Category Archives: BAT-Bornean Action Teams

A4 Sun Bears…….. you gotta’ Love em’

For the first time ever Raleigh has been granted behind the scenes access to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. Raleigh have been working here for years but have never been able to photograph or video at the secretive centre.
I filmed for 2 days on an all access pass seeing the bears inside their original cages, inside the amazing new ‘Bear House’ and even entering one of the bear compounds. Alpha 4 is doing amazing work at the centre and is incredibly privileged to work along side these beautiful bears.
A wonderful experience with a wonderful creature.

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Video by Ed Gregory

Wong’s notes: A huge thank you to Ed to help produce this video. It is awesome!

To all the Raleigh volunteers, you are the heroes and heroines who came to build this centre step by step, piece by piece. I will never thank you enough for your hard work!


Raleigh International in Borneo an Interview with Wai Pak from the BSBCC

 Raleigh International in Borneo an Interview with Wai Pak from the BSBCC

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Raleigh Volunteering Experience at BSBCC

Our Volunteering Experience at BSBCC – “we can’t wait for the day to come when the first bear gets released into the wild!”

Text and photos by Joyce Malmo

Twelve curious, excited and eager faces were staring at myself (Joyce) and Katy – volunteer Project Managers for Raleigh, on the 8th of July when we finally arrived at Mile 14 in Sepilok. For most of us, it had taken 14.5 hours by airplane and 6 hours by bus to get here.

Where are the sun bears? When will we start working at the BSBCC?  The 12 Raleigh volunteer venturers had received a brief on the BSBCC and the volunteer work to be carried out, but the majority had never heard nor seen this special bear species before joining Raleigh.

However, knowing very little about the sun bears did not stop the young Raleigh venturers embracing and committing themselves to the construction work at the BSBCC for the next 2.5 weeks. And the goal: to build the foundations of a boardwalk around the sun bear enclosure to provide easier access for the keepers at BSBCC.

From the left (back row): Dean Izzudin, Stephen Nunes, Alexandra Gell, Charlotte Grimstone, Katy McDonald, Sarah Luton, Arina Latif. In the front from the left: Finlay Macleod, Stephen Longfellow, Elizabeth Bird, Phillip Ly, Joyce Malmo and Danielle Lightfood.

From the left (back row): Dean Izzudin, Stephen Nunes, Alexandra Gell, Charlotte Grimstone, Katy McDonald, Sarah Luton, Arina Latif. In the front from the left: Finlay Macleod, Stephen Longfellow, Elizabeth Bird, Phillip Ly, Joyce Malmo and Danielle Lightfood.

Before the 12 enthusiastic venturers and impatient Katy and I could deploy on the work site, a few things had to be organized first. On the top of our list was to settle into our new home: JUNGLE CAMP, located in the beautiful Bornean rain forest approx. 3 km from the BSBCC. It welcomes you with an open longhouse with 15 comfortable bashers, a small community area, and three outdoor showers and a long drop. Most importantly, it is surrounded by wildlife and you wake up to the sounds of the jungle. People still find it strange that we would live in the jungle whilst there are plenty of resorts in Sepilok, however there is no place like jungle camp.

We were welcomed by Wai Pak at the BSBCC on the 9th of July for a presentation. He gave us an introduction about the sun bears, which none of us will easily forget. With a greater understanding about the threats these special bears are facing and being shocked by the captivity and treatment some of these sun bears have experienced in their lives, we couldn’t wait to go on a tour to the sun bear house. For most of us, it would be the first time we had ever seen a sun bear. It was amazing to step into the newly opened sun bear house. Some of the bears were playing around while others were having an early afternoon nap. We were very impressed with the new sun bear house. It has high ceilings, is very spacious and plenty of day light can enter into the house.

Do they really bark? Are they social animals or do they live alone? How often do they reproduce and how many cubs can a female carry? The questions were vast and the day ended with a group of very motivated venturers and 2 Project Managers eager to start work on the 10th of July.

The first week at BSBCC consisted of clearing and sorting out wood around the enclosure. Our lunch breaks on the jetty next to the Orang-utan nursery became one of the main highlights of the day. On days when the amazing “man of the forest” appeared just across the jetty to climb into the trees, big gazing eyes and a sudden silence would appear among us. We sometimes felt that we were in a “BBC open air documentary”. All that was missing was the voice of David Attenborough. 

