Text and Photos by Georgie Kaye
Hello! My name is Georgie Kaye and I am from Yorkshire in the north of England, UK. I have just completed my studies at the University of Cumbria and have achieved a 2:1 level degree in Animal Conservation Science BSc!
I decided that as my studies were coming to an end it was time to spice up my CV with some more relevant volunteering experience. I’d done plenty of research projects and even helped to coordinate at a conservation biology conference, but I’d never taken part in any extensive animal husbandry.
However, gaining experience was not the only reason. Bears have always been my particular interest and passion, especially the lesser known tropical species. I searched for bear projects in a number of different countries but none seemed as dedicated and passionate as the BSBCC team. They really understand the importance of educating the public about sun bears as the majority of people have no idea these bears even exist! Therefore I decided straight away that I wanted to be a part of this project and support it as much as I absolutely can. I organised everything with my friend Jodie (who has also shared her own story) and off we went….
We arrived on the 10th of June at the Sepilok Jungle Resort. Straight away you notice the beautiful trees and all the different sounds of the forest, then you notice the pond with huge fish! So much nature already and we’d only been off the bus for 2 minutes…
The same evening, after settling in to our room (and adjusting to the heat!) we met some of the team and other volunteers we would be working with. I can’t emphasize enough just how friendly everybody is at BSBCC. That night we fell asleep to the incredibly LOUD rainfall outside! You get used to this, I promise.
The next day we got to work! Now, the work itself is not particularly difficult BUT add the heat and jet lag and you have a tiring combination! Don’t worry though, the staff take good care of you and as long as you drink PLENTY of water you’ll be fine! Some of the tasks include preparing the fruit and veg (a lot of it!), preparing the ‘bear porridge’ (rice), carrying and scattering the fruit and veg outside for the bears, cleaning the indoor cages and preparing fun enrichment for the bears to keep them entertained! If you can think of a few different things that will help to stimulate the bears and get them active then don’t hesitate to tell a member of staff, they love new ideas!
Lots of bear names to remember, but with time you’ll get the hang of it! All the bears have their own personality and preferences. Some are sweet and quiet, like Mary, and some love to Splash and mess around, like Bermuda! During your time there you’ll definitely get to know your own favourites.
The work is important and it is essentially why you’re there, but the staff understands that you would also like to explore the local area, particularly if you’re from another country like me! There’s plenty of other things to see, like the canopy walks at the Rainforest Discovery Centre just down the road or busy markets in Sandakan. If you love your food Wong knows all the best places to eat so just ask! If it has his recommendation then you’re definitely up for an excellent meal. If you have a sweet tooth I can personally recommend the cake from the ‘Fat Cat Cake House’ in Sandakan!
If you want to know more about life as a volunteer or more info about the bears and conservation then take some time to read the other volunteer blogs or even get in touch with the BSBCC team! You don’t need a conservation degree, you don’t need husbandry experience, as long as you absolutely want to help and think you can dedicate yourself to caring for bears then get in touch!
Little Mary here looks forward to seeing you!