Category Archives: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD)

Friends for Life – Nano and Noah

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May


Both male bear cubs, Nano and Noah were likely taken from their mothers and kept in tiny cages as illegal pets. When they were rescued from being illegal pets in 2016, Nano was very stressed, shy, in pain and was too fearful with the outside world,

?whilst Noah was found with his milk canines crushed off for use in the illegal pet trade.

?The two little cubs have had a very exciting few months! Both have moved into big dens filled with natural enrichment, and treats which keep them stimulated and healthy. This is one of the steps for the rescued bears to acclimatize themselves to living in the forest and to be given an opportunity to explore the environment and develop the skills they need to survive in the wild.

Once the door opened, Noah start peek out from the door!

?Noah made his way over to an area with dried leaves and straight away started to stand on his hind legs and grab everything around him!

?Noah is the outgoing and joyous bear.

??Then after twenty minutes, Nano paused and was alert before stepping towards the new enriched dens! 

? Noah try to ask Nano to join this big playground !!

?He would skim around the dens, curious about what was surrounding him – The natural enrichment!! It was such a glorious sight to see! They roamed freely and adapted quickly to their new home.

After rescue from an illegal pet, the beautiful smile on Nano when he realizes he is not alone !

?Nano- have fun!!

?Noah is a good, natural leader. He creates a calming and energetic atmosphere around him. He will encourage Nano to be brave and play. He became cheeky whenever he saw Nano starting to pace near the door, then he would try to push Nano and start an epic play fight! Noah did not give up and would teach Nano to fight back!

?Slowly, Nano followed Noah’s footsteps, learning to be a bear again. They learned to trust each other!

?Is lovely to see Nano relaxing which he deserves after all he suffered.

?They still love having fun in each other’s company.

?They have dead wood to dig with, bear balls to play with, climbing structures to climb, fire hose baskets to forage with, a hammock to take naps in and dried leaves to roll with. They wrestle, play, forage for food, sleep at the platform and share enrichment together. Both getting stronger and more confident by the day.

?Today, they wrestle, play, explore and even sleep together. They were completely in their own world!

?It makes us feel sad when see these rescued sun bears suffering from pet trade. But we realized what an amazing thing it is to see how both their tragic pasts were now behind them. The important thing is Nano slowly has gained his confidence, overcome his fear and is enjoying himself every single day with his best pal, Noah. For sun bears, Noah and Nano’s lives after the horror of being kept as pets has been more than they could have hoped and now they are living the lives they were meant to live.

Well done Nano and Noah!


Time Is A Miracle

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

Noah, a ten months old male bear cub was found when he was still young, and people thought he was a dog, until they took a closer look at him and realised that he was a sun bear.   They kept him as a pet for a while until they surrendered him to Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) at Nabawan, the southern part of Sabah and was then sent to Lok Kawi Zoo. After a general health check, we found all of his milk teeth had been crushed off which effected his tooth growth and development.

On the other hand, Nano, a two years old male juvenile bear was found in Kota Marudu, the north of Sabah. A lady saw him being kept in a small chicken mesh cage and decided to save his life by buying him from the seller with the price of RM 1,500. After purchasing, the lady surrendered Nano to SWD and was then sent to BSBCC.

Noah and Nano are quite different bears. Noah is bright and active while Nano is shy and quiet. In the beginning, Noah showed his curiosity on Nano by sniffing and exploring around Nano’s cage. He climbed up on the cage bar and started looking for Nano. In the opposite side, Nano was just stayed up high on the hanging platform or hanging log. He became alert once the sliding door opened while Noah went inside his cage. Apparently, Noah is the one who approached Nano first. However, Nano showed aggressive signs by barking and growling at Noah. Feeling scared, but nevertheless Noah never gave up on him. Noah’s friendly efforts can be seen by inching himself closer to Nano day by day. Noah was trying so hard to form a bond of friendship with Nano and finally with success, Noah eventually melted him with his warm, friendly heart. Now, they can play fight the whole day. Now, they love to spend time with each other as we can always see them sharing a hanging platform together, where they like to take a rest and play.

