1. BEAR KEEPER – 1 Post

 BSBCC Bear Keeper Job Description

Bear keepers play an extremely important role in BSBCC in achieving our missions:

Creating the capacity to confiscate, rehabilitate and release suitable orphaned and ex-captive bears back into the wild and providing an improved long-term living environment for captive bears that cannot be released.

If you love animal and enjoy being meeting people who have the same passion as you and being proactive, this could be just what you are looking for.

To become a bear keeper, you will need to have confidence and patience when working with animals, and you are responsible for the wellbeing of the bears in BSBCC. A bear keeper must follow very specific instructions for every single bear.

Requirements to join BSBCC as a bear keeper will be:

  1. Animal lovers, and passionate in animal care,
  2. Malaysian Mykad holder,
  3. Minimum SPM with credit in English,
  4. Have a valid driving license (Class D),
  5. Able to work in the forest/jungle,
  6. Able to work during weekend and outside office hours if needed,
  7. Able to work independent and as a team, and
  8. Work according to schedule set by Supervisor,

Job scope of bear keeper included:

  1. Cleaning bear living spaces, cages and enclosure,
  2. Preparing food for the bear,
  3. Design/Making enrichment for the bear,
  4. Monitoring the bears and making sure they do not become sick or injured,
  5. Behaviour observation, record, and writing report, and
  6. Supervising and training volunteer (Able to speak in English would be an advantage).


  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, info.bsbcc@gmail.com with title ‘Application of Job Vacancy’ before 10th February 2015.


Jawatan Kosong


1. PENJAGA BERUANG – 1 Kekosongan

Penerangan Tatakerja Penjaga Beruang

Penjaga beruang memainkan peranan yang penting di dalam memastikan BSBCC mencapai misi penubuhannya.

Mewujudkan kapasiti untuk menyelamat, memulihara dan memberi peluang kepada anak beruang dan bekas beruang yang pernah berada di dalam peliharaan manusia untuk kembali ke hutan dan menyediakan persekitaran kitar hidup yang sepatutnya bagi beruang yang tidak dapat di lepaskan ke alam kehidupan semula jadi.

Jika anda seorang yang mencintai haiwan dan berminat untuk bertemu dengan orang yang mempunyai minat dan kecenderungan yang sama seperti anda dan proaktif, ini mungkin merupakan apa yang anda cari:

Untuk menjadi penjaga beruang, anda mestilah sentiasa yakin dan bersabar setiap masa, dan bertanggungjawab untuk menjaga kebajikan semua beruang yang ada di BSBCC. Seorang penjaga beruang harus mematuhi setiap perincian arahan yang di buat bagi setiap ekor beruang.

Keperluan untuk menjadi penjaga beruang di BSBCC adalah seperti berikut:

  1. Menyukai haiwan dan mempunyai semangat di dalam hal kebajikan haiwan,
  2. Warganegara tempatan / memiliki Mykad,
  3. Minimum SPM dengan keputusan kredit di dalam Bahasa Inggeris,
  4. Mempunyai lesen memandu yang sah (kelas D),
  5. Boleh bekerja di dalam hutan,
  6. Boleh bekerja pada hujung minggu dan di luar masa bekerja bila di perlukan,
  7. Boleh bekerja dengan pengawasan yang minima dan dalam pasukan, dan
  8. Bekerja mengikut jadual yang di tetapkan oleh penyelia.

Skop kerja bagi penjaga beruang adalah seperti berikut:

  1. Membersihkan kawasan tempat peninggalan, ruang hutan lepasan beruang.
  2. Penyediaan makanan beruang,
  3. Membuat/menyediakan mainan pengkayaan bagi beruang,
  4. Membuat pemantauan keadaan beruang agar tidak jatuh sakit atau cedera,
  5. Membuat pemerhatian ke atas perangai beruang, merekod dan membuat laporan, dan
  6. Menyelia dan melatih sukarelawan (mampu berkomunikasi dalam Bahasa Inggeris adalah satu kelebihan)


2. KERANI AKAUN – 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 info.bsbcc@gmail.com sebelum 10hb  Februari 2015.


Date with Sun Bears

Text by See Toh Yee Nin

Hi I am Yee Nin, I’m 21 years old and I am a 3rd year veterinary medicine student. I come from Perak, Malaysia and this is my first time volunteering in a wildlife sanctuary. I am here for a period of 2 weeks as one of the requirements to fulfill the compulsory field practice that is part of the curriculum.

