Category Archives: Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD)

After the 30 days

Text and Photos by Seng Yen Wah

Hooray! After 30 days, finally Noah finished quarantine. Noah is a 6 months old male bear cub. He was found in a villager’s orchard in Nabawan, a southern part of Sabah. After she realized Noah is a sun bear, a totally protected species in Sabah, she decided to surrender Noah to the Sabah Wildlife Department. And, this is the story how Noah came to BSBCC.

Opps! You found me!

He grown up so much compared to the day he first arrived! His body weight now is 12.70kg. He has started to eat solid food and his favorite foods are banana, papaya and of course Milk!

I think I got a bit hungry right now!

I think I got a bit hungry right now!

Noah is an energetic and playful bear. He is much enjoying his time playing especially with his bear care keeper. A bear cub is ideally attached to his/her mother until it two to three years old. But, now Noah is alone being just six months old. A mother will never abandon her own child. The only reason for the mother to be with her cubs would that she had been killed most likely by poachers. And make no mistake, poaching is still happening around us. So, please said No to poaching sun bears, instead help us save them. A bear cub needs a mother. A mother raises her child with lots of love and teaches her baby how to survive in the wild. Separation of mother and cub is unforgivable for any reason. The poachers deprive a bear cub almost everything, their mother and their natural habitat.

Why the poacher brought me away from my mother? I miss her!

Why the poacher brought me away from my mother? I miss her!

Our bear care keepers spend their time with Noah and try to give Noah as much love as possible even though they know their love cannot compare with that given by his mother. So now, Noah likes to play fight with bear care keepers. He likes to take a challenge and never gives up. Bear care keepers are taking a huge responsible to take good care of him and teach him the skills that he could survive in the wild such as defense skill. Noah likes water very much. He likes to cool his body down by lying on the ground just like he is ‘swimming’ but on the ground.

This is where I stay and I like it so much!

This is where I stay and I like it so much!

What is this?

What is this?

Just one?

Just one?

No, here got more!

No, here got more!

Let me have a bite on it!

Let me have a bite on it!

I am trying hard here!

I am trying hard here!

I got it!!

I got it!!

I am feeling shy.

I am feeling shy.

In order to let Noah closer to the forest and more space for him to explore, in the morning he can go out to exercise pen. The exercise pen is near to the forest, so Noah can smell the forest. Within the exercise pen, there are different kinds of enrichment ready for him such as hammocks, dry leaves, decayed wood, fire hoses, honey combs and so on. Therefore, Noah likes to spend his time digging the decayed wood, playing with the tree leaves.

Let me show you, my playground!!

Let me show you, my playground!!

My second playground!

My second playground!

This is my new toy!

This is my new toy!

Let me show you how I play with my new toy! Just like this!!

Let me show you how I play with my new toy! Just like this!!

At last, we hope Noah has all the courage and left his unhappy early life behind here at the BSBCC. And, we really hope Noah will back to his real home, the forest – sooner or later.

Meeting Big Brothers and Sisters in the Bear House

Text by Seng Yen Wah

Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah

Wawa is a 11 months old female bear. She was found alone in the Forest Management Unit (FMU) 16, Pinangah, Telupid District on March 11st, 2016. She was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department and sent to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo after that. She arrived at BSBCC on March 18th, 2016. She appeared weak and showed signs of dehydration when she arrived.

Dodop is a one year old female bear. She came to the SBCC on June 2nd, 2016. The Sabah Wildlife Department rescued her from being kept as house pet in a Singgaron village in Ranau district. She had been found with missing all of her milk teeth. But now her permanent teeth have grown into strong and sharp canines.

Both of them have been growing well in quarantine. So, now is the time for them to meet their big brothers and sisters in bear house. They had to undergo a general health check by Dr. Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam, a veterinarian from Sabah Wildlife Department, Wildlife Rescue Unit first. Both of them had been proven healthy. Their new friends could not wait to meet them and gave their greatest welcoming bark to them.

Before a general health check for Dodop and Wawa, Dr.Pakee had to sedate them.

Before a general health check for Dodop and Wawa, Dr.Pakee had to sedate them.

Bear keepers, Azzry and Thye Lim first moved Dodop from the quarantine to bear house and then it was Wawa’s turn.

Bear keepers, Azzry and Thye Lim first moved Dodop from the quarantine to bear house and then it was Wawa’s turn.

Dr. Pakee taking blood samples.

Dr. Pakee taking blood samples.

Thye Lim and Azzry were assisting in the health checks for Dodop and Wawa.

Thye Lim and Azzry were assisting in the health checks for Dodop and Wawa.