We could also hear the barking sound from the sun bears from time to time. Though, the bears have the opportunity to go outside every day, there was only a few days while we were there that a sun bear took a step outside of their newly opened sun bear house. Embracing the opportunity to be in the wild, where they belong, seemed like taking a big step into the unknown for them. This again shows how important the BSBCC is and we can’t wait for the day to come when the first sun bear is to be released into the wild.

The second week at BSBCC consisted of sweat and tears. We had started drilling and bolting together the foundation for the boardwalk. Unfortunately, the drill pieces we had were a bit worn out and it took us hours to drill just a couple of holes through the tough iron wood. If we continued like this, it would take us several weeks to complete the boardwalk. Time we didn’t have. Luckily, Bob Hartley and Wai Pak came to our rescue and helped us getting some new sharp pieces from the local hardware store. We were back on track again!

It made a world of difference to Sarah Luton and Stephen Nunes with the new drill pieces in place!

It made a world of difference to Sarah Luton and Stephen Nunes with the new drill pieces in place!

Our last week at BSBCC flew by so smoothly. We had managed to lay most of the foundations for the boardwalk, but we were all curious to see what the completed boardwalk would look like once the next Raleigh group had finished it. So, we decided to make a prototype boardwalk and on Wednesday the 21st of July, we had our prototype boardwalk ceremony!

What an amazing feeling to hammer in the last nail into the prototype boardwalk.

What an amazing feeling to hammer in the last nail into the prototype boardwalk.

It was sad to leave BSBCC on the 27th of July, but what an amazing time we have had at BSBCC. We have learned so much about the sun bears and again we can’t wait for the day to arrive when the first BSBCC sun bear will be released into the wild. We would like to thank Wai Pak and Bob Hartley for your support during our first phase.

Sepilok “Poo-Burner”


Text: by Billy Dunn

Photos: by Billy Dunn and Ian Hall 

The construction of the biogas digester at the new Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sepilok took a bit of time to get running and underway but after ten days of hard building, pumping, lifting, grafting, sweating, itching, bleeding, plastering, twisting, bending and cutting, it was an impressive achievement thanks to the volunteers from Camps International.   

When complete the biogas digester will turn bear dung into methane gas that can be used to cook the bears’ daily meal of rice. After arriving in Sepilok the initial tasks facing the group were not too exciting or enjoyable but hard labour and exhausting work! We started by moving 1500 bricks from outside to inside the site, which involved a lot of timber planks, deep clay resembling a battlefield full of water and wheelbarrows with punctured wheels…not a good combination for moving bricks!  

To follow, the excavated location on site for the digester was full of water. After trying to convince the girls that bailing the water out with buckets all day was the only solution, the contractors, having seen their faces, gladly lent us their pump and the water was gone soon enough. 

Once the site was clean and dry, the concrete platform was revealed beneath the water and leaves. We then moved a third of the bricks down our own hand made steps, carved out from the clay, and into the centre of the circle, only to realise that the centre of the circle was actually required to draw and mark out the circular footprint for the bricks! After a brief re-location, to the girl’s delight of course, we laid out the first course. With a quick lesson in the art of bricklaying by leader Howard, we quickly learnt that bricklaying was indeed an art and not as easy as maybe expected previously! 

We soon developed an effective production line of sand/cement mixing, water collecting, concrete mixing, bucket filling and distributing down the steps to the site. This was all being done in sticky wet clay, hot, humid conditions and with every contractor working in Sepilok staring at our every move. Well I say “our” every move, as lovely as Matt and I are, I’m pretty sure it had something to do with all the girls working on site! Their entertainment eventually turned to frustration with our bricklaying skills and they soon joined us down in the pit. A solid afternoon’s work with the contractors got us back on track and we were soon motoring on with the construction. 

The arrival of the remainder of the group brought an injection of enthusiasm, plus the skills of their leaders Mann and Zul. Our initial attempts to build the dome for the digester were not as successful as we maybe first thought. Despite it being our first experience bending metal bars into circles and arcs, we were relatively happy and satisfied with our efforts. That is until Mann took one look at it and worked his magic! His construction experience was clear to see as he took our “dome” apart and began amending our “arches” into curved things of beauty! When re-attached and covered with steel mesh, the finished dome was an impressive sight. 

The moment of truth came when the dome was placed onto the brick structure to find out how well it would fit. It sat perfectly and the steel circular rings were attached using the vertical metal rods bedded in between the double skin of bricks. A hard mornings work then began when the inside face of the dome was plastered, a very messy and tiring job but one that was achieved successfully in one go. To complete the group’s work, the outside face was then plastered in the afternoon and covered with damp blankets. 