Much like what we had done previously volunteering in zoo, the daily routine was not much different from each other, which included cleaning, preparing food, feeding, and behavioral observations. However, what really impressed me regarding the conservation center was the concern on the status of the species population and efforts in the rehabilitation project. As well as the welfare of the animal is being well taken care of.

On the first day working in the bear house, we are warned to be extra cautious by the staff and not to be too close with the bears as the bears are very powerful and destructive due to their strong arms, hard claws and sharp canine teeth even though they looked cute, innocent, clumsy and small dog-like body size (body weight of 20 to 50kg). I was even stunned by their clever actions of opening a coconut and splitting up a bamboo feeder which indicated the degree of the forcefulness and their instinctive destructive behavior.

After a few days working in the bear house, I shed my fear towards bears gradually and gained more confidence, especially removing the empty feed tray from the cage, which is the movement where we are within a close distance with the bear as the bear can easily grab us and cause harm. The most relished part of the daily routine is the feeding in the forest enclosure. After scattering feed in the forest enclosure area, I enjoyed watching them forage for food, watching the way they removed the inedible part and enjoying their meal. By watching them manipulate all their limbs to remove the husks, then end up lying on the ground on the ventral recumbency with their round belly facing the sky, holding the coconut up by the forelimbs to drink the coconut juice, you definitely can’t stop screaming, “Dear bear can you stop acting cute?”.  Every bear has their own pattern of behaviors, such as feeding, climbing (cage or tree), resting in the hammock or basket, grooming etc which most of them are really funny and brighten up your day.

Other than normal daily routine, we also helped in constructing the enrichment materials. In order to prepare enrichment, we were scared by the creepy look of the tractor millipede which is never found in Peninsular Malaysia, bitten by fire ants during the collection of dry leaves, and traumatized by leeches when looking for termite molds in the jungle.  This was indeed an unforgettable experience over here. In addition, I had a great opportunity to do behavioral observation and construct an ethogram for Chin in the electric fence training pens which I had previously learnt in my ethology lecture.

The CEO and the founder of the conservation center, Mr Wong Siew Tee at certain extends, impressed me with his passion of conserving the bear population, fancy knowledge of sun bear ethology, capability of leading the team and his philosophy of life, which is “finish all the food and do not waste the food like a bear”. The staff here are joyful, friendly, highly motivated, excited and happy to share their experience and knowledge regardless of the bear or the rainforest. We also had some cultural exchanges by learning some of the culture and lifestyle of Sabahan, which is a lot different from Peninsular Malaysia.

On the last working day in BSBCC, I was lucky enough to have a great opportunity which involved being present in a physical examination where a bear, Linggam was vomiting and depressed and the veterinarian from Wildlife Rescue Unit, Dr Laura decided to put him under sedation so that he could receive supportive therapy. From the short discussion with Dr Laura and BSBCC’s staff, it is sad to say that the recent studies on sun bear, no matter what aspect, either medical field or ethological field information is very limited. More information is needed so that the current method of bear care can be greatly improved, and thereby I have a strong feeling that I might be considering to work on this if I decide to venture into wildlife medicine in the future.

During the afternoon feeding, I did spend a long time sitting on the platform and watching the bears in pen D. I barely believe that time flies too fast and today is my last day of my internship at BSBCC. They are as cute as those furry bear dolls and all their funny moves dissolve your heart. This endangered creature enriched the ecosystem of the rainforest by the ways of their feeding behavior and should not to be allowed to become extinct from the rainforest.

In short, the experience and knowledge that I gained at BSBCC overwhelmed my expectations from different aspects of animal management, human resource management, working culture, sanctuary sustainability, research, education and the passion towards conserving wildlife. BSBCC will be the first on the list as I am happy to promote the volunteering program to my wildlife fanatic juniors because this is one of the best reference centres in Malaysia to see the full picture of how a model of rehabilitation mechanism runs with support from Sabah Wildlife Department. Finally, congratulation and good luck to BSBCC for releasing their first bear, Natalie in to the wild in the coming March after 6 years of hard work and sacrification :)


Text and Photos by Chew Ying Yi

I am Ying Yi and I am from Malaysia. My classmates and I had an opportunity to intern in Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) for 2 weeks. This experience have greatly ameliorates myself in term of knowing more about Malayan Sun Bear and conservation of wildlife in Malaysia. As a vet student, it wasn’t the first time I hear about the sun bear but it is only since the time spent in BSBCC made me realized that the Malayan Sun Bears need help.

