1/14/21

Begining 2021 With Their Freedom

Text by: Pradeep Aggi Gunasegaran

Photos by: Tee Thye Lim, Chiew Lin May, Seng Yen Wah


It has been a tough year for 2020 for BSBCC and all of us around the world with Covid 19 lingering amongst us. However, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) has not deviated from its goal of rescuing and rehabilitating Bornean Sun Bears in Sabah with help of our dedicated staffs, our supporters, Yayasan Hasanah, and Yayasan Sime Darby. The battle is not over yet but we at BSBCC have decided to kick it off in 2021 by releasing another two of our promising candidates back into their natural habitat, Sunbearo and Loki. The release of these two individuals would bring up a total of ten Bornean Sun Bears being released back into the wild since 2015.



Back in March 2014, BSBCC received both Sunbearo (Rescue Bear 37) and Loki (Rescure Bear 38) as young cubs. Sunbearo was rescued by Sabah Widlife Department back in January 2014 from a Mini Zoo and Hot Springs in Tawau while Loki was confiscated by Sabah Wildlife Department from the backyard of an inn, which was bought and kept as an illegal pet. Both of them had different names when they came over to BSBCC; Sunbearo was originally named as Tan Sri by his previous owner while Loki was called Ooi. Both their names were changed as recognition to Neways International (Australia) Pty Ltd who adopted Sunbearo and also Steve Denim who adopted and gave Loki’s name to honour his deceased cat.  




A month after arriving at BSBCC, both Sunbearo and Loki were introduced to each to aid each other through this rehabilitation journey. Since then, both of them have never left each other’s side and have remained best friends. Since 2015, they have been exploring the forest enclosures in BSBCC together. Sunbearo and Loki have been exhibiting behaviour that is deemed essential for a wild sun bear throughout the years of them occupying the different forest enclosures. Sunbearo who is at 8 years of age is an excellent tree climber, loves exploring his surroundings for food and enjoys sunbathing under the sun from time to time. Loki, now 7 years of age has the same characters as Sunbearo but she is also capable of building nest out of leaves and branches in the forest enclosures as well. They can always be seen together at the Bear House sharing the hammock to sleep on together and even today, they suckle on each other every now and then for comfort as well. After years of rehabilitation, evaluating the behaviour as sun bears and their taking into account of their social characteristics, it was decided that Sunbearo and Loki will also be released back into the forest together; it hopes that the two of them would establish their home range close to each other and increase their survivability together as they are able to share resources as well.





The day before they begin the journey to the release sight, both Sunbearo and Loki underwent a last health check-up separately before they were both transferred in to the translocation cages. Both of their conditions were monitored throughout the time before they were loaded at into the four wheel drives to begin their journey to freedom at 11.45 p.m., 9th January 2021. Throughout the six hours journey, Sunbearo and Loki were composed. They faced all kinds of unfamiliarity from the moment they were placed in the translocation boxes, being lifted and fitted into the vehicles, experiencing the rain and the uneven roads of Sabah. During each stop to check on them, the bears were receptive to our approach to the translocation box to feed them with food and water. It is as though, Sunbearo and Loki knew the purpose of their entire journey.



At 5.55 a.m. on 10th January 2021, Sunbearo and Loki arrived at their site of release. The sun was beginning to rise and the jungle came to life with beautiful voice of the gibbons, hornbill, coucal, and many more.  It was decided beforehand that Sunbearo and Loki will be allowed to meet each other in the translocation boxes that would allow the two best friends to start of their new journey feeling calm and safer in this unfamiliar territory. At 6.48 a.m., the door towards freedom opened up. Sunbearo and Loki took their time to come out of the boxes. The both of them appeared to have settled down and they walked out of the boxes gracefully. Sunbearo was first and Loki was right behind his tail. Sunbearo and Loki were sniffing their new surrounding without feeling startled. Loki continued sniffing and walking on the pathway that was opened for them while Sunbearo stayed around for thirteen minutes sniffing the around before walking into the forest. 





We could not ask for a better release than this. The experience was peaceful and fulfilling. Both Sunbearo and Loki looked at home since the moment they stepped foot on the soil. Their movement will be monitor via the satellite collars on them and we hope to see them thriving in the forest during the upcoming weeks. 