Without the efforts and hard grafting by the volunteers, the biofuel digester would still be a large pond on site. The group made great progress in the ten days and should be proud of the efforts! On behalf of B.S.B.C.C., I would like to thank Camps International for their contribution, as their work here will always be seen and felt by the centre for years to come.


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News from the ‘Front’

by Jungle Bob

Bear Action Teams (BATs)

 Well, it’s been a few weeks since we had any updates from the Bear House and the BSBCC project in Sepilok. So, let’s get up to speed.

‘Suria’ has a ‘poorly’ paw and is confined to ‘quarters’ whist it repairs itself. Doc Cecillia has been in attendance and prescribed antibiotics.

‘Manis’ is doing well but has decided she doesn’t actually like other bears, she much prefers humans, especially Wai Pak (if anyone out there does understand the workings of the female brain, answers on a post card please). She has been taking some time out to check out her birthing pen and seems to like it. She is under constant surveillance at the moment which smacks of voyeurism but is a necessary evil.


Pregnant Manis

Soon, we hope to hear the pitter patter of little bear paws…


All the other bears are fit and well and enjoying a brief respite from the commotion of bagpipes and sweaty volunteers. Not for long though!

The Bear House is advancing well with the floor level completed and the first floor columns being poured right now. We are hoping to get them all in and set before ‘Hari Raya’ so that we can get on with the roof after it. It really does look like a building now and is very exciting.


Bear house… columns and stairs are up – almost there!


The plants on the Scots wall are clinging to life and will, hopefully, soon help it to look more natural and to blend in. Hadrian would have been proud of this wall!



The wall


Camps International are due in soon to help us to create a Biogas Digester (if you don’t know what that is then check it on the internet or speak to Ian!)

Raleigh has done a great job in the enclosure and has dug a trench around the whole circumference so that we can install our secret weapon. The Portcullis! This is basically an underground fence designed to stop the bears digging their way out once they are free to roam in the forest enclosures. Digging trenches in the jungle is probably one of the most unglamorous and backbreaking jobs so well done guys.

Whilst we are singing Raleigh’s praises, here is one more significant advance they have completed. The jungle camp is now operational and will be used by their first ‘guests’ when Camps Borneo move in there on the 20th of this month.

We are all looking forward to the next Raleigh invasion and further advances on the enclosure. It is our intention to have the enclosure ‘on line’ as the Bear House is complete and have the bears ready to take a stroll in the woods.

Bob Renshaw has kindly donated a couple of his days (plus his three hundred years of experience-yep, he really is that old!!) to come down later this week and conduct a full survey for the boardwalk and bridge which will, in time, bring our visitors into the centre. Well done Bob.

Donations from previous BATS (Bear Action Team’s volunteers) have been promised and t’shirt sales are bringing in a little bit more cash. Thanks guys, every little bit helps.

New BATS – I am currently talking to a scientific group from New Zealand who are willing to put their backs into a bit of hard work and we have recently had visits from the project managers of World Challenge Expeditions (UK)- (Jen Mullier) and Dragon Fly Hong Kong- (Adula) who are promising further volunteers for later this year and the beginning of 2010. As I tell every group “each day you work for us is a day we don’t have to pay a contractor”

Thanks to the previous BATS, every one of you is a star!


Scottish Scouts at BSBCC

 By Ian Hall posted at

 As you may know, wild animals in captivity need constant enrichment to reduce boredom and stereotypic behaviour. Last month we provided the bears at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre with a daily parade of Scottish Scouts for their amusement and benefit.To the bears’ frustration the first thing that the Scouts did was to put up a tarpaulin fence so that they couldn’t see what was going on. They could still peer around the side though and from ovehearing the camaraderie could get a good idea of what was going on.

 bsbcc2562.jpgFirst there was a lot of digging interrupted by much repose in front of a cooling fan. The result was strange serpentine trench that twisted away from the bear’s house in either direction.

Incomprehensibly, to the bears, over the next week or so a wire mesh frame emerged from the trench to a height of two metres. Luckily the orang-utans didn’t mistake it for a playground.


At one point after the second week the hubbub was interrupted briefly by a loud clanking and rumbling and clouds of black smoke rising from behind the tarpaulin. A diesel cement mixer was given a test run.


Shortly after that an overnight squall demolished the tarpaulin and allowed some of the bears a sneak peak at lorries arriving to deliver ten tonnes of sand and 100 bags of cement.

Then late one afternoon, just when the bears were waking from their afternoon nap and looking forward to some evening peace and quiet, the cement mixer spluttered and banged to life. Moments later a second mixer joined the fray.


