1/26/18

Kudat’s Freedom

19/1/2018

Text by Bronwyn Nyrie Watkins (APE Volunteer)
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah

Kudat is an adult male bear, who was taken from a mini zoo along with Panda, an adult female, where they had been displayed as giant pandas and fed them a chicken in every day. However due to the limited area of forest enclosure in this Centre, Kudat has to stay in bear house for two years. This just led to it being all the more emotional watching Kudat be retrained to touch the ground and go outside, as we knew he could, it was pure fear that kept him inside.

For the month that I was volunteering at BSBCC, I was part of the group that observed Kudat in the training pen. This was probably the most rewarding part of my whole time with the bears, as not only did we watch his reactions to the outside, we were also able to move the food (used as incentive to come outside) around depending on where we wanted him to go or how far he could actually stretch. The lines of fruit radiating from his door were a visual display of his improvement. The other rewarding aspect was that we could see him walking more like a bear, with no unnatural stretching to keep his feet in the door to his night cage. Before the fence training, Kudat had been stressed, resulting in pacing and worrying his fur until he had bald patches on his legs and head, but now his fur is starting to grow back, making him look more like the beautiful sleek bear that he should be!

Kudat stepping down onto the ground was a perfect goodbye present for me, as I could see the difference just spending half an hour every day with a bear does for their confidence. I hope that when I come back, I will be seeing Kudat out in the enclosures outside!

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Kudat in the first few days of fence training, as you can see, he’s not coming out very far at all!

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Unnatural stretching when he thinks his back feet are in his door. Condensed milk, honey, peanut butter and watermelon were favourites for Kudat!

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Kudat touched the ground!

74,000 visit sun bear centre

19/1/2018

Daily Express, 19th January 2018

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My Bornean Adventure

6/1/2018

Text by Eva Muir
Photos by Chiew Lin May

Having just graduated with a degree in animal behaviour and wildlife conservation, I decided to take a gap year in order to gain practical experience working with wildlife before continuing on to postgraduate education. For me, the decision to volunteer at The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre was an easy one. Simply put, I am crazy about bears, and I believe there is something incredibly special about the Bornean sun bear. My love of bears began in 2016 when I spent 3 months working with American black bears in Minnesota. I learnt so much about black bear behaviour, ecology and conservation during my time in America, and I was sure this experience had left me well prepared for my time with the sun bears. How wrong I was!

By the end of my first morning at The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre I realised that black bears and sun bears could not be more different. Although they are small, sun bears have a much bigger attitude than black bears, and are not afraid to let you know when they want something! I quickly learnt that each of the 44 rescued bears at the BSBCC have completely individual personalities, and for me, the best part of my volunteering experience was getting to know each bear. I spent a total of 2 months with the bears, allowing me to gain the trust of many as I provided care for them on a daily basis. However not all of the bears reacted well to me, and some would bark at me as I passed their enclosures. For me, this was an important reminder that when you work with wildlife you must respect each animal as an individual, each with their own likes, dislikes and emotions.

I settled into the daily routine at the BSBCC incredibly quickly. Everybody was so friendly and welcoming, and I immediately felt able to ask any questions I had, or ask for help when I needed it. The atmosphere in the bear house was fantastic; although the work was often difficult and dirty, everybody was always smiling, and the days passed by too quickly. The BSBCC team was made up of people of all ages and backgrounds, but we were all bought together by a shared love of bears and passion for wildlife conservation, and everybody worked well together. By far the most important part of the job was creating enrichments for the bears. Enrichments can be anything designed to stimulate the bears, provide a challenge and add interest into their everyday lives. Popular daily enrichments included nest balls, which were tightly tied bundles of vegetation with tasty snacks in the middle, stick paradox, which involved smearing sticks which strong smelling treats such as peanut butter and honey, and ice blocks, excellent for cooling down a hot bear in the heat of the afternoon.

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Making nest balls

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Stick paradox

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Preparing ice blocks

In addition to the smaller enrichments which we would make on a daily basis, I also got the opportunity to be involved in a larger enrichment project during my time at the BSBCC. Together with bear keepers Roger and Brandon, I helped build a new hammock-style bed for the bears, entirely from scratch. I had never done any construction work before so I learnt many new skills during this process, and was surprised to find myself thoroughly enjoying the hard work. Moreover, there is no feeling more rewarding than watching a bear enjoy an enrichment which you worked hard to make.

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Working together to build the new hammock bed

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Our finished project!

