Montom (Rescue Bear 42) – Move into a Larger Exercise Den

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

Montom, is a three year old male sun bear. The name “Montom” means black in Dusun language and his personality matches his name. He arrived at BSBCC on January 21st, 2015. He was surrendered by his owner who had been keeping Montom as a pet at Kampung Melangkap, Kota Marudu. Montom’s owner reported to the Wildlife Rescue Unit that their dog chased away his mother and abandoned Montom. He was then taken and kept as a pet for a year. Just like a human, this behavior is very unlikely as a sun bear mother is very protective of their offspring and would not leave her infant alone at such a young age. Montom has lost the important time he needs to learn from his mother so he can become an independent wild sun bear.

During the quarantine period Montom was so alert with his surroundings and he would stay high up on the enrichment platform. He also would bark when he saw our staff around. He enjoys his quiet time and does not like any disturbances. Despite his young age, Montom showed amazing courage as he overcame his fear and quickly adapted to his new environment over the last three months. Montom has a big appetite and his favorites are banana, papaya, watermelon and honey. With his nutritious diet, he is getting physically stronger.

After a few minutes of curious, Montom takes brave steps to exploring this big exercise den.

After Montom finished his quarantine period, he was moved to a larger exercise den which is equipped with enrichment tools such as dry leaves, green leaves, and old logs to learn all the necessary survival skills such as digging, natural food selection and climbing.

Montom is a highly inquisitive young sun bear. Once he stepped into the exercise den he climbed up a climbing structure right away and was very curious about it.

Montom keeps on trying to climb this climbing structure

Little by little he ventured around the exercise den. Enrichment is vital for sun bears in our centre. This enrichment helps to provide positive wild behaviour and avoid stress.  Montom is very happy here and every day he will get involved with the various enrichment activities. He particularly likes the Aussie dog ball, where he will try to explore how to access the food and honey!

Discover basket time!

Montom climb as high as he can, taking turns being “king” at the top of the hammock.

Montom keep busy by digging and excavating dead wood in search of insects.

Montom keep busy by digging and excavating dead wood in search of insects.

Montom keep busy by digging and excavating dead wood in search of insects.

Adventurous bear


Meeting new friend!

He has spent a great deal of time in the exercise den. Montom’s survival skills have been developing rapidly. Montom continues to do well and has developed new skills during his rehabilitation.

This year, BSBCC has received two orphaned sun bears. Montom is one of them. A victim of sun bear pet trade which has also caused him the loss of his mother. We will continue to help Montom develop the skills needed for his return to the wild. The next step for him is he will be introduced to Susie, a female sub-adult sun bear and will slowly join a big group of bears, then step into the forest enclosure. So stay turned!



Wings of KKB 2015: Selangor? Bird Race

Text by: Nick Tan
Photo by: Nick Tan and Risnayati Lammu

A White-throated Kingfisher, was the first thing we saw when we arrived at the airport. (photo by Graeme Guy)

If you have been to Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB), it seems like a small, boring rundown town in Hulu Selangor District, Selangor, but little is known that this historical town on top of the hill is surrounded by tropical rainforest and rich with fauna and flora.

View of Kuala Kubu Bharu town. (Photo by Risnayati Lammu)

Once every year during the month of April, the town comes alive when birders from all over the country and world congregate for the Selangor bird race. “Wings of KKB” is a great opportunity for birders to come together to enjoy nature and expand their knowledge of the different species of birds and their habitats.

The area is part of the Important Bird Area and has rare birds such as the Marbled Wren Babbler, Pygmy Wren Babbler, Large Niltava, Silver-Breasted Broadbills and three hornbills namely Rhinoceros, Great and Bushy Crested.

Participants go through 10 different checkpoints starting from Kuala Kubu Baru, past the Kalumpung Hot Springs and ending at the Genting Highlands Awana Resort

We were invited twice to open up an exhibition at the event but were not able to make it. So this year we decided to attend and spread the words on sun bears in peninsular Malaysia. On 24th April, we took the first flight in the morning to KLIA 2 airport. Upon arrival, people from Majlis Daerah Hulu Selangor (MDHS) were already waiting to pick us up at the airport. They are the ones responsible for media coordination, logistics on the bird race.

Seminars on birds, wildlife and the race were given the night before the bird race.

On 25th April morning, there were many people, especially young school kids at the MHDS hall registering for the races. Seeing the crowd, we immediately unloaded our exhibition stuff to set up the booth before the participants set out for birdwatching. There many other exhibition booths by several NGOs, governmental organisation, birdwatching equipment sellers and not to be missed, food stalls. Throughout the day, many people came and asked about the sun bears in our centre. Most of them did not know about our centre but were very interested in what we are doing.

Birdwatchers and photographers registering for the bird race.

Kids were excited to start bird watching!

BSBCC exhibition booth open for visitors!




Many of the exhibitions and activities held on site.



The bird race was organised by MDHS in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2015 and supported by Tourism Malaysia, hoping to cultivate the appreciation of nature, especially among schoolchildren. Participants will go through 10 different checkpoints starting from the charming town of Kuala Kubu Baru, past the Kalumpung Hot Springs and ending at the Genting Highlands Awana Resort, which is the last checkpoint for the race. On the night of 25th April, the gala dinner was held for all the participants and we were invited to join as well.

One of the checkpoints for the bird race.

Arriving at Genting Highlands Awana Resort.

Most participants also spent the night at Awana Resort after the dinner. We were grateful that MHDS offered us to stay at the resort too!

Night view of Genting Highlands.

The next day after the dinner, there were a few other activities for school kids and the last hours for birders to finish their logbooks and bird photography before the closing ceremony. Unfortunately, we were unable to stay longer until the closing ceremony as we had to leave early for our 5pm flight.

A farewell picture with fellow participants from Surabaya, Indonesia and the talk host for the event.

Thanks to MHDS for inviting us and BSBCC for the opportunity of attending Wings of KKB 2015 Selangor Bird Race.








Sun Bear Acrylics on canvas

By Suzi Chua

Suzi Chua is a talented artist that fascinated with the beauty and uniqueness of all animals and colours on earth. We are great that she help the smallest bear species – Sun Bear by paint a Loki, a female sun bear cub painting.

