Category Archives: enrichment

2 weeks of Incredible Voluntary Experience, Definitely Unforgettable

Text by Khushalinie Kalayarasu
Photos by BSBCC

My name is Khushalinie Kalayarasu, people call me Khusha most of the time. It has definitely been a privilege to be given the opportunity to volunteer in the BSBCC. A remarkable experience it was and I have no regrets. In the hopes of becoming a veterinarian one day, this experience has indeed given me the knowledge and built up awareness in keeping the wildlife as safe and competent as possible for all animals to survive.

I certainly have to thank all the people that are working there. They have guided me through this journey with such compassion. I was mesmerized by their dedication towards the bears and it makes every second more worth than it already is. Seeing them show the same amount of dedication every single day has made my experience more memorable. They care so much about these bears and it leaves me felling in awe. Not only that being said, they were the same crew that has enlightened me with the knowledge about the sun bears behaviour and characteristics.

I believe that we are truly lucky to have these sun bears being a part of our wildlife habitat and the thought of them being endangered is very devastating. It took me by complete shock when I heard about how people would capture and keep sun bears for their own benefit. Poaching and illegal hunting should be taken under serious consideration as these wildlife animals are losing their habitat due to human being’s selfishness. These bears are one of a kind and should be cherished, not tortured.

These past two weeks has been an experience to never forget. Being a part of such a welcoming team and helping the bears to heal and grow in their natural habitat the best way possible was indeed the cherry on top of this experience. I would be part of their enrichment making process in order to challenge the bears hence preparing food for them. It is definitely physically challenging but I believe that this experience is truly worth it. Gaining the knowledge about sun bears have opened my eyes to the importance of the wildlife community.

My buddy and I working on the bamboo

Banana Leaves for the bears

working togetherrrrr !!

Given a second opportunity, I would embrace this amazing experience once again and share it with the world. Knowing sun bears are a vulnerable species, they deserved to be loved and taken care of. I really do hope that all of us can give back what has been taken from Mother Nature. The freedom of animals, the majestic forest and the love of an unborn bear. Said threatened sun bears should be loved equally as any other animals. This experience does more than opening my eyes to the actual world.

Once again, I would just like to thank everyone that had stood by me throughout this journey. Thank you for the opportunity, knowledge and accepting me with open arms.

Yours truly,
Khusha

Big Bear Hugs xx

The Life of Freedom is Perfect for Dodop

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

In Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) we have had a busy month with big changes for the rescue sun bear. Some introduced and meet new bear friends, give them environment which is as close as possible to life in the wild, given regular environmental enrichment to stimulate their natural bear behaviour, some going through fence training before out to forest enclosure and some learning and reintroduce to forest environment, some explore in the wild.

Dodop had been kept illegally as house pet by residents in Singgaron village, Ranau district Sabah who had spent over one year in the smallest cage we had ever seen. She was found missing all four milk canines before she been rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department.

Dodop has much tame or attach to human who have been kept for long periods in captivity. She need special attention during her rehabilitation process but her wounds from being kept as pet have healed well, she shows great progress, gaining weight, no more cry or growling, four permanent canines is growing and…

growing and she love play with a nine months old female sun bear cub, Wawa. They seems have a wonderful relationship.

Next rehabilitation phase for Dodop is taking her out for walks in the forest. Having been without her mother since she was a tiny cub, Dodop has never been taught the survival skills she will need to survive in the wild. Now she will have to learn from her surrogate mother.

We are delighted that on August 14th, 2016 once the quarantine door was opened, Dodop makes a speedy getaway!

Dodop was not sure at first that she step on the forest soil, she spent her first moments of freedom just digs soil,

digs dead log and

sniff forest air.

Then her surrogate mother carried her to put her on tree which reintroduce or encourage her to climbing to improve Dodop’s mobility. She had no clue what is these big tree is all about…

but slowly she realized there were so many tall trees around her.

Real forest!

Dodop is bright and curious always.

She contact with variety of plants, trees and animal (insects, long-tailed macaques and pig- tailed macaques).

Dodop quick to settle in and started exploring environment.

Everytimes walk her in the forest, she immediately started to look for wild food first by digging it. She is quite curious and getting deep into it.

Dodop sense is tremendous, enabling her to locate termite nests! She will expose the termite nests with her long claws and lick out by using superb long tongue.

She has been eating many kinds of foods such as termites, beetle larvae, snail and earthworms.

Sun bears are arboreal living and good in tree climbers. They climb trees to get honey in the bee hives. Dodop is no exception as well.

She will climb high trees and looks though as she knows everything here!

She enjoys sunbathing on trees. She feel the cool breeze.

Sometimes Dodop will interacting more with her surrogate mother. She will play fight and learn defense skills or suckle on surrogate mother shoulder to seek comfort and feel safe being with her mother. This behavior seen in the wild where the baby will suckling for mother’s milk make the baby feel comfort and safe.

