Tag Archives: behavior

Koko the sun bear makes new friends!

Text by Gloria Ganang and Siew Te Wong

Photos by Siew Te Wong

Koko’s quarantine period has ended two weeks ago. A health check on her was performed late last months and the results showed that she is healthy and free from any disease. Today we started the first step of the integration and introduce her to our sun bear cub/yearling group. She was transferred to a new den next to another two sun bear cub/yearling, Mary and Debbie around 11.30 am.

Koko’s original den is located at the opposite site of the hallway from the youngsters. We use two pieces of plywood to make a corridor and lure Koko with honey to her new den. The process was much easier than we thought.

Hi, I am Koko. What's your name?

 

Debbie was so excited and there were interactions going on between her and Koko. Koko also get pretty excited and displayed a dancing move as she reacted to the company of Debbie from the next cage. However, Mary didn’t show much reaction towards her new neighbor. It might take some time for Mary to get used to an additional bear around her.

Koko seemed pleased with her new transfer, wandering and sniffing around her new cage, checking out the enrichment that was prepared for her.

Best of all, she has now got new friends to interact with after a long period of isolation.

Look violent but completely harmless – The integration of Debbie with Mary and Fulung

Text and photos by Siew Te Wong

We integrated Debbie the sun bear cub with Mary and Fulung for the first time on March 10th. The entire process started 10 days earlier on Feb 28th when we moved Mary at opposite side of the hall way to the den next to Debbie. Debbie’s reaction toward Mary was very strong, huffing and barking on a defensive way whenever Mary made a move. Lack of sun bear’s communication skills, poor Mary seemed to be confused and do not know what to do except sucking her feet (Mary suckles when she wants to seek comfort). We have to keep the den between Debbie and Mary empty to reduce contact between the two young bears because of Debbie’s reaction.

The next day Debbie seemed to accept Mary’s presence. She did not seem to be defensive nor aggressive and did not bark and huff at Mary like what she did a day before. She just watched Mary on a very curious way. We let Mary entered the middle empty den so that both bears can have contacts through the bars. Immediately Debbie was very interested on Mary, touching and scratching her gently whenever Debbie can reach Mary through the bars. Sometime Mary responded to Debbie by playing with her. However, Debbie was more proactive while Mary just sitting there to suckle her feet without paying much attention to Debbie. The induction between Debbie and Mary seem fine through the bars.

The next step was to move Fulung the yearling male sun bear on March 3rd to join Mary so that three of the sun bear yearling/cubs can be place together as a group. This time Debbie did not react much to the presence of Fulung. She seemed just fine to have Fulung as her neighbor without any conflict or aggression over the following week.

Finally the big day arrived on March 10th, we integrated Debbie with Fulung and Mary. Fulung is about one year and four months old. He is the biggest and oldest among the three bears. Mary is about one year and two months old and Debbie is the youngest, age about 8 month. Here I let the photos speak for themselves:

 

In order to prevent them from being too excited when first meet, we scattered their fruit snack- pumpkin and banana on that afternoon, on the floor. Just like what we expected, Fulung (left) and Debbie (right) get busy searching and eating their afternoon snack: banana (preferred) first, and pumpkin later. Mary was at the back of the den, checking out Amaco (an old male bear) behind the wall.

 

After all the banana was gone, play time begun. Like usual, Fulung would is always advantage being a bigger bear. He shows off his dominancy by standing up right on his hind limbs. Debbie, although being the youngest and smallest, never feels threatened by Fulung's size. She displays her jaw and teeth. Her message is clear, "do not mess around with me!"

 

Debbie on the right now standing up to show off her teeth and claws. She just never gives up quickly!

 

Mary now joins them. Instead of play fighting, she is more into the remaining fruits. This is a great photo to show the facial expression of Fulung (left) and Debbie (back).

 

Mary (right) decided to join the party. Fulung (left) let Debbie to bite his neck. With a lot of loose skin, the neck of the sun bear is like the armor of the bear to get closer to their opponent.

 

Now the three bears are in action together. Although a lot of teeth and claws in these play fight, they are completely harmless to each other.Fulung and Debbie have a lot of interactions at first. Mary is a bit slow by just watching.

 

Fulung: "I am bigger than you, Debbie!" Debbie: "So what??"

 

Like a wrestler, Fulung uses his bigger body to press Debbie down, and the countdown being...

 

After tens of minutes, Fulung started to feel boring and left Debbie.

 

Now is Mary's turn to play with Debbie (right).peI can tell by now Debbie (left) is very tired. She just wanted to lie down on her back and push Mary (right) away.At the end of the day, both bears are so tired!