Huge thanks to Chua Suzi. Loki and her friends definitely appreciate your support !!


‘The road to BSBCC’ or ‘trip of a lifetime’

Text by Rica Marcus (Volunteer from UK)

My partner Tom and I spent the last two years saving for our trip of a lifetime. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to do more than just travel. Passionate about wildlife and keen to try something new, we started to look for volunteering opportunities in Borneo. We discovered the BSBCC website and knew we had found something special.

Working with the sun bears appealed to me immediately. It promised to be something completely different to the day job. I hoped to learn something new and to play a small part in BSBCC’s effort to protect the little known and terribly endangered sun bear.

We decided to apply for the one month sun bear assistant volunteer programme. We had already started travelling and submitted our application from Vietnam in January 2015. The volunteer programme is a joint venture between BSBCC and APE Malaysia. APE Malaysia processed our application and managed our Skype interview. The interview helped APE ensure we were suitable candidates for BSBCC and it confirmed to us that it was a position we wanted with an organisation that approached animal welfare and rehabilitation in a very responsible way. After our interviews we waited nervously for confirmation from APE and received the good news that we had been accepted a few days later.

In the following months APE provided us with lots of useful pre-arrival information and were very helpful in answering our questions. Finally, on 05 March 2015 it was time to start our adventure as sun bear assistants.

‘A tropical retreat’ or ‘the dilemma of the bunk bed’

We arrived at our accommodation in Sepilok early afternoon, where we were met by Harith, our APE programme coordinator, and Mark, one of APE’s local representatives. We were given time to rest and settle into our new accommodation.

Our accommodation at Paganakan Dii Tropical Retreat was much more luxurious than we had expected. Paganakan Dii is recommended by many of the travel guides – and rightly so. The chalets and dorms are tastefully built in peaceful surroundings. Our accommodation block was at the far end of the retreat and had been purposely built for BSBCC volunteers. The accommodation block consists of eight rooms with twin bunk beds, comfortable mattresses, lockable cupboards and a desk. We chose the room next to the kitchen. The tricky part was choosing which bunk to go for: from the top bunk you got the full benefit of the fan, but on the bottom bunk you didn’t have to first check for gecko poo before getting in. I chose the top bunk.

As well as our bedroom, we had full and exclusive use of the veranda kitchen, kitted out with fridge/ freezer, cooker and microwave. The toilet and showers were brand new and the latter had hot water. There is a TV room next to the Paganakan Dii café and the café itself, was to prove a great place for us to go when we were too tired to cook.

‘Sun bear assistant pioneers’ or ‘the start of a beautiful friendship’

Once we had moved into our new home, we were keen to get started and were soon chatting with Harith. We were surprised to learn that not only were we the only two participants on the programme- we were also the first! This was particularly unexpected, as we had read blogs of previous volunteers. Harith explained: indeed BSBCC had had many volunteers, but we were the first on the new, official sun bear assistant volunteer programme created, designed and delivered in partnership by BSBCC and APE Malaysia.

Harith and Mark gave us a thorough induction to the programme. It was evident that the volunteer programme had been thoughtfully designed and I hope that we are the first of many volunteers to participate in this unique and rewarding programme.

With the initial induction finished, we tucked into a welcome dinner and got to know each other better. Harith and Mark have dedicated their lives to animal welfare and conservation. They are incredibly knowledgeable in these areas and in the weeks that followed we learnt a great deal from talking with them about issues ranging from palm oil to zoo keeping. They also gave us greater insight into Malaysian culture, from steam boat restaurants to the spirit world, from biker gangs to local tribal communities.

We went to bed that night full of anticipation…..

‘BSBCC’ or ‘A good start’

The driver at Paganakan Dii gave us a lift to BSBCC on our first morning and every morning after that. BSBCC is a ten minute drive away from Paganakan Dii and located right next to the Orangutan centre. BSBCC is set in beautiful green forest and their office is attached to the visitor centre.

Harith took us into the office and introduced us to some of the team. Everyone was welcoming and friendly. Ina gave us a presentation about sun bears, the centre and their work. We watched some of the educational videos running in the visitor centre and then it was time to meet the bears. Ina took us out onto the viewing platform in the forest. We were in luck; there were three or four bears right in front of us on the ground and another one relaxing in a tree. It was wonderful to watch them getting on with life in the forest- foraging through leaves, eating pieces of fruit and playing with other bears. We saw David, one of the keepers walking along the outside of the forest enclosure, feeding the bears by throwing fruits over the fence to them – a job that we would soon be doing!

After our morning at the centre, Harith took us to the local supermarket to stock up on groceries. The food shop was quite challenging as we didn’t recognise any of the packaging so took a long time finding what we wanted. We eventually came out with plenty of supplies including cereal, milk, Milo drinking chocolate, pasta, pasta sauce, frozen mixed veggies, rice and instant noodles.  The supermarket didn’t have any fresh fruit of vegetables, so we stocked up on these at the market in Sandakan on our first day off. With our fridge fully stocked, we were now ready to start our new jobs in earnest….

 ‘The bear house’ or ‘getting soaked’

The next morning, was our first in the bear house. Thye Lim, the centre coordinator showed us the facilities; kitchen, store room, tool cupboard and the bears’ night dens. He walked us around the boundary of the outdoor forest enclosures and showed us how to clean the indoor night pens – our first job that day. I was with animal keeper Mizuno in bear house 2, while Tom and Harith were with David in bear house 1.

I learnt quickly that getting completely soaked is unavoidable when cleaning the night dens. The effort of scrubbing walls and floors had me dripping with sweat and I tended to get splashed when using hose or buckets of water to wash everything down. To begin with the cleaning was exhausting, but over time I became fitter and established a routine. By the end of our stay, cleaning the night dens had become one of my favourite jobs. I enjoyed the physical exertion and had time to follow my own thoughts. It felt very peaceful working alongside the bears in neighbouring dens. Their presence soothed and delighted me and I was happy that my company did not bother them. I loved watching the bears snoozing in their baskets, climbing around or splashing themselves with water from their drinking bowl.

