Tuesday, July 19, 2016

BlameitonMyWildHeartBlog: Borneo – Malayan Sun Bears

As difficult as it has been to keep the absolute longing to begin work right away at bay, the first week in “quarantine” was a wonderful opportunity to explore our surroundings and learn more about the fascinating creatures that make the island of Borneo their home, Malayan sun bears being one of them.

At Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, where I spent several weeks volunteering a couple of years ago, they had a few rescued sun bears. I never got to work with them though, as I was busy with the elephants.

Fortunately, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is just next door to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre where I am currently working, thus very easy access for us volunteers.

During my first week here in Sepilok I spent some time wandering around BSBCC, and during our quarantine week us orangutan vollies were lucky enough to meet BSBCC’s CEO & founder, Siew Te Wong.

There is not a great deal of research out there about the Malayan sun bear on Borneo, and Wong (a wildlife biologist) has done an amazing deal of field research to get more information about these animals published.

In his extensive travels Wong has been witness to poorly-treated captive animals (e.g. in sub-standard zoos and in private homes), and in 2008 he set up BSBCC.

BSBCC is a refuge for sun bears in need, as well as a rehabilitation centre with the ultimate goal of assisting the sun bear’s population numbers through animal rehabilitation & release and community education.

un bears (Helarctos malayanus) are found in regions of Southeast Asia, including on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.

These animals are the smallest species of the bear family, and possess a dark coat with an individually-unique pale horseshoe patch on the front of their chests which is said to resemble the rising sun.

Sun bears have developed amazing ways to exist in their ecological niche. For example, they have very long tongues (between 20-25cm!) for snacking on hard-to-reach honey, and are fantastic climbers.

Initially I had no idea of just how high they can climb – trees are where they source a lot of their food from, and where they spend long periods of time resting in nests that they crudely build from branches and leaves heaped together.