Panda is not a Panda Bear

Text by Gillian Gabriel ​(UMS Intern student)
Photos by BBSCC & Chiew Lin May

Hello everyone, my name is Panda and you might think that I am a round, fluffy, black and white bear that loves eating sugarcane. Yes, you’re right! I love sugarcane but I am not round, nor even fluffy and not a single white spot on my body. I have a black, sleek fur and I am pretty short. When I was younger, I was kept inside a small cage and was named after the sign that was pointing towards my cage.

I was kept together with another sun bear, his name is Kudat. Kudat looks exactly like me and looks nothing like a panda. The truth was revealed when I first arrived at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) on the 10th of July 2010, it turns out that I was right the whole time, I am a sun bear!

On the 6th of July 2010, Sabah Wildlife Department and the team at BSBCC finally came to the rescue!
Besides not looking round like a panda, I still have a perfectly round stomach. Probably because I love to eat! However, I am still considered as fit for my age. Lucky me!

Yes, that was me. But the picture was taken from the wrong angle, I’m slimmer, I swear!
I was unhappy back when I was kept inside the small cage. I was fed with chicken meat the whole time and there was barely enough space to roam around. However, as you can see from the picture, I finally have enough space for myself and I love sitting and leaning against a tree especially on a bright, sunny day. So relaxing!

In the forest, I love spending my time exploring, observing the environment, roaming around and relaxing. When I return back in the evening, I will splash water all over my body and as the water reaches the ground, I will lay down with my stomach facing downwards and will move my body slightly. That is just a way of me cooling myself down after a while in the forest.

How can I be mistaken as a panda? I have no dark circles surrounding my eyes but instead, my whole face is just plain dark. I am thankful enough that I was finally recognized as a sun bear.

It reminds me of when I was first brought to BSBCC, I was in quarantine for 30 days. Despite being in quarantine, the staff introduced me to new friends (Natalie, Ah Lun, Julaini and Rungus). They are so nice. I learned and developed my social and survival skills from them and slowly, I kind of trust all the staff here. They take great care of me, they feed me with healthy food and they even give me toys to play with.

All the rehabilitation processes I went through helped me to overcome the trauma due to being locked and kept inside a small cage for entertainment purposes, and these processes taught me to behave like how a normal wild animal would do.
The rehabilitation processes that I went through included fence training and the integration process. While learning and developing my survival skills, I realized that I am capable of doing a lot of things. I can crack open a coconut in seconds, can dig deep holes so that I can reach termites at the hollow of the tree branches and have an incredible sense of smell as I can smell honey from far away. Yes, I love honey so much and so do the rest of my friends here. Honey is like our main diet!
I am grateful for all the efforts given by Sabah Wildlife Department and Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) since day one. Because of them, I finally have the life that I deserve. I hope that in the future, no other sun bears are mistaken as Panda. The thing that appears to be so appealing on our chest area, is our chest mark. That is the best way to identify us.

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