Category Archives: sun bear in the wild

Damai, Sun Bear Cub Diary – Sun Bear Life

Text  by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Dawn Serene Tukalan, Gloria Ganang, Tee Thye Lim and Chiew Lin May

When Damai was 4 months old, Wong and Gloria was walking Damai out to the forest.

Last year 5th November, a tiny female sun bear cub named Damai, meaning “peace” in Malay, was brought to the BSBCC. She was rescued from a residential area in Damai, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. When we first received Damai, she only weighed 5kg and was about 4 months old. She has been in the BSBCC now for an entire year, and just turned 16 months old. Over the past year she has grown extremely fast.

When Damai turned five months old we began taking her out into the forest for walks. She was extremely curious about her new forest environment, and began to explore. Despite the fact that she has very small paws, she has used her keen sense of smell, and other thriving abilities, to explore the forest as a wild sun bear.

Last 5th November, 2012 a tiny female sun bear cub named Damai, meaning “peace” in Malay, was brought to the BSBCC. She was rescued from a residential area in Damai, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. When we first received Damai, she only weighed 5kg and was about 4 months old. She has been in the BSBCC now for an entire year, and just turned 16 months old. Over the past year she has grown extremely fast.

When Damai turned five months old we began taking her out into the forest for walks. She was extremely curious about her new forest environment, and began to explore. Despite the fact that she has very small paws, she has used her keen sense of smell, and other thriving abilities, to explore the forest as a wild sun bear.

She roams around the forest foraging for food including termites, beetles, larva, and other forest invertebrates. When she is not searching the forest floor for food you can find her high up in the trees sitting, resting, or escaping the danger of predators below.

On July 30, 2013 Damai surprised us all when she built a nest in her favourite tree! The surprising part was that she built the nest without ever being taught by a mother bear. I felt very fortunate that I had the opportunity to watch how sun bears build their nests in trees.

Day after day, Damai demonstrated good progress in building her strength and developing the skills that she would need to survive in the wild. Every time we walked her in the forest we could tell she was becoming braver, more independent, and was enjoying the forest more and more.

When Damai reached one year old we stopped walking her out into the forest due to potential safety hazards. However, we continued to walk her through the rehabilitation process which included introduction to natural foods, such as termites, tractor millipedes, pile millipedes, and local fruits. We also introduced her to activities that simulated natural behaviors such as digging, foraging, and climbing. She has definitely not forgotten her skills from the wild! Damai is very sensitive to new people though, and remains very cautious of unfamiliar people.

Damai is a lovely sun bear cub and a clever little girl. She is remaining active, eating fruits and vegetables, and enjoying her daily playtime with the enrichment provided by our bear staffs. She’s actually enjoying eating a bit too much, and is becoming a bit tubby.

Here are couples of photos shows Damai digging, climbing tree, playing, sleeping at the Kabili- Sepilok Forest Reserve.

Little Damai learned how to forage in search of termites.

Damai was so curious about the new smells and sounds in the forest the first time she went exploring.

Since little, her instinct of climbing and exploring in the forest is strong.

Damai was hold a termite mound. This is her favorite protein food!

Damai climbing height of tree for taking a nap.

Damai’s stature is suited for her lifestyle and allows her to climbing through the trees.

Yay~!! She was enjoy roaming in the forest with the tall trees!

Damai’s sense of smell is quite profound and she has very long claws that she uses to rip open trees for her favorite meal.

This is a very good improve that she is using her strong canines to tear the tree bark.

Sun bear is one of these mysterious bears of the jungle!

This is what Damai react when encounter dangerous from predators.

Damai was learned climbing skills on large trees and she want to get a better view from the tree.

When walked her in forest, she likes to spend more time on tree.

Damai is having a nice and relaxing nap in forest.

Tree Hugging Bear

Using her keen sense of smell, Damai is very focused on digging in search for invertebrates.

Tired after explore in forest.

She also likes to spend each day foraging in forest for wild sun bear food such as termites, ants, millipedes, beetles and other invertebrates.

Little Damai learned how to cross the river.

Using her small tiny paw, sometimes she will splash and play with the water.

It is amazing that Little Damai really become brave and independent sun bear. She also grow very rapidly.

