Asia Times ??????, 26th May 2015
Asia Times ??????, 26th May 2015
Berita Harian Mereka ?????), 26th May 2015
See Hua Daily News ?????) , 26th May 2015
New Sabah Times, 26th May 2014
The Borneo Post, 26th May 2015
Text by Winnie Kasmir
Daily Express, 26th May 2015
Harian Ekspres, 26th May 2015
Text by BSBCC
Photos by BSBCC & Scuba Zoo
Finally able to breathe true freedom in the wild…
Just before Christmas 2010 baby cub Natalie was rescued from illegal pet trade and sent to Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) on December 23rd. It was claimed that she was found alone and abandoned by her mother. However, we suspected that her mother was killed by poachers and she was captured and illegally kept as a pet.
A 5 year old adult female beautiful Natalie built up her survival skills, independence and learned to behave like a wild sun bear. Her improvement in her survival skills in the forest enclosure has been excellent. She became an exceptional climber and tree nest maker. After learning in BSBCC for five years Natalie is ready to be released back to where she belongs – the forest. The ultimate goal of BSBCC is to return rehabilitated sun bears back to the wild and on Sunday May 17th, 2015 it was time to follow this goal; BSBCC started the journey to release Natalie back to the protected forest. Previous to her journey she was fitted with a satellite collar to keep track of her even after her release. In order to transport the sun bear to the forest as far as possible we chose to use a helicopter. After a long discussion, Wong decided that the helicopter model Layang-Layang Aerospace Sdn Bhd (BO105) was suitable for our purposes because it could fit transportation cage. This is the first time that a captive sun bear got reintroduced to its natural habitat in Sabah using a helicopter and is monitored post release with the help of a satellite collar. Natalie is ready to live a new life as a truly wild sun bear in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The experience she has gathered throughout her 5 years at the rehabilitation centre will help her explore her true home in the core area of Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The core area encompasses 120500 hectares and is a pristine rainforest with no human disturbances but lots of big trees, fig trees and a variety of wildlife.
It was a challenging day. All hopes and prayers were solely for this release activity to go as smoothly as planned. The release team’s preparations already started at 3pm on May 16th, 2015 at the bear house of BSBCC when Sabah Wildlife Department vet, Dr. Laura Benedict started the sedation process. A full physical health examination showed that Natalie was completely healthy at 45kg of weight. Dr. Laura Benedict inserted a microchip into Natalie’s body.
Natalie was then moved to her translocation cage. Natalie’s journey started on a WRU truck to Wildlife Department Quarter Lahad Datu in the east of Sabah, two hours from BSBCC. Natalie was kept in the translocation cage overnight close to the veterinarians, the WRU team and the team of BSBCC. She was under constant observation and fed with water, honey and banana. Natalie seemed to be stressed in the translocation cage, but freedom was just around the corner.
The team woke up early in the morning on May 17th 2015, and got ready at Tabin Headquarter at 6.30 am. After a full assessment, the weather was considered safe for the helicopter to land at Tabin Headquarter. Once the helicopter arrived, the operation was split into three different trips. With the first two trips the team entered the mud volcano of Tabin to evaluate and identify the most suitable release site.
At 10.17 am, it was Natalie’s turn to be flown to Tabin mud volcano
Once Natalie arrived, the team set up the translocation cage in the correct direction for release. Dr. Laura conducted a final check, to ensure that Natalie was ready to enter her new home!
A 20 m rope was tied to the sliding gate of the cage. The team stood 15 m away from the translocation cage.
As soon as the door of her cage was opened, Natalie straight headed into the forest. She explored everything, sniffed the air of Tabin and assessed her new environment before disappearing into the tall tree canopy of the forest. Tabin Wildlife Reserve has welcomed her into a new protected home. The emotions running through the forest while watching Natalie enjoying her newfound freedom are un-describable. A heart-warming moment filled with tears of joy.
Wildlife Rescue Unit team, Tabin Rangers, BSBCC team and Scuba Zoo Filming Crews in Tabin Headquarter. Thanks for all your support in helping sun bear and release work.
Natalie! Stay healthy, happy and keep growing gracefully!
You will always be in our hearts!
The Rakyat Post, 25th May 2015
SANDAKAN, May 25, 2015:
Almost five years after she was found abandoned as a cub in the forest, a sun bear named Natalie returned to her natural habitat deep in a wildlife reserve near Lahad Datu on May 17.
Natalie’s release also created history for the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC).
She is the first rescued bear to be released to the wild since the centre started receiving and caring for orphaned and rescued sun bears seven years ago.
The BSBCC and Sabah Wildlife Department are monitoring Natalie’s movements and progress at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve through a satellite collar fitted on her.