Dodop’s chest mark

Dodop’s chest mark

Wawa’s chest mark

Wawa’s chest mark

Before Dodop and Wawa moved to bear house, bear keepers prepared lots of enrichment for them. They not only build a platform and a hammock to provide them a resting place, but they also went to collect dry leaves and decayed wood. This is because Wawa is a playful bear. She likes to spend her time with enrichment. So, bear keepers placed different kinds of enrichment items inside the cages to help them adapt to their new environment. For the first day, Wawa seems alert to the surroundings. But thanks to the enrichment, they had adapted well into the bear house after the second day. They spend their time exploring the environment and the enrichment together.

Within the cage, bear keepers put some dry leaves and ginger leaves for Dodop and Wawa.

Within the cage, bear keepers put some dry leaves and ginger leaves for Dodop and Wawa.

In the other cage a high platform that provided Dodop and Wawa a resting place with edible leaves was placed.

In the other cage a high platform that provided Dodop and Wawa a resting place with edible leaves was placed.

Dodop curious and calm when she encountered her new environment.

Dodop curious and calm when she encountered her new environment.

Wawa first sight and first step in the new environment looking alert.

Wawa first sight and first step in the new environment looking alert.

What should I do with this new place? – Wawa

What should I do with this new place? – Wawa

After few days, Dodop and Wawa adapted in their environment. They played fought inside the cage with each other.

After few days, Dodop and Wawa adapted in their environment. They played fought inside the cage with each other.

Dodop was exploring the high platform with full curiosity.

Dodop was exploring the high platform with full curiosity.

Wawa was enjoying herself on the enrichment construction, that was composed by three tires.

Wawa was enjoying herself on the enrichment construction, that was composed by three tires.

Wawa was having lots of fun with the enrichment.

Wawa was having lots of fun with the enrichment.

The next for them is to integrate with the biggest group, the sub adult group with Sunbearo, Loki, Bintang, Montom, Susie2, Damai, Kala, Boboi, Kitud, Tan Tan and Mary. They are around one to five years old. After the integration, they have to undergo fence training to be able to release them back to the forest. In the forest, they can learn from the others and improve their survival skills as well. At last, we hope they can be back to the wild sooner or later within the rehabilitation program at the BSBCC.

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.

 

 

Specialties of the Sun Bear

Text and Photos by Seng Yen Wah

There are no words that can tell how much I love to walk in the forest in the sun.

There are no words that can tell how much I love to walk in the forest in the sun.

Every bear carries different baggage arriving to BSBCC. But they learn everything necessary from the beginning in the forest enclosure with their friends.

In nature, sun bear cubs stay with their mothers until they two to three years old. When people take cubs away from their mothers, they also take away their chance of learning the survival skills from their mothers as well. If people only keep them as a pet in a small cage, they can never learn what they need to survive in the wild. This is the reason why our integration program becomes so important for the bears.

The best enrichment for a bear is another bear. When they spend their time with their friends, they can learn relevant skills from them. Besides that, socialization can help to reduce bears stereotypical behavior. The forest enclosure provides them with a natural environment and enough space where they can explore with lots of activities, such as foraging, digging, climbing and play fight with each other.

Loki, you see I found a watermelon here and lots of delicious fruits. –Sunbearo

Loki, you see I found a watermelon here and lots of delicious fruits. –Sunbearo

You got one and I got one too.

You got one and I got one too.

There is no one to disturb our nap time.

There is no one to disturb our nap time.

Sun bears are the smallest bears among the bear species. But, they have the longest tongue amongst their peers. Their tongue is about 25cm to 30cm long. They not only use their long tongue to lick the honey out of bee nests, but also eat small insects found in decayed wood, such as ants and termites. By using their long tongue, they can reach the deep inside of bee nests or decayed wood to get themselves lots of yummy treats.

Sun bears have a keen olfactory sense. In order to encourage them to utilize their sense of smell, food is scattered around in the forest enclosures by bear keepers. This will encourage them to do more foraging. In the forest enclosure, they can also forage for the small insects.

Let me use my sense of smell to find the small insects for my yummy snack.

Let me use my sense of smell to find the small insects for my yummy snack.

I think I found a small insect in the dead wood.

I think I found a small insect in the dead wood.

Sun bears have very strong canines and sharp claws. They are the excellent climbers. With the help of their curved shape claws, the can climb up trees reaching to 60m heights. Sun bears are the arboreal animals. They climb up on trees for sunbathing and resting. Besides that, there are using their claws for tearing apart the dead wood to get their important source of protein, the small insects as well.

These leaves smell good!!

These leaves smell good!!

Opps, my belly.

Opps, my belly.

Let me do some exercise.

Let me do some exercise.

Should I climb up higher?

Should I climb up higher?

I think I need to take a rest first.

I think I need to take a rest first.

You see how I’m using my canines to bite on the tree branch.

You see how I’m using my canines to bite on the tree branch.

