated and malnourished. Back then her weight was just 3kg and she was very thin.

We are very glad that her health is now in a stable condition. She has been relying on FIDO Premium Milk Powder for her growth. A huge thanks to our most generous and certainly loveliest supporters from TTL Distributors Sdn Bhd who have given our orphaned sun bear cubs a life full of meaning and joy.

During her rehabilitation, Kala was taken out for daily forest walks to learn important forest skills by our bear care staff for almost one year. She is making good progress through gaining confidence while climbing in the trees, loving to be outside and finally learning how to be a bear. When she was about one year and three months old, she had reached the age where she was no longer vulnerable for a human to walk with her in the forest.

Our “mother bear” is leading the climbing skills to little Kala.

It is truly heart-warming to see little Kala take his first few climb on trees.

Last year in November we tried to let Kala meet new cubs and make friends (Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan). Unfortunately, Kala was not accepted by her three companions due to her rough play fighting, but we will continue to look for other bears who she might find some companionship with. This is a time for little Kala to make new friends and go out into the sunshine. On February 23rd, 2016 a veterinarian from the Sabah Wildlife Department, Dr Laura Benedict, and Wong Siew Te with our bear care team helped in the moving process. During the process, a general health check on Kala was conducted to assess potential sickness, functionality of organs and physical condition. The blood tests concluded that Kala was a healthy bear and she now weighs 23.35kg.

Process moving Kala to Bear House starts with Kala being put on anesthesia by Dr Laura Benedict, Wildlife Rescue Unit veterinarian.

After the sedation procedure, Kala was carried out of her den and put into the transportation trolley.

Bear care team help to transfer Kala to Bear House.

Reach new home at Bear House!

Dr.Laura Benedict and Bear care team perform a full health check on Kala.

Dr Laura took blood samples, give deworming and multivitamin injections, while Bear care team were busy monitoring TPR (temperatures, pulse rate, and respiration rate), taking body measurements and photos, collecting hair samples (for future DNA studies).

Checking Kala’s teeth condition

Kala’s unique chest mark! The sun bear’s name comes from this marking, which looks like a rising sun.

Carrying Kala to her new dens once the health check process has completed.

When moving Kala to her new dens, the other neighboring bears showed curiosity to the little cub. Kala’s den is designed in a semi natural style to give her a real taste of freedom and to stimulate her natural behavior in the wild.

Curious with neighbour bears !

Kala is gradually settling down to the new environment.

The bear care team has given Kala various enrichment items – these have included puzzle feeders, fire hose bags, fire hose pockets filled with peanut butter, green leaves, logs, and hidden treats encouraging Kala to forage. Little by little she tried out every enrichment and ventured around the new den. Kala is extremely playful and loves to investigate new toys! When it comes to food, she eats all her meals with relish!

 

She is playful, energetic and loves spend hours playing all kinds of enrichment.

Yummy!

 

 

She enjoys taking her nap inside the basket.

Incredibly long tongue, perfect for extract honey and insects!

These events have given Kala a new journey in life. Beautiful Kala has been so strong and brave in shaking off her past and loves her freedom today. We will continue to help Kala develop the forest skills she needs until she returns to the wild again.  The next step for Kala is she will be introduced to the bears who are the same age as her and slowly will have access to the natural forest enclosure. So stay turned!

 

Awesome Life Experience during Internship in BSBCC

Text & Photos by Koo Wei Chee

I always want to work with animals since I was young, but due to the wrong decision that I made in secondary school where I took art and commerce stream instead of science stream. I could not get to the field I wanted after graduated which was zoology or environmental conservation. Thus the only course that I could take was biotechnology which gave me a second chance to enter to bio-related field, Although it was tough to manage the course, I finally maintained the CGPA of 3.0 before taking my last subject which was internship and that was the chance to grab the opportunities to search a job that I liked. After searching for many related companies or organization and even other biotechnology companies when I started to think there was no chance already, BSBCC finally had a positive reply from both the e-mail and online interview, I was very surprised and happy to have this opportunity to enter the field of wildlife. These took me 7 years overall since my mistake in making the wrong decision in year 2007.

This was the first time I travelled so far by myself to Sabah from my hometown in Peninsular Malaysia, I didn’t know what I would face without any experience in handling animals. However, every single moment spent in BSBCC and the wildlife essence in Sepilok had made my four months of this internship period a wonderful experience, memory, and history (16th October 2015 to 3rd February 2016)!

Front view of BSBCC in early morning

I worked in the bear care unit for these four months. I was quite clumsy at first about the daily routine in cleaning the cages and food preparation, then I was able to pick up the skills and found my own way to do it without changing the motives. I was very grateful to work with those passionate, dedicated, and friendly staff in the unit, we had these kind of same thought that we do our job seriously and meanwhile we joke around sometimes to make the works lively.

Volunteers, Myles and Amin, as well as my roommates for three weeks

Selfie with Lester and Azzry during outside feeding

Lawa curiously watching me taking a photo of her

From the left: David, Lin May, Azzry, Thye Lim, Tommy, Roger, myself, Mizuno, Lester, and two volunteers Myles, and Amin

A rare chance to eat Mr. Wong’s delicious own-cooked Penang Chao Kuew Tiaw

The best part I liked in my work is the enrichment part where we manually make different sorts of products to enrich the bears. There are food enrichment such as bamboo feeder, ice blocks, egg carton parcel, PVC tube feeder, termite nest etc., environmental enrichment such as collecting dry leaves, banana leaves, twigs and branches, and also have some clean-up occasionally.

