Category Archives: sun bear

Little Story about Tan-Tan

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

Like many sun bear cubs, Tan –Tan’s mother was believed to be killed by poachers and she was sold as an exotic pet in the remote region of Paitan, Sabah. She was handed to BSBCC on August 5th, 2015 when she was three months old and weighted 4.9kg. She was placed into quarantine.

On August 12th, 2015, Dr. Sandy Ling Choo, a veterinarian from the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Rescue Unit and the BSBCC team performed a general health check. Dr. Sandy sedated Tan –Tan, then measured her weight and brought her to the examination area to make a full assessment of her health status. The assessment included a valuation of her overall health, potential sickness (e.g. signs of distress, ill-health, disease, injury etc.), functioning of the internal organs, pulse, respiration and temperature, then an inspection of her claws and teeth. Blood and hair samples were collected also. The blood test results have shown she is healthy. Today, Tan –Tan weighs 6 kg.

Tan –Tan settled in well and thoroughly enjoyed her new found freedom in the quarantine at BSBCC. For a young cub, a healthy and natural diet is very important. She has a good appetite. She enjoys all kinds of food and milk.

A nutritious diet including fresh fruit, milk and lots of treats

Curious with new food – Papaya

Yummy! Love bananas!

Tan –Tan is everything a cub should be – playful, inquisitive and agile. She was quite tame during the arrival but it is unbelievable the transformation her character has gone through compared to other sun bear cubs that we have received before. She has been pretty wild and she’s showed great skill when climbing the dead wood by hugging the wood. When encountered with strange things, she gradually made her way higher onto the platform and defended herself during the play fight with her care taker. Tan –Tan must be a strong natured little bear!

Tan –Tan is settling into her new dens

By hiding treats around the dens we encourage Tan-Tan to forage

We do our best to make sure Tan-Tan live comfortable, confident and free from fear.

Tan-Tan love hammock and is having a great time

” Way to keep my balance to get the food!”

She was an energetic sun bear and made full use of the structural enrichment in the dens. BSBCC staffs provided many natural enrichment like termite mounds, dried leaves, fresh leaves and dead wood. She was curious and checked it first before playing with or destroying it. She practices her “wild bear skills” every day. All of these activities are learning experiences for her. Tan-Tan can often be observed playing excitedly with the bamboo feeder and Aussie Dog Ball enrichments and spends hours playing with them. She enjoys taking naps on her small platform or in her basket. Slowly, Tan-Tan has put her past behind her and is leaning to be a wild bear again.

Sun bear cub learns how to climb when they are young

Tan-Tan keep busy all the time by digging and excavating dead wood in search of insects.

Yawn!! Showing us a glimpse of the sun bear incredible long tongue!

Food hidden in object up such as Aussie Dog Ball to encourage Tan-Tan to spend time foraging for food

” Seriously, what is inside this gunny sack ? “

Wooden Food Puzzle – ” Smells good!!”

” Let me have a look what is this !”

Lazy position in eating the papaya

Of course, because she is still baby that do require a lot of sleep

Chilling in the water container

In the coming weeks, Tan-Tan will be taken on walks to the adjacent forest reserve. This will encourage Tan-Tan to learn and develop her survival skills for the wild. Tan-Tan has a long way to go through rehabilitation. Tan –Tan is a delightful bear to be around and we are thrilled to have her at our centre. Stay tuned with BSBCC to have follow ups on Tan-Tan’s out to the forest story!

Good Samaritan buys Tan-Tan and hands animal to Wildlife Dept

The Star Online, 8 August 2015
By RUBEN SARIO

In good hands: Wong taking posession of Tan-Tan from the Wildlife Department.

KOTA KINABALU: A sun bear cub which was put up for sale by poachers has been rescued by a Good Samaritan, who bought it and gave it to the Sabah Wildlife Depart­ment.

The three-month-old animal was taken to the Bornean Sun Bear Con­­servation Centre (BSBCC) in Sepilok, San­dakan, on Thurs­day and has been named Tan-Tan.

Tan-Tan had been put up for sale in the remote Paitan district when it was spotted by the buyer.