By the end of that first day, Tom and I were both completely exhausted and asleep by about 8pm! It did get easier though. Over the coming days we became more familiar with the work and were able to get fully stuck in. Our daily routine looked something like this……

‘A day in the life of a sun bear assistant’

07:50 arrive at work and change into wellington boots

08:00 indoor morning feed (typically rice porridge) before most of the bears go outside to forest

08:30 – 11:00 in the bear house on kitchen duty or cleaning night dens. Kitchen duty involves washing and chopping lots of fruit and vegetables for the mid-morning and mid-afternoon feed. The portions of bananas, papaya, sugar cane, sweet potato and melon were weighed out for the bears in the different outdoor enclosures and for those remaining inside. The rice porridge for the late afternoon feed was normally prepared last and then the kitchen had to be thoroughly cleaned. I enjoyed working in the kitchen, because it involved careful timing of the different tasks so that everything would be ready when needed.

11:00 – 12:00 mid-morning indoor and outdoor feeds (fruit, vegetables, or coconuts). A great opportunity to observe the sun bears.

12:00 – 13:30 a much needed lunch break, usually spent at the Sepilok Kafeteria.

13:30 – 14:00 mid-afternoon indoor and outdoor feeds (fruit, vegetables, or coconuts)

14:00- 16:00 enrichment projects or collecting stock for the bear house (dry leaves, logs, banana leaves)

16:00 – 17:00 with all (or at least most) of the bears back inside it is time for the final feed of the day (typically rice porridge followed by banana leaves.)

17:30 pick up back to Paganakan Dii.

18:00 onwards time to shower, eat, rest and sleep!

This may sound liked a strict routine, but every day in the bear house was unique……

The one with Natalie’s collaring

Natalie is the first sun bear that BSBCC plan to release back into the wild. If successful, it will be the first ever release of its kind, so we were very privileged to find ourselves involved in an important part of the process – putting the electronic collar around Natalie’s neck so that she can be tracked once she is released back into the wild. The morning of the collaring, the atmosphere in the bear house was electric. Everyone was nervous, but excited. The team performing the collaring was led by Wong and included staff from BSBCC and from the wildlife department. Once Natalie had been sedated, she was weighed and laid on a table to undergo a series of medical checks. It was fascinating to watch the team at work and I felt truly privileged to be there. I was even asked to help weigh Natalie and Tom was put in charge of filming the event! The collar was placed around Natalie’s neck and carefully tested for size and fit. When the team was satisfied, Natalie was returned to her night den where she slowly came round. In the following days she was closely observed as she stepped out into her private enclosure to continue her journey back to the wild. I hope with all my heart that she makes it and is able to thrive in the environment she was born to live in.

The one with the pit viper

One afternoon we went into the forest behind the bear house to collect logs for the night pens. Before we started, Harith reminded us to be careful and watch out for snakes- particularly the highly poisonous pit viper that is often found in the trees. As he finished his instructions, something caused him to look up at the tree he was leaning against and there, less than a meter above his head was a huge pit viper curled up on one of the branches! Harith quickly took a few steps back, while the rest of us came closer to take a look. The snake was beautiful, but it was a very real reminder that we were in the Bornean forest and had to be alert at all times! We began collecting our logs at a safe distance….

The one with the swing

One of our enrichment projects was to build a climbing structure for the five bear cubs in quarantine. Tom and I led the design. We decided on a structure based around a long, sturdy log, with two tires and two swings. This would give the bears practice at climbing, equipping them with a skill needed in the forest. The centre piece of the structure imitated a tree trunk, the swings the movement of swaying branches and the top tire a tree top where the bears could rest.

Azzry and Lin May gave their input about the suitability of the structure, including safety and height- the structure should be challenging, but not impossible for the bears to climb and play on. Harith, Mark and many of the workers in the bear house helped us to build the climbing structure and it proved a great bonding experience. It took us several afternoons to put it together. On the day we had anticipated to finish, we encountered a serious hitch: the hole we had drilled was too small to fit through it the rope that was needed to secure the structure to the roof of the quarantine area. As we were working with iron wood, which is as hard as the name suggests, we could not use the existing drill to simply widen the hole we had made. After hours of trying various means of threading the rope through the hole, we eventually admitted defeat. There was only one solution: we needed to purchase a larger drill bit. We returned to the project a few days later, a larger drill bit in hand. What we had failed to achieve after hours of effort a few days earlier, was completed in a matter of minutes. At last, our structure was ready. We installed the structure late afternoon and the young bears were introduced to it the following morning. As we were not allowed into the quarantine area with the bears, Lin May took pictures and videos for us. Seeing the footage of the bears using our climbing structure was simply wonderful.

‘Time accelerated’ or ‘parting thoughts’

As the days went by I started to feel completely at home in the bear house. I got to know the team, I was familiar with the routine and I knew all the bears’ names (even if I couldn’t always put the right name to the right bear!) But of course, the more I enjoyed each day, the faster they went by and before I knew it, it was our last week and then our last day. We stretched our last day out for as long as possible, but in the end it was time to say goodbye to the bears and to the team.

Volunteering at BSBCC has truly been the experience of a life time. I have learnt much more than I ever would have expected. I have learnt about animal behaviour, welfare and rehabilitation. I have learnt about the challenges of conservation, and most of all I have learnt about the commitment of the people who have dedicated their lives to facing these challenges. It is the passion of the people I have worked with that has made the deepest impression on me. I will never forget my time spent working alongside you all. Thank you. xxx



Kala, Sun Bear Cub Diary – Forest Day Out

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

Kala, is the youngest female cub of the many sun bears being cared for at the BSBCC. She was originally bought by someone in Kalabakan, near the Maliau Basin. The owner had intended to save the cub, but soon thereafter Kala was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit. When she arrived at the BSBCC on January 21st 2015 very little was known about her circumstances other than she has been separated from her mother at a very young age. The poachers usually kill the mothers in the forest in order to poach the bear cubs, which are then kept as pets or sold to illegal wildlife traders in South East Asia.

