Category Archives: Kina

Monika’s Volunteer Experience

Text by Monika Lapka
Photos by Chiew Lin May and Seng Yen Wah

My name is Monika and I’m 24 years old from Australia. I worked as a zoo keeper with mainly giant pandas for 3 years before I decided to quit my job to travel around Asia volunteering at a number of different animal conservation organisations.

The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is the third organisation I have volunteered at since starting my travels. I found out about BSBCC during an Advancing Bear Care conference in Vietnam a few years ago, where I met Dr. Wong the founder and CEO of BSBCC. I spent 1 month volunteering at BSBCC and loved every second! I have learnt so much about Bornean Sun Bears, their husbandry requirements and the steps needed to successfully rehabilitate and release them into the wild. I am very grateful to have worked and helped such a beautiful centre who’s main priority is definitely the welfare and survival of the species. Dr. Wong and his amazing team are doing an outstanding job for the sun bears.

I felt apart of the keeping team straight away, feeling very appreciated and respected.The keepers and staff that I worked with were extremely friendly and incredibly funny, always making me laugh. The amount of care and passion that the keeping staff have for the bears is very inspirational.

Manual labour and cleaning makes up most of the daily tasks. Cleaning the dens every morning can be quite challenging especially when the weather is very hot and humid. But it doesn’t matter that you get all sweaty and smelly because what really is important is giving these beautiful rescued bears a lovely and clean space to spend their time.

One of my favourite parts of the day is making enrichment. A definite highlight was actually the first day when all the keeping staff, interns and volunteers gathered together in the afternoon to make enrichment for the bears. Everyone was sitting around making nest balls out of vines we collected earlier and egg carton sandwiches filled with ginger leaf and bananas. It honestly felt like a big happy family all talking and joking. It was a very heart warming moment for me, I felt apart of something special and a family away from home.

Another highlight was making one of my enrichment ideas come to life for one of my favourite bears, Bermuda. I got the idea from a picture I saw of a similar type of enrichment but for elephants! I thought a mobile, like what hangs over a baby’s cot, could potentially be fun and mentally stimulating with the items attached rotating 360 degrees around above the bear. One of the staff, Tommy, helped me put it together and I had an absolute ball making it with him. We called it Bermuda’s Lullaby and it turned out exactly as I imagined it in my head. It also looked very neat and pretty, very important I know, especially when a bear is potentially going to destroy it in seconds. We installed it in his den with a few peanut butter and honey smears in the PVC pipes and Bermuda loved it! Swinging it around and grabbing for the PVC pipe. It was wonderful to see that he enjoyed Tommy and my creation so much.

In my final week volunteering I was fortunate to see 2 new arrivals Kina and Sika. 2 tiny little bears that had been rescued and brought to BSBCC for a new start and potentially be released back into the wild in the future. Sika is only 6 months and Kina a year old. I had made firehose cubes before and one of the staff members, Lin May, asked me to make one for the new arrivals. I ended up making a loose cube which turned out to look like a ball. It wasn’t until the day after the arrival of the 2 bears that Lin May showed me a video of Kina playing with the ball I’d made! Kina was rolling it around, lying on her back biting it, scratching at it and throwing it with her mouth. It brought tears to my eyes seeing this tiny little bear who had been stolen away from her mother and kept as a pet, in an environment far from her natural habitat being able to feel joy and start feeling more comfortable to  settle into her new home. This was the most rewarding experience for me.

The biggest thank you to Dr. Wong Siew Te and the staff at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre for having me volunteer at their beautiful centre! Volunteering at BSBCC has been an amazing experience that I will remember forever. I have absolutely fallen in love with Sabah, it is such a magical place that I plan to return as soon as possible. I have met some of the kindest, generous and absolutely hilarious people here in Borneo, making life long friends. I was truly sad to leave and say goodbye to what felt like home. The work, passion and determination that the BSBCC team have for sun bears and their conservation is truly inspirational! Keep up the amazing work and I will return soon to finish my Sabahan training!

Meet Kina & Sika – Beginning of a New Life

Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Azzry Dusain & Chiew Lin May

Today they saw their rescuers. Each rescued orphan sun bear needs to cope with the traumatic loss of their mother and generally ends up in the illegal pet trade. They all have a terrible start to their young lives. Surely their memories with the forest are all gone. They have never been given the chance to experience and exhibit their natural behavior.