Me trying to pull out the cut bamboo out from the bush

A-frame project done by the volunteers with assistance from bear keepers

A moment when we were collecting banana leaves

Got along in the Sepilok bird trail to collect some termite nest

My own enrichment creation, bamboo column

Selfie after cleaning dry leaves out from the bear house roof top, please don’t try this at home!

After working in the center around 6 weeks, I asked for projects to do to learn more, I got myself an integration, fence training, and enclosure training for 3 bears and. It was not an easy task because those bears were kept in captive and never touch the earth before, every single training was like a start, to see their behavior of things they never seen before. There was a memory which I will never forget, Sunbearo the bear got zapped by the electric fence during its fence training session, he barked in panic, he didn’t know what to do but to climb up, every single climb got more zap. The keeper in charge ran quickly to turn off the electricity, Sunbearo then climbed down when he noticed that the cage next to the training pen was opened and quickly ran into it to climb up to rest in the hammock. The whole session after that (around 20 minutes). Sunbearo and the other bears actually do not need to feel this pain, it is all due to those people who illegally keep them as pets which screw the whole life of those animals. I’m here to express this message to the public, hoping no other people will keep any of those sun bears as pet again. The best thing was that after more than two months of those training, they touched the first time on earth and able to climb their very first tree, that moments really brightened the work I had done for the centre.

 

Me writing down the bears behaviors during fence training

Ronnie (on the left), the first bear among her group to touch the earth the first time

Other things that I needed to cope up with other than the work in BSBCC are basic cooking and languages. The house where volunteers and interns live doesn’t have any grocery shop nearby and I never cook at all before my internship so everything started from zero from cooking even eggs, and slowly to cooking vegetables and chicken lately. I can say that I’m proud to present my own cooked dishes to serve to my parents by now. As about the language, I seldom talk in Malay language due to my education background, I rarely understand a full sentence when people talked to me in Malay and things got even challenging when people in Sabah talk in Malay faster and somehow a slight difference of using words. I knew that this was the chance to allow me to talk more in Malay language so I was very happy that I learnt a lot from the staff. Whenever I didn’t know a word, they were eager to help me to translate it to make my sentence full.

The house, Bjorn Hala (bear den in Swedish), where volunteers live

 What I knew from this moment was that I will show no regrets even if I could not continue my dream work after fighting so hard and the fury persistence in order to get this internship opportunity because I have experienced it. And this is what most people do not have it, the encouragement to do what they want to do. Special thanks to BSBCC founder and CEO Mr. Wong Siew Te for giving me this opportunity and my supervisor Mr. Tee Thye Lim for being such a great mentor. I did have a positive idea for my future career, and I will still continue my first objective to other bio-related field if needed.

Bright New World for Rescued Sun Bear Cubs – Boboi, Kitud & Tan-Tan

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

On the 30th of October 2015 we were pleased to welcome two new rescued sun bears to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.

Introducing Boboi (Rescue Sun Bear 45), a one year old juvenile, male sun bear

Kitud (Rescue Sun Bear 46), a one year old juvenile, female sun bear

Both bears were handed over to the Sabah Wildlife Department in Singgaron village, Ranau district. They were both ex-pets. Their names were given to them by their previous owners who surrendered them to authority.

The story reported to the rescue team was that Boboi originally was from Pitas, Sabah and Kitud was originally from Mengkapoh village, Ranau district. Both of them were handed over by people. They were kept together in one cage and were fed with milk, rice and fish.

On the 1st of November 2015, we conducted a health check for Boboi and Kitud. Dr. Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam from the Wildlife Rescue Unit of Sabah’s Wildlife Department performed a general health check. This included an assessment of their overall health, potential sickness, function of the internal organs, and physical condition. Boboi was 15.55kg and Kitud was 12.1kg. The blood test results have shown Boboi and Kitud are healthy.

Boboi undergoes a health check.

Kitud undergoes a health check.

We are glad to report that Boboi and Kitud are showing positive signs of improvement. Kitud is very slow paced when eating and quite well behaved compared to her friend, Boboi, who is a very cheeky and energetic sun bear. He will find ways to enjoy himself. These two bears have a very close bond and can be seen loving to hang out together. They spend their time foraging, exploring, sharing their food, play fighting and climbing together.

On December 15th, 2015 Kitud and Boboi were integrated with Tan-Tan (an eight month old, female sun bear cub). This was a special day for Tan-Tan as it was her first contact with another sun bear after a very long time. They discovered a wonderful new friendship.This allowed them to greatly improve social skills. Tan-Tan seems to become more playful when interacting with Boboi and Kitud. The three sun bear cubs are living together and are sharing one large den. All worked out well with the integration and they did not show any signs of aggression.

Here are some pictures that show how the three sun bear cubs play fight and settling into their new life.

 

 

This is what happen once the sliding gate is open…

Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan are given different types of enrichment to stimulate and prepare them for life back in the wild. Boboi is always curious, huffing on the new enrichment toys while Kitud and Tan-Tan will normally without hesitation just destroy or play with it. They like to be dirty while enjoying the never ending enrichment and love getting care from our bear care staff. They are relishing in the extra space to play, run and climb. Boboi and Kitud have quickly adjusted to their new surroundings. They get a balanced diet that comprises of milk, vegetables and fruits. They are not choosy when it comes to food and have a good appetite. These three cubs are happy to leave their past lives behind and are learning to be wild bears again.