She was emaciated and malnourished upon arrival but the BSBCC staff has been caring for her around the clock to make her feel secure and confident. Kala has gained weight over the past few months and now weighs 10.35 kg. She has made much progress in the last three months, and we are very happy for her. Kala has a good appetite and eats and drinks all of the milk and fruit given to her. We have also noticed that she is starting to get her permanent teeth.

Kala is everything a cub should be – playful, inquisitive and sweet natured. It is a great joy to report that Kala finished her quarantine time on February 21st, 2015. We began regularly taking her out for walks in the forest on February 26th, 2015. This forest walk helps the sun bear cubs become wild bears again.

Stepped foot into the forest for the first time!

It has been two months now since Kala first went out into the forest.

Whenever she is taken out into the forest, she explores every corner and patch of the area.

She adjusted quickly to her new surroundings and demonstrated her ability to find forest foods and travel in the canopy. Kala enjoys searching for termites and earthworms in the soil, which are some of the most important food sources for sun bears.

Kala have long and curved claws that help her in climb trees and scrape off tree barks for termites!

She found pill millipede!!

She has a unique behavior of eating soil, which is something another sub-adult bear named Mary does. When she comes across something unexpected like a millipede or giant ant she is very cautious, shows little interest, and then runs away.

Kala loves spending her time lying on forest floor and grabbing dry leaves or branches to bite and play with. She has become more active and energetic, and her favorite activities include digging, eating soil, and playing. After she has exhausted herself exploring, she will rest for a while before continuing on to her next activity.

After she has exhausted herself exploring, she will rest for a while before continuing on to her next activity.

Sun bear cubs often play fight to help develop skills they will need in the wild. When Kala wants to play with the BSBCC staff, she grabs at their boots to initiate a play fight.  She also likes to show off her small canines and claws while she is playing.

Sun bears are arboreal animals; however Kala was not quite so confident when it came to her climbing skills. She can be a bit fussy when we put her up in the trees for a climbing lesson.

In order for her to learn how to climb trees, our bear keeper and volunteer, Rica and Thomas, built a new climbing structure for little Kala. This type of enrichment was specially made to help prepare her for the life back to the wild. Kala has taken great delight in learning how to climb the structure, and will soon be enjoying all of the enrichment structures provided in the den.

On March 28th, 2015 it was great to observe the confidence Kala demonstrated when using her claws and canine strength to climb the liana. Now, she is keeping rather busy with her own activities and likes digging dead wood, resting, and playing.

Do you spot her?

Kala was take a rest at liana.


Sometimes, she simply does not want to leave the forest!

Sun bear cubs depend on and stay with their mothers for about two to three years. Kala lost her mother at a very young age and now has to learn by herself how to survive in the wild. She has a long way to go through rehabilitation, but we are happy that her forest skills are improving day by day. We are absolutely delighted that Kala will have the second chance to live in the wild again once she is ready for life in the real forest.

Sun bears are the smallest bear species in the world. Please help spread the word that this animal belongs in the wild and should not be kept as a pet, no matter what the circumstance may be. Together we make the difference!

Educational Trip to Balikpapan, Indonesia

Text: Risnayati Lammu
Photo: Gloria Ganang & Risnayati Lammu

Welcome to Kawasan Wisata Pendidikan Lingkungan Hidup (KWPLH).

Balikpapan: Ku Jaga, Ku Bela, Ku Pelihara“, that is the motto of Balikpapan we saw when we arrived at the city on 3rd April 2015. Balikpapan is located on the east coast of the island of Borneo, in the province of east Kalimantan, Indonesia. Kalimantan is one of the biological hotspots where you can find many endemic species of Borneo, like the orang-utan and Bornean sun bear. In 1997, Gabriella Fredriksson is a researcher who studied sun bears and forest conservation programme in Sungai Wain Protection Forest, Balikpapan. From her research, interest and local media attention on sun bears has been aroused. With the collaboration of local government and NGO’s, sun bear has been the mascot for Balikpapan since 2002. With the main goal to visit the sun bear centre and to learn its operation especially in terms of educational aspect, me and Gloria Ganang (BSBCC’s education team) were eager to meet the centre’s staff the next day.

Gloria with a big sun bear statue at the entrance gate.

Woke up early morning, we took a taxi to our destination. Kawasan Wisata Pendidikan Lingkungan Hidup (KWPLH) also known as Environmental Education and Recreation Facility/ Sun Bear Centre is a facility located 23km from Balikpapan town. Upon arrival, we headed to their main office and received a warm welcomed by Ibu Yati. Then, we walked together to the entrance gate of sun bear enclosure where we met with Ibu Eka. Ibu Yati told us that early morning before the enclosure is open to the public, two staffs goes into the enclosure to scatter and hide food and special treats for the sun bears. The sun bear enclosure is approximately 1.3 hectares, which is almost the same size with BSBCC’s current forest enclosure, surrounded by electric and chain-linked fences.

Visitors can observe the sun bears from the access boardwalk.

After giving a morning briefing to some local students, Ibu Eka invited us for a tour around the sun bear enclosure. As we walked, Ibu Eka started her detail briefing on the sun bear enclosure and introduced us their sun bears which could be seen from the boardwalk area. There were a few bears that explored the enclosure, climbed, dug and sniffed around while searching for their tasty treat. I could remember one bear called Bennie, a chubby male bear with a wrinkled forehead, but he has no claws or canine teeth (probably removed by his previous owner). Currently, KWPLH is housing a total of seven sun bears which can never be released back into the wild, all of them were kept illegally as pet previously. The forest enclosure is filled with many trees and planted fruiting trees for the bears to climb up, rest and sunbath. As we came to the small viewing platform, there were a few younger staffs ready to assist visitor by providing sun bears information and to warn the visitor they shouldn’t make loud noises and disturb the bears. This sun bear enclosure has mutual benefits to both bears and visitors as the bears can freely explore their natural habitat while the visitors can have an understanding of bear behaviours and their forest habitat rather than seeing these lovely animals in captive.

One male sun bear found mix fruit that scattered around the area of forest enclosure.