 
 

Bermuda touches soil for the first time in more than 10 years

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.

 

This is how far Bermuda willing to go on the first day to forest enclosure.

This is how far Bermuda willing to go on the first day to forest enclosure.

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.

A smart pig-tailed macaque robbed the food that we placed on the ramp to encourage Bermuda the sun bear out from his den to explore the forest enclosure.

A smart pig-tailed macaque robbed the food that we placed on the ramp to encourage Bermuda the sun bear out from his den to explore the forest enclosure.

Three macaques ganged up to rob food from the bears. The scene is like hyenas gang up to steal lion's prey in African savanna.

Three macaques ganged up to rob food from the bears. The scene is like hyenas gang up to steal lion's prey in African savanna.

The only thing that Bermuda did was watching the bandit took his food and sticks his tongue out!

The only thing that Bermuda did was watching the bandit took his food and sticks his tongue out!

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.

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Bermuda is finally out to explore the enclosure. Although not much area covered, it is a good try for sure!

Bermuda finally walking on soiled ground, not cemented floor. It may seem nothing for a bear, but for Bermuda, this is a big deal!

Bermuda finally walking on soiled ground, not cemented floor. It may seem nothing for a bear, but for Bermuda, this is a big deal!

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!

Photo update 7: Playtime! from Rimba

Original posting at http://myrimba.org/2012/01/13/photo-update-7-playtime/#more-1182

By Reuben Clements and his team at Rimba

We’ve got a little treat for you in this latest photo update!

This time, one of our camera traps was fortunate enough to catch several shots of two sun bears – mum and child – playing together! We asked Wong Siew Te – sun bear expert extraordinaire of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, and he said that it’s quite a rare behaviour to sight!

We’ve stitched all the shots together to form a sort of slow-motion video. Enjoy!

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/rpsvGI6UkVo" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Wong thinks that the cub is probably a female too. He’s offered us a few more insights into this kind of bear behaviour:

 1) The bear on the back doing the mounting looks older – loss of hair, longer and more curved claws, and is a female who has given birth in the past (has a suckling mark on her breast).

2) The blacker bear is a female too – good looking, younger looking with dense black hairs

3) In the wild, unrelated bears don’t normally get along well. This kind of behavior at first glance should be mating/foreplay behavior but these two bears are females.

4) Another possibility is that they’re siblings who know each other well. But in the bear world siblings  rarely have the opportunity to meet one another. If they do they’ll treat each other as strangers.

 Thanks so much Wong!!! Apart from the links given above, more on Wong’s exploits with sun bears can also be found here, and here, and more sun bear videos to whet your appetite here. Please help support his efforts!

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Wong’s notes:

Good work Reuben and your team in Rimba! Keep up the good work!!

Sun bear climbing liana at BSBCC

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/BlQy8SHRGjo" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Sun bears in Borneo live in the lush tropical aseasonal rainforest.

With high solar radiation, high rainfall and constant warm temperature year round, this forest simply fills with life.

The forest forms multiple canopy layers, with the top layers measure average 50 m above the ground, and some “emergent” tree species reaching 70 m or more.

Under this condition, sun bears have evolved as an arboreal species to exploit the multiple strata in the forest.

Sun bears are superb climbers.

They spend a lot of their time resting on big canopy branches, and sleeping in the tree nest that they made high on top of tree.

They also forage on these multiple canopy layers, harvesting fruits, ants and other insects, and bee hives.

This is Cerah the female sun bear.

She was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department in 2007.

Her life as a captive sun bear literary transform after the establishment of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in 2008.

Here at BSBCC, she can have access to the forest enclosure.

She can climb like a wild sun bear in her forest enclosure.

She can eat termites and ants like a wild sun bear.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre aims to conserve sun bear through education, research, rehabilitation, and improve welfare for captive orphan sun bears.

We need your help to achieve these goals.

Please visit http://sunbears.wildlifedirect.org to learn more.

Please help us spread the words and spread the loves.

http://sunbears.wildlifedirect.org/

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

After exploring this liana (forest vines) for about 15 min, Cerah decided to climb higher.

She literary disappeared in the three canopy about 30 m above the ground. 

But she did not stay long up high.

Slowly she descended from the liana to the ground.

Enjoy the video.

Sun Bear Diary- Mary finally climbs!

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/l-gQ7ZSfjvY" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Sun bear is an arboreal bear.

In the wild, they spend a lot of their time resting, sleeping, and foraging on tree canopy of Southeast Asian rainforest.

Like Mary, sun bear cub learns how to climb when they are young.

Their mother will bring their cubs to look for food when they are capable to move around.

At the age of 4 or 5 months old, sun bear cubs are capable of walking, running and climbing. 