She was airlifted by a helicopter from Layang-Layang Aerospace Sdn Bhd into the interior of the protected area, away from settlements and oil palm plantations.
BSBCC’s chief executive officer and founder Wong Siew Te said Natalie, which was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department in Lahad Datu by a local man in December 2010, had matured into a healthy young adult under its care.
Wong said Natalie was about three months old when she arrived at the centre, and that it was suspected that, like so many other bear cubs, her mother was killed by a poacher and captured to be kept illegally as a pet.
The person who surrendered her claimed she was found abandoned in the forest.
“She has grown well into adulthood at our centre for over four years. We walked with her in the forest (in Sepilok) during her first year.
“Such walks are an important part of rehabilitation for rescued pet sun bears so that they can learn to live like wild bears by developing essential survival skills like foraging, climbing, nest building and socialising.
“Natalie grew up in natural forest enclosures in BSBCC with tall trees, dense vegetation and significant amounts of natural food items such as termites, earthworms, insects and honey from beehives,” said Wong in a statement today.
He said the release of Natalie was a joint effort of BSBCC, Sabah Wildlife Department and the Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU), Danau Girang Field Centre.
Wong also noted WRU head Dr Sen Nathan and veterinarian Dr Laura Benedict and Dr Diana Ramirez’s dedication and contribution in the effort.
Meanwhile, department director William Baya commended BSBCC for initiating the release project.
“The release of Natalie is a sign of BSBCC’s success and I believe more bears will be released into the wild in the near future,” William said.
Sun bears are a totally protected species under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.
Malay Mail Online, 25th May 2015
Text by Julia Chan
KOTA KINABALU, May 25 — Natalie, the sun bear in Sabah who was rescued after poachers killed her mother, became the first to be released into the wild after she returned to the reserve forests of Lahad Datu last week.
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) founder Wong Siew Te said Natalie, who arrived at the centre in December 2010 aged three months, has come of age in the four and a half years under their care and that the rare sun bear is now ready to fend for herself.
“Releasing her was a moment of bittersweet joy,” Wong told Malay Mail Online today.
“I cared for her like a daughter. I had brought her for walks in the forest, fed her, taught her what food to identify and played with her. It was sad to let her go but I know she belongs in the forest,” he added.
Natalie was transported to her new home in a Lahad Datu forest reserve by a helicopter provided by Layang-Layang Aerospace Sdn Bhd.Natalie was one of 35 sun bears kept in captivity, most of which were brought there as cubs after their mothers were killed by poachers. BSBCC has kept a total of 43 sun bears, which are the smallest bear species in the world, since the centre was established.
“Young sun bears are cute and people want to keep them as pets. The person who surrendered her claimed she was found abandoned in the forest,” Wong said.
The BSBCC and Sabah Wildlife Department have been monitoring Natalie’s movements and progress at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve through a satellite collar fitted on her, after she was airlifted by a helicopter from Layang-Layang Aerospace Sdn Bhd into the protected area, away from settlements and oil palm plantations.
Part of Natalie’s rehabilitation process included walks in the forest to learn to live like wild bears by developing essential survival skills like foraging, climbing, nest building and socialising.
“Natalie grew up in natural forest enclosures in BSBCC with tall trees, dense vegetation and significant amounts of natural food items such as termites, earthworms, insects and honey from bee hives,” said Wong.
He expressed confidence of her survival especially after an escape last year that saw her fend for herself for 37 days before she was recaptured and brought home in a healthy condition.
The field crew carried Natalie to the release spot.He said the release of Natalie was a joint effort of BSBCC, SWD and the Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU), Danau Girang Field Centre.
“The release of Natalie is a sign of BSBCC’s success and I believe more bears will be released into the wild in the near future,” said SWD director William Baya.
Meanwhile, Wong stressed that BSBCC aims to protect sun bears through a holistic approach that incorporates improvement of animal welfare for captive bears, education, research and rehabilitation.
Natalie’s first moments of freedom in the wild.Sun bears are a Totally Protected Species under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997. It is not known how many sun bears are in the wild but Wong estimated the numbers to be less than orangutans, which number about 11,000 in Sabah.
The Bornean sun bear is a subspecies of the Malayan sun bears. Its main threats are habitat loss and human poachers.
Traditional Asian medicine practitioners believes bear fat, gall, bile, meat, paws, spinal cord, blood, and bones can cure a range of complaints from baldness to rheumatism. The profitability of the bear’s gallbladder has been likened to the heroin trade, as dried gall can sell for 18 times the price of gold.
In Sabah, any offenders who are found guilty of harming, keeping sun bears, or possessing sun bear parts are subject to imprisonment of five years and a fine of RM50,000, or both.
In addition, killing a sun bear is punishable with a mandatory jail sentence of no less than six months but not exceeding five years.