1/7/21

Integration Betung with Itam & Kipaku

Day 134: The best enrichment of a bear always is another bear!


Most of the rescued bear in BSBCC is being separated from the mother bear and kept as a pet, which causing they spend most of the time having contact with human (direct or non-direct) in the unnatural environment. After living alone in a cage, on 25th December 2020, Little Betung finally free from trauma and now has made new bear friends for the first time in her life.

Through integration, it will help to change these bears' lives and provide them with more physical and mental stimulation, reduce stress, and allow them to learn vital survival skills. Rescued bears learning from each other (bear copying bear behaviour) facilitate the rehabilitation process in our centre - building up their confidence for stepping out again into the forest floor, climbing trees, and self-defense.

Interactions between Betung, Kipaku, and Itam have shown to be positive. Itam & Kipaku help her adjust to her new life and learn how to be a bear again. They enjoy playing, exploring, and making us fall in love with their beautiful smiles!



Julaini – The life of a free bear

Text by Chiew Lin May

Photo by Sabah Wildlife Department & Chiew Lin May

​A sub adult, male bear was rescued on the 5th of December 2009 in Taman Formosa, Penampang Baru, Sabah. He was found trapped in the farm and was kept in a small iron cage for a very long time. He was then brought to the Lok Kawi Zoo and sent to BSBCC on the 3rd of July 2010. 

He is now safe, and we will give him the best chance of surviving in the forest. He was named “Julaini”, after the head welder who constructed the new bear house. During the arrival, he was a very aggressive bear, but now Julaini has become a big favourite for us – nicknamed wrinkled bear!

He has adjusted very well to his life at BSBCC.

During his rehabilitation, proper nutrition and various enrichment activities are given to stimulate his bear behaviours and to help him recover from the psychological trauma of being kept in captivity. Bear care staff will always introduce different types of enrichment toys and new treats for him. He enjoys fruit, coconuts and honey. On the 26th of May 2011, Julaini together with Ah Lun got to meet their new group of bears friends.



During the electric fence training, he appeared to be more nervous compared to the other bears. We never gave up on Julaini and used different types of his favorite food to lure him out to the forest. Julaini has a cataract on his left eye, but this did not let him give up easily in learning to be a wild bear. On the 13th of March 2013, Julaini finally took his huge first steps into a lifetime of freedom in the forest. 


He walked slowly and calmly sniffed the forest air! 


​It was a blessing to watch him be a wild bear again and we were unable to control the smiles on our faces. 


Julaini’s eyes widened with the thrill of TALL trees, dead wood, termites and blue sky around him!


Julaini is brave and finds the strength to venture out to the forest.


​Julaini can be seen roaming around in the forest with his best female pal, Ah Lun, where they will forage, play fight, protect and get comfort together.




Julaini is not keen on climbing trees. Julaini loves to find a big tree trunk and fall asleep there. 

​He also never misses his favorite treats –termites and honey! He learns all the skills he will need to survive in the forest. Over the past 10 years, Julaini has been given the chance to return to his natural habitat. He seems to have a wonderful time and has proven to us that he is one of the loveliest bears in the centre. 

There is a lot more freedom ahead for Julaini to enjoy!


Sun bears are vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The global population of sun bears has declined by 30% in the last 30 years. This is due to the increasing threats to the species’ survival from illegal hunting, pet trade and deforestation, which has led to the rapid decline in sun bear numbers. It acts as a reminder to us all how important the need to protect sun bears from extinction truly is. Please give them a voice!

1/1/21

New Year 2021


Happy New Year everyone! I cannot believe the year 2020 has ended and we are ushering in the New Year of 2021!

 

I am sure everyone agrees with me that 2020 has been the most challenging year for all of us because of the COVID 19 pandemic. The pandemic has affected our daily routines, travel, economy, socialising and livelihood. Worse are those unfortunate to have contracted the virus, fallen ill and worst, lost their precious lives.

 

The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre too has suffered its’ share of detriment. We’ve been closed since March 17th after Malaysia invariably got “locked down” by different stages of Movement Control Order to control the spread of the SARS-CoV2 virus. Eco tourism, key to sustaining conservation efforts of our centre had been shut down but operational expenses remained the same.