The sad reality of each rescued sun bear cub at our center is that they came from having lived through a bitter past; usually kept or traded by humans and having been separated from their mother at a very young age. These three little rescued bears are no different. The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre’s mission is to conserve sun bears through improving animal welfare, raising conservation awareness with education, conducting research, and rehabilitating the sun bears like Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan who have a second chance at returning to life in the forest! Sun bears are in grave danger of extinction in the wild and we need to help them as much as we can. Please spread the message that sun bears belong in the wild and should not be kept as pets, no matter what the circumstances.

Sunbearo, Loki and Ronnie Journey to Wild

Text by Koo Wei Chee (BSBCC Intern Student)
Photos by Chiew Lin May

There was a project that I assigned for to upgrade myself to do something more advance besides the regular routine of what volunteers and interns can do and I got myself one, Thye Lim and Lin May gave me a big project to do, the objective is rehabilitate young sun bears Sunbearo, Ronnie 2, and Loki back to the wild.

Sunbearo, a 1 year old a male juvenile, was kept in a Mini Zoo Hot Spring, Tawau, South Eastern of Sabah before he was handed over to the Sabah Wildlife Department and BSBCC.

Loki, a 1 year old female juvenile, was discovered in the backyard of an inn, where she had been illegally kept as a pet for about five months. It was confiscated by the Sabah Wildlife Department and sent to BSBCC on 24th March 2014.

Ronnie 2, a 1 year old female juvenile, has an unknown history but we believe that she was kept as an ex-pet and was sent to the BSBCC on July 15, 2014.

     They had already been integrated and became very good friends, rolling and playing around every day.

    Fence training is a session for the bears to be aware of electric fences. The place where they are trained is in a moderate size indoor enclose den called training pen with 6 lines of electric wires from top to bottom in the inside perimeter. It is a nightmare for them but a very crucial and important stage to let the bears know that they should not touch those wires or else will be zapped in an electricity. One bear is only allowed in the training in one time if the bear was the first time training in the training pen because if there were two or more newly introduced bears in the training pen and one got zapped, it will immediately thought that it was the other bear which made the torture where will result a bear fight. The fence training period depend on the bears’ progress and it may take up to three months for the bears to get used to the training pen or never. Fruits were scattered near the sliding gate to encourage the bears to go into the training pen, fruits were then scattered near the electric fence once they feel confident to enter to the training pen. Each session of fence training is 30 minutes, the keepers and volunteers in charge have to observe carefully and write down in a table quickly of any moments and behaviours of the bears during the fence training session, this is the most tiring part when keeper in charge sometimes have to recall back what has not been written after the training session. A bear is considered pass the fence training is when it can be able to move freely between cage and training pen in normal behaviour without zap be able to avoid the fence. The bears will then be able to proceed to the next training, the forest enclosure training.

It was hard to watched when we saw them got zapped the first time and they barked, becoming very stressful and will start to pace in the furthest dens they can be from the training pen. Sunbearo was the one the which got the most zap, he did not know what to do at one time but to climb up and got even worse to be zapped in the second electric wire, Lester quickly run to switch off the electricity of the training pen, Sunbearo then climbed down and run to the furthest den and started to bark and moaning, he knew the pain, looking at us and keep moaning for doing this to him.

Sunbearo stands up in the training pen and see what’s going on outside while Loki continues foraging in search of foods.

So glad to see the Sunbearo, Loki, and Ronnie are in the training pen at the same time foraging for food.

    Integration sun bear is one of the rehabilitation process in BSBCC. Integration between rescue sun bears is one of the rehabilitation process in BSBCC through which the bears can learn pertinent skills for survival in the wild. There are some facts which needs to evaluate before targeting any two or more sun bears for the integration training to prevent or decrease bear fight possibility: (1) age, size, and weight have to be similar, if they have big difference, a bear would definitely be killed if they fought; (2) the bears have to be healthy. Younger bears and group bears seem to have a high possibility in successful integration because they have less thought, more curious, and have social group experience for the group bears. Before integration process, few pails of water and a fire extinguisher have to be prepared near the integration cage in case of emergency. Integration lasts for one hour, a paper with a list of table, behaviour codes, and remarks was used to write down the behaviours of the bears in any movement during the integration, this is the detail or data which will be the appendix of the research on how those bears react with each other.

Integration Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Allow two or more bears to live in the same cage.
  • Save more cages for more rescued bears.
  • Allow bears to be less stressful where it turns out that group bears will have less pacing because they have companions to play with and to promote other positive behaviour.
  • The best enrichment for a bear is another bear

Cons

  • Bears are solitary animals, they may think is normal to have another bear as companion, becoming less defensive to wild sun bears, resulting a concern for rehabilitation.

  Sun bears appears to be solitary because their food are scattered all around the forest and they need their own territory to maintain their own food supply, thus for those integrated captive sun bears in the forest enclosure, we need to scatter enough foods all over the area to prevent them for fighting for food supply. Bears and others animal are solitary mainly due to the food shortage issue, in captive condition, foods are always been provided, so we encourage them to stay in a group to promote positive behavior development. Although there is a conflict between the bears natural characteristics and integration, it is used to assist the bears to get along well with each other so that they can be in a single forest enclosure because the main issue is about the centre’s limited number of forest enclosures and dens. Newly rescued captive sun bears need their own space, thus the integration stays an important role for the bear care unit.

 On 22 November 2015, we integrate Sunbearo, Loki and Ronnie with Montom (a 3 years old sub adult male bear) and Susie (a 4 years old adult female bear).