The anonymous buyer then handed over the sun bear to the authorities.

Tan-Tan is the 44th rescued sun bear to be placed at the centre since the centre was set up over six years ago.

“The cub has been put under quarantine. It is being given round-the-clock care by our staff,” said centre founder and chief executive officer Wong Siew Te.

At present, the centre cares for 35 sun bears.

The centre’s website states that sun bears are also known as honey bears (beruang madu) because of their fondness for honey.

Their numbers have decreased dramatically around the world due to deforestation, commercial hunting and the pet trade.

“They are often found in appalling conditions; without a home, a mother, or left to rot in tiny cages,” said the website.

Wong said it was important for the public to understand that buying sun bears would encourage poachers to capture the animal for profit.

“We want to thank the person who bought the cub and sent it to the Wildlife Department.

“The best way to help a sun bear or other wildlife being traded is to report the matter to the department immediately,” he said.

“This will allow law enforcement officers to go after and prosecute those found selling protected animals or their parts. We have to avoid buying wildlife. When the buying stops, the poaching and killing will stop, too.”

Wong said the cost of caring for sun bears was huge.

He appealed to the public to support BSBCC through donations or by adopting bears like Tan-Tan.

Details on the adoption program­me is available at http://www.bsbcc.org.my/donate.htmlor http://www.bsbcc.org.my/adopt.html.

Protected sun bear cub rescued

The Rakyat Post, 7 August 2015
By Sandra Sokial

Three-month-old rescued sun bear cub,Tan-Tan is now.safely ‘home’ at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sepilok, Sandakan. — Photo courtesy of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

A three-month-old sun bear cub, rescued from being sold in the remote region of Paitan, is now in safe hands at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sepilok, Sandakan.

The female bear, named Tan-Tan, arrived at BSBCC in Sepilok yesterday, making her the 44th rescued sun bear to be placed there since the centre was set up over six years ago.

BSBCC founder and chief executive officer, Wong Siew Te said the bear was purchased by someone who came across a villager trying to sell the cub.

He said the person who bought the cub informed the Sabah Wildlife Department and this led to the department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit sending her to the centre.

“Tan-Tan was saved and brought to her new home at BSBCC and we now have 35 bears out of the total 44 we have received over the years.

“The cub is under quarantine and is being given round the clock care by our staff,” he said, in a statement.

Wong thanked veterinarians Dr Laura Benedict and Dr Sandy Ling Choo of the Wildlife Rescue Unit for conducting a health check on Tan-Tan when she arrived at the facility.

Wong also said it was important for the public to understand that buying sun bears creates an incentive for poachers to capture the animal for profit, with some choosing to kill the species for their parts.

“We thank the person who bought the cub and sent her to the department, but we must stress here that the best way to help a sun bear or other wildlife meant for trade is to report the matter to the Sabah Wildlife Department immediately.

“This will allow the law enforcement officer to catch and prosecute those found selling protected animals or their parts.

“We have to avoid buying wildlife. When the buying stops, the killing will stop too.”

Wong added that the cost of caring for sun bears is huge and appeals to the public to support BSBCC by donating to it or by adopting bears like Tan-Tan.

Details on the donation and adoption programmes are available at http://www.bsbcc.org.my/donate.html or http://www.bsbcc.org.my/adopt.html respectively.

 

Sun bear cub bought, sent to conservation centre

Borneo Post Online, 8 August 2015
By Winnie Kasmir

Wong handling the rescued sun bear cub, Tan-Tan.

SANDAKAN: A three-month-old sun bear cub that was put up for sale in a remote Paitan area is now under the good care of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) located off Mile 14 Labuk Road near here.

The bear cub, named Tan-Tan, was taken to the BSBCC in Sepilok yesterday, making her the 44th rescued sun bear to be placed at the BSBCC since the centre was set up over six years ago.

BSBCC founder and chief executive officer Wong Siew Te said the bear was purchased by someone who came across a villager trying to sell the cub.

He said the person who bought the cub informed the Sabah Wildlife Department and this led to the Department’s wildlife rescue unit sending her to the centre.