Using his sense of smell, the male bear looks busy searching for food.

Besides the sun bear enclosure, KWPLH also provides Sun Bear Education Exhibit for the visitors to learn more about sun bears and the other bear species in the world. For me, this large, beautiful and semi-open exhibit was really informative as there were numerous educational displays in the form of interaction, statues, printed materials and paintings. The physical characteristics of the bear species, behaviours, ecology, feeding pattern and the conservation efforts were described on each section. The ways how they decorated the education display and presented to the public was brilliant to attract the visitors attention. Ibu Eka also informed us that most of the education displays are designed in a playful and interactive manner so that the visitors especially the kids can easily learn about the sun bears.

Ibu Eka (right) shares with Gloria (left) about the education programme that KWPLH organized in the past few years.

Open the small square board and you will know the physical characteristic of a sun bear.

From our conversation, Ibu Eka told us that they manage to go to more than 150 schools for the period of six months. What an amazing job they had done! At first, they went to school to introduce the school kids about the sun bears and give them an idea on animal welfare. After that, they would go to the same school again after a few weeks’ time to do refreshment so that the kids will not forget about what they have learnt from the talk given by the KWPLH staffs. As we walked further in, we reached another exhibit which is the Endemic Flora and Fauna of Borneo Exhibit. With the same design of education display, here we saw five main sections: Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish and Endemic Plants. KWPLH truly provides the best educational facility for the visitors to learn more not only about sun bears but also the biodiversity of Borneo.

Sun Bear Education Exhibit: Ecology section

Snake is one of the predators that that kills the sun bears in the wild.

Ibu Eka also guided us to the other exhibit: Domestic Animals Exhibit that houses three to five cats, with the objective to educate people about the difference between domestic animals and wildlife and tell them what animals are suitable as pets. Moreover, visitors can also adopt the young cat as all the cats here have been nurtured, vaccinated and have received fleas treatment. When we arrived at the main office, we met with another officer and he gave us lots of information about KWPLH’s operation while looking through their site plan. KWPLH primarily receives funding for management and running costs from the local government through Environmental Department in Balikpapan. Besides that, various other private and corporate organizations have also helped this centre through its development.

Ibu Eka (left), Gloria (middle) and another KWPLH’s officer (right) taking a group photo.

After spending more than five hours exploring KWPLH centre, finally it is time to say goodbye to the staff here. We really appreciate every single moment spent with the staffs. They were all very keen in sharing information and showing us around especially Ibu Eka. We learned many things here and we are happy that finally we managed to reach here after a long planning time. A big thank you to our CEO and Founder, Mr. Wong Siew Te for giving us the opportunity to visit this sun bear centre and the San Diego Zoo who has sponsored our trip. As we leave this centre, we saw many locals gathering together especially families with kids, having a picnic in the small gazebo, while the other school kids playing around in the lamin (longhouse style building). We will surely come here again in the future and hope that KWPLH will continue in their effort to educate the local people and raise awareness of the sun bear conservation and their habitat.

Mascot of Balikpapan: The Sun Bear!


Hello everyone! My name is Fatin Amirah binti Ahmad Anuar, and called as Fatin here at BSBCC. I am currently an undergraduate Pure Biology student of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) branch of Sabah, Malaysia. BSBCC was my first volunteering work and wrapping up period of 2 months doing my internship, I have to admit that I had so much fun and a wonderful experience here, working with the staff and other fellow volunteers. To those who feel affection for nature and animals, I would like to highlight first that this is one of the places for you to spend some time if you have nothing in mind to do during your free time.

Sneak peak of the bear

Upon of my arrival at Sandakan Airport, the first person I met was Ronny, one of the staff at BSBCC, and looking back to the day where I met him, I remembered feeling welcome to do my internship here. I felt lucky as he made me feel assured that my upcoming days at the centre would be amusing and content. I do remember too that I apologized in advance for basically everything I will ever do in the future. I divulge that I was fragile on the first day at the centre. However, Chiew Lin May, the Research and Reintroduction Officer, slowly embraced me with her personality, and honestly speaking, her smile always makes my heart melt. Your heart feels warm when you see her, either when you are coming back from the bear house for a lunch break, or when all is done with your day volunteering. These were the same feelings I had with the bears. I felt welcomed by them every time I went to the bear house and to the feeding platform. They were all curious and active animals which make you too feel their energy, even on the days where you were not having a good rest. They were capable of making your heart flutter through their behavior, especially in the time they reached for their enrichment.

Speaking of which, some given to them could last for hours; advantageous for both sides, to the sun bears and to the staff here. To know whether enrichment is good enough or not for the sun bears, we see the time period they would play with it, which indirectly induces their natural behavior over time. One of the missions of BSBCC is to give these ex-captured, orphaned and saved bears a second chance, and release them back into the wild. Thus, it is important for the volunteers here to understand this goal and trying their best in providing the needs of the sun bears one by one to help the sun bears to be as close as possible to their natural environment.

View from the Door Entrance of BSBCC

Side-Left View before Entering Into the Ticketing Counter


I knew that I would love this place from the first moment I saw the big aquarium set up at the ticketing counter area. It was like a jackpot for me as I only came here to see the sun bears, however the founder, Mr Wong Siew Te seems to have so many interests and passion in his life, which is a really good thing for him, for the staff and for the people coming to the BSBCC. Besides getting to learn about the sun bears, I now acknowledge that I could learn about other things here too. Surely, this is not only about the sun bears, it is all about the nature systems and how we possibly could manage all of them together. To future volunteers, you would be amazed to see his mini library in his office, and the best part is that you are truly welcomed by him to read those books whenever you like. You too should not be surprised when you find him at the platform giving talks just like the other staff do every day. He certainly does have his own style in managing the centre and it is really cool for me to have such a boss.

Thye Lim once told me that being here was all about having a communication with each other especially if I were not certain about something regarding the sun bears. Do not assume, ask and ask. So guys, it is okay for you to ask and know as many as possible about the sun bears while you are volunteering here, and hopefully once you have finished, you could consign and spread the knowledge about these beautiful animals to your family and friends.

