Sun bear generally is a solitary animal in the wild. The only times when wild sun bears are not solitary is during the breeding season when male and female bears travel together for several days until mating takes place, and female sun bear with their cubs. These bear cubs can live with their mother for at least two years until they reach adulthood and are as big as their mother. Different male sun bears overlap their territory at a minimum level. They are territorial and defense their territory from other bears. Six out of the 7 adult male sun bears that I caught in the wild had bite marks and scars on their body especially neck resulting from severe fights with other bears. One male adult bear was known to kill a young female bear known as “Little one”, the sun bear that appears in the logo of BSBCC. Little one was a 10-month old female sun bear that was killed by a 3-year old male sun bear in the forest. The territorial and aggressive behavior of sun bear is a result of competition in a habitat where food is a limited resource and the male bears compete for access to female bears. Compared to other sun bear habitat in SE Asia, the rainforest of Borneo has the lowest productivity, which intensifies competition among the bear population. Sun bears are also known to be more aggressive to each other as compared to Asiatic black bears in captivity. Sun bears can live in groups in most captive situations where food is not a limiting resource and competition for mates is not an issue. However, the initial stage of integration or introduction of non-familiar bears can be the most stressful events that a bear can experience in captivity. In the wild, a bear can have the choice of interact with a strange bear based on environmental, familiarity, and safety conditions. In captivity, such choices may be limited.
At BSBCC, Om and Ah Chong are two male bears that we would like to integrate so that they can live together because we simply do not have enough enclosures for individual bear. This is the first integration for male bears at our centre and we hope the integration go well. We would like to pair them up as they have been live in adjacent cages for years with no aggression behavior in our old bear house and both of them have similar size. So finally on April 10th, we integrate them for the first time. This is what happen over the next two hours:
Sorry for not be able to blog last night. I was so tired to blog after another long day of moving the last four bears from the old bear house to the new one. I am so pleased to announce that I have kept my promise I made to these bears six years ago- a new home, a new life. The new home and new life of the sun bears in BSBCC would not made possible without the enormous helps from many people, including you who are reading this blog.
Like the first two days, the move yesterday went smoothly. The weather was not too hot with scatter shower throughout the entire day. We first moved Tokob, the most sensitive bear we had, follow by Manis (“sweet” in Malay), Susie and finally Keningau. The joy of placing Keningau into her den to recover from sedation was something that was difficult to describe by words. I hope that the bears understand what kind of difficulties that we all have gone through in order to give them this new home and new life. We do not expect them to repay anything except from having a stronger will to live longer and propagate their species. In fact, we the human species owe them a big apology because it was human who are being cruel to them in the first place to destroy their home, end their life, and keep them in pain. I am so glad that we have come this far, really thank you all for your helps.
Another happy news to share is all of the bears seem happy with their new home. They seem to adapte to this new home slowly. They seem to be more relax, less pacing, and spend most of their time resting and playing. I let these pictures speak for themselves.
The moving of these bears has come to an end, the next stage is electric fence training, and then releases them into the forest enclosure. I will keep you all up-dated.
The BSBCC sun bear moving team (from left to right): Wai Pak (BSBCC Acting Project Manager), Elis (SWD Senior Ranger), Rosli (SWD bear keeper), Rufina (SWD Vet assistant), Howard (Volunteer), Dr. Cecelia Boklin (SWD veterinarian), Audrey (Volunteer), Maria (Oakland Zoo senior vet tect), me- Wong (BSBCC CEO and founder), Annemarie (AAF bear manager).
A conservation story wrapped in an adventure
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I am honored to be part of story featured in BEARTREK. In this movie, I will tell you my field work on sun bears in the rainforest of Borneo and show you some of the very rare footages of sun bear. Sun bears receive very little media coverage and publicity until now. I hope BEARTREK will introduce you this little known and little bear species- the sun bear!
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