I got busy foraging here.

I got busy foraging here.

Sun bears are a forest dependent species. The expertise of sun bears in their habitat makes them survive in the wild. However, poaching issues are still threatening their survival even though sun bears are a totally protected species under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment of 1997. Poachers are continuously hunting them illegally for consumption, medicine or decorative purposes. Please save the sun bears. They deserve to stay in the wild free and happy. Thank you!

Please save the sun bears.

Please save the sun bears.

Unforgetful Memories with Sun Bears

Text by Fetysella Olyndra Juli

Photo by Chiew Lin May

 

            My name is Fetysella Olyndra Juli, I’m 22 years old and I am originally from Sabah, Malaysia. I am actually a practical student from Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, studying Biological Sciences and this year I am doing my internship at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC).

            At first, BSBCC was my first choice when applying for internship place. Therefore, I was very delighted when I received an email, staying that there will be phone call interview for placement at BSBCC. I was introduced to BSBCC by my close senior from same university. She recommended this place because BSBCC do welcome students to do their internship here. This encourages me to go to BSBCC. Besides that, I never know that there is a rehabilitation centre in Malaysia for sun bears, which located in Sepilok, Sabah. By applying here, this will allow me to get to know more about the least known species in Malaysia, which is sun bears.

            During my first day at Bear House in BSBCC, I was given an induction by co-supervisor Chiew Lin May about the rules and regulations, and what kind of work I will be doing at Bear House as well as the enrichments project. I was also assigned with one of the bear keeper, Roger, as my buddy and was greeted by the Bear House staffs, which they are very friendly and kind enough to show me around and teach me to do various kinds of activities. Those who are working at Bear House will be following the daily scheduled prepared by the staff. There are duties such as food preparation in kitchen, feeding session, Bear House cage cleaning and in afternoon, sometimes we will be working on enrichments, collecting banana leaves and bamboo, searching for dried leaves and termites nest and much more.

Roger explaining about my first enrichment, hanging bamboo feeder.

Roger explaining about my first enrichment, hanging bamboo feeder.

Collecting and trying to figure out which bamboo parts need to cut from nearby place at Sepilok.

Collecting and trying to figure out which bamboo parts need to cut from nearby place at Sepilok.

We are helping the Bear House staff collecting bamboo at Sepilok.

We are helping the Bear House staff collecting bamboo at Sepilok.

            During my first week in Bear House, it is very tiring doing the works at Bear House because it required lots of stamina and energy, but after few weeks, I kind a used to the duties, especially when cleaning the bear cages. In afternoon, collecting bamboo was the hardest part for me because it requires me to use a lot of stamina and strength to carry the bamboo from another place to Bear House. However, it was a lot of fun because this is new to me and being able to do this has taught me about team work.

We are preparing to carry the bamboo back to Bear House for enrichment making.

We are preparing to carry the bamboo back to Bear House for enrichment making.

            I got know most of the bears based on their face expressions and distinctive physical body. However, I was having quite a hard time recognizing the juveniles bear due to their looks was almost the same to me and by the way, my favorite bear is Bermuda. Bermuda is the dominant male bear and even though he known to be vicious by the staffs, his silly appearance captures my attention despite of his nature. Some of the bear have their own personalities which make it possible and easier for me to create enrichment for specific bear.

            During my internship here, I also assists Lin May doing Integration for Along, Simone and Kudat as well as Fence Training for both Along and Simone. Integration is important to encourage the bears to develop positive behavior when interact with others, as well as learning skills from each other in preparation to go out to forest enclosure together. During my last week of internship, I have the opportunity to joined my supervisor, Thye Lim attending a community talk at Pitas, entitled ‘Bengkel Pengurusan Sumber Secara Lestari Berasaskan Komuniti’. Through this talk, I gained a lot of information in which how they are related with the conservation issues.

My supervisor, Thye Lim getting ready to give his presentation about Sun Bears.

My supervisor, Thye Lim getting ready to give his presentation about Sun Bears.

                For me 84 days of internship days at BSBCC is a very short period. I’m very grateful to be part of the team in helping the staffs to take care the sun bears. I wish to learn more about the bears and the company itself. Last but not least, I would like to wish good luck to Mr Wong Siew Te and the Bear Care Team for their continuous effort in rehabilitating sun bears. Thank you so much again for all the memories and opportunities. May God bless you guys always.

Cheers,
Fetysella Olyndra Juli

A Future Trio (Simone, Along and Kudat)

Text by Fetysella Olyndra Juli
Photos by Chiew Lin May

Everyone of these three bears has their own history, especially Simone and Along, both of them were kept in a Mini Zoo Hot Springs in Tawau while Kudat was kept on display in a private mini zoo with another female sun bear named Panda. Kudat was formerly named after the district of Kudat even though he originally is from Tawau. Along is a 6 year old male bear, Simone is a 8 year old female bear, and Kudat is 7 years old adult male sun bear. Kudat, Simone and Along were then surrendered by the Sabah Wildlife Department to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC).