“Tan-Tan was saved and brought to her new home at the BSBCC, and we now have 35 bears out of the total 44 we have received over the years. The cub is under quarantine and is being given round the clock care by our staff,” he said in a statement.

Tan-Tan undergoes a health check.

Wong thanked veterinarians, Dr. Laura Benedict and Dr. Sandy Ling Choo, of the wildlife rescue unit for conducting a health check on Tan-Tan when she arrived at the facility.

Wong also said that it was important for the public to understand that buying Sun bears creates an incentive for poachers to capture the animal for profit, with some choosing to kill the species for their body parts.

“We thank the person who bought the cub and sent her to the department, but we must stress here that the best way to help a Sun bear or other wildlife meant for trade is to report the matter to the Sabah Wildlife Department immediately.

“This will allow the law enforcement officer to catch and prosecute those found selling protected animals or their parts. We have to avoid buying wildlife. When the buying demand stops, the killing will stop too.

“We worry that the sale of bears creates an incentive for poachers to capture or to even kill more bears to make money. Buying creates a market for Sun bear cubs and fuels trading,” he said.

Wong added that the cost of caring for Sun bears is huge, and appeals to the public to support the BSBCC by donating to it, or by adopting bears like Tan-Tan. Details on the adoption programme can be found at the website, http://www.bsbcc.org.my or //donate.html; or http://www.bsbcc.org.my/adopt.html.

Anak Beruang Madu Bernasib Baik Dibeli Individu Prihatin

Bernama, 7 Ogos 2015

SANDAKAN, 7 Ogos (Bernama) — Seekor anak beruang madu berusia tiga bulan bernasib baik kerana dibeli seorang individu yang prihatin tentang nasibnya.

Haiwan itu, dibeli individu berkenaan di satu kawasan terpencil di daerah Paitan, sebelum menyerahkannya kepada Pusat Pemuliharaan Beruang Madu Borneo (BSBCC) di sini.

Spesies haiwan dilindungi diberi nama Tan-Tan itu tiba di BSBCC di Sepilok semalam, menjadikannya beruang madu ke-44 yang diselamatkan dan ditempatkan di pusat itu.

Pengasas dan pegawai eksekutif BSBCC, Wong Siew Te berkata setelah membeli anak beruang madu itu daripada seorang penduduk kampung, individu berkenaan menghubungi Jabatan Hidupan Liar Sabah, yang kemudian menyerahkan haiwan itu kepada BSBCC, yang ditubuhkan enam tahun lepas.

“Sekarang, kami mempunyai 35 beruang daripada sejumlah 44 yang kami terima sejak beberapa tahun lepas,” katanya dalam kenyataan di sini Jumaat.

Wong berkata kos untuk menjaga seekor beruang madu adalah tinggi dan oleh itu beliau merayu kepada orang ramai supaya memberi sokongan kepada pusat itu dengan menghulurkan derma atau menjadikan beruang sebagai anak angkat mereka seperti yang dilakukan terhadap Tan-Tan .

— BERNAMA

Bear Essentials

Text by Warren Timms (Volunteer)
Photos by Chiew Lin May

Part of the volunteering program at BSBCC includes enrichment projects for the sun bears. These projects involve the volunteers and staff participating in basic tasks like making mixed fruit ice blocks and bamboo tubes packed with bear treats along with more challenging construction projects like making and installing bear hammocks and designing and building climbing structures for the bears. These were done between afternoon food preparation and feeding. The staff at BSBCC are very helpful and always consider the safety of the bears and the volunteers a priority as can be witnessed in one of Thye Lim’s animated briefings. Enrichment is an important and essential part of the conservation work at BSBCC so each day there will be some form of enrichment for the bears. It is really quite satisfying to watch as the bears try out a new hammock for the first time or try to get at some tasty fruit stuffed inside a Kong.

Staff and volunteers assembling “bear hammocks” as part of a construction project to provide stimulation for the bears whilst in their enclosures.

Volunteers busy cleaning the assembled “bear hammocks” in preparation for hanging in the enclosures.