On 30 July 2013, Damai surprisingly make herself a tree nest high above the ground using leaves and branches.

Damai was happily enjoying the sun and exploring her world.

We may never know the fate of her mother, or Damai’s mysterious true story, but we are glad she is now under our care. We will keep on observing Damai, both physically and behaviorally, with hopes that one day she can be released back where she belongs.

…and then there were 10!

Text by Shelly Smith
Photos by Chiew Lin May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes they will just rest at forest floor.

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

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

-Natalie, 3 years old sub adult female

– Rungus, 5 years old adult female

– Julaini, 5 years old adult male

– Ah Lun, 5 years old adult female

– Ah Bui, 3 years old sub-adult female

– Debbie, 2 years old sub-adult female

-Mary, 2 years old sub-adult female

-Koko, 2 years old sub-adult female

-Fulung, 2 years old sub-adult male

-Bongkud, 2 years old sub-adult female

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

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

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

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

Together have a nap in the forest.

Play fight in the forest.

Koko get a nice posture of sleeping.

Climbing tree and grooming together.

Compete in climbing tree together.

Debbie is alert and ready to forage for her food.

Natalie is enjoy roaming and climbing trees.

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

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

Ah Bui climbs a tree for a better look.

Enjoying a wrestling match!!

Debbie is very active , independent and playful sun bear.

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

Koko is using the dead log to scratch her body.

It seem like Julaini was enjoyed in the forest.

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

Fulung is very careful and keeps its distance.

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

“Let me have a rest first! “

Wonder what is Mary thinking about?

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

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

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

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

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

Damai, Sun Bear Cub Diary – Explore in Forest Part VIIII

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

“Bears keep me humble. They help me to keep the world in perspective and to understand where I fit in the spectrum of life. We need to preserve the wilderness and its monarchs for ourselves, and for the dreams of children. We should fight for these things as if our life depended upon it, because it does.”
– Wayne Lynch (“Bears: Monarchs of Northern Wilderness”, 1993)

Here are the photos of female sun bear cub, Damai. She is now 14 months old.  She lives in the rainforest of the island of Borneo, where also home to clouded leopards, orang utans, elephants and rhinos. The bad news is that the main threats to sun bears are habitat loss and followed by hunting for bear parts. Adult females are killed and their infants sold in illegal wildlife pet trade.  Action is needed to increase and protect their habitat and species from major threats!!

Find out what BSBCC is doing to help create a future for sun bears. Please help us spread the word and create awareness for sun bears!


Special Moments with Wan-Wan and Mamatai in the BSBCC Forest Enclosure Part I

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

On August 14, 2013 Wan-Wan, a seven year old female sun bear and Mamatai, an eleven year old female sun bear were released into the forest enclosure. The two bears are very different in appearance; Wan-Wan has a light pinkish nose and Mamatai has short legs and a stocky build. The two bears arrived at the BSBCC together from the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo, and have become quite the pair.


First steps to freedom!

Wan-Wan who known as “Light Pinkish Nose” was took a peek though door.

Mamatai (in Dusun language) mean aggressive attitude and she also known as “The Fatty”.

Wan-Wan try to get back in bear house.

For the first time in their lives, Mamatai and Wan-Wan have a safe place where they can live a peaceful life in a natural habitat. In the forest enclosure they can roam around, dig in the soil, rest in the tall trees, and truly enjoy the natural forest.

Once the door was opened, they were very eager to get out into the forest enclosure, but are carefully observing their new home; studying unknown scents, sounds, and movements around them.

Both of the sun bears is starting to learn what to eat in the forest.

I am in the real forest!

Using her keen sense of smell, Wan- Wan is very focused on digging in search for invertebrates.

A long and agile tongue for reaching into termite colonies.

Wan- Wan is scenting her new surroundings.

Mamatai is so happy and enjoys the freedom in forest.

Mamatai likes to spend most of her day sleeping and sunbathing under the tree.

Mamatai enjoys eating the King of Fruits-Durian.

Sun bears are important for seed dispersal in the forest ecosystem. After Sun bear eat the fruit, they will disperse the seeds in forest.

Sun bears are very good at skimming through the jungle to find any kinds of food (insects) they can get their paws on.

I am become a tree hugger bear!

Mamatai climbs a tree for a better look.

