I spent the last 8 days in a small town called Tarakan in the North part of East Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia. I had been there last year in April to make improvements to the small cage of 2 female sun bears, Fitri and Rina, in a local recreational park. Since, the park authorities built a large 8m x 8m cage (4m high) but it was void of any enrichment and did not have a holding cage. So I went back to Tarakan to improve the new cage and help transfer the bears into it.
New cage with improvements
New cage with improvements
I had a holding cage built within the new cage and I set up several wooden platforms and climbing structures. I also put up a hammock. While I was there I heard of another sun bear called Brutus, kept in a small cage at someone’s house. I went to meet the bear and the owner who agreed to give his bear to the park authorities so as to put him with Fitri and Rina in the new big cage. This is what we did and it all went very well.
Brutus at his owner’s place
Fitri and Rina in their old cage
Brutus is a young juvenile who was hand raised by his owner and had never met another bear. He was so happy to meet the 2 girls and they were happy to meet him too. They all began playing as soon as I let them together. Brutus, Fitri and Rina are still in a cage but their life is better now than it has ever been.
Thank you for your support and thank you for making a donation to help me continue improving the welfare of captive sun bears in Indonesia.
The 3 sun bears, Apang, Kecil and Dawai, have been given access to the small enclosure since January 8th. It took a few trials for Apang and Kecil to understand the electric fencing but they now completely avoid touching the wires. After many years spent in small cages on cement flooring, they can finally enjoy a bit of space, some vegetation, the earth under their feet and stuff to climb. Life is much better for them today than it’s been in a long time.
It’s been more difficult for Dawai, our 3rd candidate to test the electric fencing in the small enclosure. His eyesight is so bad that he can’t see the electric wires on the fence as he approaches them. He was repeatedly getting zapped by bumping into the wires unable to understand what was happening, nor how to avoid getting more zaps. So we stopped the training for Dawai and we’ll have to find another solution… electric fencing is not adequate for bears with too poor eyesight.
Apang now – in small enclosure
Construction of the 2 Ha forest enclosure is going well. 150 meters of new fencing on the South side have been build, and we have another 140 m to go on the East side. We hope to finish the enclosure by the end of February 2017. We are now budgeting the making of another 2 forest enclosures, one of 0,6 Ha and another of 0,7 Ha, each for 3 bears.
Thank you for your support, thank you for making a donation.
We’ve made good progress in the last few weeks. We’ve finished the construction of the small enclosure in which the bears will learn to familiarize themselves with the electric fencing. All that needs to be done now is set up the electric fence, then the 3 sun bears Apang, Kecil and Dawai will be able to go out and enjoy a bit of extra space while waiting for the big 2 Ha enclosure to be finished.
Construction of the 2 Ha forest enclosure is now in progress. With your help we should be able to finish it by February 2017. And when it’s done, we’ll make more large enclosures so that all the sun bears at BOS Samboja Lestari may have access to some of their natural habitat.
I’m happy to share with you this short video explaining the project now under way. The cost to build a training enclosure, 3 holding dens and a 2 hectare forest enclosure is about 50 000 €. You can see the details of this budget in the attached flyer below. (just click on the link)
So far, Sun Bear Outreach have managed to raise 28 000 € of the 50 000 € needed to complete the project. So we now need to find another 22 000 € !
I hope you can help. Any small amount would be very much appreciated, because in the end they all add up, and they’ll allow us to finish this first 2 Ha enclosure, which will be like paradise for the 6 bears who will enjoy it.
On behalf of the bears, thank you for your support.
Work for this new project began on October 24th 2016 and despite the daily rains, we have made good progress. One team is dismantling old 1,25 m2 holding cages that we will later reassemble into 9 m2 holding cages for the new forest enclosures. Another team is making the foundation for the future fence of the small enclosure and placing the posts that will support the harmonica mesh and electric fencing. And a third team is making the foundation of the cement flooring on which 3 new holding cages will be placed.
I’m happy that after just one week, the project is well under way and looking good. Thank you for your support.
I’m happy to inform you that we will soon be beginning the construction of the 4 Ha forest enclosure for the sun bears at BOSF Samboja Lestari in Indonesia. I will be on site from October 17th onwards and will begin construction work right away.
Of the estimated 62 000 euros needed to complete the project, I have so far raised about 25 000 €, so I have enough to begin work but I still need to raise another 37 000 €. This is where your help is precious. Any small amount is greatly appreciated because in the end it all adds up and your contribution will, in affect, enable the completion of the project.
On this note, I would life to thank all students and teachers at the United World College of Singapore (picture above) who recently did a fundraising event for this project and managed to raise 2000 €.
Most captive sun bears in Indonesia are adult bears who cannot go back to the wild because they are too habituated to humans and because they don’t have the skills to survive in the wild. Many of these sun bears are kept in cages because the organisations caring for them do not have the means or the initiative to provide them with better living conditions. Since 2014, Sun Bear Outreach has been collaborating with these organizations to improve the wellbeing of their sun bears by building them large forest enclosures.