Upon arrival at the BSBCC, the three bears showed their different personalities, where Along is considered to be more energetic and hyperactive, Simone is calm while, Kudat on the other side can sometimes be aggressive towards other bears, as has happened in the past when integrated with another female sun bear Panda. But Kudat is also playful even though he plays rough. Since all three bears are kept in the same row of cages, at first, we integrated Along and Simone. Along becomes somewhat hyperactive when meeting with Simone and at times he will start to pace back and forth at a  fast rate when Simone is in the same room.

Along tries to approach Simone, but Simone is aware of Along behavior

During the integration process interactions between Along and Simone became more and more aggressive, so the decision was made, to slow down the integration intervals. After possible times of no aggression Simone tries to play with Along, which will result in likelihood of Along developing aggressiveness towards Simone due to her manor of play. Sometimes Simone will be the aggressor and we realized that, as Along pacing can not be interrupted as long as Simone is in the same cage. The occurrence of any kind of aggression therefore is unpredictable.

“Hey, look at my canine”-Along “Here’s mine RAWWR”-Simone

“This is how I play” *bite*-Simone “Hey you. It’s too rough”-Along

Then, we decided to integrate Simone with Kudat. The first results of the integration process were positive, both bears played together, even though Kudat play very known to be rough. The first time Kudat met Simone, he started to sniff Simone first especially her sex organs. Realizing that Simone is a female sun bear, Kudat became excited and begin to play with her. We have been having integration sessions for a few days and so far no aggression occurred.

Kudat meet Simone for the first time “Hmm? Hey there, who are you?”-Kudat “OH!!! There’s another bear here?”-Simone

Then, we proceeded on to our next mission, which was the integration of Kudat and Along. First we were quite concerned, because both are male sun bears, and aggressive behavior is more likely to happen. Surprisingly, both Along and Kudat got along well, Kudat approached Along and sniffed him out first. Then, Kudat try to play with Along. Along struggled at first a bit, because of Kudat rough play. However, after some time, Along got used to it. After a few days of integration sessions between Along and Kudat, no aggression occurred.

Along and Kudat meet for the first time. “Hey there buddy. Let’s play” *show canine*-Kudat

Along tries to show Kudat that he also can play rough. “You’re a tough cookie”-Kudat

Along is playing by pushing Kudat down

Now, our final task is to introduce Simone into the group. First, we placed Along and Kudat in the same cage. Then, we opened Simones cage to get access to the males. At first, when Simone entered the cage (where Along and Kudat were playing), she did not pay attention, she just passed by. But we realized that even with Simone present, Along did not start to pace and continued to play with Kudat. Once he stop playing with Kudat, Along showed positive results towards both Simone and Kudat. This process continued for quite some time and there was aggression noticed. It seems that the presence of Kudat affects the situation between Along and Simone, but when we fed the bears coconuts during their integration session, Simone showed to be the dominant in the group. This may be due to Simone being the oldest in the group. In the end, we hope that, these three bears can continue to integrate well and can go out to forest enclosure together in the future.

 

Lawa is Home At Last : Second Rehabilitated Sun Bear Returns to the Wild in Sabah

Text by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Photos by Tee Thye Lim & Chiew Lin May

One day in May 2008, a one year old female sun bear cub came from Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo named Lawa to Sepilok. She had a beautiful face which would catch your eye. But, how does such a gorgeous bear end up at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre? Normally, cubs stay with their mothers until they are two to three years old. However, in Lawa’s case, she was separated cruelly by killing the mother in order to get a cute sun bear cub, kept illegal as pet or sold on the illegal wildlife pet trade. Sun bear populations are estimated to have declined over 30% in the last three decades, leading for those bears being in danger of imminent extinction in the wild very real. Now, sun bears have been stated as totally protected species under Sabah Wildlife Enactment in 1997. People who keep them illegally and hunting them, will be fined up to RM50,000 and can be send to jail for 5 years, or both.

Lawa lost her mother when she was still a cub. She had no chance to learn the natural survival skills from her mother. The BSBCC provided her with a second chance, reintroducing her to natural forest enclosures.  Lawa has grown into a smart, agile and independent bear. She is now nine years old, weighs 40.5 kg. She has spend most of her days eagerly exploring up in the trees. She can make beautiful tree nests by using liana and tree branches. Nest building is one of the important but rare survival skills of a wild bear. After six years going through rehabilitation at the BSBCC there is now a happy ending for Lawa as she has acquired many vital survival skills and she is ready to return to her real forest home.