Malayan Sun Bears are the world’s smallest bear and the sub species of Malayan Sun Bears in Borneo are much smaller than I thought it would be. The fully grown Borneo Sun Bear is almost the same of a giant breed of dogs (But they are NOT supposed to be kept as pet like dogs!).

With the Bears

Our daily routines basically were on the management of the bears. We cleaned their inside enclosure, prepared their daily food, fed them, prepared their enrichments and gave them their enrichments. Of course we did observation on the bears behaviours during the feeding time and when we gave them enrichments.

Ice treat as enrichment for the bear to prevent unwanted stereotypic behavior.

The most daily looking forward routine to me is to observe them. They are really lovely and cute with all kinds of poses when they do their daily activities such as sleeping, eating, climbing on trees and so on.

Within the short period of internship, we are lucky to have a chance to observe Chin to first reintroduce back to the forest. Spending a few days integrating Chin with other bears, and after training at the training pens, the guillotine door is open for Chin to access the outside world I was doing the ethogram for Chin on the first day for 30 minutes. It was really heartbroken for me to see wildlife to be curious and at the same time afraid of the forest which is their natural habitat. It took her 3 days to finally step out the inside enclosure and step on the forest ground.

Due to their ‘cuteness’ and their small size, they were often kept as pets, which is really erring to be done. Publics often do not understand that wild animal is designed to be wild. Keeping them as pet can be dangerous to the owner as they grow and become stronger. It is nature to them to play rough because that’s how they would play with their siblings or mother in the wild and this behaviour is uncomfortable with human. The more concern matter is the Sun Bear where their welfare are being compromised and attainted. People are doing wrong things to say that they love Sun Bears but in fact they are harming and abusing them. This fact does not only refer to sun bear but includes every illegal keeping of wildlife as pet.

 I like the meeting session every Tuesday very much where every division discuss about the problem faced and give suggestion to solve the problems. This is the time where I get all the passionate aura of people working in BSBCC and everyone is working so hard to give more to the sun bear.

 There is not much treatment to be done which means it is good news as most of the sun bears are doing really well in the center. Prevention is always better than cure. Having a good bear management did largely reduce the incident of them getting injured.


Outside BSBCC

My classmates Yee Nin, Ema and I were welcomed by Thye Lim, our supervisor at the Sandakan airport when we arrived. I am really grateful that BSBCC provides transportation and accommodation, this had been very helpful to us. Bjorn Hala is the name of the place where we stay. Experiences here was fascinating, it’s the first time for me where I need to prepare my meals for myself for so many continuous days. This had been challenging but definitely one of the most memorable memories in my life! The day ends and the night starts so early over here and it gets pretty dark at 6.30pm. There was one day where the no electricity supply in the night and we had to prepare our dinner in the dark. The beginning of food preparation was a chaos, the process of cooking it was jumble, the food was tolerable and the cleaning part – hmm. In summary, this can be quite fun in a way!


Even though as a vet students, I was dismayed when we were not given change to be in the quarantine, I am really happy at the same time to realize about the strict rules and management in BSBCC. This is really good and positive to have place such as BSBCC in Malaysia that concern animals (sun bear in this case) more than to entertain human. Animals including wildlife deserve better as we human are the one that invade their home and freedom.


Thanks to Mr.Wong for giving us a chance to have a closer look into sun bear and having such a place to do more for the sun bears and correcting the mistakes done by us human to the wildlife.

Thanks to Lin May and Thye Lim for willing to share all the information and helping us a lot whenever we need help. I really gain a lot from both of them.

Thanks to Nick our housemate to fetch us every day to BSBCC, back home, to wherever we requested and cleaning up the mess and trouble we created.

Thank you very much to Azzry for guiding me since the first day at the bear house. His guidance made me less panic being in the new environment.

Thanks to every single staffs in BSBCC. Everyone has been so friendly and willing to help.


BSBCC: Good Times, Good Vibes.

Text by Ema Arzairima binti Ariffin

It’s the 11th of January 2015, I am in Kuala Lumpur International Airport waiting for my flight that will depart at 10.30 am.  I’m sitting, waiting, thinking and imagining what Sandakan looks like. How is the environment at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC)? Are there any cubs?  Can I touch them? What will our house look like? Am I going to stay near town?  Oh, I am so excited!  I looked through the internet, browsing and searching for more information about Sandakan and BSBCC.  Then I put my mobile phone into airplane mode when suddenly I heard the call for boarding. This is it.  Goodbye KL.  Hello Sandakan!

