Category Archives: Koko the sun bear

Rest in Peace, Koko (20 February 2012 – 17 August 2014)

We are sadden to announce that Koko, the 3½-years-old sub adult female sun bear who lived at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre for three years, has passed away on August 17th, 2014.  A post- mortem on Koko was carried out by Sabah Wildlife Rescue Unit Veterinarian, Dr. Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam on August 18th and found her lung suffered from serious infection. In addition, the post-mortem also found a durian seed obstructed in her esophagus. Koko’s death was due to respiratory failure caused by chronic lung infection and presence of the durian seed worsens her sickness.

Koko was captured by poacher in Keningau and kept as pet while poacher was looking for a potential buyer. She was then surrendered to Sabah Wildlife Department and sent to BSBCC on 20th February 2012. Koko was a precious, energetic and playful bear! She had a beautiful diamond shaped chest mark. During her early years at BSBCC, she integrated with Mary, Debbie, Ah Bui, Bongkud, Fulung and Damai. She usually play fighting with her bear friends, tearing the tree bark in search of termites, climbing trees, taking nap on top of the tree canopy and enjoying her life like a wild sun bear.

She is now in peace; her spirit will always be with the friends who saved her…
May you rest in peace Koko, you will be missed – greatly and eternally.


 

 

DAMAI HAS REACHED A NEW PHASE

Text by Jaike Bijleveld
Photos by Chiew Lin May

 

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

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

Young Damai climbing around a big wooden log.

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

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

Looking for tasty termites.

Termite nests is greedily explored.

As if she has always lived in the jungle.

Damai is very proud of her first build nest!

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

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

TIME TO MEET SOME OTHER BEARS

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

Damai is about to meet Mary for the first time.

Damai gets chased away from the basket.

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

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

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

Fulung loves to play with Damai!

Little Mary wants to sleep and do not bother Damai.

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

Play fight looks like a wrestling match.

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

This is still playing!

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

Time for a nap in the basket after play.

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

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

NEXT STEP: GET READY TO LEAVE THE BEAR HOUSE

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

Honey, porridge and fruits near the hot wire.

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

Damai learn the fence training. She loves honey!

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

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

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

 

 

 

…and then there were 10!

Text by Shelly Smith
Photos by Chiew Lin May

First few moments of freedom for 10 sun bears just climbing and playing around the forest enclosure.

They are interact with the natural environment experiencing with different smells and sounds.

Following up on the indoor integration of the Mary and Natalie groups, today we saw the culmination of the exercise – the whole group outside sharing one forest enclosure!

By regularly allowing the indoor socializing and ‘wrestling parties’ these bears so love, the bear house team ensured the two groups remained on friendly terms.

Finally the time had come to test their ‘friendliness’ outdoors, where controlling a tense situation or fight would be impossible. A few of us entered the forest enclosure to scatter loads of fruit which would serve to distract from conflict, and fill tummies, hopefully creating a contented environment. Having only fed and observed from the feeding platform into this forest enclosure, I felt a little like being in someone’s home without their permission!

The forest enclosure looked so charming for the sun bears to roaming around.

Then the bear keepers opened the bear house doors while we waited expectantly at the feeding platform, anxious to see who would be the first to arrive in the pen. It took a good 5 minutes before we finally saw Fulung and another of the Mary group trundling along, calmly foraging on the scattered fruit. We had another wait until we saw any of Natalie’s cronies come to investigate the main area of the forest enclosure. Slowly Rungus, Natalie and Julaini began to familiarise themselves with the change of environment. Fresh alliances were forged and tree trunks were explored. Curiosity ruled the day.

They immediately look for insects in trees, climb trees and sleep high up in the canopy.

Sometimes they will just rest at forest floor.

Late afternoon found Natalie relaxing under her new favourite tree with a new found favourite friend – Bongkud, while Ah Bui sunned her tummy as her latest cohort Rungus dug for termites. Debbie showed off her climbing skills and Fulung continued his endless search for tasty snacks.Fortunately the day passed wonderfully uneventfully.


Introduce the ten sun bears that share in one forest enclosure:

-Natalie, 3 years old sub adult female

– Rungus, 5 years old adult female

– Julaini, 5 years old adult male

– Ah Lun, 5 years old adult female

– Ah Bui, 3 years old sub-adult female

– Debbie, 2 years old sub-adult female

-Mary, 2 years old sub-adult female

-Koko, 2 years old sub-adult female

-Fulung, 2 years old sub-adult male

-Bongkud, 2 years old sub-adult female

The bears all headed indoors for their much-loved evening meal; Julaini had chosen to stay indoors during this change of routine, which was probably fortunate as this young male could be a rough playmate with Fulung at times. While Natalie and Bongkud  like to stay outside forest enclosure.

