5/13/17

My Time Learning About The Bear Necessities of Life

8/5/2017

Text by Shauna Tay
Photos by Sumira Muis, Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah

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My name is Shauna, I'm 24, Malaysian and an aspiring conservationist! I first came to know about BSBCC 7 years ago when Dr.Wong took me in as a young eager volunteer wanting to get some experience in animal husbandry and conservation. It has been incredible coming back after so long; the centre is now open to the public, the staff team has grown ten-fold, the capacity for bears has increased and the centre as a whole has developed in every way possible.

As a volunteer, we are given the opportunity to work closely with the bear keeping team. They are so giving of their time, knowledge and expertise - you learn something new every day! It has been great getting to know the staff, bears, and the everyday routine of maintaining such a facility for rescued sun bears. These bears have such different personalities, backgrounds, and are all on their own journey through rehabilitation. As an individual who strives to have a future in conservation, volunteering here for two months gave me insight into what it takes to develop such a project. Understanding the bear care, animal welfare, marketing, education and management side of things was important and I'm thankful to BSBCC for providing this learning platform.

I was also fortunate enough to accompany their outreach team to local schools in the area, assisting them as they conducted sun bear awareness booths, presentations and games for students of varying ages. It is essential to spread awareness of the challenges that of sun bears face, and to encourage young people to appreciate and respect nature. This is key to changing perspectives and ultimately the reality of these magnificent bears and other wildlife.

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While working with the bear keeping team, we made various enrichment structures for the bears like fire hose hammocks (a favourite), hanging wooden logs with holes for honey, fruity ice blocks (another favourite), banana and peanut better nest balls and much much more. We would dedicate our entire afternoon to making enrichment for the bears who were unable to go into the forest enclosures. This was a really great part of the programme and an everyday practice by the staff. In the last few weeks of my placement, the bears Simone and Along were undergoing fence training - which is a sizeable indoor training pen (looking out into a forest enclosure) with an electric fence. This is essential as they need to familiarise themselves with the fence before being able to enjoy the spacious forest enclosures. I was able to do the behaviour monitoring for them at this time, which was a great learning opportunity and a reminder of how overwhelming it can be for these bears to be given bigger spaces after living in small cages for most of their lives.

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The beauty of volunteering at BSBCC is that your ideas and opinions are taken into account. Your questions are always encouraged and appreciated, replied to with a smile and good reasoning. This is what makes it such a welcoming place. Thank you again for the incredible experience! I miss my bear family and hope to come back soon with more expertise of my own so I can better contribute to the future of our bears.

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5/6/17

A Very Bear-gembira Experience

27/4/2017

Text By Charina Pria
​Photos By Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah

Hailing from Subang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia, my name is Charina Pria, a 23-year old Sunway University undergraduate student who’s majoring in Biology and minoring in Psychology. I first heard of The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) when I first went on an expedition with Raleigh International to Sabah in 2014 and my volunteering experience brought me to Imbak Canyon, a pristine Class-1 Protected Rainforest in Sabah, where I’ve had the opportunity to learn about the amazing biodiversity that habituates many wildlife animals there, including Sun Bears! That is when I learnt about BSBCC where the rangers mentioned about the conservation efforts of sun bears in Sabah. Fast forward a couple of years later, when the time came to apply for an internship placement, BSBCC was obviously my first choice because I was excited and ready to learn about the biological aspects of sustainability, wildlife conservation and not forgetting, the sun bears! After applying and undergoing an interview with BSBCC, I was very grateful to be given a placement here!

3 months of my time here, I was exposed to many different things at the centre – namely the four pillars that the centre was founded upon, which are, (1) Education, (2) Rehabilitation, (3) Welfare and lastly, (4) Research. In each pillar, I had the opportunity to work, learn and be exposed with a diverse group of people who had impeccable knowledge and skills who were so helpful to pass on and to teach you everything they know about sun bears, the work they do and WHY they do it!

In the Education Unit, I worked alongside Gloria, Ina, Sharon, Bellinda, and Jeremy in their educational activities such as their School Outreach Programmes. I travelled to primary and secondary schools around Sandakan for a week and handled BSBCC’s education booth and helped raise awareness about sun bears, the conservation matters, the issues of sun bears and what BSBCC is currently doing to help these sun bears. It was definitely an enriching experience because I got to converse with a handful of school students, teachers and even school staffs on these matters, and not only get to spread what I’ve learnt from BSBCC, but I also get to listen to their point of view, their questions and participate in meaningful discussions. 

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Explaining to students about Kong, a type of enrichment tool we give to the sun bears at the centre.