Touch down in Sandakan Airport! I can see that the airport is not as busy as KLIA as it is obviously more hectic and there is much more happening KLIA with hundreds or thousands of people rushing to catch their flight, but this is what I expected and for some reason, I felt so calm and relaxed since there were not that many people around.  Driving on the road for the first time in Sandakan, I could see many roundabouts.  The best part was that there were statues on some of the roundabouts that I could see.  For example the crocodile, orang-utans, proboscis monkeys, and also the green turtle.  I was told that this is a funny yet unique way of promoting its tourist spots.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) Sandakan, Sabah


On the 12th January 2015, I started my first day of working as an intern student or volunteer at BSBCC with two of my friends which are also my classmates.  I was going to work at the Bear House!  In my mind, I had already imagined myself surrounded by the Bornean Sun Bear or holding a cub, taking pictures and posting it on Instagram!  How cool is this? It’s a sun bear that I’m talking about.  Not a cat.  Not a dog.  However, here comes the part that makes me feel a little upset.  Why?  Because my friends and I were told by our supervisor that we were not allowed to touch, try to bond with them or even have any close contact with those fluffy bears.  Not only that, we also couldn’t go into the Quarantine Area to see the cubs.  My heart was broken into pieces.  I was crying on the inside.  But hey, everything happens for a reason.  After listening to the briefing and explanation, I finally got the answers as to why there are so many rules of what to do and what not to do.

At the entrance of BSBCC

Volunteer tag

Well, obviously BSBCC is not a petting zoo.  It is a conservation centre that conserves the population of Bornean Sun bears in relation to the forest itself; as they play many roles in order to conserve the forest too. If the sun bears get attached to people, then how will they survive in the forest on their own in future?  Slowly, I digested all the inputs and understood that those bears that are currently kept in BSBCC have a different history, background, and story. Some of them were rescued by the Wildlife Rescue Unit or surrendered by their owners who kept them in a small cages, and so much more.  The bears need to be cared for before being released back into nature. Their habitat. Their home. Which is in the forest; without having to rely on humans; without cages and without being treated as pets or sold to the black markets.

Bear House

Right: Tee Thye Lim (supervisor) and Chiew Lin May

Everyday working at BSBCC, I spent most of my time in the bear house, which was divided into two: Bear House 1 and Bear House 2.  Even though every morning I did the same routine, which was cleaning the cages, feeding the bears and going to the outdoor pens, I didn’t get bored.  In fact, things become even more fun as the days passed by.  I finally remembered almost all the bear’s names, which cages they were in and in which groups they were. The best part was when my friends and I went to the pens and tried to recognize each bear just by looking at their physical appearance, chest marking or behaviour.  Somehow, it made me smile to see them playing with each other, sleeping on the tree, opening their coconut and corns during feeding time and many more. Deep down, I prayed that one day, they will finally be released back into the forest to where they belong, and live their lives just like the other wild Bornean Sun bears that know how to find food, how to survive,  how to mate, have more cubs and become independent.

Daily routine; cleaning and feeding (inside the bear house and the pens)

Daily routine; cleaning and feeding (inside the bear house and the pens)

Daily routine; cleaning and feeding (inside the bear house and the pens)

Daily routine; cleaning and feeding (inside the bear house and the pens)

Some of the sub-adults Bornean Sun bears in Pen D

Some of the sub-adults Bornean Sun Bears in Pen D

Some of the sub-adults Bornean Sun Bears in Pen D

Some of the sub-adults Bornean Sun Bears in Pen D

Some of the adult female bears in Pen C

Some of the adult female bears in Pen C

Some of the adult female bears in Pen C

Some of the adult female bears in Pen C

The most exciting activity that I did every day was the enrichment program! I always got excited preparing different types of enrichment for the bears to keep them active even though they were not going to be released into the outdoor pens (enclosure enrichment).  Some of the enrichment that I did was the bamboo feeder, the fruit in ice blocks, the termite nest, dried leaves, ginger leaves, dead wood and many more which effectively worked to reduce their stress, pacing, and kept their attention on something that was more adventurous and that would at least make them feel like they were living in the wild.  Not only that, some enrichment also indirectly provided them with protein, such as eating termites from the termite nest and also ants from the dead wood. Another example of enrichment that I observed on my first day here was the PVC food pipe, which acted as a tube that was filled with fruits and leaves, then tied onto the tree to encourage the bear to climb up a tree in order to get the food.

