Category Archives: natural diet

Meet Noah – There is still Hope !!

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

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

“Really Miss my mother and forest so much!”

Noah, one of our newest orphan arrivals at BSBCC

Noah, one of our newest orphan arrivals at BSBCC

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

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

He is now settling into the quarantine

He is now settling into the quarantine

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

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

Noah has adjusted well to proper milk

Tastes fruit for first time!

Tastes fruit for first time!

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

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Honey!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

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

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

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

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

Noah always enthusiastic about new enrichment

Noah always enthusiastic about new enrichment

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

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

Dig around for the Honey dew treats!!

Dig around for the Honey dew treats!!

Being curious with  pill millipede !!

Being curious with pill millipede !!

Rolling with Nest ball!

Rolling with Nest ball!

Love to see him just being bear again

Love to see him just being bear again

Chilling at the platform

Chilling at the platform

Chilling at the platform

Chilling at the platform

Snooze in a hammock in the sunshine !!

Snooze in a hammock in the sunshine !!

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

He grown into a playful and sweet natured Bornean Sun Bear

He grown into a playful and sweet natured Bornean Sun Bear

What a lovely smile it is...

What a lovely smile it is…

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

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

Enjoying his new found freedom

Enjoying his new found freedom

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

 

 

The Life of Freedom is Perfect for Dodop

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

digs dead log and

sniff forest air.

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

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

Real forest!

Dodop is bright and curious always.

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

Dodop quick to settle in and started exploring environment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Honey Month with The Honey Bears

Text and Photos by Wong Chung Li


BSBCC is a place where I have lovely experience for both my volunteering days and my school tour. Back when I was still a student from Yu Yuan Secondary School on 2013, I had a precious chance to visit BSBCC with my classmates along with teachers before it was opened one year later. It’s a fruitful and fabulous tour as we could see the bears which we have never seen. In addition, the staffs were telling a lot of interesting facts to us and the ways we can conserve these cute creatures. At that time, I hope that I could do something for the bears.

However, I have postponed the plan until three years later. It’s my summer vacation of my university, so I decided to join BSBCC as a volunteer for a month. On my first induction, I was given instructions and rules I have to obey. This boosted me up and I really can’t wait for it to be started.

Morning

Ok! I have to drive 10 miles daily from home to work on early morning. As volunteer, I was offered a chance to stay in Bjorn Hala, a staff house which accommodates some staffs and volunteers but it’s a bit crowded then. On morning, we are assigned to different works according to the schedule but usually we have to prepare the foods or do fence checking first. Fence checking is an inspection of the voltage of our fences surrounding the forest enclosures and confirmation of the bears staying in the forest. We have to remove some branches trapped between the fences which lower the voltage. After that, we back to bear house and do our following works. Sometimes, I was assigned to clean cages. At first, I felt that the faeces and the dirt in the cage smelled unpleasant. After one month of “training”, I can say loudly that I can endure and get used to it already haha!

In cleaning cages, I learned that the faeces of the bear reflect what they eat and the different behaviour of different bears. A few naughty bears love to distract and disturb me from the neighbouring cages and when they grab the things, I can barely get it back due to their overpower strength. In doing kitchen works, I also learn of what bears eat every day and some special diet for some bears.

Afternoon

After preparing the second meal of porridge, we will go outside feeding. Outside feeding enables me to see bears playing in the forest in a short distance and have trained my stamina on carrying buckets of fruits and walk on the forest. When feeding is done, we will do some enrichment for the bears. Bears do pacing while they stress out. Some may injure themselves by doing so. The purpose of doing enrichment is to reduce their pacing behaviour and somehow encourage their climbing and foraging skills. I really enjoy this activity. It gives me a sense of achievement when the bears play it and try to suck the foods out.

After coming here, I start to differentiate each bear by looking at its appearance other than its unique chest mark. I also understand how complex the process of placement of bear from integration to fence training to forest enclosure and finally release is. The release of bear requires a lot of energy and money but it allows the bear to enjoy the wild again. Our bears all have sad past when they were still cubs. So I really hope that they can live happily afterwards.

Mr Wong, the CEO & Founder of BSBCC is a kind and knowledgeable wildlife biologist who has studied sun bear for 20 years. He always shares his stories and experience with us during his free time. He has a lot of books inside the office and he can always remember where the information comes from. His stories of building up the BSBCC and sacrificing his personal life are really inspiring. Other than sun bear, Mr Wong study birds well too. After I tried his foods, I believe he will become a famous chef if he didn’t become a wildlife biologist.