The next day proceeded to be just as peaceful and without any incidents. This must be a world first – successfully integrating ten bears into a single forest enclosure.

They walked and looked around, choosing a tree. But when they did, they too quickly climbed to the top and rested in the height of the canopy.

Natalie was playing with enrichment made by the students of South Island School, Hong Kong.

Together have a nap in the forest.

Play fight in the forest.

Koko get a nice posture of sleeping.

Climbing tree and grooming together.

Compete in climbing tree together.

Debbie is alert and ready to forage for her food.

Natalie is enjoy roaming and climbing trees.

It was a best place that a bear would lay down and take a midday nap.

Koko is too tired after explore the forest, take a rest first!

Ah Bui climbs a tree for a better look.

Enjoying a wrestling match!!


Debbie is very active , independent and playful sun bear.

Debbie is the only bear at the Centre with a “Y” shaped chest mark and look like a wine.

Koko is using the dead log to scratch her body.

It seem like Julaini was enjoyed in the forest.

Rungus was playing with enrichment made by the students of Ape Malaysia.

Fulung is very careful and keeps its distance.

Ah Bui is explore and very curious of the various things that surround them her – from leaves to leeches.

“Let me have a rest first! “

Wonder what is Mary thinking about?

Obviously this is not ideal, much more space is required. But it shows how well the competent bear staff know their bears – to manage factors like age, sex, character traits, and hierarchies within established groups – to pull this off so smoothly in the limited space available. Congrats, guys, it was a great privilege to be involved in this venture!

Now Bermuda can have his turn out in the forest:-)

Integration between Mary’s Group and Natalie’s Group

Text by Shelly Smith
Photos by Chiew Lin May

Good thing this is just play- fighting!

As the BSBCC presently only has 3 outdoor pens large enough to accommodate several bears at the same time, some seriously strategic ‘bear shuffling’ has to occur in the bearhouse in order to get the right bears into the right cages for the outdoor exit ramps.

There are 2 existing groups that need to be integrated so they can occupy one outdoor pen instead of two, freeing up the second outdoor pen for Bermuda, a large mature male who is eagerly awaiting his outdoor sessions.

The two groups are ‘matriarchal’. The’’ Mary’’ group consists of 6 sub adult bears – little Mary, Ah Bui, Debbie, Koko, Bongkud and young male Fulung. 2nd group is Natalie’s group of four, with Natalie, Ah Lun,  Runggus and young male Julaini.

Bear etiquette dictates that a polite introduction is by way of curiously sniffing through an interconnecting gateway – if no sign of aggression is seen, then the gateway is opened cautiously by the bear keeper, and one bear may proceed into the adjoining cage where the sniffing procedure progresses to a stage of playful paw inductions. Hereafter it is quite permissible to raucously cavort around the cage and wrestle in the hammock (or other enrichment provided) until one or both bears are completely exhausted. Suckling on a bear’s ears is a privilege for best friends only.

Integration started on the 9th September by daily introducing one bear from Mary’s group to the Natalie group bears, one bear at a time over an hour or so. These introductions over the week went amazingly well with no hint of aggression as each bear learnt the smells, stature and behaviour of the others, in spite of two females being on heat during the process.

Come get me!

OK, I give up!

However, there came a turning point when the two young males were introduced. All went smoothly at the beginning of the session with 7 of the bears occupying  3 interlinking cages, playing and rough-housing with great abandon. Fulung, the young male from Mary’s group, has a wound that he continuously scratches at and thus it cannot heal. Julaini, the young male from Natalie’s group, curious to see if this could be meat, took a bite, with the ensuing fracas becoming quite violent, and intervention needed.

Lesson learnt! – since then Fulung’s would is treated with medication so he no longer smells like a meal, and all bears taking part in integration sessions are fed copious amounts of fruity treats, so tummies are full and everyone’s content beforehand.

Boys can get quite rough.

Come play in this cage.

Sizing each other up!

After tired of play, taking a break in the basket.

Checking out the new scenery.

Hammocks are also made for wrestling.

I got you!

Bear-pinned.

End result of any good bear wrestling.

Girls just chill and chat.