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Along enjoying his new bed

In addition to my day to day duties in the bear house, I also got the amazing opportunity to assist with two bear health checks and be directly involved in the fence training process for Phin, one of the rescued sun bears. Each bear gets a full medical check once a year to ensure they are in good health, and my role during the checks was to record the bear’s measurements and take a print of each of the bear’s paws. This was a big responsibility, and I felt honoured to be trusted with these tasks. Likewise, it was an honour to be able to assist with Phin’s fence training, a vital stage of the rehabilitation process as each bear must pass the training before they can safely enter the forest enclosure. Each day Phin would make a little bit more progress in his journey into the outside world, although he was very nervous and would often retreat to the safety of his inside area. Sadly I did not get to see Phin make into the forest enclosure during my time in Borneo, but I have since heard that he has made tremendous improvements and has gone down to the bottom of his ramp, and I am so proud of him.

To anyone considering volunteering at the BSBCC, I cannot recommend it enough. Travelling to Borneo was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and my only regret is that I did not stay longer! It is amazing how quickly you become attached to the sun bears, they are truly incredible animals full of fun and mischief. Similarly, the BSBCC team are also incredible, and I know I have been lucky enough to make many friends for life during my stay in Borneo. This is a vital time, not just for sun bears, but for all wildlife. The time to act is now. Raise awareness, donate, volunteer – please do what you can to help save the sun bear while we still can! 

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The BSBCC team – thank you for everything!

1/25/18

Dr. Wong's 2018 New Year message

1/1/2018

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Happy New Year 2018!

20 years ago in 1998 I came to Sabah alone from Penang to embark the sun bear study for my Master degree in Danum Valley; many people called that project ambitious and impossible. I did it.

10 years ago in 2008, my field assistant Wai Pak and me came to Sepilok, Sandakan, Sabah to establish the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC); many people called this project ambitious and impossible. We did it!

And now in 2018, 26 BSBCC’s staffs, 44 rescued sun bears at BSBCC, and me, are marching into the next 10 years of our life-long mission to conserve sun bears in Sabah. We are not sure what other people going to call it. However, we are ready to face all the challenges on our paths, just like what we did 10 or 20 years ago.

BSBCC has comes a long way from it started 10 years ago with 2 staff and 7 rescued sun bears. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your supports and helps, especially Sabah State Government, Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department, LEAP, and generous funding agencies like Sime Darby Foundation, to make this project a success. Without all of your helping hands, we will not come this far.

Over the past 10 years, BSBCC has been working hand on hand with Sabah Wildlife Department and Wildlife Rescue Unit to take care of the rescued sun bears in Sabah. We have focused our works on four objectives: animal welfare, education, research and rehabilitation and passed with flying colours reflected by various awards we received. Last year, we expanded our objectives to incorporate ecotourism, community conservation, anti-poaching and captive breeding of sun bears. All of these eight objectives will be the focus for the coming 10 years, starting from today!

The next 10 years will be a very crucial period for all wildlife conservation works in Malaysia as the country has experiencing rapid transition: wildlife habitat and wildlife population are shrinking as human population expanding: from 10 million 50 years ago in 1968, to today’s 32 million. Several spectacular wildlife in this country has either extinct or critically endangered. Wildlife poaching and wildlife parts trading emerges as the biggest threats to the survival of the remaining wildlife populations, sun bear included, as demand increases. We need to work on all of these eight areas simultaneously, if we were to conserve sun bear and many other endangered and protected wildlife species in this country.

The tasks for us to deliver good results for the next 10 years are challenging. We cannot do it without your helps and involvements. Local communities, general public, civil societies, stakeholders, biologists, academics, NGOs, funding agencies and government agencies, all have important roles and should do what they do best to conserve sun bears and other natural resources in this country. We need your continuous helps and involvements more than ever because if we failed, the results would be devastating!

I thank you from the bottom of my heart! Wishing you all the best in this New Year! May all beings be happy, joyful, well, be safe & at peace!

Kindest regards,
Wong
Dr (Hon) Wong Siew Te, D.J.N.
准拿督黃修德荣誉博士
C.E.O. and Founder,
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
email: wongsiew@hotmail.com
Cell: 016-555 1256

12/31/17

Annual Heath Check for 44 Bears at BSBCC

29/12/2017

Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May

It is a vital step to protect the health of all the rescued bears at our centre. Every year the bears will receive full health checks and any medical procedures they require. Once again, we were very fortunate to have veterinary care from Sabah Wildlife Departments, Dr. Nabila Sarkawi.

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Dr. Nabila took blood samples, deworming and multivitamin were given

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Dr. Nabila took blood samples, deworming and multivitamin were given

A basic health check corner has been set up complete with a surgery table and health check equipment. 44 of the bears have been checked. The health check began with each bear being individually anaesthetized. 

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All bears falling asleep smoothly under anesthetic

Dr. Nabila and the bear care team performed a thorough check on the bears’ health. This included taking the bears’ weight,

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Weighing the bear body weight

​​temperature, pulse and respiration rate, body measurement, blood and hair samples, dental treatment, cutting back severely overgrown claws for those bears that stay inside the bear house, x-ray, being checked for potential sickness (signs of ill-health, disease and injury), and functioning of internal organs. 