The bear was encouraged to climb up the tree to search for food.

The bear was encouraged to climb up the tree to search for food.

Ice blocks (filled with mashed bananas)

Despite having fun watching the bears enjoying the enrichment that I had made, I have to admit that the process of preparing and finding the material for the enrichment purposes requires countless effort, time, commitment, ideas and positive thinking.  I was always scared, had goose bumps or worse, had panic attacks facing insects in the forest, especially the leeches.  I’ve been latched twice before I came for this internship, and it was totally freaking me out! And until that very moment I still couldn’t control myself from having a panic attack caused by the leech.  Do I have bdellophobia (fear of leechs)? Yes, maybe.  Do I want to live in a state of fear towards leeches for my whole life? Of course not! Walking in the forest and loving the nature is who I am.  The only thing that stopped me was those leeches that wanted to feed on my blood.  How they stand up on one end, and probe the air with the other end, push themselves forward, stand up and continue probing really makes my nerves tingle.  I couldn’t even lift my hands up to remove it from my boots or my pants.  Having this kind of fear was making me sick, upset, disappointed and frustrated at the same time.  I do love the forest, the trees and the nature.  But sometimes you just simply cannot explain why you are petrified of some things and why you are not.  I just hope that one day I can overcome my fear.  Maybe not today.  Maybe not tomorrow.  But who knows.

Throughout the 9 days of volunteering in BSBCC, I was surrounded by lovely people who were willing to teach me, guide me, share knowledge and experiences, help me out during my panic attack, and treat me like one of their BSBCC family members.  There was no pressure working in that environment.  We did the job together in the bear house and we helped each other out.  The Founder and CEO of BSBCC, Mr Siew Te Wong is a great leader.  He dedicated his life for the love of conserving Bornean Sun bear together with the forest.  He is always in his office, and sometimes I saw him go to the platform and talk to the visitors.  He even came to the bear house to monitor us working.  He also told my friends and I that if we had any problems or were feeling uncomfortable about doing something, we could let him know. Not only that, he also held a short meeting with all the BSBCC staff every Tuesday to discuss if there were any problems or suggestions.  Together with the staff, they would think and solve the problems together. As someone who is sitting on the highest rank in BSBCC, I have to say that he is one great leader.


Short meeting every Tuesday

With great leadership, comes a great team.  Working under the supervision of Mr Tee Thye Lim, he shared lots of new knowledge and even his experiences to my friends and I.  This made me realize that studying from books by theory alone is never enough and not so effective without experiencing it ourselves or having a conversation with a person who has more experience in that particular field.  Ms Chiew Lin May also shared a lot of her experience working in this field and always told me about different stories and backgrounds of different bears.  She also helped to explain to us all about how BSBCC is functioning in order to meet their mission which is to promote sun bear conservation in Borneo through animal welfare, conservation, rehabilitation, education and research.  Our daily routine also required us to work with the animal keeper and general worker to clean the cages, prepare the food for the bears and also for the enrichment activities.  They taugt us with patience even though we always asked so many things and kept on forgetting which bear is which, they did not get mad when I had a panic attack and so much more.

I had so much fun working in this happening and positive environment. I really hope that one day I can come here again, and together with this team we could make the mission of BSBCC a success! Thank you. :)

With some of the animal keeper and general workers

With some of the animal keeper and general workers

Other activities, transferring woods to the quarantine area.

on the truck to find dry leaves

My Experience at Bornean Sun Bears Conservation Centre

I’m Lavinia Spimpolo, 26 years old, and I have just completed my first volunteer experience at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. I am Italian and I have a background in Art. After I graduated, I decided to do what I have always wanted to do: work and spend time with animals.

As a new volunteer, the first thing that the BSBCC keepers told us upon entering the bear house, was that whilst inside the bear house, the bears would be able to smell you and feel your presence. This can cause the bears to become stressed and start pacing. Knowing this, I made sure to say hello to each bear as I passed by the front of their cages, allowing them to hear the calm tone of my voice so they knew I wasn’t a threat to them.

