Tag Archives: new home

Sun Bears digging for termites at BSBCC’s forest enclosure

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One small step

Today saw one small step for a sun bear, but one giant leap for BSBCC. On Tuesday 20th April at approximately 10am, Om one of the adult male bears, took his final step into the new Jungle enclosure. The process of giving the sun bears a better life started many years ago, but today it was actually happening.

I had the incredible privilege to be present at the time, alongside Waipak and Charlie Hoare, a professional wildlife photographer, who has kindly volunteered to photograph the sun bears in their new home, following working with Raleigh Borneo.

Om had been thinking about venturing outside for a few days, but was always leaving just one paw inside for security. However this morning after the hatch to the outside had been opened for nearly an hour, Om finally crawled down the ramp and onto the forest floor. It was an amazing moment to watch with Charlie lost for words. He couldn’t believe his luck, he is use to waiting days to get the desired shot and Om had provided it in only an hour.

Once on the ground Om ran back and forth with enthusiasm, this was followed by loud excited barking. He only stayed outside for a few minutes returning back inside bounding up the ramp. He didn’t venture out again, most likely resting from the adrenalin of the mornings activities.

So now we hope that the other bears will soon follow Om into what is their natural habitat. Good luck to everyone working at the centre in the coming weeks, especially the sun bears themselves.

 

Jim Clements, Country Director, Raleigh Borneo

Photos by Charlie Hoare

 

The very first step of Om getting out to the forest enclosure

The very first step of Om getting out to the forest enclosure

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There is nothing more happy for Wai Pak to witness such moment that we all have been working hard for.

There is nothing more happy for Wai Pak to witness such moment that we all have been working hard for.

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The priceless forest enclosure

Behind the bear house is the 1 ha forest enclosure in Sepilok Forest Reserve

Behind the bear house is the 1 ha forest enclosure in Sepilok Forest Reserve

Our state of the art new bear house is one thing for sure that make us all very proud at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. It cost about USD400,000 and took 8 months to build. However, there is another important element at BSBCC that make us even more proud is our 1-hectare forest enclosure that our bears will spend most of their time playing, foraging, climbing, digging, sleeping and resting. This forest enclosure is priceless, there is simply no monetary value on this piece of 1 hectare of primary forest, and it takes millions of years to build.

When I first visited this piece of forest few years ago when searching for an ideal site for BSBCC, I cannot tell the difference between this forest that will be the our forest enclosure for the rescued sun bears and the natural forest that I spent years to study wild sun bears. This is it! This is the best living environment that we can possibly give to our rescued sun bears. Here, the bears can do what they use to do in the forest. It is also going to be here that visitors- ordinary people, not sun bear biologist, can see what I used to see sun bears did in the wild, in their natural habitat, in a primary lowland rainforest of Borneo.

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Big tress and big decayed logs - sun bear: " I am home!"

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Through the chain link fence is another forest enclosure with huge tree

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Huge tree in the forest enclosure and the iron wood fence with hot wires

Huge tree in the forest enclosure and the iron wood fence with hot wires

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On behalf of BSBCC and all the rescued sun bears at BSBCC, I would like to thank Sabah Forestry Department and Sabah Wildlife Department, especially directors Datuk Sam Mannan and Dr. Laurentius Ambu, for their kind support to give us this piece of priceless forest enclosure. Lastly but not lease, thank you all for giving loves, cares, and supports for our works to help this special bear call sun bears.

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"Thank you all!"

Successful E-fence training, and successful testing the air in the enclosure

The moment that we all have been waiting for are finally here. After all the sun bears were settling down in their new home, the next challenges for us would be the electric-fence training, integration of different bears, and the introduction of the bears to the new forest enclosures were something that will happen over the next few days. These processes are all crucial and important parts of the “bringing the sun bear a better home.”

On April 9, we first introduced the young female group to the hot wire (electric fence) training pen so that the bears could learn to avoid the hot wire in the forest enclosures and will not escape. This is also the day when Annemarie Weegenaar from AAF have to leave us to go back for the moon bears in China. It is like the fellowship of bears slowly leaving again. Separation is always sad. However, we understand that the moon bears in China needed Annemarie’s cares and loves for the moon bears.

The training session went well, although slow. Of the 4 young females, Jelita was the champion of all who first understand the message of the hot wire and later feel much comfortable foraging in the training pen and avoid touching the wire. The other bears- Cerah, Kuamut, and Lawa, pretty much followed Jelita but felt less adventurous to wonder around the hot wire training pen and spend most of the time in their own dens relaxing in the bear basket and playing. They never seem to complain much although the den is concrete floor and iron bars wall, maybe this is what they grow up with and get use to- without touching the real soil and without nurture of the forest.

Jelita in the hot-wire training pen- checking out the surrounding

Jelita in the hot-wire training pen- checking out the surrounding

 

 

Jelita found some insects in the logs and start breaking the wood to find potential food items

Jelita found some insects in the logs and start breaking the wood to find potential food items

By now we mixed these four young female up. They occupy 4 dens/cells where they can move freely as they wish. We give them and other bears plenty of enrichments such as leaves, browse, logs, ice block, kong toys, Aussy balls, coconuts, water bath, etc. to keep them busy. During the hot wire training session that last most of the day, we open the doors between their dens to the training pen so that they can come in and out of the training pen as they wish. We want to make the bears have a positive experience with these training so that they eventually learn to avoid the hot wires surrounding the enclosures and hence discourage them from climbing the fences in the forest enclosure when they go out one day. We do not want to push them to do something that they are feel less comfortable to do. We work according to their clock.

Jelita foraging on teh decayed wood for termites

Jelita foraging on teh decayed wood for termites

On April 12, three days after their training, we decided to let this young female group out to their forest enclosure. We open the door of the den for the first time. We thought today will marked history for the captives sun bears at BSBCC because the forest enclosure is the second items beside the new bear house that we all have been working hard for them. The moment that the bear step out from their den and put their feet on the forest’s floor will be a historic moment for sun bear in BSBCC and sun bear as a species-a big step forward to save the species. However, what happen in the next few hours to the next few days after the doors of the bear’s den opened was something that we did not expect – Only Jelita show interest of the outside world by sniffing the forest air over and over again. She made one step on the ramp that connect the den to the forest enclosure and hesitate to wonder any further. For the rest of the three girls – Cerah, Kuamut and Lawa, they preferred to enjoy their basket nap and stay put in their spacious den.

Jelita pocked her head out to check on the outside world

Jelita pocked her head out to check on the outside world

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Jelita sniffing the forest air- she was almost there to enjoy the forest

Jelita sniffing the forest air- she was almost there to enjoy the forest

It is understandable why these four bears hesitate to come out to the forest enclosure. First they are still young (> 3 year old) and sense of wariness to the new environment still very strong. In the wild, they would still be accompanied by their mother who give them security in term of protection and food. Second, perhaps they grow up in a small space and confine to cages pretty much all their life and feel more comfortable in their new house now than the outside world. Nonetheless, we are sure that they will come out from their den one day to enjoy their forest, their home.      

The three other girls prefferref to stay put in their den and relax...

The three other girls prefferref to stay put in their den and relax...