“Come on! Let’s play, what you are waiting for?” says Loki bites Montom’s neck softly to try to pull him to the mini platform.

Montom sniffs Ronnie as a welcome greeting to his place

Sunbearo gave Montom and Susie an alarming growl

 

   We were surprised that Sunbearo, Ronnie, and Loki had a very fast progress in the integration and fence training with Montom and Susie where they played, foraged, and eat together without aggression. Three weeks after the training, the management team decided to let Sunbearo, Loki, and Ronnie to enter the last stage of training, the enclosure training in forest enclosure.

Forest enclosure training is the practice of the applications given to the sun bears in the previous stages of all training and enrichment such as giving them the second chance to climb, toys to improve their senses of smell, sight, touch and taste, integration training and electric fence training. Before the bears went out to the forest, prepared fruit pieces are placed near the cage or guillotine door to encourage the bears to go out and eat, time by time when the bears are confident with the area, the fruit will then be placed further from the cage to encourage them to go further to the forest. At least two keepers have to take a broom and keep an eye of the bears around the forest enclosure outside perimeter to prevent the bears to climb out from the enclosure because the bears may still not get use to the electric fence and may climb up if they got zapped. The training duration for keepers to watch over is the same as training pen, it may take months to have a success for the bears to touch the ground or even not, but the training is not over as it lasts until the bear can really be able to take care of itself for example searching foods in nature, climbing trees and make nest. This is the last stage for the bears before they can be the candidates to be released back to the wild, thus this training is crucial, giving the bears a second chance to go back to their natural wild habitat in a very large area of natural forest.

Sunbearo, Loki and Ronnie are surprised to see the world outside.

“Hey Loki, I think I’ve found something there, should we try to take a look?” says Ronnie on the ground.

Ronnie in den 10, watching far away to see the world; Loki was too hungry, keep on eating through the way; Sunbearo still don’t seem dare to go out.

 Within two weeks the three bears got their first zap from the electric fence near the dens. They still got zapped because they were introduced to a new environment although they already knew there is electric fence which results an environment shock to them. In the first week, I put their prepared cut fruits near their dens to encourage them to go out and explore the enrichment and environment. When they got used to the area, I then started to put further from the den and deeper to the forest enclosure time by time to encourage them to explore more.

Sunbearo feels more comfortable with the place and starts to explore deeper to the forest

Wow! Loki is eating honey bees, she should be enjoying it to lick some honey on the ram and eat some bees as bonus protein

Ronnie, foraging on the forest floor

Loki was checking the ram to see if there’s any remaining honey left

“What are you doing there, can’t you go away?” said Loki as she was very alert to the movements of the surrounding area when she was foraging

Loki took a quick rest after foraging for so long

Loki wondering around on the A-frame platform build by our volunteers

Sunbearo was wondering how to climb down from the A-frame platform

“Ah! Where’s my food?” said Loki when she saw us but didn’t see any fruits more which we scattered on the forest enclosure

Ronnie was alert to the movements and sound on the surrounding area

  The training on forest enclosure E has some issues not only the bears character and behaviour but also the location itself as it is located near the bear house entrance. Keepers who are not in charge of the training will sometimes do their work outside the bear house which made those sound-sensitive bears to be extra alert, thus whenever there’s a sound, even footsteps of us, the bears which are still not used to it will rush back to their dens.

At 24th December 2015, it was a very special day because guillotine door was ordered to close after the bears had gone outside forest. When the guillotine door was shut down, the bears were in alert and stayed very closed to the door, but after a few minutes, Loki and Ronnie started to do what they did as usual, foraging, eating bugs, ants, and termites. Sunbearo then followed them and went even further, he went to all the areas of the surrounding fence and unluckily got zapped again, and he pulled back but not long and went deep in the forest in search for ants and termites. It was a special day indeed that all the bears start confident explore the environment.

Sunbearo, having his precious coconut on the forest floor

Sunbearo had a coconut found as a reward which we threw inside the forest to encourage the bears to explore more. Oops! Loki (on the right) saw that.

It was the first time ever for a bear to sit on this newly made fire hose hammock, Sunbearo is the one who made the record at 24th December 2015.

Sunbearo was finding his way to climb down from the mini-platform while Loki was having her precious coconut.

Sunbearo finally got his way to climb down after searching for around one minute; Ronnie (on the right) kept on searching and digging for her favorite ants and termites

“What is going on right there?” said Ronnie standing up to explore

Sunbearo had a thought once to climb the tree and he then went to forage again, we were very concern about this because the bears should know how to climb a tree to build a nest in order to be one of the candidates to be released back to the wild.

Loki wants to climb down to join Sunbearo to forage for ants

“My precious coconut water” said Loki drinking up as much as she can

On day (28th December 2015), my supervisor, Thye Lim, had a plan to make some food enrichment to be hanged on trees to encourage them to climb. It is a huge success because Loki finally climbed a tree for the first time in her life and successfully climbed her way to get the fruits as her reward. We were then felt extremely happy that Sunbearo and Ronnie also made their first time climbing a tree on the following day (29th December 2015), not only climbed a tree but several trees in the enclosure.

Loki, first climb !! Sun bear have long and curved claws that help them in climb trees.

Loki climb trees to get at the honey and honey bees in the Pipe Feeder

Sunbearo even decided to climb on the tree to have a better view !

Ronnie playing hide and seek on trees

They find a way to get the tasty food out the bamboo feeder.

Sun bear learns how to climb when they are young.