Up until now no more than 12 different voices could be heard around the bear house at any one time. On this evening there were over 50. Something big was afoot.

Dusk fell and through her chink in the fence, Suria Bear could see the scouts plastering a dark grey sludge onto the wire mesh frame. Suria swung back and forth across the roof of her cage; Kuamut Bear barked an inquiry and Susie Bear performed acrobatics with her tyre swing.

On their first day’s induction the Scouts would have been delighted by this display but this evening their attention was elsewhere.

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bsbcc20img_2687.jpg Night fell and rows of fluorescent lights hung on wires flickered into life.

The concrete mixers roared and a chain of wheelbarrows and buckets sprung into action to distribute the grey sludge.

bsbcc20img_2689.jpgEverything was going so well until the water tap ran dry. Even the emergency tap jealously guarded by the fearsome Om Bear refused to yield more than a dribble.

“Surely now” thought the bears, “the Scouts will give up this ridiculous exercise and leave us in peace?”

But the Scouts proved to be just as tenacious as the wild animals that they were working so enthusiastically to help. To their disappointment the bears’ beloved keeper Wai Pak was despatched to find water in his truck with a 40gallon drum perched in the back.
bsbcc20img_2693.jpg With a new water supply the cement mixer that had been pessimistically killed prior to dinner spluttered defiantly back to life.

Until four o’clock in the morning they toiled. Some fell by the wayside and found comfort on piles of sand, on dusty floors or on whatever old rope they could lay their head. The brave few battled on but it was clear that the job would not be done in one night.

The infernal machines were silenced and cleaned and 50 weary souls trudged proudly home to sleep. The forest edge rejoiced, the insects once more the loudest thing and a chestnut-necklaced partridge calling.

The next night they returned, with more experience and more wisdom and the same determination to complete the job.

The wall that had been dark grey was now light and rigid, one side smoothed and caressed by 50 pairs of gloved hands, the other side rough and splodged with hexagon chicken mesh shaped extrusions.


 bsbcc20gutuk.jpgNow accustomed to the disturbance the bears seemed more relaxed. Old Gutuk Bear sprawled legs akimbo in his sleeping basket and the three girls; Cerah, Lawa and Jelita amicably shared their two baskets.

The bears were starting to get the gist now; the Scouts were making the second side of the wall smooth like the first and polishing off the protruberances that would later form homes for plants.

By midnight it was all over and the recently completed wall hung with wet blankets to slow down the curing of the cement.

Then on the final morning it all became clear. The tarpaulin was removed and the bears found that there was now a screen wall between their dens and their future visitors. The only people to disturb their afternoon naps would be those that wake them up with bowls of food at tea time. Their only view would be of the forest that would one day become their home again.


Huge thanks to all the Southeast Scotland Scouts. They were given a big job made more challenging with unpredictable logistical constraints and yet they pulled through and delivered the goods.

bsbcc20img_2765.jpgNot only did they work diligently and enthusiastically but the icing on the cake was that they also came up with a donation of seven thousand Malaysian ringgit in hard cash! That was enough money to pay for all the materials and logistical costs of constructing the screen wall.

By the time the new BSBCC visitor centre is open to the public next year, the wall will be planted up with local epiphytic plants and become a signature feature of the Centre.

You can also read about the Scottish Scouts’ Borneo expedition in their own words.

Tony Blair visit to BSBCC

by Jungle Bob (BATs volunteer)

After a few hiccups relating to helicopter availability and some frantic preparation by Sylvia Alisto and her team it finally came together. At 9.40 in the morning two helicopters arrived at Sepilok and the visit of one of the World’s most prominent former leaders was on.Tony Blair, together with his family and security staff, had arrived and began his visit to the Orang-utan Sanctuary and Sun Bear project (BSBCC).The visit began with a presentation on the Orang-utans and then a guided walk to Platform four where the party trekked along the boardwalk and enjoyed the attentions of the primates. Tony actually enjoyed the attention of a leech on his ankle which I assured him was ‘good luck’ and a souvenir of Sabah. 

They then visited the juvenile Orang-utans in the nursery area. At about 1pm they were given a presentation on the Sun Bears by Wai Pak and myself. They were very interested and asked lots of questions. Cherie Blair (Tony’s wife) was particularly fascinated and keen to get lots of information about the bears.


