Sun bear is a forgotten bear species. They are the least known bear and one of the least known large mammals in Southeast Asia until recently. I hope this blog can enlighten readers and open up discussions on how we could help this unfortunate but yet magnificent animal that we call “sun bear".
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.
Hi, I am Thong Wai Keen from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I am a conservation biology student from the University of Malaysia Sabah. The reason I decided to volunteer in Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is that I am convinced that a good center itself will be a great platform for a fresh graduate to learn and apply what I studied back in the University.
To some of us, volunteering may be something that allows us to earn a wonderful lifetime experience with the beautiful animals and spectacular nature. In my experience, I realised volunteering is simply giving and sharing what you have with those who are in need. It can be your time, your money or even your love to the mother nature. For me, volunteering is working on animal welfare with lots of patient and persistence are needed.
I served in two roles as part of my work with the volunteering program. Taking good care of the bears and their welfare is one of our major works. I assisted the staff in cleaning cages, preparing food, feeding, fence training and making bear enrichment. I learned to treat the bears with extra care and respect. It’s amazing to see the bears eat well and growing healthy in a clean environment.
I am helping on fence training for Dodop and Wawa.
Time for making bear enrichment!
Time for making bear enrichment!
Time for making bear enrichment!
Time for making bear enrichment!
I was also educating the visitors by conveying the information about sun bears to them on the platform. It’s a natural role for me as I really love to share my knowledge with people and it’s really satisfying to see the visitors so interested in the fun facts about sun bears. After all, making visitors to understand and share with the world that sun bear does not belong to us, the zoo, the center but the forest is what matters the most. I believe the power of education can create a stronger sense of conservation within people to share an awareness to save our wildlife and our planet.
Last but not least, I would like to express my utmost gratitude to Dr. Wong Siew Te, the founder of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), the Sabah Wildlife Department, Land Empowerment Animal and People (LEAP), Sime Darby and all the BSBCC staff for working so hard to save sun bears and dedicated to release all of them back into the wild. Thank you!
Hooray! After 30 days, finally Noah finished quarantine. Noah is a 6 months old male bear cub. He was found in a villager’s orchard in Nabawan, a southern part of Sabah. After she realized Noah is a sun bear, a totally protected species in Sabah, she decided to surrender Noah to the Sabah Wildlife Department. And, this is the story how Noah came to BSBCC.
Opps! You found me! He grown up so much compared to the day he first arrived! His body weight now is 12.70kg. He has started to eat solid food and his favorite foods are banana, papaya and of course Milk!
I think I got a bit hungry right now! Noah is an energetic and playful bear. He is much enjoying his time playing especially with his bear care keeper. A bear cub is ideally attached to his/her mother until it two to three years old. But, now Noah is alone being just six months old. A mother will never abandon her own child. The only reason for the mother to be with her cubs would that she had been killed most likely by poachers. And make no mistake, poaching is still happening around us. So, please said No to poaching sun bears, instead help us save them. A bear cub needs a mother. A mother raises her child with lots of love and teaches her baby how to survive in the wild. Separation of mother and cub is unforgivable for any reason. The poachers deprive a bear cub almost everything, their mother and their natural habitat.
Why the poacher brought me away from my mother? I miss her! Our bear care keepers spend their time with Noah and try to give Noah as much love as possible even though they know their love cannot compare with that given by his mother. So now, Noah likes to play fight with bear care keepers. He likes to take a challenge and never gives up. Bear care keepers are taking a huge responsible to take good care of him and teach him the skills that he could survive in the wild such as defense skill. Noah likes water very much. He likes to cool his body down by lying on the ground just like he is ‘swimming’ but on the ground.
This is where I stay and I like it so much!
What is this?
No, here got more!
Let me have a bite on it!
I am trying hard here!
I got it!!
I am feeling shy. In order to let Noah closer to the forest and more space for him to explore, in the morning he can go out to exercise pen. The exercise pen is near to the forest, so Noah can smell the forest. Within the exercise pen, there are different kinds of enrichment ready for him such as hammocks, dry leaves, decayed wood, fire hoses, honey combs and so on. Therefore, Noah likes to spend his time digging the decayed wood, playing with the tree leaves.
Let me show you, my playground!!
My second playground!
This is my new toy!
Let me show you how I play with my new toy! Just like this!! At last, we hope Noah has all the courage and left his unhappy early life behind here at the BSBCC. And, we really hope Noah will back to his real home, the forest – sooner or later.