It was a nice pleasure and glad to see the bears given the second chance to touch the earth for the first time in their whole life. I like to see them exploring the environment, foraging, digging, climbing trees and sometimes stand up to watch further in alert to the surrounding area, these are what bears should do, and I really hope they can have a good progress to become candidates to be released back to the wild.

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.

Sun Bears Integration: Kudat & Julaini, Rungus, Ah Lun, Panda, Chin

Text by Bellinda Raymond (Intern Student)

Photos by: BSBCC

Kudat is a 7 years old adult male sun bear, who was named after a district in the northern part of Sabah. Before he was sent to Kudat district, he came originally from Tawau district. Kudat was kept as a display in a private mini zoo together with a female sun bear named Panda. At the private mini zoo, both Kudat and Panda were on display as ‘black panda’. Later, they were surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department and BSBCC in 2013. At BSBCC, Kudat enjoy his new environment and began to explore the forest around him.

Kudat’s last friend was Panda which is in year 2013. Although sun bear is a solitary animal when they are in the wild, BSBCC encouraged a healthy positive social behaviour among the bears at the centre. At BSBCC, sun bears are integrated according to their body size, personality and age group. Bears integration is encouraged in this centre to bring out the positive behaviour development among the bears such as defensive skills and learning from each other through socializing. The number of cages in the bear house is very limited too where for now it only can accommodate up to 40 bears. Therefore, integration is also one of the ways to save up space in the bear house where the bears are integrated so that they can be in groups.

The first step in integration is integrating the bears cage by cage. The bears will start to sniff around their new environment especially when there is a new bear next to their cage. After that, integration body contact will be carried out where the sliding door between the two cages will be opened and the bears will start to meet each other.

In July 2015, Kudat started to be integrated to a group consisting Julaini, Rungus, Ah Lun, Panda and Chin. Kudat is integrated one by one from the group before they can be in one big group together. The integration of Kudat started off with the bear that is the dominant in the group. Kudat is integrated with Ah Lun first. When Kudat placed next to Ah Lun’s cage, Kudat started to become curious and keep sniffing around. He climbed the cage to have a peek of the bear next to his cage. As soon as the sliding door is opened, Ah Lun went into Kudat’s cage first. When Kudat and Ah Lun met, they took some time to get to know to each other. After they feel confident about each other, they started to play with each other.

Kudat and Ah Lun met for the first time!

After Ah Lun, Kudat is introduced to Chin. When she met Kudat, she was curious at first. Kudat and Chin sniff around their new environment and even sniff at each other.

Kudat standing up with his hind legs while looking at Chin, which is new to him

Kudat is welcoming Chin as his new friend when they first met

Kudat is sniffing his new friend before starts to play

Besides Ah Lun and Chin, Kudat is also introduced to Julaini, a male sun bear who has the same age with him. Kudat is friendly to Julaini when both of them met each other. Both Kudat and Julaini immediately play when they met! The way they play is a bit aggressive compared to Ah Lun and Chin. Maybe it is just a way of male sun bears play with each other? Kudat and Julaini played nonstop and continue to wrestle.

Kudat wrestling with Julaini!

Never tired of playing

It looks like Julaini is not giving up to Kudat!

Oh no… guess that Julaini is tired already but Kudat still want to continue wrestling

Finally, Kudat is reintroduced to his long lost friend, Panda! The integration between Kudat and Panda does not make us worry when they were integrated because Kudat and Panda are best friends!

After being separated for 2 years, Kudat is happy to meet his best friend again!

Kudat is pushing Panda behind using his strong body!

Rungus is the last bear that being introduced to Kudat. Amazingly, Kudat also shows positive reaction to Rungus when they were integrated. Like the other bears in the group, Kudat played with Rungus too! Rungus is the female bear in the group that is most interested to Kudat and they played together and ignored the other bears!

Kudat played with Rungus while Chin watch them playing

The integration between Kudat and all the bears showed positive integration except for Chin. When Kudat and Chin were integrated earlier, they played in a friendly manner. However, after some time Kudat and Chin started to become aggressive and they fighted. Kudat and Chin were then separated by cages. We tried to integrate Kudat and Chin again, but there are still aggressions occurred between them. This means that the integration between Kudat and Chin is negative. We concluded and decided that Kudat and Chin cannot be integrated to each other. Despite this, Kudat’s integration with Julaini, Rungus, Ah Lun and Panda shows positive result.

Kudat’s integration with the other bears is still on going. Hopefully, their integration can be successful in the end. When the integration is successful, Kudat, Julaini, Rungus, Ah Lun and Panda will be in one group and will step into the forest together.

Six Adult Female Sun Bears Exploring their New Forest Enclosure (Pen K)

Text By Leonardo Jainih (Intern Student)
Photo by Chiew Lin May

The primary goal of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) is to promote sun bear conservation in Borneo by creating the capacity to rehabilitate and release suitable ex-captive bears back into the wild forest again. In order to achieve this goal, one of BSBCC’s efforts or actions is by allowing the bears to explore and forage the beautiful forest enclosure around them. Building up a forest enclosure is not as simple as just putting up a fence as sun bears love to dig the ground and to climb over the fence. The fence cannot be too close to the tall trees in the habitat or the more adventurous chaps might be able to venture out into the wild. From rehabilitation program, it actually encourage the natural bear behaviour and reintroduce them to the forest environment. For example, they dig to find food such as earthworms, termites, ants and bettles, climbing trees to sleep, search for honeybees and feed on fruits. In August this year, some exciting for the bears (Cerah, Jelita, Susie, Kuamat, Lawa and Manis) to experience await them. They are all adult female sun bears aged from 8 to 9 years old except for Manis (14 years old). The bears had been waiting for their new forest enclosure (Pen K) after they were moved to the second bear house when medical check were conducted on them weeks ago.