 

We are ever so grateful to our benefactors from all round the globe. By your donations, adoptions, purchase of merchandise and fundraisers, we have pulled through a harrowing year 2020. I cannot thank you all enough, especially both Hasanah and Sime Darby Foundations. We have still suffered a staggering net loss of more than RM900,000 in 2020.

 

We hope the Sabah state government can help us financially until tourists return. As Founder and CEO of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, I remain optimistic and tenacious sourcing additional ringgits and cents to run the rehabilitation initiative. Quitting is not an option.

 

Looking back, 2020 has not been any less successful despite harsh setbacks.  I brim with pride and am extremely grateful to the BSBCC family for sticking it out through thick and thin tending to 45 rescued sun bears and keeping the gears of our operations running smoothly. During mid-2020, I was proud being able to say that BSBCC and Sabah Wildlife Department had not rescued any sun bears in Sabah for the preceding one and a half years largely due to the success of conservation awareness programs that BSBCC has been carrying out for the past many years.

 

We had successfully educated the masses on the legality of rearing and killing sun bears. Unfortunately, good runs are not never ending; in July 2020, the Sabah Wildlife Department rescued three sun bear cubs: Kipaku, Itam, and the severely malnourished Betung.

We ardently endeavoured nursing them round the clock to full recovery; most laboriously with Betung. The new arrivals have made the total number of sun bears sent to BSBCC 65 since inception 12 years ago.  Rescue of the trio during the “lock down” especially worried me. It pointed to the possibility of a rise in poaching as locals had lost jobs during the pandemic.

 

As for sun bear rehabilitation and release, the initial plan was to release four sun bears in 2020. Unfortunately, the pandemic denied us that sweet story. Notwithstanding, on July 10, 2020, we successfully released Montom, an adult male sun bear back to the wild not far from where he had been rescued in central Sabah. We monitored his movement for several months after the release.

Despite movement and travel restrictions, we have kept busy with awareness campaigns and education. I delivered 11 webinars to global audiences and 2 talks in-person at Sabah prior to the pandemic; I appeared on 15 internet, radio and television programs; BSBCC and myself were covered in 45 newspaper articles and interviews on various topics. Easily the biggest achievement was the publication of “Saving Sun Bears - One Man’s Quest to Save a Species”, my biography with a focus on my life-long journey in saving sun bears. It was graciously written by Dr Sarah Pye from Australia. An international book launch organized by Sunshine Coast Municipal Council in Sunshine Coast, Australia took place on June 5th, 2020.   

 

We have delivered on promises made in conjunction with the establishment of BSBCC more than 12 years ago. If not for the pandemic, we could have done much more. So, the challenge for 2021 considering new norms is to keep BSBCC running; so that we can continue rehabilitating rescued sun bears alongside conducting education and research initiatives. In the very near future, we shall release a few more rehabilitated sun bears back into the wild. Construction of our new ticketing and shop building completed in December 2020 and will soon be functioning.

 

On this New Year’s Day, I pray for world peace, for the pandemic to end soon and for everyone’s life and tourism across the world to adapt to new norms. If the pandemic and wanton culling of wildlife has taught us anything, humanity across the world should now understand the importance of sustainable co-existence with nature. We must respect nature, keep wildlife wild and live harmoniously with nature. If not, we are just setting up for new pandemics that will vengefully devastate humanity.

 

Once again, I am very thankful to all donors, sun bear adopters, fans and followers who help spread word of conservation and make our work possible. Please keep supporting BSBCC and our work!


I wish you a Happy New Year! May the New Year bring happiness, joy, peace, and safety to all beings on Earth!




Best wishes,

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


Wawa, Sun Bear in The Rain

How do you spend rainy days?

Sun bears live in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia. Their outer layer of fur sheds water. Their coat is thick to protect against heavy rain or branches fall. Sun bear learn how to cope in the rainy season - either play or stay out from the rain. Wawa is waiting for the rain to be over so she can continue to play in the forest.

Sun bears play a vital role in seed dispersal and in maintaining the health of the forest ecosystem. One of the threats to sun bears is the loss of habitat because of the demand for land to grow palm oil or infrastructure. Please help use protect sun bears, their critical forest home, and their future.