Enrichment projects at BSBCC are always carried out with minimal environmental impact. There is always a preference to use or re-use sustainably sourced materials where practicable and to reduce waste. This helps to reduce operating costs which will benefit the bears in the long term.

Volunteers leveling the ground in an outdoor pen in preparation for the construction project.

Installing stabilisers into the upright posts. Three of these posts will support the triangular bear hammock.

The staff at BSBCC and the volunteer program facilitator are always on hand to help out and to provide guidance with the enrichment projects. It’s great when everyone is working together to make something that the bears can enjoy.

Staff assisting with the hanging of the “bear hammock” in the outdoor pen

Staff and volunteers on the finished product!!!

Helping a Species in Need

Text and Photo by Warren Timms

My name is Warren and my partner Marie and I are from Australia and we have just completed a 2 week volunteering program at BSBCC. We chose BSBCC for a number of reasons, but the main considerations for us were the threats that sun bears are still facing and reading about the excellent work that Wong and his dedicated staff are doing.

The program was well paced and included a good variety of activities. These included food preparation and feeding, cleaning of bear enclosures, perimeter fence checking, bear integration observations, enrichment activities, construction of bear climbing structures and assisting staff with medical examinations and observations.

The staff at the center are very helpful and take very seriously the health and safety of the bears and the volunteers. The whole program was well organised with the assistance of the Ape Malaysia facilitator (Harith) and I feel very privileged to have spent time working with the staff and the sun bears here. Each of the bears have their own individual personalities and one of the things that I enjoyed the most was observing each of the bears and how they interact with each other and their environment. Some of the bears have made a remarkable recovery compared to the circumstances that brought them to the centre.

The future of Borneo sun bears is still uncertain, but I am sure that it is a lot brighter with the help of Wong and the passionate, dedicated staff at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the volunteering programs (2 or 4 weeks) to anyone who is interested in helping in the conservation of the smallest bear species in the world. Thank you again to Wong and the staff at BSBCC for an unforgettable experience.

Chin’s Second Chance

Text by Claire Buckingham (Volunteer)
Photos by Chiew Lin May

 

It sounds cliché to say it, but the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is all about second chances. Chin, now nine years old, came to BSBCC in July 2014 via a wildlife rescue unit, who took her from a primary school’s mini zoo. It’s illegal to keep sun bears as private pets, especially in small cages like she was. She was also not given much in the way of enrichment, which may have some bearing on why she’s been christened “The Curious” at BSBCC. At the centre she finally has the opportunity to explore her surroundings and learn something about life in the forest as a sun bear!

Things cannot be just that simple, of course. When the bears are brought to the centre it is a big adjustment for them simply to become accustomed to life in the dens in the vicinity of other bears, and also the humans who provide their food and tools for enrichment. But even when this just becomes day to day life, the bears still need to learn about life in the forest, and life around other bears.

Sun bears appear to be primarily solitary animals, except when a mother is looking after her cubs. This doesn’t mean they live in the forest alone – they still need to have some idea of how to act with other animals, whether in play, mating, or defence; being that sun bears don’t generally get a lot of their protein from meat, they probably don’t need to practice a lot of attacking, but they do need to know how to stand up for themselves.

At the centre, there are two bear houses, and currently only one is open to the enclosures outside; bear house two will be open shortly to its more recently completed forest enclosures. Several enclosures allow bears to go outside alone, such as those used by Kudat and Manis, but the other enclosures have bears sharing their spaces with one another. Two of these enclosures can be seen from the feeding platform, and anyone who has come to BSBCC will no doubt have fond memories of hungry bears at play amongst the trees.

Bears in the outdoor enclosure cannot be immediately controlled by the keepers – and in some ways, they should not be. Hopefully many of the bears at BSBCC will eventually return to the wild, and there they will need to be able to take care of themselves. This doesn’t mean all care isn’t taken to ensure the bears are familiar with one another – and this is why integration between bear individuals and groups takes place in the bear house before they are allowed to mingle together in the forest enclosures.

