Sun Bear Project

We would like to raise funds to expand the sanctuary at BOS – Samboja Lestari to accommodate many more illegally held bears in Kalimantan who so desperately need the care, and safety of the new Samboja Lestari Sun Bear Sanctuary.

Larger Rain Forest Habitat for Sun Bears

We have acquired 58 ha of reforested land within the Samboja Lestari land rehabilitation project, complete with fruiting trees and a flowing river.

We urgently need to fence this reforested land so that we can support many other bears currently in captivity, who desperately need our care.

This extra space will not only provide a large forest home for the existing sun bear residents, but it will allow us to rescue up to 250 other bears who desperately need our care and will give them the opportunity to live in their natural rainforest habitat foraging for food all day,  just like they would in the wild.

Samboja Lestari Sun Bear Sanctuary

Protecting the lives and habitat of Borneos sun bears


The Samboja Lestari sun bear sanctuary aims to rescue, protect and enrich the lives of all displaced and illegally kept sun bears in Kalimantan, giving them the best environment possible in which to live.


As local awareness of the sun bear grew, confiscations of illegally held bears increased and Samboja Lestari very soon became home to 52 sun bears.

At first, the centre lacked adequate facilities to properly care for these bears and had no alternative but to stop accepting them. Three 1 ha outdoor enclosures were created for them and 58 hectares of forested land was set aside to create an even larger sanctuary for the bears. Unfortunately, a lack of funds held back the developments that were necessary to make this area useable. This meant that many of the male bears who fought were confined to enclosures that were too small and lacked stimulation.

In September 2008, however, the lives of these sun bears were transformed. Animal behaviourist Darek Figa and his team developed an innovative new enrichment program and successfully housed uncastrated male bears for the first time in large groups, enabling them to access the 1 ha enclosures in groups peacefully.


Male sun bears are territorial and, in captivity, will fight when put together unless either castrated or drugged. In many cases, male sun bears are simply kept in isolation.

It became apparent at the sanctuary that the male bears were not happy in isolation. Experiments in putting them together resulted in fights, as predicted. Aggression is a normal behaviour in the wild that is often associated with valuable yet scarce resources such as food. If this competition for resources in their environment were reduced or eliminated, then the need to fight should also be reduced.

With this in mind, the enrichment program was introduced. 


The purpose of enrichment is to provide opportunities for an animals natural behaviors to be expressed within the captive environment. Enrichment improves the sun bears physical and psychological well-being by providing them with interest, exercise, and enjoyment.

Sun Bears present cages/housing

Behavioural Enrichment

The enrichment program encourages sun bears to work for their food in the same way they would in the wild “ foraging in leaf litter, climbing trees for fruit, tearing rotten logs apart in search of termites, and licking food out of natural crevices.

At the sanctuary bamboo climbing frames, bridges, tyre swings, dens and ponds have been constructed. Food is hidden in food puzzles, bamboo food tubes, up trees, and under logs. It is scattered in leaf litter, smeared onto surfaces, or buried in sand. Hiding places are varied so that the bears must find it by using their excellent sense of smell rather than relying on their memory.

The male sun bears were so occupied foraging for an ongoing supply of food, rather than waiting for it to be delivered once a day in a bowl, that they did not fight. Even when they werent foraging, the bears preferred swinging on the tyres and cooling down in the ponds rather than fighting over what they now perceive to be an abundant supply of food.

More than six months later, the male bears are still living together peacefully without castration or hormone suppressing drugs.

The improvements continue and it is the aim of the Samboja Lestari Sun Bear Sanctuary to provide these sun bears with the best care possible in an environment that so closely  mimics their natural habitat that the bears can behave much as they would in the wild. Should the day come for release, many of these bears will be ready and suitable.

501 (c)(3) Public Charity