Release candidates are chosen based on their age and survival skills. They have to be fit in four conditions, they need to know how to forage, climb, nest building and lastly, the most important condition is they need to not attach to human and know how to avoid humans, in order to be at low risk of being killed by poachers or turn into a nuisance bear.

Health check starts with Lawa being put on anesthesia by Dr Rosa Sipangkui, Sabah Wildlife Department veterinarian.

On 24th July 2016, the BSBCC is preparing the final stage for the release of Lawa to a core area of Tabin Wildlife Reserve. Located in the Lahad Datu, Sabah encompasses 120500 hectares of pristine rainforest. Before the big day, the bear team again needed to find Lawa in Pen G at 4 pm. Dr. Rosa Sipangkui, a veterinarian from the Sabah Wildlife Department, sedated Lawa. Once sedated, Lawa was moved from Pen G to bear house in order to undergo a full medical examination to ensure she is in good health before her release. Besides that, Wong Siew Te, BSBCC Founder and CEO made sure that Lawa’s satellite collar is functioning and well fitted on her. Finally, Lawa was moved into the translocation cage. She was then placed at the bear house area for a night. Our bear care keepers spent the night monitoring Lawa. She might not have known it, but after today her life will be totally different!

Dr. Rosa and bear team enter the forest enclosure to prepare dart Lawa.

After sedation, Lawa is carried out of from her forest enclosure for a medical check up.

First part of the process is the weighing Lawa.

Dr. Rosa, Wong Siew Te and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Lawa is fully ready for the reintroduction.

Teeth and mouth are checked.

Dr. Rosa, Wong Siew Te and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Lawa is fully ready for the reintroduction.

Dr. Rosa, Wong Siew Te and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Lawa is fully ready for the reintroduction.

Dr. Rosa, Wong Siew Te and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Lawa is fully ready for the reintroduction.

Dr. Rosa, Wong Siew Te and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Lawa is fully ready for the reintroduction.

Dr. Rosa, Wong Siew Te and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Lawa is fully ready for the reintroduction.

When all the data has been collected and recorded, Lawa is placed into a translocation cage.

When all the data has been collected and recorded, Lawa is placed into a translocation cage.

It is time to go! On 25th July 2016, when it was still dark, the bear release team was getting ready to depart from Sandakan to Tabin Wildlife Reserves on two trucks, taking Lawa to her second chance in the wild. The release team started in full force for the release of second sun bear back into the wild.

Lawa is loaded on a truck for the ride to a new home in the wild.

The team arrived at Tabin Wildlife Reserve Headquarter at 8.15 am. The morning sun and clear sky reminded us to start moving.

When arrive the entrance of Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Lawa peeks out!!

Sabah Air Aviation Sdn. Bhd Bell 206 Jetranger landed at Tabin Wildlife Reserve Headquarter.

This year our release team will be using helicopter model Sabah Air Aviation Sdn Bhd (Bell 206 B3) Jetranger Underslung to reach our final destination.

Discussion on Lawa release operation.

We made the final release preparation and inspections to ensure the safety. The operation was split into two difference trips. The first trips, the team entered the mud volcano of Tabin forest to evaluate and identify the suitable release site.

Aerial View of Tabin KM-22 Mud Volcano.

They checked the wrapping net thoroughly.  After final checks on Lawa by Dr. Rosa and Wong Siew Te, the team took the transportation cage and loaded it into the wrapping net. The process went smooth.

At 10.15 am, Wong Siew Te (BSBCC CEO & Founder) and Lawa was finally lifted up into the blue sky, heading to Tabin mud volcano. At 10.35 am, Bell 206 Jetranger that carrying Lawa landed safely on the Tabin mud volcano.

The weather cleared as it felt the joy of welcoming Lawa to her true home in the Tabin forest

The Bell 206 Jetranger Helicopter carrying Lawa in her translocation cage landed safely on the Tabin mud volcano.

The arrival of Lawa was greeted by the sound of birds in Tabin Widlife Reserve. The sights, sounds and smells of Tabin Wildlife Reserve will be very new for Lawa. Immediately Lawa was taken to the release side by BSBCC team. Lawa looked well rested, happy and ready. She realized there were so many higher trees in pristine rainforest around her. She will soon free and ready to live a new life as a true wild sun bear!

Could not wait to be free in the forest!

The experience Lawa has gathered during six years at the rehabilitation center will help her explore her true home in the core area of Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

The team is carrying the translocation cage into the release site inside the forest.

The team is carrying the translocation cage into the release site inside the forest.

The team is carrying the translocation cage into the release site inside the forest.

Wong Siew Te is feeding Lawa with honey water.