Chin’s first chance at returning to a more naturalised surrounding began with her integration into a group of six bears. Tokob was the dominant female, and was most closely associated with Susie and Kuamut. Three more females rounded out the group: Cerah and Jelita, and then Lawa. Given these six females had already comfortably sorted themselves into two groups of three, it would always have proved somewhat of a challenge for Chin to find her place amongst them. However, within the confines of the bear house, it appeared Chin was accepted by the group and happy enough with her place within it.

In January 2015, Chin was released into Pen C with these six bears. It was to prove, unfortunately, a difficult four days for her. The other bears rejected her, and she resorted to hiding under a tree to avoid their attacks. They caused injuries to her hind foot, and to her muzzle. Curious as she was about her new surroundings, she was distracted by the need to be constantly on alert; this can be seen by her behaviour in a favoured spot, where she kept her back to a large tree. Its shape kept her protected on three sides, and gave her a vantage point to watch for the other bears.

In those four days, the other bears did not permit her to share in the food brought to the enclosure. It was definitely a tough few days for Chin, and when she finally came back inside it was decided she would not be placed in this group again.

In February 2015, she was instead introduced to another group, known as the Rungus group. This comprises the females Rungus, Panda, and Ah Lun, and the male Julaini (whose brilliant chest mark adorns a BSBCC t-shirt that became my favourite!). The group tentatively began to play together within the bear house, and then Chin began to show dominance. It appears she learned this from Tokob, and she learned it well.

I personally first met Chin in June 2015, which is when she was first beginning to be encouraged into Pen A. Because of her experiences with Tokob’s group, it was decided she would not be immediately placed in the forest enclosure with the Rungus group in Pen B, even though they appeared to be integrating well within the bear house. Instead, Chin would be given her second chance by being allowed into Pen A on her own.

Chin was one of the first bears I got to know, as she tends to night den in one of the four cages just inside bear house one’s entrance. Given the only other bear in this area is Bermuda – a big, no-nonsense male – she was easy to recognise and to get to know. I spent my first three days primarily in the kitchen, preparing and splitting up the food for the bears depending on where they were. On day three, I came in and immediately noticed a change in the food split – Chin was categorised today in Pen A. Chin was going outside!

After her earlier experience with the forest enclosures, Chin was naturally somewhat recalcitrant about the very idea of it. Most of the dens have four entrances – two side doors for transfers between dens, one main entrance, and the back guillotine door that leads to the enclosures. The guillotine door usually opens to either a climbing frame or a ramp, and Chin would make good use of her ramp. Indeed, when Lin May came to tell me about Chin’s release to the forest plan, she showed me how Chin was going about it – and I peeked into the den to see little more than two bear feet hanging over the lip of the door.

Chin’s naturally curious, and likes to play – certainly I often found her attempting to use her water bowl like a bath, despite the fact it was barely large enough to take only her backside. So Chin couldn’t quite resist the lure of the outdoors, though she was also nervous of it. More than once I saw her seated sideways in the guillotine door, one front paw appearing to prop the door up, a faraway look in her eyes as she surveyed the forest beyond her den. Other times, she’d stay inside, but displayed a frank fascination with the door structures. She would pick at the tracks with those massive claws, and then get irritated and yank the back door right down, as if to say, “I said I wasn’t going out today!”

But Lin May would come open it right up again, and Chin would go back to her dreamy watchful state. Sometimes, if a little food was scattered, she’d go back to lying belly-down on the ramp like a little kid about to take their first slide all the way from the top.

It was also interesting to watch some of the indoor integration she continues to have with the Rungus group. I watched her “talking” with Panda one day; the bears were in separate dens, but the grate that locked the side entrance gives the bears a way to watch one another. At first Chin just pulled her lips back over her teeth, moving her muzzle in a silent roar; Panda echoed the motion. Then Chin appeared to pull back, front paws straight out before her and her backside raised, head ducked down low. I thought this was a submissive position and, confused, asked Thye Lim about it as I had been told that Chin was acting dominant amongst the Rungus group. He explained to me that this is, for Chin, a dominant posture; much like elephants tuck their ears back before they charge, this is Chin getting down into a charge position. Being that they were in separate dens it wasn’t going to happen, but I did notice that Panda backed away and left the grate between them when Chin did this.