Enjoying one of the enrichments given by the staff and volunteers during feeding time

You will have many chances to see them on this position once you come here volunteering. Some of them would get excited and active by themselves, carrying out the given enrichment, showing through their behavior that they like it so much. Some were even asking for some more, and it was really cute to see them at that particular time. They have their own dietary menu, and as each sun bears have names, it is quite sure to know which one is which, thus it would not be confusing for us to serve them food and provide them with enrichments. Other than the different chest marks they have, we could too differentiate them from their physical appearances and behaviors. Damai would usually be the cleanest bear upon returning to the bear house every day, while Fulung would be found standing on its two hind legs most of the time whether it was out to the forest D enclosure or in the bear house. Seeing these two sun bears every day for 2 months were just enough for me to cheer up my day. I now believe that these animals could sense our emotions and thoughts.


Damai (left) and Fulung (right) both standing on their hind legs


When it comes to their food routine, every day, each of the 37 bears would enjoy eating their mixed fruits and mixed vegetables prepared by the bear keepers, together with the volunteers at the bear house. They would too have their porridge twice per day, in the morning and in the evening.  I now learnt the correct way to make porridge for them thanks to Nick and Thye Lim who were both responsible in correcting me during the time I was at fault.

Volunteers are not allowed to handfeed them, but you could watch the bear keepers doing it for you. Rules and regulations lined by the BSBCC are all for the safety of the sun bears and for our own safety. There are always reasons why there are restriction areas at the BSBCC, for example, the quarantine facilities where all of 5 baby bears are located, including the male one which had arrived recently at the centre. Perfume, bright-colored attires are not encouraged as we might cause the sun bears to have unnecessary stress, which is not a good thing for them in a long term period. Ideas and suggestions from the volunteers regarding the building and enrichment for the sun bears are welcomed to be shared and discussed with staff and officers here, as long as your ideas are suitable and safe to be applied.

Joining Azzry and Thye Lim Setting Up Hot Wire

Hayley cutting off the bamboo in order to make one of the enrichments – bamboo feeder


The more you stay, the more you learn and the more you will have a better understanding regarding the sun bears. It is impossible for me to learn everything about the sun bears in one go, even if I wanted to. Therefore, I felt lucky enough to meet all of those staff willing to teach me various things during my period of placement; Azzry, Mizuno, Gloria, Reckley, Rizan, Rahim.

Having views about the sun bears at the verge of finishing my internship is fair enough for me, as I know I will have difficult time coming back to the centre for a second round, thus I am now sharing my present knowledge with my colleagues, university friends and my own family members. I am writing this as a way of contributing to the survival of the sun bear species. I hope there will be more efforts and scientific research done around the world in keeping this animal safe far from being hunted and killed for their paws and bile, for instance. Our people surely need to be educated more, and BSBCC is already on its right track through the ongoing talks and outreaching to people from place to place – including kindergartens.

Nick, Ami, Myself, Professor Hank and Dr. Scott

Rebeca, Fairo, Myself and the Supervisor, Thye Lim

Outside of the bear house; Mizuno, Harith, Lin May, Rica, Myself, Tom and Azzry


Therefore, for all of the wonderful experience and knowledge gained, I wish to acknowledge Mr Wong for giving me the chance to be here. I hope you will always have that bountiful spirit in yourself for the sake of the sun bears. To my supervisor, Thye Lim who has been helping me a lot and being more like a friend to me rather than a supervisor. I really appreciate that.  Profound thanks to other volunteers ;Ying Yi, See Toh, Rica, Tom, Ami, Nicholas, Austin, Amanda, Mark, Harith, Caitlyn, Hayley, to both Emmas that were both volunteering at the time, and all 17 staff for filling my days with joy. There is no greater pleasure for me in spending time with all of you guys. I wish to thank for your help while we were all working together and these moments we went through together will surely be memorable for me.

The Founder & CEO of BSBCC


We better learn to show appreciation from now on, or we would not have anything to appreciate in future. Come and try it by yourself. You will know how it feels helping these cute animals to have a better home and restoring their second chance to live in the wild. Thank you.



We Are Hiring!

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre wishes to invite highly motivated and dedicated candidates to join us for the following career opportunities:

A) BSBCC Accounts Clerk – 1 Post

1. Minimum Certificate (Diploma/Degree are considerable) in Accountancy / Book-keeping / Finance / Banking or Business,
2. At least 3 years of experience in preparing monthly / annual accounts, preparation of financial statement, budgets, tax report & calculations, stock monitoring report, payment preparation and other necessary duties,
3. Experienced in handling scheduled payment arrangement such as taxation, insurance, EPF and SOCSO either with the authorities or banks/agents,
4. Able to use computer for any reports and letters preparation,
5. Able to communicate confidently and cooperate with all people within the centre, such as internally or externally,
6. Able to work independently and as a team, including on weekend or public holiday and outside normal office hours if needed,
7. Valid B2 or D driving license, and
8. Willing to do any other assignment (ad-hoc) as and when required

For those interested, please submit your details personal particular, academic qualifications, working experience, current & expected salary and latest picture to our email, with title ‘Application of Job Vacancy’ before 16th March 2015. ONLY SHORTLISTED CANDIDATE WILL BE INTERVIEWED.

A) Kerani Akaun BSBCC – 1 Kekosongan


1. Memiliki sekurang-kurangnya Sijil/Diploma di dalam bidang Perakaunan / Simpan-Kira / Kewangan / Perbankan ataupun Perniagaan,
2. Minimum 3 tahun pengalaman di dalam penyediaan laporan kewangan bulanan / tahunan, penyediaan penyata kewangan, belanjawan, pengiraan cukai dan laporan, memantau laporan stok barangan, penyediaan bayaran dan perkara-perkara yang berkaitan,
3. Berpengalaman di dalam mengurus hal-hal pembayaran berkala seperti percukaian, insuran, KWSP, Perkeso sama ada dengan pihak berkuasa tempatan ataupun pihak bank/ejen,
4. Mahir menggunakan computer untuk penyediaan laporan dan surat-menyurat,
5. Boleh berkomunikasi dengan yakin dan bekerjasama dengan semua pihak di BSBCC, sama ada di dalam atau di luar pusat,
6. Mampu bekerja berdikari dan bekerjasama dalam pasukan, termasuk pada hujung minggu dan di luar masa bekerja bila di kehendaki,
7. Mempunyai lesen memandu yang sah bagi kelas B dan D, dan
8.Melakukan apa-apa kerja yang di kehendaki pada bila-bila masa di perlukan.