Due to their friendship and interaction, Nano now spends more time climbing rather than just resting on the hanging platform because of Noah’s adventurous persona. Nano also now initiates play fights and sometimes paws Noah as well. Noah would never disappoint Nano, for they would hold a long play fight as Noah would take the initiative to help Nano by using the Bear way, which is playing, once realizing or noticing when Nano paces. Friendship is not easy to build up between Noah and Nano as it took them to warm up for around four months. Time is a miracle. At the moment, Nano has shown lots of improvements! He has reduced his stereotypical behaviour by spending more time with Noah and has started exploring the environment around him and the enrichment in it. It definitely takes time but we can wait for him. We really hope Nano and Noah can grow up happily with each other and one day would leave the trauma behind, gain the strength and head back to the forest together, where they really do belong.

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!

My Volunteering with APE Malaysia at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre February 2017

Text By Peter Lowe
Photos By Sumira Muis

I am Peter Lowe, 66 years of age, retired chef/catering manager/restaurant manager. I am British and have resided in Prague, Czech Republic for the past 22 years and this is now my home :-):-)

I have had a love for animals from a very young age and I wanted to be either a Zoo Keeper or a vet. However I realised this required a great deal of study/expense and I was not the best student. At this time I became fascinated with Borneo and it’s unique fauna and eco system, especially the wild men of Borneo = the Orangutan :-):-)

One autumn evening in 2015 I was surfing the net when I spotted an advertisement for volunteering at Melaka Zoo helping to care for the Primates for 2 weeks and 2 weeks volunteering on the Kinabatangan river, helping to clear previous logging areas of undergrowth, clearing creepers etc. from newly planted fruit trees, planting fruit trees, spotting wildlife from the river, recording the species No’s and the map co-ordinates, helping in the community.

I contacted the agency concerned and got a placement for the month of March 2016. Whilst volunteering at Melaka Zoo I helped care for the Malaysian Sun bears there and fell in love with these delightful bears:-) The final day in Borneo we visited the Orangutan Centre, The Rain Forest Discovery Centre and the Bornean Sunbear Conservation Centre. Whilst at the BSCC I had the good fortune to meet briefly with Dr.Wong, the founder of the centre then later, at lunch, most if the team from Ape Malaysia and I vowed, my health and stamina permitting, I would return to volunteer at the BSCC in 2017  🙂

I’m now into the second week working at the Borneo Sunbear Conservation Centre. The work can be hard and messy however it is so rewarding = it is a privilege to work with these very special bears, the smallest and, in my opinion, the cutest bears in this World plus the  people at the BSCC are very special = welcoming, positive, kind and full of enthusiasm and it is catching :-):-):-) I just love being here, being given the opportunity to have this very unique experience and to learn so much. Absolutely priceless.

The volunteers stay near to the BSBCC in accommodation overlooking rain forest. The views are spectacular. There is a restaurant, sun deck and hammocks for relaxation. The volunteers have their own cooking facilities, western style toilets, showers with hot water and a washing machine!! They are driven to the BSBCC daily, leaving the accommodation at 7.45 each morning to start work at 8.00.

The work will sometimes be hard and messy and will include weighing out each bears morning feed of rice according to their diet weight requirements. Preparing the fruit for the morning feed = weighing, washing and then weighing the fruit for the individual pens, scrubbing, cutting and cooking sweet potatoes and sweet corn to kill any pesticides etc. and to enhance the smell for the bears. Cleaning out the bears night cages, washing the food trays and identification tags, checking the electric fences, feeding the bears in the enclosures/cages.

Lunch is from 12.00-13.30. In the afternoon work will include preparation and weighing the afternoon food trays for the bears, work on enrichment for the bears. The aim of enrichment is to stimulate the bears to make them stand and climb, use their sense of smell, use their claws, teeth and long tongues. This can be pieces of bamboo drilled with holes, filled with rice, honey, peanut butter, then suspended in the bear’s sleeping den with rope or more elaborate structures using fire hose and fallen wood found in the surrounding rain forest. The bamboo is also cut from the surrounding rain forest.