This process of releasing the bears to their new forest enclosure start with slowly open up the guillotine door for them to start their new chapter of life. Fruits such as papaya, watermelon, rambutan and honey dew were scattered around the ramp and on the forest floor. Usually, the bears will start sniffing their new environment and surely eats the fruits prepared for them. However, almost all the rescued bears at BSBCC had this one tricky habit which was trying to grab the fruits at the ramp and left at least their hind leg inside the den, as if to say, “I bet you would not close the quillotine door as long as parts of my body is still inside the den”.

Cerah was the first bear to come out from her den and began her journey to the new forest enclosure (Pen K). She was hesitant to go outdoors at first, sniffing the air and fruits near the entrance to her indoor enclosure. However, after nearly a week with food laid out on a ramp, Cerah took her first official step out to the forest.

Cerah is sniffing and peeking out her new home curiously

As expected, it took a while for the bears to venture, but after a few sniffs and a scan through the new forest enclosure as well, they became more curious and anxious. No one said that this was an easy task as there were few bears took about 6 months to finally stepped out from their den and foraging the forest.

Jelita and her friends are eating the fruits and sniffed their environment

Susie and Jelita taking their time to step out to the forest enclosure

Kuamut slowly taking her steps on the ramp

Kuamut carefully climbing down from the ramp to the forest

Susie taking her brave steps exploring the forest

Cerah relaxing and laying down on dead wood during the day

Cerah curiously observing the environment outside perimeter of forest enclosure

Cerah is one of Jelita’s bestfriend and roommate. She is a clever and curious young lady-bear, who tends to welcome new faces with a friendly sniff. Whenever new enrichment activitiy is introduced, Cerah is not one to follow her stomach. Unlike Jelita, Cerah is always curiously to seek out and explore the new toys before finding the food, even if it is one of her favourite treats. That is why Cerah was the first one to come out from her den to the forest enclosure.

Cerah and Jelita digging the soil to look for foods such as ants and termites

Finally, Manis was the last bear among all six bears stepped out from her den and start exploring her new environment with high curiousity. In the end, Manis get to shares her enclosure with five other sun bears (Cerah, Jelita, Susie, Kuamut and Lawa). Despite all of this she equally likes her own space and if she is not in the mood for company, she lets the other females know quickly to leave her alone. It can be concluded that this plan is a successful one as it took only a month for all the bears at Pen K step out to the forest enclosure everyday. In no time, they remembered how to be wild sun bear again by digging at dead wood in search of insects like termites and beetles, and exploring and roaming the forest in peace.

A faraway look in Manis’s eyes in the forest

Manis went back to her den from foraging the forest

Our hope is that one day they will confidently walked out and be ready for the wild forest but this is not an easy task. It really requires a huge amount of resources if it is to be done successfully. Therefore, it is very important to help them to remember how to be bears again so that they can survived in the wild without our help.

 

Integrating Panda – patience and play fights

Text by Joanna Buckingham (Volunteer BSBCC)
Photos by Chiew Lin May

Given the space constraints and the growing population between bear house 1 and 2, integration of bears into groups is a large focus for BSBCC. Integration not only allows more of the curious bears to experience the limited outdoor forest enclosures but also lets the bears learn skills off each other that they would have normally been taught by their mother’s in their natural wild habitat of the Bornean rainforest.

One of the bears currently in the integration program is the 7 year old Panda. Panda’s journey with BSBCC began with a rescue mission from a mini zoo in 2010 along with Kudat. Both had been mislabelled as pandas in the Kudat region and thus their names bearing testament to their previous life.

The charming face of Panda.

Panda’s time was finally up and it was decided that she would be integrated with an established group of bears around her age who currently enjoy pen D, Julaini the male of the group and the two females Ah Lun and Rungus. Integration into this group began in February 2015 introducing Panda to the most aggressive of the group first Ah Lun. This is to ensure a successful match as integration of bears who are normally solitary can take a long time. If the dominant bear doesn’t accept the new bear then it would be wasted time to familiarise Panda with the other bears if ultimately she would always be rejected by the “leader”. It is all a bit high school!

Making bear friends

While the BSBCC team began the group integration from February 5th, the integration work is still continuing several months later demonstrating the patience and time needed to group the bears.  As part of my volunteer program, I got to observe one of Panda´s integration sessions in July 2015. I noted quickly that while Panda is large for her size due to a previous diet of a daily chicken in the mini zoo, she doesn’t use that to her advantage as she is much more interested in playing with the other bears. It was great to see Julaini and Panda played with each other with playful barks and bites on the back. Both take turns using their strength to pull the other down. Bear playfights reminded me of growing up with my three siblings while sometimes it looks too rough, the bears know their limits and know when to bark in a way to demonstrate that they have had enough or the playing has gone too far.

During my observation,  Panda and Ah Lun played in their cage while Julaini alternated between watching from the hammock or resting between the cages.  It is a good sign when bears are happy to rest while the other bears are in their cage as it shows that they are happy to be in each other´s presence. Also another good sign is if the bears are happy to share food.