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I even got the chance to be Sunny, BSBCC's sun bear mascot! Definitely a highlight of the entire outreach because I get to see children (and teachers as well) happy!

After having gone for the outreach programme, I continued on helping in the Rehabilitation and Welfare Unit, or more affectionately known as the Bear Care Team. This was where most of my internship period was spent and where memories were made! I was placed under the buddy care of Mizuno who taught me the steps of working in the Bear House and guided me throughout everything in the centre – cage cleaning, kitchen duty (preparing all of the sun bear’s dietary requirement, etc), fence checks, enrichment building and not forgetting, his ever-enthusiasm in helping me to recognize and learn more about each sun bears in the centre with captivating stories. 

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Me, Tommy (left) and my buddy Mizuno (right), helping me build up an enrichment platform for sun bear, Wan-Wan. Enrichment is very important as enrichment can help to improve the bear's physiological well-being & encourage and stimulate natural behavior & instinct. There are many types of enrichment, and this platform is aimed to be a resting and habituation enrichment where the bear can rest up high above as how they would be resting in trees in the wild.

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Done with Wan-Wan's platform!

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Buddy Mizuno and I once again building a 'table' as an enrichment for sun bear Nano, Noah, Kina & Sika. This furniture enrichment can help encourage the bears to climb, hide, and play!

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Sun bear Noah, inspecting and being curious of the table!

Not only Mizuno, but I owe my experiences to the entire Bear Care team – Thye Lim, Lin May, Azzry, Yen Wah, Roger, Lester, David, Tommy and Andy and the volunteers and interns that I have met throughout my time here, whom I’ve fostered amazing friendships with.

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Posing with our finished bamboo feeders (another type of enrichment) for the sun bears with probably one of the craziest people ever, Sophie, Jen and Jojo.

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Extremely passionate people that I’ve managed to meet and learn from. (and joke with too!)

Lastly, not forgetting Dr. Wong Siew Te, who has been an incredible and inspirational role model throughout my time here, who’d take time out from his busy schedule to have sessions with the volunteers, where you can ask him all sorts of questions ranging from sun bears, to conservation issues, about the centre, its history, challenges, future plans and so much more. I’ve met a lot of incredible people here at BSBCC (and bears!) in this short amount of time, who have taught me patience and more importantly how essential it is to have passion in the work you do, as passion is ultimately what will drive you to grow, to learn and to keep on thriving forward when things get bumpy. I am immensely grateful to BSBCC and Dr. Wong for all the guidance, the teachings, the laughter and not forgetting, the invaluable experience that has given me the clarity to be a part of a community that cares and works in the wildlife conservation field. 

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The utmost passionate team I've ever met and it was a pleasure helping and working under you guys!

Terima Kasih untuk semua dan Jumpa Lagi! 

4/22/17

Know More About Kina

14/4/2017

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Hi, I'm Kina!

Time has flown!  Kina recently just finished her quarantine care under BSBCC and is a one year old female juvenile bear. Previously, she was kept as a pet for more than a year before her owner decided to surrender her to Sabah Wildlife Department. Her owner claimed that Kina’s mother abandoned her when they were crossing a road and her mother got frightened and ran away while leaving her behind. During that time, she was just a bear cub and had not opened her eyes yet. She showed signs of malnutrition with her relatively small head compared to her body size. With an appropriate diet in BSBCC, she now weighs 18.4kg! Her favourite foods are papaya, honeydew, egg and of course milk! Though, even with her favourites, Kina is not picky and still enjoys all the food that we have given to her!



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My favourite foods are honeydew, coconut and hmm.. many more!

​She has adapted well in quarantine since she arrived here at BSBCC and spends her time in her cage that is full of fire hose enrichment products such as fire hose hammock, wood hammock, and a heart-shaped honeycomb. Other than that, she also likes to play KONG, Aussie Dog Ball, and her favourite toy, the Bear Ball!! She totally is an enrichment lover. She loves to stay on the hanging platform where this allows her to stay up high and for her resting needs. The hanging platform is like her secret garden – It brings us much joy and happiness to see her bring her favourite food or toys up there to play with it.

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My cage is full of fire hose enrichment products!

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The Aussie Dog Ball is inside the Fire Hose Basket.

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I got the Aussie Dog Ball! Let me see what is inside the ball!

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I fit in the basket! And I want to bring along the Aussie Dog Ball with me!!

In order to encourage her natural bear behaviour, keepers let her out to a larger den where there will be a larger space for her to explore around and get closer to the forest. Kina will step out from her cage with utmost curiosity and will explore the environment around her from every single corner like a good inspector. She enjoys staying in a natural environment like a den that is decorated with leaves and decayed wood. Most of the time, she explores the enrichment that has been prepared in the den. Kina’s day can be so simple where even a small decayed wood can simply make her day. She just knows how to enjoy the time with her own ways by lying on the dry leaves and turning on her relax mode.