Kina (rescued bear-54), a one year old female, was found around the village of Malak Palak, at Kota Marudu, in the northern region of Sabah. Now named Kina after the place where she was kept (originally nicknamed “Kalong” which was given by the previous owner). Her owner claimed that Kina’s mother was crossing a road and got frightened then just ran away and left Kina behind. Kina was just a bear cub and had not even opened her eyes yet. Hence, her owner took her and kept her for more than a year. We will never know exactly what happened to Kina before she was found alone in the forest. The owner then decided to surrender her to the Sabah Wildlife Department on February 2nd, 2017. Kina arrived at BSBCC on March 1st, 2017.

Kina is little wary!

Kina had been kept as an illegal pet for a year. She had a relatively small head compared to her body and her canines appeared small. During the arrival she weighed 12.85kg. She showed signs of malnutrition and had been poorly cared for since she was a cub. She lacked sufficient nutrients for her growth and development due to being fed inappropriate food. She was fed rice, coconut, sugar cane and Nespray (full cream milk powder).  Kina has a slender and pointy muzzle.

A great new HOME to explore!

Very curious, Kina!

Upon rescue, Kina showed no fear of humans which has resulted from the habituation from the effect of being kept as an illegal pet. We are trying to wean her off close contact with humans and will introduce her to new bear friends. It was sad to see the trauma she had with the loss of her mother. She is a young energetic and playful bear full of enthusiasm. She is quickly settling into the quarantine. She is braver and accepts everything on offer. She enjoys the fun enrichment we come up with which can be seen through her love to explore around the den. Kina tries her best at demolishing dead logs to get every delicious treat out of the enrichment. However, feeding time is what she looks forward to the most. Her favourite is milk, banana, papaya, honey dew and HONEY! She will rub it over her head and body! She enjoys playing for hours with the bear ball. She tries different ways to tear, paw and roll to reach enrichment. Kina also is an expert in climbing logs by using her long and curved claws! This allows her to be happy and simply enjoy chilling as a bear!

She is keen to explore

Something never, ever experience before

Free to forage, free to play

Ripping down the Bear Ball and searching for HONEY

She loves her toys and seems to get just as excited

Being on my own world !!

She love to spend her time playing on the enrichment that are filled with yummy treats!

She love to spend her time playing on the enrichment that are filled with yummy treats!

She love to spend her time playing on the enrichment that are filled with yummy treats!

She love to spend her time playing on the enrichment that are filled with yummy treats!

She love to spend her time playing on the enrichment that are filled with yummy treats!

Nyom Nyom Nyom!!

Nyom Nyom Nyom!!

Nyom Nyom Nyom!!

Nyom Nyom Nyom!!


?The youngest female sun bear at our centre, Sika (Rescued bear-55), weighed 4.8kg when she arrived at BSBCC on March 1st, 2017. She was a tiny four month old, female sun bear cub. The Sabah Wildlife Department rescued Sika on February 9th, 2017 from Kampung Sikalabaan in Pensiagan district, one of the most rural areas in Sabah. Sika is named after the place that she was rescued from. Thankfully, Sika was found by a foreigner who travelled to the village. He had visited BSBCC before. He decided to call BSBCC and asked us to rescue this bear cub. He saw that the bear cub was being kept in a chicken mesh cage as a pet and had a diet mostly of condense milk, fruits and cereal.

?Little Sika has stolen our hearts with her beautiful blue eyes. She is developing into a lovely and playful bear cub. Sika has a good appetite. She is currently in our intensive care where she will be given a balanced diet that comprises of milk and fruit. She shows more confidence in new surroundings. Sika has an amazing ability to climb high and hang on the platform. She is developing her muscles every day. Since Sika was just rescued and is still recovering from trauma, she prefers to spend most of her time staying high up on the platform or in the hammock to seek shelter and take a siesta. Our bear care staff also teach Sika to develop her defense skills through play fighting. She will show her small, sharp claws and small, curved canines during the play fights! Sika gets her first taste of a sweet life at BSBCC. Slowly, she will develop her forest skills.

Sika has developed mischievous and playful personality

Gorgeous Blue Eyes

Sika step into the den for the first time. She have never touched it before!

Checking every meter of her new home!

Regain her strength !!

“Try to investigate an exciting new smell or sound with my powerful sense of smell !!”

A sun bear’s chest mark is as unique as fingerprints.

Being an excellent climber, she try to reach out the branches!

Showing how well she can climb to the top!