All 10 bears will continue to mingle for a period every day under the watchful eyes of the bear team until they are deemed ‘’suitably merged’’ to enter the outdoor pen together. Bermuda can then finally be moved up the chain of linked cages to the outdoor exit of forest enclosure, and experience the freedom of the natural forest again!

Special Moments with Mary, Ah Bui, Koko, Debbie, Fulung and Bongkud in the BSBCC Forest Enclosure Part III

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

Here are some photos of our sub – adult sun bears, out in the forest enclosure. They love to be by trees and will find activities to occupy their time that will keep them close to the canopy. These include looking for termites, other forest invertebrates, climbing trees, playing together and taking naps. They get on really well, and enjoy playing together. These six sun bears at the forest enclosure is buzzing with cheer and joy. Look what they are doing in the forest enclosure!!































Special Moments with Mary, Ah Bui, Koko, Debbie, Fulung and Bongkud in the BSBCC Forest Enclosure Part II

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

It is happy sight to see Mary, Debbie, Ah Bui, Koko, Fulung and Bongkud knew what to do when they went out into the enclosure with all of the trees. Here are some photos of our sub-adult sun bears, out in their forest enclosure. They are very awesome!!

Look what Debbie doing in the forest enclosure!!

Debbie is enjoy eating the Durian (King of Fruits).

Look what Koko doing in the forest enclosure!!

Koko was tried to break the coconut.

Look what Ah Bui doing in the forest enclosure!!

Look what Mary doing in the forest enclosure!!

Look what Fulung doing in the forest enclosure!!

Look what Bongkud doing in the forest enclosure!!

 

Bongkud climb high up the liana.

For more information about BSBCC and the sun bears, have a look at website (http://www.bsbcc.org.my/) and facebook (https://www.facebook.com/sunbear.bsbcc)

Special Moments with Mary, Ah Bui, Koko, Debbie, Fulung and Bongkud in the BSBCC Forest Enclosure Part 1

Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Gloria Ganang & Chiew Lin May

On June 11th, 2013 Ah Bui and Mary spent their first few moments of freedom roaming, exploring, and playing around the forest enclosure. The next day, they were joined by Debbie and Koko. Soon after, the four sun bears were united with Fulung and Bongkud in one forest enclosure. At first they were curious about all of the tall trees around them. Tall trees! NOT a cage!!

These 6 sub-adult sun bears are now spending a lot of their time exploring, roaming, digging, resting, climbing, and foraging for food in the forest enclosure. They interact with their new environment by using their strong keen senses to experience different smells and sounds in the forest.

Today, a dream became reality, and now these 6 sub-adult sun bears are confidently roaming and exploring in the forest. Once the door was opened, all of them went out into the forest immediately. They are extremely adventurous and already attempting to climb trees and logs. The bears are happily enjoying living amongst the tropical rainforest, each in their own special way. Ah Bui, likes to dig in the soil and search for food while others prefer to use their sharp canines to rip open trees and find their favourite snack. They rummage through the forest smelling around decayed wood and dead logs in search of any interesting insects and invertebrates.

When the bears are not spending their time resting or sunbathing on the forest canopy they are sharpening their tree climbing skills to help them catch termites and other forest invertebrates.
They’ve also become good playmates and will play, chase, hang out, and climb trees together in the forest.

It brings great satisfaction to see the 6 young sun bears freely roaming in the forest enclosure. They’ve all made such great progress, and are beginning to take on characteristics and natural behaviours of wild sun bears. Adapting to the forest is not easy, but once they begin to explore, things will get better.

The sun bear is one of the most mysterious bears of the jungle, and plays such an important role in maintaining the ecosystem and equilibrium of the forest. Major threats to sun bear include habitat loss and poaching. Sun bears are classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) aims to conserve sun bears through education, rehabilitation, and research with hopes to improve the welfare for captive orphan sun bears. Please help us spread the word!!
Here are a couple of photos of Mary, Ah Bui, Koko and Debbie explore in the BSBCC forest enclosure.

Ah Bui (front) and Debbie (behind) was curious with the outside forest enclosure.

Fulung and Bongkud become the indicator for Mary, Ah Bui, Koko and Debbie out to forest.

Ah Bui has very easily adapted to her new environment. She seems a very happy bear who is enjoy her freedom in the forest enclosure.

Mary loves to spends her time playing with her playmates and also busy in searching for her favorite termites and other forest invertebrates.

Debbie has a very strong personality and is always aware and curious of her new surroundings.