Kecil before (alone in a 1 m2 cage)
Kecil after (with 5 other bears in 16500 m2)
Sun bears are very active animals genetically made to cover large distances, to climb trees, to forage, to dig, to play and fight. They sleep no more than 6 to 8 hours a day and have a lot of energy to spend. They are solitary in the wild but if they are friends with another bear they love to play. When a sun bear is locked up alone in a cage and deprived of everything, his (or her) frustration is immense. It is a daily torture for a sun bear to be locked up in a small space without anything to do.
Petung before (alone in a 4 m2 cage)
Petung after (with Windi in 6700 m2)
Sun bears who cannot go back to the wild deserve the best possible captive life we can give them, which is to have access to some of their natural habitat in large outdoor enclosures, to enjoy a social life with other bears and to receive a balanced diet. Since 2014, Sun Bear Outreach has been collaborating with the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) and with the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) to build large forest enclosures and to better care for their sun bears. By the end of 2019, we will have built 4 forest enclosures at OFI and another 16 enclosures at BOSF, thus making life significantly better for about 80 sun bears in total.
I’m back in France since April 15th. I’m here to make a 52 min version of my latest film on sun bears, to search for funds and to work to earn some money so that I can go back to Indonesia to continue helping the sun bears. During the 6 months that I just spent at BOS Samboja Lestari, I had new cages built and old ones renovated improving the welfare of 20 sun bears.
I’m happy to say that no more bears at Samboja Lestari are held in the small holding cages. They are now in cages from 4 to 25 m2 in size, with wooden platforms and hammocks. The last 3 sun bears to be transferred to new cages were Dawai, Kecil and Apang as you can see on the pictures. This improvement, although significant, is of course insufficient and the objective of allowing all the bears to have access to outdoor forest enclosures remains.
The next project of Sun Bear Outreach, in collaboration with BOS Foundation, will be to finish the construction of a 4,14 hectare forest enclosure next to where the bears are now (bottom right corner on the map). Five years ago, this area was fenced out for the making of a large sun bear enclosure, but the project was not completed. The budget needed for repairing and finishing the fence, for adding an electric fencing, for building 3 new holding cages and for making a training enclosure (in which the bears will become familiar with electric fencing) is about 70 000 USD. We, Sun Bear Outreach and BOS Foundation, hope to raise the funds over the summer so that I can go back to Samboja in September to see this project through.
I spent last week in Tarakan, a small town North-East of Kalimantan, to help improve the welfare of 2 bears held by the Ministry of Forestry. The two sweet females have been living together in a metal cage of 1,5m x 3m (and 1,8m high) for the last five years. The only item in the cage was a water basin that was chained up in a way that the bears could not bathe in it. A few boards served as a roof and all the bears’ litter and food waste just fell to the dirt ground below the cage. The partition wall and door within the cage was broken making it impossible to keep the bears on one side or the other.
The first thing I did was to have a temporary holding cage made in which we could place the bears while fixing and improving their main cage. With some of the staff from the Forest Department, we went to the local fire station to ask for some old fire hose with which we made a hammock. Wood that had been confiscated from illegal loggers served to make a sleeping platform. A welder fixed up the partition wall and partition door, making human access to either side of the cage now possible. We made a cement floor below the cage to be able to easily hose the litter away and we added a few sheets of corrugated iron on the boards that served as the roof.
The whole operation took 6 days and cost about 450 euros. The two bears are still in the same cage, but they now have a hammock, a wooden platform, a water basin that they can go into, a waterproof roof and a cleaner environment. In the hope that the staff follow my recommendations, the 2 bears will, from now on, also get a better diet and a regular supply of ferns and branches to play with.
Unfortunately, there is no sanctuary in Kalimantan that could receive these two sun bears, and they are so tamed that they would have no chance of survival were they set free in the forest. I would like to give them access to an outdoor enclosure with some trees, but I don’t have the possibility to do so right now. Sadly, these two sweet girls who have not even been given names, will have to continue living in their 4,5 square meters until a better solution for them can be found.
During the month of February and the first week of March, we’ve dismantled 20 old small holding cages to reassemble them into 6 new larger enclosures. The new enclosures were then equipped with wooden platforms and hammocks, with partition doors between them, allowing the possibility of grouping the bears who get along.
The first bears to be transferred were Iis, Eric and Jay. They had all been kept in small holding cages and thus went from living in 1,25 square meters to 9 square meters. The effect on their wellbeing is very noticeable. Iis, the small female, is particularly happy and playful since the move. She is also intrigued with her new neighbour Eric. Since both Eric and Jay underwent a vasectomy when transferred, they will soon be able to be with Iis to play and mate. It’s still life in captivity for Iis, Eric and Jay, but it’s getting better. Thank you for your support.