Kepada yang berminat, sila hantarkan maklumat peribadi, kelayakan akademik, pengalaman kerja, gaji sekarang dan gaji di pohon beserta gambar terkini ke emel sebelum 16hb March 2015. HANYA CALON YANG DI SENARAI-PENDEK SAHAJA AKAN DI PANGGIL UNTUK TEMUDUGA.

Fun times at BSBCC!

Hi, my name is Emma Hambleton, I am a third year environmental science student at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia and I was fortunate enough to have my first volunteering experience at BSBCC in January 2015 with fellow USC students Caitlyn Turner and Hayley Beck.

Myself, Hayley, Azzry & Caitlyn at the water cascade

Feeling excited but nervous to be leaving Australia I couldn’t wait for my BSBCC volunteering experience to begin.  Arriving in Borneo was a sense of the unknown, where I knew very little about sun bears to begin with and didn’t know what to expect in terms of what Borneo was going to be like.  Our first day at BSBCC was on Monday 12th January 2015.  We were first introduced to BSBCC founder and CEO, Wong Siew Te, we had a chat with him before being introduced to Nick who gave us a thorough introduction to BSBCC.  We then had our first sun bear observing experience – so beautiful!!

Feeding time for the bears

Our first two weeks at BSBCC consisted of us working around the visitors by either working at the observation platform with other staff or in the information booth.  The first few days at the platform gave us the opportunity to learn about the sun bears by listening to the staff talk to the visitors and, by asking them questions.  After a couple of days of listening and learning about sun bears, we then spoke to visitors and answered any questions that they may have had about the bears.  This helped us to retain the knowledge we had gained and by passing our knowledge on to visitors, it is hoped that they too would spread the word about sun bear conservation.

Mary relaxing in the rain

Our time in the information booth was spent informing visitors about different devices that are used to track bears, entertain bears (such as enrichment toys), or showing visitors pictures of the behaviour of sun bears who had previously been kept in cages as pets.  Talking to the visitors was somewhat nerve-racking at first, given the fact that I didn’t know much at all about sun bears before arriving in Borneo.  However, after a while, it became a lot easier as I was continuously learning more about sun bears, which then made me more comfortable answering questions from visitors.  I particularly liked working at the observation platform as we got to observe the sun bears and watch them as they played, slept, ate or roamed around in a natural setting.

Damai patiently waiting for her food

I was super excited in the third week of our stay, which was when we started working in the bear house!  There was never a dull moment.  We would begin the day by feeding the bears their porridge which was always fun/interesting watching the bears eagerly await their breakfast.  After we cleaned the bears’ trays we began cleaning the cages.  Being so close to the sun bears was pretty cool as some tended to watch you as you cleaned the cage beside them.  For instance, the very first cage that I cleaned I left my bucket a little too close to Julaini’s cage and Julaini stole the bucket which was a shock at first. After Julaini had the bucket taken off him I could see Julaini’s sharp claws trying to grab my broom through the cage, this happened most days that I cleaned the cage beside him which made me laugh and I could sense Julaini’s playful personality so it’s safe to say Julaini became one of my favourites because of that.

Fulung standing on his two hind legs waiting to be fed

After cage cleaning we got to feed the bears in the indoor enclosures which was always fun and interesting to see that, like humans, most of the sun bears didn’t eat banana peel, the green part of watermelon or the skin on any other fruit.  It was cute seeing particular bears eating mannerisms, like the way Sigalung would lay on his back while he ate his fruit.  Once the bears in the bear house were fed we would go and feed the bears in the outside enclosures.  Fulung was usually the first bear we saw as he walked up the hill alongside us most days and would stand on his two hind legs like a human, waiting for his food – so cute!  My favourite days would have to be coconut days.  It amazed me to see how these strong little sun bears could open a coconut from the husk to the inside. This just showed how sharp and strong their teeth and claws are.

Mary casually enjoying her coconut

Two besties having their sugar cane

During the afternoon we usually made enrichment for the bears, which was fun, and good exercise, actually getting the materials we needed.  We went for a few separate adventures up the road to collect banana leaves, dry leaves, bamboo, and through the forest to collect termite nests for the sun bears.  Within the two weeks working in the bear house we made nest balls, burgers, bamboo enrichment, and we found termite nests for the bears which usually entertained the bears for around 15-30 minutes.  I loved giving enrichment to the bears, particularly the bears that are not released into outdoor enclosures every day as it gave them something to pass the time away and it also gave them a sense of the wild by doing activities they would typically do in the wild, such as eating termite nests.  This also helped to stop typical sun bear behaviour of pacing or regurgitating for a short time.  It was always fun creating the enrichment as it also gave us time to hear Azzry’s (bear keeper) entertaining stories and jokes as we made the enrichment.  Our time working with Azzry was always entertaining from riding down the hill on an old trolley with 31 coconuts on board for the bears, to having bamboo sawing competitions, to his casual attitude about leeches.  Azzry’s famous quote “it’s onnnlyyy a leech”, are words I’ll never forget.

Azzry driving us back to the bear house on the trolley with the coconuts

The two main highlights of my BSBCC experience were working in the bear house where we were able to get close to the bears, but not too close, by feeding them, cleaning their cages, and giving them enrichment.  Working in the bear house was also the best way to learn each of the sun bears’ different, cute and loveable personalities such as; pretty girl Manis who would stand at the front of her cage with her head resting on her hands after she had finished her food, how Kudat would lie sprawled out with his paws hanging out under the bottom of his cage, how big boy Lingam rested his head on his hands while he watched people walk past from his hammock, how Natalie would watch your every move as you walked past her with food in hand or try and grab banana leaves out of your hand if you weren’t quick enough putting/placing them in her cage, or even the cutest little Mary who would cling to the cage while patiently waiting for her banana leaves in the afternoon – so cute! I could go on forever they are all so adorable and cute!