After everything was set up, the moment to open the door and let Lawa take a deep breath with the sense of freedom arrived. Once the translocation cage was opened at 11.10 am , Lawa run out of the cage quickly. She was very fast, directly heading into the deep forest! We hope the best for her now! She will be starting to explore, forage and adjust to her new habitat. It was an emotional moment for all of us watching her walk away from the transportation cage and – off course – us. One moment we could still see her and at the blink of an eye, she disappeared into the tall trees. She finally home, in the forest. Enjoy your freedom Lawa! May you have a long and happy life there! Our bear care team will carefully monitor her progress via her satellite collar.

Sun bears are forest animals. They are playing important roles in the forest. They are forest gardeners. After they consume fruits, they travel along and disperse the seeds in the forest. They carry the seeds away from the mother tree, so that the seed has a higher survival rate. Next, they are forest engineers. Sun bears are excellent climber. One of the reasons that they climb up a tree is because they want to harvest the honey from bee hives. They will use their strong canine and sharp claws to tear off the tree trunk and get the honey inside. After that, it will create a cavity that provides a resting place to other animals like hornbills and flying squirrel. Besides that, they also are forest doctors. Termites are small insects which eventually cause a tree to get sick or die. This is because some termite species will build their nest inside the trees. But, sun bears eat termites. So, sun bears can help to control the population of termites and keep the forest healthy. Last but not least, they are forest farmers, because they are good diggers. They do a lot of digging which can actually help to mix up poor soil and rich soil to enhance the nutrient cycle in the forest. And, that is why we call them “the keystone species”.  Lawa is now been released in the forest. She is carrying out a very important task. This is what she needs, the forest and the freedom.

Lawa is ready to embark on a new journey: living in the wild.

We would like to take this opportunity to say a huge Thank Yous to the most amazing partner, the Sabah Wildlife Department, Dr.Rosa Sipangkui, the Sabah Forestry Department, LEAP, the Tabin Rangers, the BSBCC team, our volunteers and Brad Josephs who help fundraise and Kynite Filming Crews who helped and supported us generously with Lawa’s release. Thanks to the years of hard work spent rehabilitating Lawa, she will have the opportunity to roam free in the wild, back where she belongs. Reintroduction programs for sun bears are very costly. We need your support to protect this magnificent species from extinction. Help us release more sun bear back to wild by donating at www.bsbcc.org.my. You can make a difference in the future survival of sun bears!

 

Just the Way It Should be For a Sun Bear Cub

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

“Growling, and bawling loudly” every day from one of the female sun bear cub, Dodop. Sun bear cubs will begin bawling long, and loud when frightened or separated from their mothers. Cubs also scream in distress like human babies. This has happened to Dodop because she was treated like a pet, kept in a house and lost her four permanent canines. She has absolutely no fear of humans and has loss of wild instinct. Usually mother and sun bear cubs will stay together in the wild for two to three years, as they should be. It is likely that Wawa and Dodop’s mothers were killed by poachers. Their mother defends them, warms them, nurses them and teaches them survival skills. Sun bear cubs require around the clock care. This is undoubtedly why Dodop looks so sad and depressed when her care taker is not around.

So our Bear Care unitmade the decision that Dodop and Wawa need to be introduced to have their first ever bear friend. Finally the big day arrived on 25th June 2016, where we integrated Dodop with Wawa. Dodop is 11 months old and Wawa is 7 months old. She is bigger than Wawa. On that day, Dodop was transferred to an adjacent den. It was a new environment for Dodop at the beginning but she quickly adapted to it.

As soon as Wawa saw Dodop, she kept barking in a deep voice at Dodop for the first 15 minutes. Dodop was shocked and barked back. But Wawa being the curious one went into the den where Dodop was located, and tried to approach, and sniff her. Wawa wrestled her and was teaching Dodop to fight back by showing small, strong canines and small, sharp claws! The cubs wrestled and pawed non-stop with one another for about 30 minutes before one of them gave up for a rest.

Wawa was very curious towards Dodop and barked on her during their first meeting.

This is a special day for Dodop and Wawa. This could be their first contact with another sun bear after a very long time.

They still definitely curious!

This friend as something to say…

Wawa already start her curiosity and playfulness.

 

Wawa and Dodop share the same large dens. Wawa is willing to let Dodop explore the world but only on her terms! They spend a lot of time climbing enrichment structures, wresting each other, chasing, sharing the same enrichment and taking naps inside the hammock or basket. They have developed and acquired new survival skills as wild bears. They have big appetites! They keep putting on weight and eating a variety of food, including milk, sweet corn, banana, papaya, honey dew, watermelon and honey. Both of them tend to get more fruits on themselves than in their mouth!  Wawa now weighs 16.10kg and Dodop weighs 20.90 kg. Wawa is the more outgoing of the two cubs. Dodop’s condition is continuing to improve and she has becomea more confident little cub after meeting her new friend, Wawa.