So what is a big deal of Mary climbing a tree at the age of 9 month?

Mary is not an ordinary sun bear cub.

Her mother was probably killed by poacher when she was about three months old.

She was then captured by the poacher and kept as a house pet.

Her owner has no knowledge of raise a sun bear cub.

They did not give Mary milk, which is the most important food for all baby mammals.

Because of that, she lacked sufficient nutrient for her growth and development, such as calcium and other minerals to build bones in her body.

Mary has a relatively small body when Sabah Wildlife Department rescued her and sent to Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.

Her body was relatively short and small.

She cannot walk and run properly like other sun bear cub her age.

She has weak limbs and walk slowly. Clumsy, so to speak.

We believe Mary suffered from calcium deficiency.

We hope she can overcome this problem and grow well under the care of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.

Today she was climbing this dead tree and trying to find food in the tree.

Although she failed to find any termite or ant colony, she did well on her climbing skill.

This is a big start and a good progress for Mary the sun bear to start her new life at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC)

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre aims to conserve sun bear through education, research, rehabilitation, and improve welfare for captive orphan sun bears.

We need your help to achieve these goals

Please visit http://sunbears.wildlifedirect.org to learn more

Please help us spread the words and spread the loves http://sunbears.wildlifedirect.org/

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

http://sunbears.wildlifedirect.org

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The integration of Fulung and Mary

Fulung (left) and Mary (right) play together for the first time.

Fulung (left) and Mary (right) play together for the first time.

“The best enrichment for a captive sun bear is another sun bear, if they get along well” is what I believing in now. In the past when I studied wild sun bears in the forest, they always have solitary lifestyle for a good reason: food in the forest is always scarce and not enough to feed many mouths. However, their solitary behavior may change when they are at a fruiting fig tree where fruits (food) are over abundance in a short period of time .

Sun bears are very much like the orangutans. Orangutans are the only great apes that live solitarily, at least most of the time. For great apes (two species of chimpanzees, two species of gorillas, and two species of orangutans), there are many benefits to live as a social/family group. However, because of the food scarcity in the rainforest of Borneo and Sumatra in general, they have no choice but to have a solitary lifestyle. Few weeks ago, I saw three sub-adult orangutans on a fruiting tree. They fed on the fruits of the tree when they were hungry and played and hang-around together for few days. The fruit tree attracted the orangutans far away for the feast (orangutans are important seed dispersers), but at the same time give them the opportunity to meet one another.

When I did my wild sun bear studies, I spent up to few months trying to trap them in the forest. Once I trapped them, I sedated them, put a radio-collar, collected some biological samples, and released them after an hour or two of handling episodes. My jobs thereafter were to track them down in the forest. Some of them I never got to see them again. Few of them, on very lucky circumstances, I observed them for few seconds through the thick vegetation. All of the evident that I collected from the wild sun bears indicated that they were solitary, except in one occasion: fruiting fig tree where few sun bears and other wildlife feast on a same tree. This is why I believe sun bears in the wild are solitary.

After I set up Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, I have the opportunity to observe many sun bears up close and personal. These captive sun bears display a very unique behavior that is very different from what I learned from the wild bears: they are social. They love to social. They love to interact and play with one another, just like the three wild orangutans I saw few weeks ago in the forest. The biggest reason for this social behavior in captivity is because food is not limited and they do not have a reason to compete for food. However, they have a hierarchy status and personality where this bear will never get along with that bear, etc. In short, observing these bears slowly convince me that sun bear are social animals.

Anyway, back to Fulung and Mary. These two cubs were rescued and sent to BSBCC on August 15th and September 12th, respectively. Now their quarantine periods have over and both proved to be healthy. Today we integrated them for the first time. Both of them are being housed next to each other separated by barred wall, plus a wooden plank so that they have no contact with each other. Few days ago, we removed the plank so that they have contacts through the bars. They show interest on each other. Sniffing, licking, and occasionally playing through the bars.

Today is the big day. I opened the door in between the two dens. During the first 10 minutes they just ignored each other like the other bear never exist. What interest Fulung most was Mary’s den; and what interest Mary was Fulung’s den. They checked out every corner and inches in the den. Then, Fulung walk passed Mary and suddenly realized that Mary was in his den. Mary also realized that Fulung was physically there. Fulung used his head to push Mary, and Mary used her paws to scratch Fulung. They finally get into a play fight that looks violent, but totally harmless and silent. Two furry balls were wrestled first on the floor. Then Mary who was disadvantaged by her smaller size, always being pushed down and tried to escape Fulung’s bites. She finally climbed into Fulung’s sleeping basket and Fulung followed. Both of them spend the next 30 minutes biting, kicking, wrestling, slapping, and pushing (Fulung pushed Mary with his bigger body). Because of Mary smaller size and weaker in strength, we decided to separate them after 30 min and call it a day. We will continue the integration tomorrow.