I also watched her with the others, split between two dens with an open grate; Chin spent a lot of her time at the grate, appearing to act as both a watchman and a gatekeeper. She particularly seemed determined to stop Julaini from coming over to “her” side. Later, she had to be bribed with honey to come back to den 13, where she would have access to the forest. Instead of going out, she played with the now closed and locked side gate. She even managed to lift it just a little, only to be disappointed to find the only way out was to the forest!

Of course the only time Chin went fully outside was on one of my days off – though she only managed ten minutes before she decided it was time to come back in again! Since my last day at BSBCC she has continued on these little jaunts outside, and Lin May told me the next step is to close the guillotine door and see what happens next.

This is all a part of Chin’s second chance – both at getting back into the forest enclosure, and then just in her general life. She’s had a cruel start to things, but at BSBCC she has a chance to learn what it is to be a regular sun bear. It’s not going to be easy, but they don’t call her Chin the Curious for nothing. I think she’s going to be all right.

Integration of Sun Bears

Text by Maria Nikas (Volunteer)
Photos by Chiew Lin May

Integration is utilized to accustom bears to other bears in preparation for release into enclosures on site at BSBCC. The integration process is vital as Sun Bears are usually solitary animals and each step is very important to ensure the bears are compatible and don’t potentially pose a risk to each other.

The bears must be of a similar size, age and weight to assist in a successful integration, it also helps as bears learn different skills from each other. Having all arrived at BSBCC from different circumstances and backgrounds they will have differing strengths and weaknesses, this can be used to help other bears develop.

Integration is a long process, with the bears health and safety one of the most important aspects of the overall process. It takes many months to have a successful integration. The process starts with the most dominant bear in the group and then works down to each bear on a one on one level. Then the bears are put in small groups to see how the group dynamics work. Each integration session is closely monitored and recorded and every variable is tested to ensure the potential new group of bears are all a good match for each other. Depending on the situation and the group they may be released as a group into the wild.

Integration of Phin and Wan Wan on July, 1st 2015

A 7 years old adult male bear, Phin was found by villagers near the logging camp in Sipitang district, Southwest of Sabah. He was kept as pets.

A 9 years old adult female bear, Wan Wan was used to be in the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo before transferred to BSBCC.

This was a segregated integration. Phin and Wan Wan were in cages next to each other. I observed them for half an hour. There was no physical interaction beyond between the cage. Phin showed considerable interest as soon as Wan Wan entered the cage next door. He sat and sniffed at the door between the cages, also standing at the door sniffing the air. Wan Wan paced the perimeter opposite the door and indicated no interest in Phin.

Phin climbed the cage and was focusing on Wan Wan, watching her constantly as she moved about. Wan Wan sniffed the dry leaf enrichment and the logs that were in the cage as enrichment. When Wan Wan climbed the cage so she was directly opposite Phin she clawed at Phin through the cage, mouthed a lot and then chewed and pulled at the enrichment hammock, shaking it vigorously. It was like an indication of frustration. Phin remained quite calm thoroughout, not reacting adversely to Wan Wan. Phin clawed and mouthed a little.

They both climbed down and paced – Wan Wan the whole cage, Phin just the front. Phin climbed the cage again and once again looking at Wan Wan, this time vocalizing. Wan Wan continued to pace and showed little interest in Phin. Eventually Wan Wan climbed the cage – repeating the behavior from before – mouthing, clawing, shaking and chewing the hammock and some saliva was present as well. This time Phin turned his back on Wan Wan whilst still opposite each other on the mesh.

Overall, from this integration observation I felt Phin displayed an interest in Wan Wan, like a curiousity, wanting to meet Wan Wan. Wan Wan appeared more aggressive and agitated by Phins’ presence. Wan Wan paced a lot more than Phin, spent a considerable amount of time on the opposite side of the cage and less interest overall. This integration will be continue until both of the bears get along.