I would like to thank all the staffs, especially the bear keepers and maintenance team which I always work with (Forgive me for not mention the names one by one). Given my limited ability to speak Malay, they can still communicate with me well. They are so friendly and patient in teaching me the ways to use some equipment. We have chit-chatting a lot and know about each other well. I also love to listen to their working experience and other stories.

I would like to give credits to Lester, my buddy. This is because he really helps a lot and provide professional advice to me on doing our enrichment called “Swing Along” for one of our bear called Along. As I know, Along still hasn’t stepped on our enrichment yet haha. Besides, he is a funny guy and always influent in atmosphere. Without him, we always feel like we lack something. At last, I would like to say that it’s a great honor to work along with you guys and being a part in helping sun bear. Thank you!

Happy Kala and The Forest

Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May

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

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

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

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

Smells are different here.

 

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

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

 

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

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

I am on the ground.

 

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

This is my dream land, the forest.

Tree, I love trees.

What is that on the ground?

I am tearing off a big dead wood.

Here got a big tree.

Yeah, I am climbing up on a tree.

Let me enjoy this beautiful sunlight.

I got a bit sleepy now.

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

This is my soils.

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

What are you doing out there, Loki?

I should learn from Susie2 that how she foraging.

 

Never Give Up for Little Wawa

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

Do you remember the story of the motherless bear cub which was found by a ranger in Forest Management Unit (FMU) 16, Pinangah, Telupid District? Our little Wawa is not so little anymore. Sun bear cubs grow very fast, especially when they are 4 to 10 months old. She is now 6 months old and her body weighs 11.90 kg. She has started to learn to eat solid food. Her favourite foods are soft fruits like papaya, banana and milk!

It is one month until little Wawa finishes her quarantine period. She should be brought out to the forest to learn all the survival forest skills that she needs. Due to the emotional trauma that resulted from being kept as a pet or the suffering from losing her mother, Wawa does not want to step out from quarantine into the nearby forest and becomes more scared if we let her paws on the forest floor. She becomes grumpy and starts growling! She still feels safer and prefers to stay in quarantine compared to out in the forest. This is the problem when you keep a sun bear as a pet for long periods in captivity. We will never know exactly what happened to her. Her history was told that she was found lifeless and alone without her mother.

This is a challenge for us and our bear care keepers to encourage the cub to forage and climb trees like a wild bear. The love and care of a mother bear can never be replaced but BSBCC bear care keepers provide as much love and support as they can to the sun bear orphans. In order for little Wawa to gain trust and confidence, bear cub keepers provided many natural enrichments to stimulate and prepare her for life back in the wild. She will practice her “wild bear skills”. We let Wawa have a larger exercise den. During the day she is in a larger den with a nice view over the playground. At the den she will be able to view the forest. The den equipped facility features natural habitat enrichment, places to hide away, play objects such as termite mounds, bird nests, logs, dead wood, branches, twigs, dry leaves, and fresh plants to encourage natural behavior such as searching for food, foraging skills, climbing, etc. She is relishing the opportunity to explore the larger den. Wawa is being encouraged to climb and explore around. These are the skills essential for survival in the wild. She is particularly fond of treats and any form of enrichment. She is good at exploring and investigating the enrichment. She has explored, played, climbed, and rested in the big exercise pen. We hope Wawa has her days filled with fun and not fear!

See the beauty of the forest!

Wawa will be given time to become adjusted to her new surroundings. She will slowly gain strength, confidence and develop her independence to survive in the forests of Borneo. She is now learning to enjoy her life again after suffering the pain from the loss of her mother. For sun bear cubs, it means that she will now get her second chance to live in the wild as she was born to do.

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.

Little Story about Tan-Tan

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

Like many sun bear cubs, Tan –Tan’s mother was believed to be killed by poachers and she was sold as an exotic pet in the remote region of Paitan, Sabah. She was handed to BSBCC on August 5th, 2015 when she was three months old and weighted 4.9kg. She was placed into quarantine.

On August 12th, 2015, Dr. Sandy Ling Choo, a veterinarian from the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Rescue Unit and the BSBCC team performed a general health check. Dr. Sandy sedated Tan –Tan, then measured her weight and brought her to the examination area to make a full assessment of her health status. The assessment included a valuation of her overall health, potential sickness (e.g. signs of distress, ill-health, disease, injury etc.), functioning of the internal organs, pulse, respiration and temperature, then an inspection of her claws and teeth. Blood and hair samples were collected also. The blood test results have shown she is healthy. Today, Tan –Tan weighs 6 kg.

Tan –Tan settled in well and thoroughly enjoyed her new found freedom in the quarantine at BSBCC. For a young cub, a healthy and natural diet is very important. She has a good appetite. She enjoys all kinds of food and milk.