She learn how to split open the decayed wood and dig for termites and other insects.

Over the next few months both bears will be learning, growing, and enjoying life within the forest enclosure.

Sun bears are a very important part of the ecosystem and more people need to know why they are so important while there is still time to save them. Please lend a helping hand and spread the word. The sun bears need you!!


RM7,000 Raised for Sun Bears via Zumba

Daily Express, 12th July 2013, Pg12

Damai, Sun Bear Cub Diary – Tree Nest

Text and photos by Chiew Lin May

On July 30, 2013 Damai, a young sun bear cub, surprised us again. Aside from her quickly developing skills of climbing trees, digging for food, and exploring the forest on her own, she built her first nest today. We are all so inspired by Damai, and her abilities to grow on her own at such a young age.

That morning, around 10:00 am, she began to look very tired, and headed directly towards her favourite tree and climbed right up! Damai has long, sharp, curved claws and sharp teeth which are good for pulling, biting, and breaking off branches. She bends the branches in different ways, depending on how she wants to use them, and builds sitting areas that look much like a bird’s nest. She builds a safe, comfortable nest out of leaves, tree branches, and other material that she finds nearby. Much like the orang-utan, Sun bears spend most of their lives in trees, and place their nests there as well. Nests protect them from predators as well as serve as comfortable, safe places to sleep.  After the nest is complete, she plays happily up in the trees until she is tired, and then sleeps or sunbathes in her newly built nest for the rest of the day.

We do not know where Damai learned her nest building skills, and there are plenty of questions still left to answer. For example, do sun bears choose a specific tree to build their nest in, or are the cubs learning where to build the nest from their mothers? Will they will reuse or rebuild the nest ever? These questions leave a great opportunity to learn more about sun bears and their nest-building behaviours. This is an excellent start for Damai! Bravo, Damai!

Here are the photos shows Damai build the nest.

Damai found her favorite tree and climbed up.

Damai have a long, sharp curved claws and sharp teeth which good for pulling, biting and breaking off branches.

Sun bears spend much of their lives in the trees. At a very young age, Damai learn to build nest in trees.

They spend lots of time up in the trees, feeding, resting and sleeping in the nests they build.

She use some organic material around the tree such as twigs and leaves.

Damai break branches in different ways depending on how she is to be used.

She builds a safe comfortable nest out of leaves, tree branches and other material that she can find near the tree to make a sort mattress.

It is really surprising, an one years old Damai can make a nest on tree!!

Make a nest of leaves and branches in tree to being disturbed by predators.

After she finished build the nest, she started to have a nap in a nest formed of branches and twigs.

Life in the forest is sweet!

Under the morning sun, Damai sleeps or sunbathes in a nest formed of branches and twigs. The nest is situated at the top of a tree.

Example of the branches break by Damai.

Example of the leaves, tree branches and twigs bend down by Damai.

Cluster of twigs and branches high up the tree build by little Damai. Glad her!










Damai, Sun Bear Cub Diary – Roaming, Exploring and Playing In The Forest

Text, photos and video by Chiew Lin May

Over the last few months, Damai, a Sun bear cub has impressed us all in the BSBCC by demonstrating both her independence and digging and climbing skills. She is now one year old, but she can enjoy herself for hours digging at decayed wood and climbing the trees at the Kabili- Sepilok Forest Reserve.

Besides being busy with her digging, she also enjoys climbing and napping in the trees. In the forest, Damai is very curious and likes to check out anything “new”, especially the plants. Damai likes to explore by pushing and bending the branches, breaking the twigs, and playing with leaves. She will enjoy playing for hours as she tears the wood apart looking for termites and various insects to eat. Then, suddenly she will roll the log and explore around it. What a delightful mess indeed!

Damai is a fantastic climber, and she spends most of her day playing in the trees or around the decayed wood. It has only been a few months, and she has developed a very strong personality of her own, and has made amazing progress for her age!

Damai has a great expression and a whole lot of personality. We will keep telling you about the progress of the brave Damai who is growing healthy and strong in the BSBCC. She has lost her mother and her home, but she is in safe hands now. We will give her the best chance to grow up and one day return to a protected area in the wild.