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Taking X-ray

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Bear care team monitoring TPR (temperatures, pulse rate, and respiration rate), Taking body measurements and photos. Hair samples is collecting for future DNA studies

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Bear care team monitoring TPR (temperatures, pulse rate, and respiration rate), Taking body measurements and photos. Hair samples is collecting for future DNA studies

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Taking the bear's paw print

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A sun bear's chest mark are like our fingerprints.

dental treatment,

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Checking teeth condition of the bear

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Checking teeth condition of the bear

cutting back severely overgrown claws for those bears that stay inside bear house,

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​If the bear had a wound, then treatment and medication would be provided during the examination. 

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Once the health checks were completed, the bears were brought back to their dens to recover from the sedative and their condition was monitored. From this health check, we will have a much clearer idea of the bears' future needs, including diet.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), they are categorized as “vulnerable”.  We need to highlight sun bear conservation and help protect them from the threat of extinction. On the 13th of July 2017, an application of advanced reproductive technology in the conservation of endangered wildlife programme (ART programme) - training in immobilization and reproduction of sun bear in Sabah, was conducted. ART programme is a project under the 11th Malaysia Plan administered by Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD). Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) is appointed as consultant to help develop the ART programme. By conducting this ART programme, the “sample size” of living individuals is large and there are opportunities for the captive sun bear population to contribute to the long term survival of the species. During the health check, eight healthy adult male bears and one adult female bear were chosen. Sun bear semen was collected.

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In very exciting news, on the 26th of November 2017, Debbie and Damai were fitted with satellite collars. Debbie and Damai have shown signs of being excellent in their forest skills, enough to cope sufficiently in the wild. They have prepared for life back in the wild. Our team will monitor their adaptation, making sure the collar is functioning well and will evaluate their progress.

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Our rescued bears get the best care. Thankfully, a number of the bears examined had nothing serious going on. Only Diana, an eleven year old, adult female bear had poor conditions with her teeth, suffering from severe damage ever since having a highly unsuitable diet when she kept as an illegal pet. Diana requires extensive medical care ahead. She was moved to Quarantine for future special care by our bear team. Diana will recover well by receiving pain relief and being fed soft blended fruit. She is continuing to show good progress with less signs of stereotypical behavior compared to when she was staying at the bear house. Every day she can enjoy the forest scenery and smells around her. After finishing her food, she climbs up and rests comfortably back in her basket.

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After one year of Noah and Nano undergoing rehabilitation at our centre, they made such good progress that they graduated from cub rehabilitation in quarantine to “big bear” dens in Bear House. Here they can see other sun bears so they can learn from them and get used to the sounds and sights of the outside world. The bear house bears were delighted to welcome Noah and Nano to the family. The new dens where they are settling in have been stocked with climbing structures to play on, a comfy hammock to take naps on and dried leaves as browse to explore. After a period of adaption in the new den where the rehabilitation will continue, there will be eventual access out to the forest enclosure. Noah and Nano are very quick settle into their new environment. 

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Process moving Noah and Nano to bear house start with the bear being put on anesthesia by Dr. Nabila

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Process moving Noah and Nano to bear house start with the bear being put on anesthesia by Dr. Nabila

They are sniffing in curiosity all the time. Noah and Nano are exceptionally brave and inquisitive explorers. Noah adapted well to his new environment, proving to be a fast learner and loving the fruits given by his care taker. Nano’s response was quite amazing, but his favourite past time is sleeping in his basket. 

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Noah and Nano were explores his new home

They are being monitored and are being continuously stimulated with enrichment items. They will have the opportunity to climb, explore and adjust to this new space. Every time they are given extra treats and new enrichment they get really excited! 

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We try to let the rescued bears live as close to their natural surrounding as much as possible

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Great new environment to explore!!

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Nano is active and loves playing and exploring the enrichment toys around his new dens

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Nano is active and loves playing and exploring the enrichment toys around his new dens

They also have received lots of love from our bear care team, doing everything they can to help them build strength and courage to live as a wild bear! It is wonderful knowing that what is coming next makes it even more incredible.

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On 13 August 2017, Noah and Nano took their first step out to forest!

It is so exciting that the rescued sun bears will take the biggest step in their life. This year will be a big movement for our bears. Some groups will go into an outside forest enclosure for the first time. Other bear groups will change to have access out to the new forest. Several groups will undergo electric fence training. While one group will be introduced to a larger group. There are also two release candidate bears preparing to be released back into the wild. The bears will realize this new life is good and finally live the life denied to them by pet trade.

Thanks for the hard work and wonderful care provided by Dr. Nabila, Dr. Pakee, Dr. Reza, Elis Tambing and the bear care team! Huge thanks for being part of the team. Job well done!!!