Caged, pet sun bears have a sad life. From the day they were captured and kept as pet, most of them will NEVER touch the soil, climb the trees, and dig the ground again.
Many of our rescued sun bears also have the same fate. However, with our state of the art forest enclosure, the rescued sun bears at BSBCC have the chance to enjoy the forest.
Bermuda, a 10 year old male sun bear at BSBCC, was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on October 10, 2002. He live on a concrete floor since he was captured from the wild as a little sun bear cub. For him, the ground is always a smooth layer of concrete floor, until today.
Bermuda finally passed his electric fence training lately. We let him out to his forest enclosure for the first time on Valentine Day Feb 14th. We put food, and honey (all time favorite food for bears) on the ramp to encourage/lure him out of his den. What he did that entire day was pocked his head out to reach the food and honey on the ramp without stepping a foot on the ramp.
This is a very pathetic story for all caged sun bears. To all of them, confined and locked up in a small cage is life. They do not know the world beyond the cage. Rain, soil, trees, leaf litters and other natural vegetations and natural elements in the forest all are something that they never come in contact. The only time when they walked on the forest floor was during the first few weeks or months of their life, until their mothers were killed and they were captured by poachers. To them, forest is an alien nation, fills with unknown bugs and unknown noise; the place that is so strange, unsecure and uncertain. All of our adult bears decided to stay inside the den and not wondering into the forest enclosure when we released them out to the forest enclosure for the first time. It sometime took them weeks if not months to wonder out from their den. Only the young once would go out immediately and enjoy the forest without second thoughts.
Bermuda’s reaction when we let him out to the forest enclosure was not exception on Valentine Day. Over the next week or so he still kept himself safe under the protection of his den although the door to forest enclosure was staying open all day long. The food that we left on the ramp and the forest floor has attracted troops of forest bandits – pig-tailed macaques and long-tailed macaques, to enjoy their free meals. Bermuda, sometime I questioned his “male-hood,” just stood in his den and watched his food being stolen away by these intelligent primates.
This afternoon as I was writing another blog on Fulung and Mary, Marianne our volunteer from UK rushed into the office, “Bermuda is out to his forest enclosure!” Wai Pak and I grasped our cameras and went down to witness this historic moment. This is the moment where he step foot on the forest floor for the first time in more than 10 years and we do not want to miss that! Although he did not wonder off far from the guillotine door of his den, we can tell from his fast pacing behavior that he was nerves and wanted to go back. Wai Pak then scattered some bread in the enclosure to encourage him foraging and exploring a bit more. He just ate the bread that was close to him without much exploration. After tens of minutes, he finally found his way back to his den and did not come out to explore again.
That was a good start for a captive sun bear willing to wonder off his den on the 7th day. Gutuk, another old male bear still decided to confine himself in his den although the door to the forest enclosure has been open for the past 3 months. I am sure Bermuda soon will gain more confidence to explore the forest enclosure. What he need is time and encouragement. In BSBCC, we will give him both!