Every activity that I was involved in, including collecting dry leaves to make the cages more comfortable, I thoroughly enjoyed. The temperatures were high and the humidity was higher, and even though I got bitten by fire ants, I loved knowing that what I was doing was making the bear’s lives more comfortable.

When cutting up fruit for the bears, I made sure to provide them with the best fruit available, making sure none got smashed when throwing them through the bear’s cages.  I enjoyed cleaning out the bear’s cages, because I got to be close to them – although I made sure I didn’t pass too close to their cage, as their claws are very long!

Feeding the bears porridge was such a scary experience, because we got so close to them. Once I learnt how to feed them in a safe way, it became one of the most memorable and enjoyable experiences of my life. I was able to feel like a relationship was forming between the bears and I. I would even walk around with the porridge like I was a special waiter with white gloves at a fancy restaurant, offering the bears their specific food.

Porridge preparation in the kitchen with my volunteer mates.

It was also amazing to walk around the forest enclosure fences and throw fruits, sugar cane and coconuts to the bears. I loved watching them walking around the enclosure, minding their own business, even climbing a tree or playing with each other. I remember walking by the public viewing platform and seeing all the visitors and tourists standing up and taking photos of us working. I felt deeply proud of myself in that moment, because I knew I was doing exactly what I had dreamt of doing for so long; I was working with the most amazing animals.

Throwing fruits and sugar canes to the bears.

Throwing fruits and sugar canes to the bears.

One of the most remarkable days in the bear house would have to have been when we made a hammock for a sun bear called Natalie. We worked on the hammock for over six hours, making sure the bolt nut were bolted in and that it was all safe for Natalie to play on. I received many mosquito bites, and the heat was making us all sweat like crazy, but in the end it was worth it. We got to see Natalie jump and roll around on the hammock as soon as we put it in her cage. It was a very touching moment, and one that I will remember for a very long time.

Overall, I worked at the centre for seven days (distributed throughout eight weeks). It was not a long period of time, but it was extremely intense, and I learnt more in those seven days than many other courses I have studied over the years. The keepers were absolutely amazing and everyone worked together as a team. It was easy to see that all the keepers loved their job, simply by the way they talked about their bears and the passion that they put into their work. Thank you BSBCC for the amazing experience I was able to be apart of.

Life’s always sunny with the Sun Bears

Hi my name is Ryan and I am from Melbourne, Australia. I recently volunteered at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, and what an amazing experience it was. Where do I start?

The People

I have never worked with such a fantastic, smart, dedicated, motivated, helpful and caring group of people before. All the staff at the centre are truly dedicated and passionate about what they are doing. This comes through clearly when you work along side them. You only have to talk to the founder of the centre, Wong, for a few seconds before you see his passion for the Sun Bears and his vision of what they are working towards achieving at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. Working with all the other staff you can definitely see Wong’s passion and drive is shared amongst all at the centre.


The BSBCC Crew (Photo by Thye Lim)

My fellow volunteers and myself with BSBCC founder Wong (Photo by Naomi Clark)

The Bears

Next up is the beautiful Sun Bears. My time volunteering at the centre was my first ever encounter with the worlds smallest bears. Working with this unique and amazing animals has definitely left a deep and lasting impression on me.

Each of the bears have their own unique personalities and characters. When I first started working with the bears I thought that I would never be able to tell them apart. But with in a few days working I start to figure out each bears unique traits and personalities. From the aggressive male Bermuda, to the independent female Natalie, to the portly Kuamut, or best friends Cerah and Jelita. Each of the bears also have their own unique chest marking which can be helpful in telling them apart.

One of my favourite experiences with the bears was when we gave them new enrichment. It is so fascinating to watch them trying to figure out how to open up a nest ball or bamboo puzzle. A highlight is definitely coconut time. When the bears get their paws on a coconut this is a sight to behold. They start by grabbing the coconut and tapping around the fruit until they find a weak spot. Once the weakness is exposed they immediately sink a claw in and set at ripping it apart. Within seconds the coconut is down to just the centre. The bears then grab the remainder of the nut and repeatedly throw it against the hard ground until they hear it crack open. Now its time to lie on their back and drizzle the watery contents into their mouths.

For me it is sad that the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre even has to exist in the first place (though I am very happy it does exist to help these Bears in need). From the illegal pet trade, to poaching, and palm plantation deforestation, there are many threats to these amazing animals, which all stem from human greed and carelessness.