For Mary and Fulung, both orphaned as a result of their mother (probably) being killed, and they being captured as pets, the best enrichment toys for their life in captivity are the companionship of each other. The playing, biting, wrestling, and fighting (seem violence but not destructive) help their social skills at the same time improve the development of the muscle, agility, and growth. All of these are important elements in the long process of development to become adult and healthy sun bears.

Please help us help Fulung, Mary and other sun bears that we rescued and care at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. At the moment our operation fund is at a record low and we are desperately needs your help in many ways. You can donate online at:

http://www.leapspiral.org/content/support_leap.php  (select “Donate” to Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre)

http://www.causes.com/causes/95651-bornean-sun-bear-conservation-centre (click “Give”)

 

Siew Te Wong

Oct 24, 2011

Mary (right) biting Fulung's ear :)

Mary (right) biting Fulung's ear 🙂

Two furry balls wrestling for 30 minutes during their first meeting.

Two furry balls wrestling for 30 minutes during their first meeting.

Fulung (left) and Mary (right) play biting with each other.

Fulung (left) and Mary (right) play biting with each other.

Mary (left) used her head to stop Fulung (right)'s kicks.

Mary (left) used her head to stop Fulung (right)'s kicks.

Although smaller in size, Mary (left) stands her ground on Fulung's wrestle.

Although smaller in size, Mary (left) stands her ground on Fulung's wrestle.

Fulung (top) is advantages from his larger size than Mary.

Fulung (top) is advantages from his larger size than Mary.

The wrestling between Mary (top) and Fulung was non-stop for 30 min.

The wrestling between Mary (top) and Fulung was non-stop for 30 min.

Fulung (top) riding on Mary.

Fulung (top) riding on Mary.

Fulung being larger dwarfed Mary and dominant the wrestling.

Fulung being larger dwarfed Mary and dominant the wrestling.

Sun Bear Diary – Mary and ants

This is something that I wanted to do every time I walk one of our sun bear cubs in the forest: I want to upload and post the videos that I took (literally hundreds of them if not thousands already) of the bears doing their “things” in the forest and share them to the world. However, I am always facing the dilemma of finding enough time to do so. 🙁

Yesterday I walked Mary the sun bear for the first time after being away for 3 weeks (our stuff and volunteer walked her during my absence) in the forest like before. We had a great time together in the forest (although both the leeches and mosquitoes were really bad because of the heavy rain we had lately). Although she still wanted to suck my finger once in a while to seek comfort, her condition is much better compare to last month when she first came here. She moved much faster and more agile. Good news for sure.

I hope I can find more time to upload and catch up with editing and uploading the videos on internet so that you all can see their special behavior and illusive life style. Stay tuned and enjoy the video!     

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/EEdk9xxJrPA" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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Video of Natalie the Sun bear cub climbing vines

Sun bear, the world smallest bear, is also the world most arboreal bear.

They are equipped with soft food pads and strong curved claws that help them cling and grip on tree trunks and branches.

Since little, their instinct of climbing and exploring the height are strong.

They climb the trees for few purposes: finding food, rest and sleep on trees.

It is advantage for the sun bears to seek shelter on tree because there forest floor is always wet in the tropical rainforest.

Also, predators that known to pray on sun bears are often found on forest floor.

Sun bear are very agile on trees, to a point that they look more like apes, such as chimpanzee, than a bear.    

They start climbing at young age because it may take them a long time to master the skill of tree climbing.

At five months old, Natalie the sun bear cub is slowly improving her tree climbing skills.

Although clumsy sometime, the clumsiness is an important learning process for Natalie to be a skillful tree climber!

Natalie is one of many sun bear cub rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department that sent to Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.

BSBCC aims to conserve sun bear and educate the public on the plights of this little known bear. 

We need your help and support to make this happen.

Please visit http://sunbears.wildlifedirect.org/

Please help us spread the words and share this video.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/03LerWmK970" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Sun Bear climbing tree at BSBCC

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/xXNx8-u3msY" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /] 

Sun bear is an arboreal bear. In the wild, they spend a lot of their time on tree harvesting fruits, resting, and sleeping.

This is Suria, one of a female sun bear at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.

 In her state-of-the-art forest enclosure, she can climb trees like a wild bear.

Please help Suria and other sun bears.

Please visit http://sunbears.wildlifedirect.org to learn more about sun bears and BSBCC.