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This is the new den for me!

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Let me check every corner here!

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Is it something here?

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Or maybe here?

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Finally I'm here on the 'Platform Tree'!!

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Tree barks in the basket!

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See! I'm so good in playing with tire!

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This is the forest that I have been looking for!

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Closer to the forest make me hyperactive!

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Let me introduce this is my favourite enrichment, bear ball!

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I like to bring the bear ball with me!

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Hammock!

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Natural environment make me feel like I'm home!

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I'm enjoying with all the leaves and woods.

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Make me be a happy kid!!

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Dancing like an Opera!

Kina is a playful bear. The keepers will play fight with her so she can also learn some of the defence skills to protect herself later onwards. She shows her strength during the play fight that can be seen through pawing, which is a bear way of playing. However, some of the bear survival skills cannot be taught from a caretaker such as foraging, building a tree nest and so on. Hence, we plan to introduce her to a new bear friend who can teach her to become a real bear using the bear way. We one day hope that Kina will forage, build nests and stay in the wild because she truly deserves it, and deserves to be a real wild bear.

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My caretaker, Azzry spend time with me.

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My another caretaker, Jeniur.

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Where is my bear friend?

It All Started with One Little Sweet Natured Cub - Sika

4/4/2017


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Since being rescued from a village in Sikalabaan, Sabah on February 9th 2017, Sika, a five month old, female sun bear cub, has completed her time in quarantine.

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Sika is being bottle fed five times a day in FIDO dog milk replacer

She has shown tremendous growth in the last month. She is an active, healthy and beautiful female bear cub. She now weighs 7.25kg. 

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Chart shows the growth curve of Sika cub (Updated 4th April 2017). Showing Sika is in good health and gain more weight

The next rehabilitation phase for Sika is taking her out for walks in the forest. The problem with Sika is that she is still nervous to step out from her dens and the bonding between her surrogate mother is still weak. She was caged alone as a pet in a chicken mesh cage after losing her mother. All little Sika knew was pain and fear. She has needed to gain back confidence and trust towards her new surroundings

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To prepare her in gaining back strength, confidence and trust, we have moved Sika into a larger exercise den with an environment which is as close as possible to life in the wild. This exercise dens is full of natural habitat enrichment such as dead wood, green leaves, leafy browse, climbing structures, a platform, and treats to stimulate and prepare her for life back in the wild.

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Bear care team are help to setting up in various type of environmental enrichment

We gave Sika the opportunity to venture out for the very first time. Once Sika was brought to the larger exercise den, she was easily stressed by noise and paced with alert at the new larger exercise den. She kept vocalizing and was uncomfortable with it. We tried to comfort and help her adapt to the new environment by showing her new enrichment toys. Sika needed plenty of time.

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Thankfully, she did it! She calmed down and adapted to it. She decided it was time to explore the whole exercise den. Sun bear cubs require a lot of exercise to practice their physical skills and grow stronger! Her courage has grown with each day and she has started exploring.

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Sika naturally curious but also very alert

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She becoming more playful and less nervous!

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Stretching body before enter exercise dens!

She will gaze up at the nearby forest surrounding her exercise dens. 

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FOREST will be my HOME!

She always goes straight to the big log and pulls off its branches. After one week, we are pleased with her progress in finding the strength to venture without any hesitation. 

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Since little Sika was moved to larger exercise dens, she have been develop at a great rate!

​Sika is learning to trust her surrogate mother without fear. She will be growing and learning under the guidance of her surrogate mother.

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With great love the surrogate mother teach Little Sika how to climb tree!

She loves rolling and wrestling, and she is just so happy. Sika has excellent climbing skills. She uses her small curved claws to create a cavity in the climbing log to get the ants. Sometimes she will climb high to get a better look and avoid strange sounds! We envy her tree-climbing skills!!

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Curious Sika climbs higher the platform tree

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Sika is busy in digging!!

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Sika digs the log hole in search of insects and leave distinctive claw marks!

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We envy her tree-climbing skills!!

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Little more playful!

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Tired after play !

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Tired after play !

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Sika fun, for sure!


She is learning and experiencing that life as a wild bear can be great. She knows her tragic past is now behind her and is discovering her natural behavior. She has proven herself to be a sweet natured sun bear! We hope the next move will be taking little Sika on walks in  
the forest to let her experience the true Bornean environment.

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Bring Sika to walk in forest in preparing Sika to live independently in her forest HOME.

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Bring Sika to walk in forest in preparing Sika to live independently in her forest HOME.