The team here at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre are wonderful. By volunteering you are guaranteed to learn a lot and at the same time have great fun and be working for a very worthwhile cause. Do not hesitate = volunteer with BSCC :-):-)

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!!

Back to the Forest

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

11 months later and I’m back.

December 2016

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

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

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

“Crown Prince” for Linggam, the prince of BSBCC

“Planetary Nest Ball” for Amaco and Panda

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

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

The Tiny, Nano

Text and Photos by Seng Yen Wah

Nano is a two years old sub-adult male bear. He was sent to the BSBCC on the 20th of November, 2016. A lady decided to rescue Nano when she saw Nano was kept in a small chicken mesh cage in Kota Marudu, north of Sabah. She purchased him from the seller for a  price of RM1,500, with the purpose of saving his life. Nano was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department and sent to the BSBCC after that.

He showed aggressive, alert and stressed behaviour when he first arrived. Besides that, he was found underweight, just weighing 9.7 kg. He paced a lot especially when he got stressed. This was due to psychological trauma that he had suffered and it caused stereotypical behavior. Actually, Nano is a very shy and quiet bear. He enjoys staying to himself. If somebody tries to disturb him, he would give a warning and barks or growls.  He likes to rest on a towel. He feels safer staying alone and preferably in dark. Nano just finished his quarantine. But, he is still taking his time adapting. Now, he weighs 11kg. His favourite foods are banana and egg!

We did not know what exactly happened to him for the past two years. But, we believed he was kept as a house pet before. People might think sun bears are cute when they are still a cub. So, people insist on keeping them as a pet. But they never think about the consequences resulting from keeping them in a small cage or feeding them with the wrong diet. The mistreatment of the owner will not only cause sun bears having some relevant health problem like dehydration, and malnutrition but also the psychological trauma can cause stress-related behaviour. The trauma implies their future life. So, Please stop doing that for sun bears!

Nano has suffered a lot. The best enrichment for a bear is another bear. So, we plan to find Nano a friend for accompanying him. The integration of Nano with others can help him to learn more survival skills from his new friends along with helping him to reduce his stress as well. We hope Nano can leave his traumatic early life behind and be happy and gain his confidence at the BSBCC.

The New Chapter for Dodop and Wawa

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

I'm Dodop.

I’m Dodop.

I'm Wawa.

I’m Wawa.

Dodop and Wawa, both one year old female juvenile bears. They have a different story to tell how they arrived to BSBCC. Dodop was rescued by the Sabah Wildlife Department from being kept as pet in a Singgaron village in Ranau district. Her milk teeth had been found missing but now her permanent teeth have grown well. On the other hand, Wawa was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department. She was found in the Forest Management Unit (FMU) 16, Pinangah in Telupid District. They stayed together in quarantine and moved to bear house on 10th of October 2016.

Dodop and Wawa adapted well in the bear house. Due to the capacity of the bear house being limited, Dodop and Wawa were integrated with our sub-adult group. The sub-adult group is consists of 11 bears: Sunbearo, Loki, Bintang, Montom, Susie2, Damai, Mary, Kala, Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan. Limited capacity is not the only reason to integrate bears, integration can help bears to reduce their stress related behavior and they can learn pertinent skills from each other such as survival skills and defense skills. Wawa is a friendly bear. She likes to be friends with others by initiating play fights. Compared with Wawa, Dodop is very shy. But, everyone likes to approach her. The sub-adult group liked both Dodop and Wawa. They stay, they play and they sleep together now.

Fence training is a must before the bears are allowed out to the forest enclosure. This is because all the forest enclosures are surrounded by hot wires in high voltage. Having hot wires prevent the bears from escaping the forest enclosure. And hence, the fence training is a learning process for the bears in order to let them know the hot wire will cause them pain if they touch on it. Fence training could be a long period or short period training because it varies with different bears since they have different personalities.