Protecting and caring for the habitat of the Sun bear is extremely vital to ensuring they do not become extinct. Hope this never happens. Please help us spread the love for Sun bears!!

Here is a short video clip of Damai playing and roaming around the forest.

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One Year Old Damai the Sunbear!

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

Damai, a female sun bear cub, turned one year old this month. The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre’s (BSBCC) youngest sun bear, Damai, was rescued in a residential area in Damai, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah in November 2012 by a businessman who found her wandering on his porch. Damai was sent to the BSBCC on November 5, 2012. We named her “Damai” after the place where she was found, meaning “peace” in Malay. Damai lost her mother during her first year of life, and didn’t have the chance to live together with her mother in the wild. Sun bear cubs follow their mothers everywhere they go, and like most sun bear cubs, Damai would have completely depended on her mother for food, protection, and lots of tender loving care.

When Damai first arrived at BSBCC, she was just a tiny sun bear cub weighing only 5 kg. Today, she is in good physical condition and weighs almost 20.1 kg! Her body is now covered with smooth, thick, short black fur with an orange-yellow “U” mark and dark spots on her chest. Little Damai grew very rapidly, and is now a mature well-behaved sun bear cub.

The rehabilitation for Damai has been ongoing in the forest until now. Damai learned very fast and has adapted to the forest where she will exploring, roaming, foraging for food (termites, beetles, and other invertebrates), climbing trees, resting, and sleeping. It is necessary for her to develop all of these skills in order to grow into a strong sun bear.  When Damai was 10 months old, she lost both canines in her lower jaw. Now almost all of her baby teeth have been replaced by sharp adult teeth.  Besides her teeth, her curved claws have also grown in long and sharp, allowing her to dig for honey and insects. Damai’s sense of smell is strong, and she can detect insects and termites more than a mile away! Her hearing is better than humans, and she is always keeping alert to her surroundings. Because Damai is still so small, she often stands on her hind legs to get a better smell or view ahead of her.

Damai was so curious about all of the new smells and sounds in the forest the first time she went exploring. She remained cautious and stayed close to her caretakers while embarking on unfamiliar territory. Now, Damai is an independent wild sun bear cub, and is continuing to show good progress while developing a much more wild nature.  She is starting to explore herself and is very curious of the things that surround her, including plants, leeches, and macaques. Little Damai is starting to learn how to survive in the forest, and spends most of her time exploring her new home.  While exploring she has managed to become an excellent climber, and spends much of her time tearing tree bark in search of insects, and making messes by breaking all the dead decayed wood.

In the wild, sun bears are threatened by hunting, pet trade, and the destruction of their rainforest habitat. Primarily, sun bears are hunted and kept in farms for their bile which is used as a traditional medicine. One of the last remaining creatures on Earth, this threatened animal deserves to be protected. Together, we can Bring Back the Wild.

Here are the photos show Damai in different age and grow. Please help us spread the words for sun bears!!

– 4 months old-

A Sabah Civil Defence holding Damai, sun bear cub after they captured it at a house in Kota Kinabalu.

Damai, is a female sun bear cub! She was then sent to BSBCC on last year 5th November.


– 5 months old-

This is the first time Damai start to explore in forest.

Damai is venture in the forest, digging the decayed log, and acclimate to life in the forest.

- 6 months old-

In the forest, Damai was developed her natural behaviors.

- 7 months old-

- 8 months old-

Damai usually spend most of her day resting,sleeping and sunbathing on trees.

- 9 months old-

Damai is well-suited to the environment. Her short hair allows her to survive in a hotter environment.

Damai was climb the trees to seek shelther or to escape danger from predator.

– 10 months old-

Damai was sunbathe under the trees.

– 11 months old-

Damai have a strong curved claws make the strength for turning over logs to get colonial insects.

Damai have a special long tongue and with an orange-yellow “U” mark and dark spots on her chest.

– One years old-

Damai’s canine teeth for ripping open logs, capturing young prey, and tearing apart tree bark.

Damai’s footprint at muddy area.

Damai’s claw mark on the tree.


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Damai, Sun Bear Cub Diary – Explore in Forest Part VII

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

The beautiful, majestic and the forgotten species  Sun bears, we share this earth with these beautiful and adorable creatures !! Here are the photos for you to share to spread the word!!