Wawa is the kind of bear who is up for anything…

Dodop has a distinct personality and habits that are unique to her. She enjoys the love and attention she receives.

They spend a great deal of their time playing and wrestling together.

They spend a great deal of their time playing and wrestling together.

They spend a great deal of their time playing and wrestling together.

A great new playmate!! Dodop (left) is pawing Wawa (right).

Wawa show to Dodop that she has strength too!

Wawa show to Dodop that she has strength too!

All happily grasped between grateful paws.

PLAYTIME!!

Bear cub keepers give the cubs various enrichment items – these could be dead logs, puzzle feeders, the Aussie dog ball, dry leaves, green leaves,a fire hose pocket filled with peanut butter and many others. Both of them are extremely playful and love to investigate the new toys together. They socialize with each other and explore their surroundings.

Wawa shows more dominance compared to Dodop. Although being the youngest and smallest, she never feels threatened by Dodop. For the rest of the weeks, they integrated well and cared for each other better. No serious aggression was noted. They spend more time learning how to be in a beautiful friendship, and to be happy, healthy, agile sun bears after all that they have been through. For them, life is full of happiness and filled with new things to explore which is just the way it should be for a sun bear cub.

Even Wawa was smaller than Dodop. Wawa is total boss.

They love to mock wrestle with each other.

They are full of enthusiasm who enjoys making the maximum use of enrichments in the dens.

They are full of enthusiasm who enjoys making the maximum use of enrichments in the dens.

They are full of enthusiasm who enjoys making the maximum use of enrichments in the dens.

They are full of enthusiasm who enjoys making the maximum use of enrichments in the dens.

They are full of enthusiasm who enjoys making the maximum use of enrichments in the dens.

They are full of enthusiasm who enjoys making the maximum use of enrichments in the dens.

Sometimes they play, sometimes they find a tasty snack, and sometimes they nap far above the ground.

So much happier with their pain and trauma removed.

They are many more sun bears suffering due to habitat loss, hunting and illegal wildlife trade. The number of sun bears have fallen by at least 30% over the past 30 years. We need to highlight ending wildlife trafficking which includes ending demand, strengthening wildlife laws and enforcement. We need to stand up and do our part!

A Big Day for Dodop

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

Dodop was rescued from Singgaron village, Ranau district, Sabah. She was kept as a pet in a small cage. She arrived at BSBCC on 2nd June, 2016.

On June 2nd, 2016, Dr. Rosa Sipangui, a veterinarian from the Sabah Wildlife Department and the BSBCC team performed a general health check. Dr. Rosa sedated Dodop and made a full assessment of her health status. This is crucial for sun bears as it puts us in a position to immediately assess the correct diet and possible medical treatment for them. During the health check it was confirmed that Dodop is missing her all of her four permanent canines. The blood test results on the other side have shown, that she is healthy. Today, Dodop weighs 19.6 kg. She has gained a lot of weight in just one month!

Dodop finished her quarantine on 2 July 2016. Dodop settled in well. She has grown into a beautiful young female and also a fussy bear. That is the problem with cubs that have been kept in captivity with close human contact for long periods, which ends in the bears requiring a great need of comfort. People who kept her as pet completely did not know the basic needs of a sun bear. They fed her the wrong diet and made the sun bear be stressed, at times depressed with a poor physical condition and malnutritioned.

Dodop has been introduced to new large dens. The moment she was release into the large den, she barked but then without hesitation, Dodop ran in, looked around, climbing over everything but she still needed to find her surrogate mother to suckle for comfort. During the day she is in big dens with a nice view over the playground. So that she can get used to her new surroundings, where she is taught to use the climbing structures and how to forage for food. We are for example now hiding hid food in her dens so that Dodop could practice foraging skills. In the wild sun bear cubs would be with their mother until they are about three years old.  The cubs learn all the necessary behavior and survival skills that they need.

We will be anxious to see how she develops her bear skills. We hope for Dodop to become wilder, which is what we are always looking for in a rehabilitation process. In the coming weeks, Dodop will be introduced to another sun bear cub and taken out for walks to the adjacent forest reserve. Here she will be learn and develop her survival skills for the wild. Stay tuned with BSBCC to have follow ups on Dodop out to the forest story!

Here are photos of Dodop introduction to larger dens.

Thank You BSBCC

Text and Photos by Christine Anne

My name is Christine Anne and I am a Lead Zoo Keeper at Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ), Seattle, Washington, USA.  I have worked at WPZ for three years but have been a zoo keeper for 14 years.  At WPZ I work with a variety of species but I specialize in large carnivores and work with African lions, Malayan tigers, and sloth bears to name a few.  I have worked with bears for many years and first met Wong, founder of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center (BSBCC), in 2009 when he presented his research on sun bears at the Advancing Bear Care Conference in San Francisco, California.  I had the opportunity again to hear Wong speak at the Advancing Bear Care Conference in Banff Canada in 2011, where he spoke about BSBCC and its progress and future.  Since first hearing of BSBCC it has been a personal and professional goal of mine travel to Borneo and volunteer.