A nutritious diet including fresh fruit, milk and lots of treats

Curious with new food – Papaya

Yummy! Love bananas!

Tan –Tan is everything a cub should be – playful, inquisitive and agile. She was quite tame during the arrival but it is unbelievable the transformation her character has gone through compared to other sun bear cubs that we have received before. She has been pretty wild and she’s showed great skill when climbing the dead wood by hugging the wood. When encountered with strange things, she gradually made her way higher onto the platform and defended herself during the play fight with her care taker. Tan –Tan must be a strong natured little bear!

Tan –Tan is settling into her new dens

By hiding treats around the dens we encourage Tan-Tan to forage

We do our best to make sure Tan-Tan live comfortable, confident and free from fear.

Tan-Tan love hammock and is having a great time

” Way to keep my balance to get the food!”

She was an energetic sun bear and made full use of the structural enrichment in the dens. BSBCC staffs provided many natural enrichment like termite mounds, dried leaves, fresh leaves and dead wood. She was curious and checked it first before playing with or destroying it. She practices her “wild bear skills” every day. All of these activities are learning experiences for her. Tan-Tan can often be observed playing excitedly with the bamboo feeder and Aussie Dog Ball enrichments and spends hours playing with them. She enjoys taking naps on her small platform or in her basket. Slowly, Tan-Tan has put her past behind her and is leaning to be a wild bear again.

Sun bear cub learns how to climb when they are young

Tan-Tan keep busy all the time by digging and excavating dead wood in search of insects.

Yawn!! Showing us a glimpse of the sun bear incredible long tongue!

Food hidden in object up such as Aussie Dog Ball to encourage Tan-Tan to spend time foraging for food

” Seriously, what is inside this gunny sack ? “

Wooden Food Puzzle – ” Smells good!!”

” Let me have a look what is this !”

Lazy position in eating the papaya

Of course, because she is still baby that do require a lot of sleep

Chilling in the water container

In the coming weeks, Tan-Tan will be taken on walks to the adjacent forest reserve. This will encourage Tan-Tan to learn and develop her survival skills for the wild. Tan-Tan has a long way to go through rehabilitation. Tan –Tan is a delightful bear to be around and we are thrilled to have her at our centre. Stay tuned with BSBCC to have follow ups on Tan-Tan’s out to the forest story!

Sun bear feeds on pill milipede

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Sun bear BOLEH series: “Sun bear can climb!” part 1

I always consider myself very lucky to be able to study the sun bear, the least known bear in the world. Over years of tracking down radio-collared sun bears in the rainforest of Borneo, I managed to witness some bazaar behaviors of this illusive mammal in the natural surroundings. One of these “holy cow!” behaviors was the tree-climbing skill of sun bears, which made me believe they are the most arboreal bears in the world. With their small body size as a bear species, black color pelt and agile slender arms, they look a lot like chimpanzee than any bear species to me. They are equipped with the best tree climbing tool, not with fingers like the chimpanzee and other primates, but four sets of curved and long claws, each control by exceptionally strong digit muscle. The claws clam in and dig deep in the tree bark, they simply “walk” up on the tall tropical rainforest trees like lumberjack climbing a tree with their spike shoes.   

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Sun bear has all the reasons to be an arboreal mammal. First, a big portion of their food is found on top of a tree: fruits and invertebrates. Fruits are important for sun bear because they are available in large quantity, but finding fruiting trees are not easy. Beside fruits, invertebrates such as bee hives with yummy honey and larvae are nutritious food items to boost up body condition. Some species of bees build their hives inside tree cavities high above the ground for double protections. However, this will not deter a sun bear from breaking into the bee hives because sun bear climb really well, equipped with strong claws and canines to break into tree cavities, and sun bear’s determination to feed on honey as food is not easy to find in the forest. There is no better way to illustrate how much sun bears love honey other than showing these photos taken by Wineke Schoo in Danum Valley, the forest where I studied sun bears for six years in Borneo.

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 The bigger black dot was a mother sun bear climbing up a huge tree, followed by a little black dot, her little cub. At this point, the mother bear already found the beehive and starting to break into hive. Little one followed.

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 sun bear wineke

Wineke managed to get some zoo-in photos with her spotting scope. I know what you are trying to say, so am I! Thanks Wineke for sharing these photos. This is a lifetime experience to witness such amazing event taking place in our own planet! 

Now you know why sun bears are also known as honey bear (beruang madu) in local Malay language, simply because they love honey!

Photos credit: Wineke Schoo

~to be continue~