Koko loves playing around in the forest enclosure. She climbs the tree with Fulung.

They are enjoy their freedom in the forest enclosure !!

Ah Bui and Fulung were play together.

They climb like a wild sun bear in forest enclosure

Sun bears have great sense of smell.They spend most of their time foraging for food.

The long sharp claws and canines of the sun bear are handy for tearing open trees bark where insect and bee nests can be found and slurped up using their special long tongue.

Debbie is curious and usually pause to investigate something unfamiliar things around her. Her head up so she can see and smell.

They spend much of the day sunbathing or resting on the forest floor or trees.

They are tree climbers and spend most of their time amongst the branches.

Ah Bui and Mary was busy foraging for food.

 

 

Mary and Debbie’s new pal, Koko.

Text by Gloria Ganang and photo by Siew Te Wong

Koko, a female sun bear yearling has been joining Mary and Debbie (both female sun bear yearlings) for almost a month now. Koko came into the BSBCC earlier this year on the 20th February. She was transferred to Mary and Debbie’s den a month after her arrival which is after her quarantine period. Although it was a new environment for Koko at the beginning to share dens with other bears, she did very well gradually adjusting herself and getting along with her new mates. Koko connected with Debbie almost instantly during their first encounter with each other. Debbie, being the playful one among them is such an essential work out pal for Koko. They would tease, climb around and play chase with each other besides sharing their enrichment toys.

Debbie and Koko – “This toy is mine!”

 

Debbie and Koko - Claw versus canine!

It took a while for Mary to familiarize with Koko until they finally mingled. Mary is the less playful one. However, Koko would often try to get her attention by giving her quick bites or taps on her back. This encourages Mary to respond back very quickly from the distraction and they usually would end up rolling around and show each other “who’s boss”!

Mary and Koko – “I’m really getting you this time!”

Having an additional member in the group would keep the yearlings equipped with better and fun daily activities. They also keep each other warm during cold nights and rainy days by staying close to each other inside their artificial nest. We hope for the best for these sun bear yearlings throughout their growing period at the centre. Koko, Mary and Debbie are here because they have been confiscated from individuals who took them away from their natural habitat. They might end up growing up in small cages as house pets or even killed for their body parts. Help our sun bears by spreading the words on their threats!

 

Koko the sun bear makes new friends!

Text by Gloria Ganang and Siew Te Wong

Photos by Siew Te Wong

Koko’s quarantine period has ended two weeks ago. A health check on her was performed late last months and the results showed that she is healthy and free from any disease. Today we started the first step of the integration and introduce her to our sun bear cub/yearling group. She was transferred to a new den next to another two sun bear cub/yearling, Mary and Debbie around 11.30 am.

Koko’s original den is located at the opposite site of the hallway from the youngsters. We use two pieces of plywood to make a corridor and lure Koko with honey to her new den. The process was much easier than we thought.

Hi, I am Koko. What's your name?

 

Debbie was so excited and there were interactions going on between her and Koko. Koko also get pretty excited and displayed a dancing move as she reacted to the company of Debbie from the next cage. However, Mary didn’t show much reaction towards her new neighbor. It might take some time for Mary to get used to an additional bear around her.

Koko seemed pleased with her new transfer, wandering and sniffing around her new cage, checking out the enrichment that was prepared for her.

Best of all, she has now got new friends to interact with after a long period of isolation.

Who agree with me if I say sun bear cub is “BEARY” cute?

Text and photos by Siew Te Wong

 Debbie is now a sweet bear. From a very aggressive sun bear cub (good for her to be aggressive because she needed to) when she first came to BSBCC, she is now a very sweet and mellow sun bear cub. I can touch her nose. Sometime, she would let me stroke her paw in return. For sun bear, paw touching is a very important sign of trust because they will never let any stranger touch them, especially their paw .

 After spending more than a month with us, Debbie finally trusted me for security and accepted me as a family, so to speak. Regardless of how much I do to comfort her and give her a good home, in her eyes however, I still see sadness, like an orphan losing her mother. In fact, Debbie the sun bear cub has lost her mother to poacher, and she was capture as pet.

I can watch her playing in her den for a long time. Her favorite position would be in laying down in her sleeping basket and chewing whatever enrichment toys we gave her that day. Few days ago I gave her a cardboard box. In tens of minutes, she shredded the hard cardboard box into small pieces….

Who agree with me if I say sun bear cub is very cute?

BUT, please don’t keep sun bear as pet. They are totally protected and endangered wildlife, not pet!   

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