The bears are very lucky to have the amazingly people at BSBCC looking after them. It is very satisfying to know that all the hard work and dedicating of the staff and volunteers is leading towards the eventual release of the bears back to the forest where they belong.

They don’t call it a ‘rain’ forest for no reason (Photo by Claire Wynn Jones)

Kuamut relaxing chewing on sugar cane – looks like she is playing the flute (Photo by Ryan Pyne)

Bears fighting over the best position in the tree (Photo by Claire Wynn Jones)

Relaxing in the tree (Photo by Claire Wynn Jones)

The Duties

Working at the BSBCC is a challenging and rewarding experience. The day starts with cleaning. We would set to work on cleaning the bear pens. Scrubbing, brushing, hosing and wheelbarrows full of bear faeces. Good hard tiring work, but enjoyable none the less. Then food preparation. Weighing, washing and cutting of an assortment of different fruits and vegetables (Bananas, Papaya, Sweet Potato, Durian, Coconut, Eggs and Duku)

Next up is the morning feeding of the bears. We started off with feeding the bears that have remained in their cages for the day. We would grab to grab two large handfuls of fruits and throw them to the top of the their cages. This makes the bears climb to the top of their cages, making them have to work for their food and having to try and pull the fruit through the top bars.

Fellow volunteer Naomi feeding the bears (Photo by Ryan Pyne)

We then walked around the Outdoor Enclosure throwing fruit to the active outside bears. We would sit there for a while watching them enjoy their meal before then making our way back to the kitchen to prepare the bears afternoon snack of porridge (I know right… Goldielocks and all).

PORRIDGE TIME! All the bears return to their pens for the night so it is time for their porridge treat. Each bear receives one tray of porridge. The tray is slid into the cage through a slot in the door. The bears know what is going on as they sit at the doors eagerly anticipating their afternoon treat. SLURP. Within seconds the tray is licked completely clean.

Porridge is ready for the bears (Photo by Ryan Pyne)

The afternoon tasks changed daily. From trekking into the forest to collect logs and woods for the bears, to making bear enrichment such as nest balls, or constructing hammocks for the bears to play in. It was always exciting to come back to work after lunch to find out what I would be working on that afternoon.

Other tasks we worked on were decorating the day pen for the young Sun Bear cubs in quarantine with dry leaves, logs and fresh leaves and branches. I also got to assist with installing same sections of electrified fencing in the outdoor enclosure.

Mike and myself bringing in wood for the bear cubs (Photo by Lin May)

Baby Sunbearo enjoying his new playground (Photo by Lin May)

Part of the volunteer program also included working at the visitors viewing platform. Here we talked to the visitors about the bears and I did my best at trying to answer any of the question they had about the bears and the what goes on at the centre. I found this a great opportunity for myself to learn more about Sun Bears and the conservation efforts that are being implemented to help them.


Natalies New Hammock

One definite highlight was they day that my fellow volunteers and myself got to construct a new hammock for Sun Bear Natalie.

Azzry (one of the keepers) lead us to the supply closet were we procured 2 large fire hoses, a drill and a bucket of nuts and bolts. We took all of our supplies out into the yard and rolled out the hoses. The hoses were then cut into sections of equal length, and these lengths were then weaved through each others. At the end we fixed the sections of fire hoses together by drilling holes through them and using nuts and bolts to secure them. Once all of the hose sections had been secured together we drilled holes in each corner and passed rope through them (so we could secure the hammock to the sides of Natalie’s cage).

Lavinia working hard constructing the hammock (Photo by Naomi Clark)

Naomi testing out the hammock (Photo by Naomi Clark)


We dragged our creation inside and into Natalie’s cage. Using a ladder I secured the hammock to the top corners of the cage. Happy with my work I decided to test out my work (I wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t break when Natalie got on it). I jumped into the hammock and to my surprise it was stable and comfortable (and I knew it wouldn’t have any trouble holding the bears weight, as I weigh 2 and bit Natalie’s.

That is one comfortable hammock (Photo by Naomi Clark)


It was now time to get Natalie’s opinion on her new addition to her cage. The keepers secured the door of the cage and let Natalie in so we could get her reaction. The Sun Bear slowly walked into her cage realising that something was different from the last time she was in there. Looking up she immediately noticed the hammock and instantly scaled the side of the cage to get in. Getting in the hammock she sniffed around a little at first, then started rolling and playing on it. This was one of the most satisfying moments of my trip. To see one of these beautiful animals enjoying and playing on something that I worked hard on to build is amazing. It gave me real goosebumps to see her roll around playing on our fire hose construction.