Although they are so adorable and cute I had to remind myself on several occasions not to get too attached to the bears as they are in there to be rehabilitated and hopefully released back into the wild, so it is a bittersweet feeling knowing that when I do go back next time some of the bears would have been released.

Jelita which means beautiful in Malay – such a fitting name for this sun bear

Kuamut playing around in the sticks

The second highlight was working with the staff at BSBCC, they are all the nicest, funniest, kindest, most knowledgeable, helpful, patient and friendliest people you will ever meet.  Everyone at the centre was so welcoming.  It was awesome to see how dedicated Wong and his staff at BSBCC are in rehabilitating the sun bears for their release back into the wild.

It is safe to say that my time volunteering at BSBCC will definitely not be forgotten and I feel so lucky to have been able to do this as part of my university degree thanks to BSBCC and USC.  I had so much fun working with the BSBCC staff and fellow volunteers Amanda, Caitlyn, Fatin and Hayley.  It is a rewarding feeling knowing that we’ve played a slight role in helping these beautiful animals get back out into the wild, or by at least informing others of the current sun bear situation and creating awareness. I would encourage anybody thinking about volunteering at BSBCC to start filling out their application now, it will be an experience you will never forget! I learnt so much in the month that I was at BSBCC and had the time of my life working with everyone at the centre and working so closely to the bears.  It was hard saying goodbye to each and every one of the sun bears and staff at BSBCC. Thanks to Wong and all the staff at BSBCC for giving me such an amazing BSBCC experience!

Walking to our last day of volunteering at BSBCC – we were all crying on the inside


The Best Sun Bear Conservation Crew and an incredible experience

My name is Caitlyn Turner and I am a 4th year Environmental Science student from the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia. My sun bear experience was shared with two other Environmental students from my university called Hayley and Emma. Our work placement at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) lasted a total of 4 weeks. Before applying for this work placement I had no idea what the situation with the sun bears was like. After spending a month working with the centre staff and the bears, I have learnt a great amount about the species and their importance in the world.

Our journey to Borneo first began on the plane trip over where we had no idea what to expect. I remember feeling nervous, anxious, and extremely excited. When we reached Sandakan it was like we had gone to an entirely different world. Going from living so close to the beach to entirely jungle was going to be a new experience. After leaving the airport we were driven to our accommodation by a taxi driver whom spoke little to no English. This was the second sign that we were no longer in a country like our own and it would be a good time to learn some Malay. When we reached our accommodation at the Sepilok Jungle Resort we were kindly welcomed by the resort staff and were checked-in to our resort room. Our room was simple, but it was perfect for the 3 of us.

The day after arriving we were into our induction at the BSBCC. We had no idea what we would be doing whilst there so we were all very curious and excited to begin. For our first day we were welcomed by the founder and CEO of the centre, Wong. He then left us in the capable hands of another staff member called Nick who kindly guided us through the centre and the bear houses. He explained everything to us and even treated us to a trip to the Orang utan Rehabilitation Centre in the afternoon. Our day at the centre finished with another staff member called Thye Lim giving a presentation which taught us a great deal about the sun bears. It was great being able to learn so much that early in the experience.

The next two weeks of our placement was spent helping out in the visitor centre. We spent our time here and not working in the bear houses as there were 3 interns also volunteering at the centre at this time. Even though we were keen to work with the sun bears it was a good chance for us to learn as much as possible about the bears before getting to experience them close up. Working on the observation platform and talking to visitors at the education booth was definitely a benefit as it allowed us to not only learn more about the bears but we got to teach others about them also. It felt great being able to educate people about the sun bears and to encourage them to support such an amazing conservation project. I think by spending the first 2 weeks doing these jobs I started to become truly passionate about the need for sun bear conservation and it made me determined to inform people about them as much as I could. My time in the centre also allowed me to make a number of wonderful friends with the visitor centre staff and most importantly it was the beginning to the 3 of us feeling like we were part of the team.

My favourite part of each day for the first two weeks was working on the platform. I never knew what I would see or end up learning each day. I remember meeting the cheeky macaques for the first time and at first I thought they were cute but I was soon to learn they are mischievous and dangerous. Lester, one of the centre’s staff, was generally called when there was a monkey problem and it always made me laugh to watch him chase them away. One of the days when coconuts were being given to the bears’ for their afternoon food, there was a macaque which climbed up a tree with one of the large coconuts. It was quite amusing as the coconut could not be opened so he got bored very quickly and dropped it back to the ground. Speaking of coconuts, another favourite of mine was coconut day as the bears are absolutely amazing at tearing the shell apart. Each bear is different with its coconut opening method, for example, some throw the coconut on the ground, others try to tap a hole into it, and others (i.e. Mary) patiently wait for another bear to open it and steal it from them.

When the 3rd week came around we were beyond prepared to work in the bear house. On our first day we were introduced to a new set of rules which were explained by Thye Lim. Then once the basics were understood we were into the hard work. The physical work inside and outside the bear house was explained by a staff member called Azzry. He guided us through everything we would be doing and even helped by making jokes about tasks so we weren’t as nervous. The daily routine was usually an outdoor pen check, clean the enclosures, morning feed out, prepare porridge, afternoon feed out, prepare enrichment and the disperse it to the bears, and finally the evening feed out with porridge and banana leaves. Even though the routine sounds like it would be repetitive, it really wasn’t. Each day I was excited as to what we were going to prepare for enrichment or what we would be giving the bears to eat. I can honestly say there was never a boring day at the bear house.

From our very first day to our last day we were treated with the utter-most kindness and it was like we were part of the BSBCC team. When we were leaving the centre to return to Australia I knew with certainty that I would be coming back to volunteer in the future. This experience has been incredible and I’d like to thank the entire BSBCC team for making the 3 of us feel very welcome and for making our time at the centre one we will never forget. All the staff at the centre were extremely friendly and I couldn’t think of a greater team of people to work with. Thank you.