Bear play fights – much like young siblings

It was also decided after an unsuccessful integration with another group that Chin would be introduced to this group. Chin perhaps learning from the previous experience always displays her dominance. Chin was introduced last during my observation as the team know that Chin will show these traits. When Chin was introduced into the third cage, giving the bears more space in case the dominance went too far, she was quick to growl and bark and pull back her nose to show her teeth when she approached the other two cages. Panda showed interest in playing but Chin was more interested in ensuring that no one came into the cage she was occupying and sat firmly in the doorway. Ah Lun showed some signs of fear as Chin ended up in the doorway holding the other three bears in one cage and not letting any of the bears play with her or enter the other cages. Chin was quite interesting to watch as the noises they are make are quite unusual and can grow from low growls to barks like a dog. Chin also shows her dominance by standing up.

Almost like a wresting match, Panda and Chin square off

Panda and Chin´s integration into the group continues at BSBCC and demonstrates the time, patience and expertise of the BSBCC team. Supporting BSBCC will ensure my bear friends like Panda will have the time dedicated to her to ensure that she integrates into an accepting bear group and get to experience the outdoor enclosures.

Chin’s Second Chance

Text by Claire Buckingham (Volunteer)
Photos by Chiew Lin May

 

It sounds cliché to say it, but the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is all about second chances. Chin, now nine years old, came to BSBCC in July 2014 via a wildlife rescue unit, who took her from a primary school’s mini zoo. It’s illegal to keep sun bears as private pets, especially in small cages like she was. She was also not given much in the way of enrichment, which may have some bearing on why she’s been christened “The Curious” at BSBCC. At the centre she finally has the opportunity to explore her surroundings and learn something about life in the forest as a sun bear!

Things cannot be just that simple, of course. When the bears are brought to the centre it is a big adjustment for them simply to become accustomed to life in the dens in the vicinity of other bears, and also the humans who provide their food and tools for enrichment. But even when this just becomes day to day life, the bears still need to learn about life in the forest, and life around other bears.

Sun bears appear to be primarily solitary animals, except when a mother is looking after her cubs. This doesn’t mean they live in the forest alone – they still need to have some idea of how to act with other animals, whether in play, mating, or defence; being that sun bears don’t generally get a lot of their protein from meat, they probably don’t need to practice a lot of attacking, but they do need to know how to stand up for themselves.

At the centre, there are two bear houses, and currently only one is open to the enclosures outside; bear house two will be open shortly to its more recently completed forest enclosures. Several enclosures allow bears to go outside alone, such as those used by Kudat and Manis, but the other enclosures have bears sharing their spaces with one another. Two of these enclosures can be seen from the feeding platform, and anyone who has come to BSBCC will no doubt have fond memories of hungry bears at play amongst the trees.

Bears in the outdoor enclosure cannot be immediately controlled by the keepers – and in some ways, they should not be. Hopefully many of the bears at BSBCC will eventually return to the wild, and there they will need to be able to take care of themselves. This doesn’t mean all care isn’t taken to ensure the bears are familiar with one another – and this is why integration between bear individuals and groups takes place in the bear house before they are allowed to mingle together in the forest enclosures.

Chin’s first chance at returning to a more naturalised surrounding began with her integration into a group of six bears. Tokob was the dominant female, and was most closely associated with Susie and Kuamut. Three more females rounded out the group: Cerah and Jelita, and then Lawa. Given these six females had already comfortably sorted themselves into two groups of three, it would always have proved somewhat of a challenge for Chin to find her place amongst them. However, within the confines of the bear house, it appeared Chin was accepted by the group and happy enough with her place within it.

In January 2015, Chin was released into Pen C with these six bears. It was to prove, unfortunately, a difficult four days for her. The other bears rejected her, and she resorted to hiding under a tree to avoid their attacks. They caused injuries to her hind foot, and to her muzzle. Curious as she was about her new surroundings, she was distracted by the need to be constantly on alert; this can be seen by her behaviour in a favoured spot, where she kept her back to a large tree. Its shape kept her protected on three sides, and gave her a vantage point to watch for the other bears.

In those four days, the other bears did not permit her to share in the food brought to the enclosure. It was definitely a tough few days for Chin, and when she finally came back inside it was decided she would not be placed in this group again.

In February 2015, she was instead introduced to another group, known as the Rungus group. This comprises the females Rungus, Panda, and Ah Lun, and the male Julaini (whose brilliant chest mark adorns a BSBCC t-shirt that became my favourite!). The group tentatively began to play together within the bear house, and then Chin began to show dominance. It appears she learned this from Tokob, and she learned it well.

I personally first met Chin in June 2015, which is when she was first beginning to be encouraged into Pen A. Because of her experiences with Tokob’s group, it was decided she would not be immediately placed in the forest enclosure with the Rungus group in Pen B, even though they appeared to be integrating well within the bear house. Instead, Chin would be given her second chance by being allowed into Pen A on her own.

Chin was one of the first bears I got to know, as she tends to night den in one of the four cages just inside bear house one’s entrance. Given the only other bear in this area is Bermuda – a big, no-nonsense male – she was easy to recognise and to get to know. I spent my first three days primarily in the kitchen, preparing and splitting up the food for the bears depending on where they were. On day three, I came in and immediately noticed a change in the food split – Chin was categorised today in Pen A. Chin was going outside!

After her earlier experience with the forest enclosures, Chin was naturally somewhat recalcitrant about the very idea of it. Most of the dens have four entrances – two side doors for transfers between dens, one main entrance, and the back guillotine door that leads to the enclosures. The guillotine door usually opens to either a climbing frame or a ramp, and Chin would make good use of her ramp. Indeed, when Lin May came to tell me about Chin’s release to the forest plan, she showed me how Chin was going about it – and I peeked into the den to see little more than two bear feet hanging over the lip of the door.