Sad to leave

It has been very hard for me to adjust and return back home to Australia. I miss everything from my time volunteering. I miss Sabah, I miss Sandakan, I miss the rainforest, I miss the constant noises of the forest, I miss the wonderful local people, I miss the wild animals that surround the centre, I really miss the all the Sun Bears, and most of all I miss all the amazing people I had the pleasure of working with at the BSBCC. I am eagerly anticipating the news of the first release from the centre of Sun Bear Natalie.

I will definitely be visiting again soon. Thank you.


The Big Move for Kudat

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

Kudat, a seven year old adult male bear came into BSBCC  in July 2010, after he and a female sun bear, named Panda were rescued from a private zoo in Kampung Perapat, Kudat, Malaysia called Victory Mini Zoo.

Kudat spent more than two years of his life in the forest enclosure. The majority of his daily activity is exploring, digging for food, and eating and resting. He is halfway to his new life as a wild forest dweller but is not quite confident when it comes to climbing trees.

What is done inside the forest enclosure though can make a world of difference to Kudat. There is really no limit to enrichment either.  On January 8th, 2015, Thye Lim, our Centre Operation Executive, and our bear team had an idea that we could achieve a significant change in Kudat’s behaviour through creative and consistent enrichment which encouraged Kudat to learn to climb a tree.

Azzry and David, our bear keepers help setting up the enrichment – PVC feeder on top of the tree.

Kudat found himself a treat.

Kudat ready for his adventure at the forest enclosure! It is hard work to get up there! He is really a great climber!

Once climbs up, reaching for the enrichment.


We are delighted to report that Kudat is now climbing high in the trees. He started practicing his climbing skills by heading straight to the tops of the trees to explore the enrichments. We.We found that he was not aware he was climbing trees like true wild sun bears do.  Sun bears have long, curve claws which help them to climb trees.  It was no surprise that Kudat became confident and has adapted to arboreal life in the forest.

This news of Kudat learning to climb trees in the forest brought us all great joy and is a good example for the other adult male bears!

Kudat spend a great deal of his time in trees.


Borneo’s Best Kept Secret

We’re Naomi and Mike – a couple from Singapore who volunteered at the BSBCC for one week. Naomi is 23 and works in conservation while Mike is 24 and works in marketing. We both took some time off to explore Asia and do some volunteering – and our experience with the BSBCC was a highlight. We worked in the bear house and also on the platform talking to visitors.

In the bear house we helped to clean cages, prepare food and create enrichment – and then deliver these to the bears. All these tasks are fun and rewarding (yup, cleaning bear poo is actually good fun – their poo can be multicolored depending on what they eat!) and being in the bear house allows you to get to know all the individual bears – and they do all have unique personalities! We became rather attached to certain individuals (we love Panda!).


We spent two days making this hammock for Sun bear Natalie out of used fire hoses, string, nuts and bolts, and a power drill. Here’s Naomi modeling the hammock with Mike and fellow volunteer Ryan, and staff members Azrry and David. Natalie loved it – and sat, lay and rolled in it when she first saw it.

The center really does do what’s best for the bears – and it was great to see that they’re in such good hands. I’ve never seen animals get as much enrichment as they do here – and the outdoor enclosures the bears have is amazing! We were also lucky enough to hear about their plans to start releasing bears – an incredibly exciting prospect. The BSBCC also works hard to educate the public about conservation and threats facing the bears, and we were so glad to be a part of this by talking to visitors on the platform on our last day.

Working on the platform talking to visitors – with (I think) Debbie high up in the tree behind!

We have volunteered in many countries and with many organizations – but this project is by far one of the best, and we wish we could have worked here for longer. The staff really makes this place as great as it is. They’re such an amazing group of people – so passionate about what they’re doing and eager to share their knowledge and stories with volunteers. We only worked with them for 7 days, but we feel we learnt more from them than we have from any other project – and most other projects have been longer!

We miss this place already, and look forward to hearing all the updates about the bears and hopefully visiting again in the future. Most of the bears here have sad stories – and wild populations are threatened – so the work the BSBCC is doing is really important. We really encourage you to volunteer! It’ll make a difference for them and you’ll gain so much from it. Good luck BSBCC – We know you guys will achieve great things!

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Merdeka Daily News (????), 31st December 2014