Through my work with the Malayan tigers at WPZ, the zoo supported me in an opportunity to accompany other zoo keepers from North America to peninsular Malaysia.  We visited the Taman Negara to participate in a citizen conservation program called the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers.   We participated in anti-poaching patrols and experience the forest that presents so many challenges to tiger researchers.  Through the support of the Puget Sound Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers, I was able to include BSBCC in my travel plans.

Upon first arriving at BSBCC I was warmly welcomed by Wong and his staff.  One of the first things I noticed about the conservation center was the amazing signage that they use to help educate visitors about sun bears.  These signs are placed along the path that leads to the viewing platforms for the forest enclosures where the bears live.  These platforms give a great opportunity for guests to see the bears in their natural forest habitat.  As a zoo keeper I notice things that a regular guest may not notice.  Things like the nice high railings on the platforms to keep guests from leaning over the enclosures, the perimeter of the enclosures and how they are situated around the holding facilities, how the staff gains access for feeding and checking fences, and the many natural behaviors being displayed by the bears.

Volunteering
The volunteer orientation was very familiar, since the same rules apply in my daily job.  Things like don’t enter an area that has a bear in it, don’t touch the bears, don’t do anything that makes you uncomfortable or you are unsure of.  Working with animals like bears is a serious business no matter what side of the world you are on.  Although I am a zoo keeper, I also understand that this is not WPZ, these bears are not my normal charges, and it is a privilege to simply be in the presence of these amazing animals that deserve our respect and care.  Care of an animal has many forms, from cleaning holding dens, to grounds work, to the office, and guest services.  As a volunteer I had two assignments:  the bear kitchen, and enrichment making.

Kitchen
The kitchen is the lifeline of the whole animal care program, preparing food that provides the very nutrition that all 41 bears at BSBCC rely on for survival.  Through food preparation I can honestly say that I touched every bear at BSBCC through their food.  It is constant work in the kitchen preparing food for the 4 meals each bear gets each day.  For 41 bears, that’s 164 meals prepared, each day.  The base diet is rice porridge, with each bear getting an individualized amount in the morning and again in the evening.  When you are done portioning out porridge, you make a new batch, there is constantly something cooking in the kitchen, with two large pots of porridge made everyday.  For the other feedings, the bears get keepers choice of fruits and vegetables, with bananas a main staple every day.  I learned of a new fruit called snake skin fruit.  The skin of this fruit really does look like snake skin, and when peeled it has cloves inside similar to garlic but it has the texture of an apple and, to me, tasted almost like mild pineapple.

When we were not preparing food, we were cleaning the kitchen and doing dishes.  I had looked forward to the whole experience for so many years that I was so happy to do something so simple, yet so helpful to the overall operations.  I also had the opportunity to feed some of the bears, either sliding the porridge to them in the bear holding areas, or helping with the scatter feeds for the outdoor forest enclosures.  Both experiences allowed me to see the bears up close and observe more of their behaviors.  I am very interested in animal behavior, so opportunities to observe behavior are always special.

Enrichment
I was also assigned to help make enrichment for the bears with the keepers.  We mainly focused on bamboo enrichment and we went out to collect the bamboo, and worked on cutting it up and building different enrichment items for the bears to receive inside the holding areas.  Bamboo is great because it can be made into all kinds of things, but sun bears are very destructive so we had to balance complexity of the enrichment item with the value to the animal.  We made a variety of puzzle feeders and used different enrichment food items inside like peanut butter and honey.  We used leaves from forage plants to fill the feeders as well.  I was able to observe the bears with the enrichment items that gave the bears opportunities to problem solve and manipulate the items.  One bear in particular received one of the more challenging items and spent about 10 minutes investigating it, ripping it apart and eating the peanut butter off of the ginger leaves and out from the bamboo.  He was very vocal the whole time he was interacting with the item, which may indicate that he was slightly irritated at the complexity of it, but he took the time to fully destroy the whole thing and enjoy all that it had to offer.  It is always nice to watch the animals interact with something that you have made for them.


The opportunity to be part of the BSBCC program and contribute in whatever way I was needed was motivating and inspiring.  Wong’s enthusiasm for his work and the development of a word class conservation center is obvious and contagious, and is the driving force behind its continued success and future development.  It was an AMAZING experience with amazing staff and animals, one that forever stamps a sun bear paw print on my heart as I journey on.