Sun Bears: Studying the World’s Smallest Bear | Borneo Jungle Diaries (S02E07) | SZtv
As I near the end of my trip it has almost come time to bid farewell to the rainforest. However before that, there’s still one final stop on my journey of discovery, and one more very special animal we’re yet to meet. Perhaps the cutest character in all of Borneo’s jungles, this is a sun bear, the smallest bear in the world. Their name may come from their sunburst style chest patterning, whilst another theory suggests it refers to the bears living near the “hot sun” of the equator Integral to a healthy ecosystem, sun bears are real rainforest architects. They help to disperse seeds, keep termite populations in check and create nesting holes for hornbill species by tearing open tree trunks in their never ending quest for honey. Despite appearing rather clumsy, in the deep forest sun bears are incredibly hard to see or hear and as a result, are the least studied of all the bear species. Making any research carried out on Bornean sun bears of vital importance. I am with sun bear conservation scientist, Dr. Miriam and today we are going to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre to help with their annual health checks. Hi my name is Miriam Kunde and I’m the Postdoctoral Researcher for Sun Bears. I decided to study sun bears because they’re the least studied bear species in the world and I find them fascinating. People should start caring about sun bears more than what they do now because sun bears are a generalistic species. They adapt to a changing environment quite well. They’re the ecosystem engineers. If they’re not doing well, the whole ecosystem is about to collapse. The short term goal for me studying sun bears is to attach radio GPS collars to the sun bears so I can track their movement. This is important for my long term goal to understand how the sun bears move through a fragmented landscape. Sun bears do not make great pets because once they’re not cute and cuddly anymore they turn into quite aggressive and hard to maintain. Do not keep sun bears as pets. In order to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding the world’s least studied bear, Dr Miriam is embarking on a 5-year study. Today she’s been given a unique opportunity to learn from the world leading expert on Bornean sun bears, Dr Wong Siew Te. My name is Wong Siew Te. I am the founder and the chief executive officer of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre conserve sun bear through a holistic approach. The centre needs to exist to rescue and keep all of the rescued sun bears here and part of the work involves rehabilitation and then with the animals on our centre we can also do education, we can also do research. In the future our plan is to breed bears in captivity and release those bears back into the forest and also assist the authorities on anti-poaching work. I think in order for us to conserve a species like the sun bear it is not one people’s job. It involves many people and many fields and many expertise. We all can contribute our knowledge and together we can and we will conserve sun bears and I think it’s extremely important. After our personal tour of the centre it was time for the real work to begin. Every single bear at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre must undergo an annual check up to make sure they’re fit and healthy. Today it’s Boboi’s turn, a 4-year old male. After being safely sedated, Boboi is transported to a sterile laboratory to conduct the medical procedures. Closely observing, and learning from Wong and his team, this is incredibly valuable experience for Miriam. So Miriam what are they doing right now? Right now they’re lining the IVF line. So they have to make sure that the bear’s well hydrated and they will have to keep monitoring the vitals – take the body temperature, check the breathing. take the body temperature, check the breathing. And once all of that is set then we can learn the measurements of the bear. Can you tell me about the markings for each bear? Each of the bears here also will have their individual marking. Just like how humans have their own fingerprints. Exactly. So right now Wong is showing Miriam how to measure a bear so when she captures one in the wild she will know what to do. Accurately recording important physiological data is essential for the success of Miriam’s study on sun bears in the Kinabatangan. Do you think you learned what you came here to learn? Yeah I think I learned what I need to learn but I also have to familiarise myself more with the data sheets and make sure that we have all we need to have in the field in our kit. So I’ll probably develop a kit box for our project. But overall, how do you feel? Overall I feel like this is really exciting. That was the first time I actually attempted this kind of examination and be able to ask questions left and right to different people is great. With the health check completed and the sedation wearing off it was time to return Boboi back to his indoor enclosure for him to rest up before heading back into the semi wild habitat of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. After an exciting morning spent close up with a sun bear, Miriam and I went for a wander around the centre. Which gave me the chance to reflect not only on what I had experienced today but on my whole time spent living and learning in the jungle. What you guys are doing in DGFC is amazing. I hope you guys keep doing the amazing work you guys are doing cos I learned a lot new things there and it’s pretty sad to see that the jungle… there’s so little left… I’m sorry. This is why I don’t wanna do this! I don’t wanna say goodbye! All will be good. We’ll work on it. Alex you need a hug? Oh no, no. Everything will be good. We’ll work on it, we’ll work on it. We’ll do reforestation projects and river cleans. Before I came here I thought it was all jungle and to see that so little jungle left. And these animals, they’re so endangered. It’s horrible to find out… to find out about that. I mean just imagine I don’t know about all of this and imagine about all the other kids out there, my age and younger than me and, I don’t know. That, that’s your role right? You may not be able to help us with the research but just you talking about this – you become the spokesperson and you advocate and you educate the people who watch this programme, and then hopefully we get more locals interested in this line of work. I will definitely be more vocal about this. I don’t know, if it wasn’t because of this project, if it wasn’t because of this trip I would not know the things that I know now. I was so ignorant. You need to stop crying cos otherwise I’m going to start. Don’t do it. I don’t wanna say goodbye. Well you don’t have to, you can come back. Yeah I will come visit again. Ok, come on, lets go. This is awkward. Shall we go for coffee? Kupi, kupi dulu ba? I’ve been at DGFC for a month now and I cannot believe I’m leaving already. This has definitely been an experience of a lifetime. The Kinabatangan is a magical place. Thankfully there are amazing people working to protect it. Throughout my trip these young scientists have shown me what is possible when we work together for a greater cause. There on that tree over there. Yes, I can see it! That is amazing! Their eyes are just huge! Their eyes are about the same size if not bigger than their brain… Alex, come over here. I’ve seen them a few times, and I never get bored seeing these pangolins. We have just hauled a 100kg box up into the tree. This is crazy! That was amazing guys, your first clouded leopard in DG! We can’t just let these elephants go extinct because they are our identity of Sabah. I am starstruck. These animals, they’re so endangered. If it wasn’t because of this project, if it wasn’t because of this trip I would not know the things I know now. This is Sabah tanah airku, and its wildlife is worth fighting for. Together we can all make a difference.