Having my own snack

She can enjoy a quiet nap after her meal

She was waked up from her nap

Sika spend time quietly working out how to get into enrichment

Hope the day will come for me to back to where I belong- FOREST

Sweet smell of WILD freedom

We will put her on proper nutritious diet, toys to play and sun on her fur!!

These young bears are quickly settling into the new environment. They are in safe hands now and will settle in well at BSBCC quarantine for approximately 30 days. Bear care staff will focus more on enrichment and diet changes which will keep these rescued sun bears busy, active and stimulated. We will give them the care and nourishment they need and teach them all the skills necessary to fend for themselves in the wild. Both bears are building up their strength and are learning to trust their bear care takers.

That was the beginning of Kina and Sika’s new lives! This life of freedom and to put their traumatic pasts behind them is perfect for these beautiful bears. After they finish the quarantine, they will know only becoming WILD bears, sunshine, tall trees, nest building, bear-friends, treats, love and peace. Kina and Sika have many challenges ahead of them and much progress to make in order to succeed on their own in the wild. Sun bears are endangered and in risk of extinction. Please do NOT let sun bears suffer from psychological trauma and give them back the forest and mother bears they belong. Please help make a difference to help secure a future for sun bears like little Kina and Sika.

The First Rescued Sun Bears in 2017

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

Kina (Rescue- 54), an one year old female sun bear cub and Sika (Rescue-55), a four months old female sun bear cub were sent to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) today (1st March 2017). These two rescued sun bears arrived at BSBCC from the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo in Kota Kinabalu.

Two new rescue bears arrived at BSBCC this evening.

Kina was found around the village of Malak Palak, at Kota Marudu, in the northern region of Sabah. We named her “Kina”, after the place where she was kept. Her owner claimed that Kina’s mother was crossing a road and got frightened then just ran away and left Kina behind. Kina was just a bear cub and had not even opened her eyes yet. Hence, her owner took her and kept her for more than a year. He then decided to surrender her to SWD. ?

The first bear off the truck is a one year old female sun bear cub, Kina.

After a lifetime kept as pet, Kina now can recover from trauma and live in safe home.

There is a long way to go with hope that this is an eye opening on the start of a second chance and better life !!

The brand new dens that awaits them!

Ready to enter her new home!

She is getting used to the sights and sound of her new surroudings !

Kina is finally home and safe!

Kina very curious and active as she started climbing and biting the things around her.

Sure one day Kina will learn what it takes to live like wild sun bear !

Sika is named after the place that she was rescued from. She was found by a foreigner who travelled to the village of Sikalabaan, in Pensiangan district, located in the interior division of Sabah. Pensiangan is one of the most rural areas in Sabah which is located deep in Borneo’s jungle. He had visited BSBCC before. He decided to call BSBCC and asked for the centre to rescue this bear cub once he saw that a villager was keeping her in a chicken mesh cage as a pet. She was previously fed condense milk, fruits and cereal.

First glimpse of Sika who was rescued from life as a pet.

Unloading Sika from the truck and sent into her new home at BSBCC

Sniffing….around her new environment!

She will slowly settle into her new home.

Life that she deserves after all she has been through!

Sika taking a nap after a long journey arrive to the new home.

A very pretty Sika with beautiful blue eyes

With care, love and nutritious diet given hope both rescue bears will grow healthy and way to a brighter future.

A Veterinarian from the SWD, Dr. Nabila Sarkawi performed a full medical checkup for Kina and Sika before they were sent to BSBCC. Kina weighed 12.85kg and Sika weighed 4.8kg. Both rescued bears are healthy, active, bright and alert bear.

Sun Bears are a “Totally Protected” Species under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment in 1997. Based on this enactment, any activities that could hurt the sun bear is totally prohibited which includes keeping a sun bear as a pet. Any offenders could face either 10 years in jail, fined up to RM100,000 or both. There is no reason for keeping a sun bear as a pet. They are wild animals and they should stay in the wild. In fact, the bear cub will be attached to their mother until they are two to three years old. A mother will never abandon her children. The only reason that could make this happen is the mother was killed and the children were brought away from their mother by poachers. Keeping them as a pet and illegal poaching is an unforgivable act to the sun bear.

Thankfully, Kina and Sika were rescued and gets a second chance for her life.From now, Kina and Sika will go through quarantine and will receive good care from the BSBCC bear care unit.We hope they will gain strength and be able to be released back into the wild one day.

We will keep you updated on their progress. Lastly, please spread the word to keep sun bears WILD and NOT as Pets! Be their voice!!