Wai Pak was in full enthusiastic flow as he showed them the slide show and explained the habitat depletion, threats to the bears and how they live, eat and nest. Taking an opportunity not often presented I asked Tony if he wouldn’t mind signing a BSBCC Bats t-shirt for us to help with fund raising. He kindly agreed and wrote ‘Good Luck. ‘tis a worthy cause’ and signed his name.


The meeting was relaxed and informal and set the trend for the remainder of his visit. We walked as a group up to see the bears where they spent about half an hour asking more questions and seeing the bears up close.


Raleigh international staff and a team of young people were working nearby so he took some time out to chat to them and have his photo taken with them. He viewed the work completed so far and seemed very impressed at what the volunteers had achieved.


During his visit most of the volunteers were at lunch and were hugely disappointed to have missed it.  However, his generosity was again evident whilst having his own lunch, and he agreed to leave it to come and speak to them. There was plenty of warm banter, interest and support given to the West Lancashire Scout group and Camps International team. Lots more photos were posed for and hands shaken. The smiling faces in the photos are testament to how much everyone enjoyed themselves.


I was very impressed with his enthusiasm and patience. This was a valuable visit for the purposes of the Sun Bear profile carried out by a genuine warm hearted and sociable former world leader and was enjoyed by everyone.

aaimg_4256.jpgI received some feedback from their senior security officer after they had arrived back in KK. He said the ‘Blairs’ had had a ‘brilliant day’.I donated BSBCC T-shirts to Tony Blair, Cherie Blair and two of the children and Sylvia gave them some souvenirs of their visit. I will make sure that they also receive copies of the photographs taken on the day so that they remember us and perhaps they will take me up on my offer of getting one or more of their children to come and work for us as volunteer Bat’s!

Team 1 update

Original posted at

Hello to all of Team 1’s friends and family and maybe the malaysian scouts if they get  chance to read this
This is our second blog so we have a lot to catch up on!! after working at the sun bears team 1 moved onto working on base camp, we all enjoyed until we realised how hard it is to wash a dixie.  Going shopping was fun to and Kyle and Emma took this opportunity to buy important supplies – a.k.a. SUPERMAN TOWELS wooh!! After base camp it was off to the RDC (omg) that was hard work! but we only had to do that for one day before we were off to our home stay.  A good time was had by all of team 1, the family’s were all very welcoming and treated us like family (some even looked like family members JILL!!) and we all came back arms full of food and gifts from our foster parents.

We finished our last 2 days at the RDC (or so we thought ) and we finally got our holiday to Poring! This was our idea of heaven internet, pools and good food. We went on the canopy walkway on the second day and this was hard to get to but worth it when you were there and after alot of jumping , photo taken and general banter we climbed back down and headed toward a small waterfall which Emma managed to not fall into.

Before we knew it our time was up and it was back to camp for another stint at the sun bears.  This time it was a lot harder we were fixing the chicken wire before the wall slapping in 3 days so it was a mad dash to tighten everything and  get the place ready for the wall slapping.  The day of the wall slapping came around and team 1 spent the morning at the RDC (nooooooooo !!) and the came home for a nap before we all started a long night of work.  It was tough on everyone, but all but a few managed to stay awake and worked the whole night til 4 am when we ran out of cement.  We all slept in the hall that night because  WE WOULDN’T SURVIVE IN THE TENTS!!! so it was a lazy morning with people sleeping in til 11.00 we started work again at 4pm and were finished the wall 2am with a cheer from everyone unfortunatly it was on that night tha we had to say goodbye to 3 of our new friends Quimi, Rookie and Marwan as they were heading of for a softball and paintball tournament.  we were woken up at around 9 which most felt was not a long lie and all could have slept longer.


Emma C



Wall Party

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On Tuesday night we had our wall concreting party which spread onto Wednesday night also. Late into Tuesday night people where seen sleeping with their hands in buckets of concrete, everyone was exhausted. As it got close to three in the morning panic hit as we were running out of concrete. Heading home at four am, people were pretty tired but happy to be heading home to a long lie-in before the next long night.

Thursday morning, one am and the wall was finished. Everybody went home buzzing -) , the wall was finished and there was only half a day of work was left!!





Scottish Night

Here is a quick update from our Scottish Scouts who came to help us:


Last Monday we hosted a dinner for the local people who have helped us – from the Sun Bear Conservation Centre, the Rainforest Discovery Centre and, of course, the local Scouts. The Scouts ran a Scottish night with piping, dancing and traditional Scottish food – haggis and stovies. One of our guests, Ian from the BSBCC, addressed the haggis and Cammy gave a short speech. The locals seemed to enjoy themselves and managed to cope with Auld Lang Syne too!