Date: January 23rd 2017
11 months later and I’m back.
January 2016, I was attending the BSBCC for my wildlife placement. December 2016, I’m back again to help out with the caretaking of the ever growing family of 42 fur babies.
Working again with the bear team was better than the first, but with the added number of bears, there were some stressful times while working, especially on the day the bears received their deworming medication. It was a great opportunity for me to work with the friends and people that have shared their knowledge with me about the bears again. My admiration and respect for their ongoing dedication has grown tenfold.
After being a book nerd for 9 months, I was definitely out of shape. Carrying the bears’ food during feeding time and fence-checking was enough to make me out-of-breath most of the time. It had become a mission of my buddy, Azzry, to get me back to tiptop shape. With fence checks every few days and trekking into the enclosures to gather the plants we needed to make our enrichments, it was surely a challenge. Under the brutal training that Azzry had set for me, I felt stronger at the end of my 2 weeks. Volunteering here at the BSBCC won’t be an easy job; it will be a strength and stamina training ground for most. To those that work under rigorous conditions every day, I applaud you.
During my first time at the centre, I didn’t get much of a chance to learn about the many ways we could keep the bears occupied with enrichments. This time around, with the help of Azzry, I had managed filled that empty space of knowledge of mine. The creation of enrichments is no easy feat, especially for me, as it requires some creativity, which I obviously lack, to think of something new and exciting for the bears. With a whole forest-full of plants that we could use, along with some fruits and the bears’ most prized treats, peanut butter and honey, we managed to create some new enrichments for the bears to play with.
“Crown Prince” for Linggam, the prince of BSBCC
“Planetary Nest Ball” for Amaco and Panda
“Stick Paradox” for my baby boy, Gutuk, and Chin
Thank you again to everyone at the BSBCC for welcoming me back with open hearts and for putting up with me. And a special thank you goes out to the bear team and Dr Wong for sharing your pool of knowledge about the sun bears with me. I hope I wasn’t much of a bother and I wish nothing but the best to everyone there. I hope to meet you guys again in the future!
Date: December 21st 2016
Nano is a two years old sub-adult male bear. He was sent to the BSBCC on the 20th of November, 2016. A lady decided to rescue Nano when she saw Nano was kept in a small chicken mesh cage in Kota Marudu, north of Sabah. She purchased him from the seller for a price of RM1,500, with the purpose of saving his life. Nano was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department and sent to the BSBCC after that.
He showed aggressive, alert and stressed behaviour when he first arrived. Besides that, he was found underweight, just weighing 9.7 kg. He paced a lot especially when he got stressed. This was due to psychological trauma that he had suffered and it caused stereotypical behavior. Actually, Nano is a very shy and quiet bear. He enjoys staying to himself. If somebody tries to disturb him, he would give a warning and barks or growls. He likes to rest on a towel. He feels safer staying alone and preferably in dark. Nano just finished his quarantine. But, he is still taking his time adapting. Now, he weighs 11kg. His favourite foods are banana and egg!
We did not know what exactly happened to him for the past two years. But, we believed he was kept as a house pet before. People might think sun bears are cute when they are still a cub. So, people insist on keeping them as a pet. But they never think about the consequences resulting from keeping them in a small cage or feeding them with the wrong diet. The mistreatment of the owner will not only cause sun bears having some relevant health problem like dehydration, and malnutrition but also the psychological trauma can cause stress-related behaviour. The trauma implies their future life. So, Please stop doing that for sun bears!
Nano has suffered a lot. The best enrichment for a bear is another bear. So, we plan to find Nano a friend for accompanying him. The integration of Nano with others can help him to learn more survival skills from his new friends along with helping him to reduce his stress as well. We hope Nano can leave his traumatic early life behind and be happy and gain his confidence at the BSBCC.
Date: December 3rd 2016
Dodop and Wawa, both one year old female juvenile bears. They have a different story to tell how they arrived to BSBCC. Dodop was rescued by the Sabah Wildlife Department from being kept as pet in a Singgaron village in Ranau district. Her milk teeth had been found missing but now her permanent teeth have grown well. On the other hand, Wawa was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department. She was found in the Forest Management Unit (FMU) 16, Pinangah in Telupid District. They stayed together in quarantine and moved to bear house on 10th of October 2016.
Dodop and Wawa adapted well in the bear house. Due to the capacity of the bear house being limited, Dodop and Wawa were integrated with our sub-adult group. The sub-adult group is consists of 11 bears: Sunbearo, Loki, Bintang, Montom, Susie2, Damai, Mary, Kala, Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan. Limited capacity is not the only reason to integrate bears, integration can help bears to reduce their stress related behavior and they can learn pertinent skills from each other such as survival skills and defense skills. Wawa is a friendly bear. She likes to be friends with others by initiating play fights. Compared with Wawa, Dodop is very shy. But, everyone likes to approach her. The sub-adult group liked both Dodop and Wawa. They stay, they play and they sleep together now.
Fence training is a must before the bears are allowed out to the forest enclosure. This is because all the forest enclosures are surrounded by hot wires in high voltage. Having hot wires prevent the bears from escaping the forest enclosure. And hence, the fence training is a learning process for the bears in order to let them know the hot wire will cause them pain if they touch on it. Fence training could be a long period or short period training because it varies with different bears since they have different personalities.
Dodop and Wawa are fast learners. Even though, they had a bad experiences for the first day of the fence training; both were zapped for few times in the first day, because they climbed the fence. When they panicked, they climbed up higher but they did not know that there still were more hot wires waiting for them. When the bear keeper realized they climbed to the electric fence, the keepers did switch off the fence immediately and waited for them to climb down, just switch on the fence again. After they got zapped, they barked and ran back into the buffer cage. After that, their fence training turned negative. So, we tried to introduce Dodop and Wawa with their friends and let them go to the fence training together. This showed positive results. They entered the training pen again lead by their friends. After few weeks, finally Dodop and Wawa passed their fence training! They took the food by using their claws and without getting zapped by hot wires anymore.
On 17th November, 2016, it was a sunny day. And, it was a good day for Dodop and Wawa going out from the cage. Once the guillotine door opened, they apparently felt curious about the world behind the door. They were sniffing the forest scents and keep looking outside, the new environment! And, Wawa took her very first and brave step to step on the ground. Once she touched on the ground, she could not wait to explore everything inside the forest enclosure. She has since proven that she is the explorer! Just in one afternoon, she explored the whole forest enclosure and she met her friend, Boboi, Kitud and TanTan. They were sharing a coconut as well. After that, they were playing and exploring together, it is so lovely!
Dodop is not like Wawa. She took some time to come out from the cage. She keeps looking outside when Wawa was having fun with others. So, she put her four paws on the ramp and kept looking around to find a good ways to touch on ground. She really does not like to step on the muddy area. She was trying hard and finally she went out to the forest enclosure. And, Wawa was waiting for her to explore the forest enclosure together. Their release to the forest enclosure is the chance for them to learn more from their friends. Not only for Dodop and Wawa but for every bear, the BSBCC has a dream that sun bears can be given back to the wild again. We at the BSBCC really hope to help for dreams to come true.