Chin’s naturally curious, and likes to play – certainly I often found her attempting to use her water bowl like a bath, despite the fact it was barely large enough to take only her backside. So Chin couldn’t quite resist the lure of the outdoors, though she was also nervous of it. More than once I saw her seated sideways in the guillotine door, one front paw appearing to prop the door up, a faraway look in her eyes as she surveyed the forest beyond her den. Other times, she’d stay inside, but displayed a frank fascination with the door structures. She would pick at the tracks with those massive claws, and then get irritated and yank the back door right down, as if to say, “I said I wasn’t going out today!”

But Lin May would come open it right up again, and Chin would go back to her dreamy watchful state. Sometimes, if a little food was scattered, she’d go back to lying belly-down on the ramp like a little kid about to take their first slide all the way from the top.

It was also interesting to watch some of the indoor integration she continues to have with the Rungus group. I watched her “talking” with Panda one day; the bears were in separate dens, but the grate that locked the side entrance gives the bears a way to watch one another. At first Chin just pulled her lips back over her teeth, moving her muzzle in a silent roar; Panda echoed the motion. Then Chin appeared to pull back, front paws straight out before her and her backside raised, head ducked down low. I thought this was a submissive position and, confused, asked Thye Lim about it as I had been told that Chin was acting dominant amongst the Rungus group. He explained to me that this is, for Chin, a dominant posture; much like elephants tuck their ears back before they charge, this is Chin getting down into a charge position. Being that they were in separate dens it wasn’t going to happen, but I did notice that Panda backed away and left the grate between them when Chin did this.

I also watched her with the others, split between two dens with an open grate; Chin spent a lot of her time at the grate, appearing to act as both a watchman and a gatekeeper. She particularly seemed determined to stop Julaini from coming over to “her” side. Later, she had to be bribed with honey to come back to den 13, where she would have access to the forest. Instead of going out, she played with the now closed and locked side gate. She even managed to lift it just a little, only to be disappointed to find the only way out was to the forest!

Of course the only time Chin went fully outside was on one of my days off – though she only managed ten minutes before she decided it was time to come back in again! Since my last day at BSBCC she has continued on these little jaunts outside, and Lin May told me the next step is to close the guillotine door and see what happens next.

This is all a part of Chin’s second chance – both at getting back into the forest enclosure, and then just in her general life. She’s had a cruel start to things, but at BSBCC she has a chance to learn what it is to be a regular sun bear. It’s not going to be easy, but they don’t call her Chin the Curious for nothing. I think she’s going to be all right.

Integration of Sun Bears

Text by Maria Nikas (Volunteer)
Photos by Chiew Lin May

Integration is utilized to accustom bears to other bears in preparation for release into enclosures on site at BSBCC. The integration process is vital as Sun Bears are usually solitary animals and each step is very important to ensure the bears are compatible and don’t potentially pose a risk to each other.

The bears must be of a similar size, age and weight to assist in a successful integration, it also helps as bears learn different skills from each other. Having all arrived at BSBCC from different circumstances and backgrounds they will have differing strengths and weaknesses, this can be used to help other bears develop.

Integration is a long process, with the bears health and safety one of the most important aspects of the overall process. It takes many months to have a successful integration. The process starts with the most dominant bear in the group and then works down to each bear on a one on one level. Then the bears are put in small groups to see how the group dynamics work. Each integration session is closely monitored and recorded and every variable is tested to ensure the potential new group of bears are all a good match for each other. Depending on the situation and the group they may be released as a group into the wild.

Integration of Phin and Wan Wan on July, 1st 2015

A 7 years old adult male bear, Phin was found by villagers near the logging camp in Sipitang district, Southwest of Sabah. He was kept as pets.

A 9 years old adult female bear, Wan Wan was used to be in the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo before transferred to BSBCC.

This was a segregated integration. Phin and Wan Wan were in cages next to each other. I observed them for half an hour. There was no physical interaction beyond between the cage. Phin showed considerable interest as soon as Wan Wan entered the cage next door. He sat and sniffed at the door between the cages, also standing at the door sniffing the air. Wan Wan paced the perimeter opposite the door and indicated no interest in Phin.

Phin climbed the cage and was focusing on Wan Wan, watching her constantly as she moved about. Wan Wan sniffed the dry leaf enrichment and the logs that were in the cage as enrichment. When Wan Wan climbed the cage so she was directly opposite Phin she clawed at Phin through the cage, mouthed a lot and then chewed and pulled at the enrichment hammock, shaking it vigorously. It was like an indication of frustration. Phin remained quite calm thoroughout, not reacting adversely to Wan Wan. Phin clawed and mouthed a little.

They both climbed down and paced – Wan Wan the whole cage, Phin just the front. Phin climbed the cage again and once again looking at Wan Wan, this time vocalizing. Wan Wan continued to pace and showed little interest in Phin. Eventually Wan Wan climbed the cage – repeating the behavior from before – mouthing, clawing, shaking and chewing the hammock and some saliva was present as well. This time Phin turned his back on Wan Wan whilst still opposite each other on the mesh.

Overall, from this integration observation I felt Phin displayed an interest in Wan Wan, like a curiousity, wanting to meet Wan Wan. Wan Wan appeared more aggressive and agitated by Phins’ presence. Wan Wan paced a lot more than Phin, spent a considerable amount of time on the opposite side of the cage and less interest overall. This integration will be continue until both of the bears get along.