Dodop and Wawa are fast learners. Even though, they had a bad experiences for the first day of the fence training; both were zapped for few times in the first day, because they climbed the fence. When they panicked, they climbed up higher but they did not know that there still were more hot wires waiting for them. When the bear keeper realized they climbed to the electric fence, the keepers did switch off the fence immediately and waited for them to climb down, just switch on the fence again. After they got zapped, they barked and ran back into the buffer cage. After that, their fence training turned negative. So, we tried to introduce Dodop and Wawa with their friends and let them go to the fence training together. This showed positive results. They entered the training pen again lead by their friends. After few weeks, finally Dodop and Wawa passed their fence training! They took the food by using their claws and without getting zapped by hot wires anymore.

On 17th November, 2016, it was a sunny day. And, it was a good day for Dodop and Wawa going out from the cage. Once the guillotine door opened, they apparently felt curious about the world behind the door. They were sniffing the forest scents and keep looking outside, the new environment! And, Wawa took her very first and brave step to step on the ground. Once she touched on the ground, she could not wait to explore everything inside the forest enclosure. She has since proven that she is the explorer! Just in one afternoon, she explored the whole forest enclosure and she met her friend, Boboi, Kitud and TanTan. They were sharing a coconut as well. After that, they were playing and exploring together, it is so lovely!

Dodop is not like Wawa. She took some time to come out from the cage. She keeps looking outside when Wawa was having fun with others. So, she put her four paws on the ramp and kept looking around to find a good ways to touch on ground. She really does not like to step on the muddy area. She was trying hard and finally she went out to the forest enclosure. And, Wawa was waiting for her to explore the forest enclosure together. Their release to the forest enclosure is the chance for them to learn more from their friends. Not only for Dodop and Wawa but for every bear, the BSBCC has a dream that sun bears can be given back to the wild again. We at the BSBCC really hope to help for dreams to come true.

Make a life by what we give

Text by Thong Wai Keen
Photos by Seng Yen Wah

Dear all,
Hi, I am Thong Wai Keen from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I am a conservation biology student from the University of Malaysia Sabah. The reason I decided to volunteer in Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is that I am convinced that a good center itself will be a great platform for a fresh graduate to learn and apply what I studied back in the University.

To some of us, volunteering may be something that allows us to earn a wonderful lifetime experience with the beautiful animals and spectacular nature. In my experience, I realised volunteering is simply giving and sharing what you have with those who are in need. It can be your time, your money or even your love to the mother nature. For me, volunteering is working on animal welfare with lots of patient and persistence are needed.

I served in two roles as part of my work with the volunteering program. Taking good care of the bears and their welfare is one of our major works. I assisted the staff in cleaning cages, preparing food, feeding, fence training and making bear enrichment. I learned to treat the bears with extra care and respect. It’s amazing to see the bears eat well and growing healthy in a clean environment.

I am helping on fence training for Dodop and Wawa.

I am helping on fence training for Dodop and Wawa.

Time for making bear enrichment!

Time for making bears enrichment!

Time for making bear enrichment!

Time for making bear enrichment!

Time for making bear enrichment!

Time for making bear enrichment!

Time for making bear enrichment!

I was also educating the visitors by conveying the information about sun bears to them on the platform. It’s a natural role for me as I really love to share my knowledge with people and it’s really satisfying to see the visitors so interested in the fun facts about sun bears. After all, making visitors to understand and share with the world that sun bear does not belong to us, the zoo, the center but the forest is what matters the most. I believe the power of education can create a stronger sense of conservation within people to share an awareness to save our wildlife and our planet.

Last but not least, I would like to express my utmost gratitude to Dr. Wong Siew Te, the founder of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), the Sabah Wildlife Department, Land Empowerment Animal and People (LEAP), Sime Darby and all the BSBCC staff for working so hard to save sun bears and dedicated to release all of them back into the wild. Thank you!


Thong Wai Keen