Dodop will still being guided by her surrogate mother and develop, master her forest skills she needs to become independent.

Our bear team will monitors Dodops’ behavioural development is her new home. We love learning about sun bears and have been inspired by these magnificent creatures.

Watching beautiful freedom dash about Dodop life, you will have no idea that this is the sun bear life should be!

As the sun bear cub at the Centre, Dodop is quite a character with a strong sense of nature with beautiful yellow sun bear crescent chest mark.

She is free and happy to put her old trauma life behind her.

Dodop has learnt two lessons at an early age – that is in indeed a forest out there and that there really is no place like forest home! She has never stop try and appreciate it! Please help us stop the illegal keeping and exploitation of sun bears. Sun bears belong in the wild and should not be kept as pets!

 

168 memorable days in BSBCC

Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by BSBCC

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre provided me a really good opportunity for my internship in order to complete my study in Universiti Malaysia Sabah. When people asked me, what are you doing in BSBCC? Why are you helps to clean the cages in everyday? Cleaning cages is the basic but important animal husbandry for the sun bear. Because a clean cage can helps to decrease the chances for them to get sick. In the early morning, the man power of bear care team will divide into three which are bear house 1, bear house 2 and kitchen. If you assign in the kitchen, prepare the food for all the bears in the day will be your task.

Afternoon is the time for us to make enrichment for the bears. Enrichment, actually is a toy for the bears but these toy is helps to encourage the bears to utilize their own strength. You can have a million of creative way to build an enrichment for the bears but bare in mind, animal safety always comes first.

APE volunteer, Kim and Viktoria with me and bear keeper, Roger were preparing ‘fire hose pocket’ to the bears. Within the fire hose pocket, we put a layer of peanut butter and put some dog biscuit to encourage the bears to utilize their tongue to get the foods inside.

APE volunteers and I were preparing egg carton. Egg carton have the same concept with the Sandwich. In between the egg carton, we put some treats like bananas, honey and ginger leaves. And hence, they can spend some times to get the foods in between the egg carton that tied hardly by ropes.

Ice block is an ice cream for the bears because ice block can helps to relieve their heat in the hot weather. APE volunteer, Sabine and I were preparing the fruits for making ice block.

Other than woods, bamboos are one of the general materials for making enrichment to the bears. And hence, we collect the bamboos and cut it into smaller pieces for different enrichment purpose such as bamboo feeder and many more.

When there is a good weather in the day, we went out from BSBCC and collect the dry leaves at the road side. Dry leaves are used to provide a dry cage for the bears. So the bears can enjoy a natural environment even they stayed inside the cages.

Staircase platform is an enrichment that made by my bear keeper buddy, Mizuno and I for Sigalung, 8 years old male bear. This staircase platform can provide him a resting place and encourage him to do more climbing.

I like this enrichment – Sigalung.

BSBCC is using the terms of conservation which covers with animal welfare, rehabilitation, education and research. Integration, fence training and release back to the forest enclosure are included in rehabilitation. One of the rehabilitation purpose is provides to the bears have a second chance to back to the forest along with learning and practicing natural survival skills. Within these six months, I got the chance to take part on helping in fence training and release Kala, Boboi, Kitud and TanTan to the forest enclosure, Pen D and Pen C. Besides that, they were integrated with sub-adult group, Sunbearo, Loki, Ronnie Girl, Momtom, Susie2 and Damai. And now, Mary joined them as well. There are 40 bears in BSBCC with different history. But, most of them were kept as pet before. They were kept in a small cage without experienced the real forest. How could their home become a strange place for them?  So, rehabilitation takes time for them to adapt the new environment and confront their traumatic early life.

 

Kala underwent fence training in training pen.

Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan were played fight in training pen.

Say Hi from Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan

Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan were integrated well with sub-adult group, Sunbearo, Loki, Ronnie Girl, Momtom, Damai, Susie2 and Kala.

Finally, Kala touched on the ground in the forest enclosure.

This is the way how Kala enjoy herself in forest enclosure with the beautiful sunlight.

The different ways of Tan Tan playing on a tree.

I had learnt a lot in BSBCC. And here, I would like to thank you, all the bear care team member, Thye Lim, Lin May, Azzry, Lester, Roger, David, Ronny, Tommy, Andy and my bear keeper buddy, Mizuno to guide me, share their knowledge and experience with me along my internship at BSBCC. They always make my day and lots of joy and laughter in every moment I spent in BSBCC. Thanks for all the help and taking care of me.

 

 

Journey to the forest for Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan

Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May

Tan-Tan was bought by a person with the purpose of rescuing her from being sold in the remote region of Paitan. After the person bought Tan-Tan, he informed the Sabah Wildlife Department and the Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit sent her to BSBCC on August 5th, 2015. On the other hand, Boboi and Kitud were kept together in a cage before they were handed over to the Sabah Wildlife Department in Singgaron Village, Ranau district. They were originally from Pitas, Sabah and only arrived at BSBCC on October 30th, 2015.

Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan stayed together in quarantine. Boboi is like a big brother that always backs up Kitud and Tan-Tan. Tan-Tan is the little one. She likes to follow behind Kitud so that she can get more comfort. If Boboi and Kitud are not around her, she will seek for them. Kitud is dominant, even though her size is not as big as Boboi. But, she always leads them to take an adventure with her. After the health check, they were moved from quarantine to the bear house. This was the time for them to meet the sub-adult group.

The sub-adult group and also the big group was very welcoming for them to join as new members. The sub-adult group members included Sunbearo, Loki, Ronnie Girl, Momtom, Damai, Susie2, Mary and Kala. They were playing well together, even though Kitud and Tan-Tan have a smaller body size than them. Here we have a little warm story about Tan-Tan and Susie2. Susie2 had trauma with her early life. This made Susie2 avoid herself from others. But, little sweet Tan-Tan would approach her and follow her when she met Susie2. She would accompany her silently from behind. Momtom and Sunbearo, the big brothers and Mary, Loki and Ronnie Girl, the big sisters, have shown more interest to play with them. Damai has no interest to play with them. She prefers to stay in the hammock and when they try to disturb her, she will give them warning. Also, the way that Kala played was too rough for them. But they did not have serious aggression with each other. And now, they can share a cage and stay with the sub-adult group.

Before they went back to the forest, they had to go through fence training. Fence training is a training to let the bears know that the hot wire may zap them if they get too close to it.This is because all the forest enclosures are surrounded by hot wire. These three little bears are full of courage. From the first day they got zapped, they climbed on the electric fence and began barking. Now, they can move freely between the buffer cage and training pen. They even can play fight in the training pen. Most of the bears do not like the training pen. This is because every bear has been zapped in here before. But, not for Boboi, Kitud and Tan Tan. From the first week, the three of them almost had been zapped everyday. But, they never gave up learning. After that, Tan-Tan knew to use her claws to get the food that was near the hot wire without getting zapped. Once one of them knew how, the rest of them would learn from her. After 20 days of training, they finally passed.

The day came! Once the guillotine door opened, their first actions were sniffing the surroundings and looking outside at the forest. They tapped on the ramp just like they were testing whether the ramp was safe for them or not. There was lots of tasty treats, fruits and honey on the ramp. They slowly stepped out and saw the outside world. Kitud was the bravest bear among them. She was the first who touched the ground. Tan-Tan followed Kitud back. When Kitud and Tan-Tan took their first steps outside, Boboi was looking at them through the guillotine door. He went in between the buffer cage and training pen, and tried to find a way out with different styles. After 20 minutes he struggled and he finally joined them in the forest. They explored the forest together. When they met with others, they’d play fight with them as well. Now they enjoy to stay in the forest. Once the guillotine door opens, they just go out and take their adventures all day long in either pen C or pen D with their big brothers and sisters. Let’s see how they enjoy life in the forest.

Watching Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan growing healthy and adapting well in the forest is undoubtedly one of our greatest pleasure. They will never again live in fear and well entitled to do anything they love!

The Bare Necessities about Bornean bears

Text and Photos by Jessica Prestage

My name is Jessica Prestage, I’m 18 years old and I am from England. I have just completed a two week volunteering programme at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sandakan. I finished school in May and I will be starting university in September. During this break, I wanted to make the most of my long summer holiday by volunteering somewhere new, that would allow me to learn about a different country and the conservation systems there. I looked at the opportunities available with a travel gap year company called ‘Oyster’. They have a lot of varied projects, but working with sun bears stood out as the most interesting. At first, I was unsure whether I would be able to travel to Borneo for this project, as it requires a long journey – in total, over 15 hours on a plane. But I decided that I could not pass up the chance to come out here and spend two weeks working with the team to care for, monitor and learn about sun bears. An opportunity like this may not come round again, so I selected this project and started booking it.

On my first day working at the centre, I was shown around with the other volunteer, Jackie. We were both part of the volunteer programme organised by APE Malaysia. Soon after our tour, we started working; the days followed a schedule, which rotated in order to allow everyone to help with different aspects of the bear house. In the morning, the tasks included husbandry (cleaning the cages), which was separated into bear house one and bear house two, preparing food in the kitchen and fence checks. This also meant that every day we worked with different team members, allowing us to get to know each other and work together. The afternoons consisted of creating enrichment; enrichment is what is used to engage the bears’ natural instincts of climbing, foraging and exploring. There were a wide range of materials that we had available to create enrichment, such as old fire hoses, donated by local fire stations, tyres, logs and branches, and bamboo. I enjoyed creating the enrichment, but personally I found the dry cages the most rewarding form of enrichment. Creating a dry cage involves laying a bed of dry leaves, collected the previous day, and adding logs and branches to mimic a forest environment. We also added log feeders, which is simply a log with holes drilled into it, each filled with treats. The normal treats used in enrichment to entice the bears to investigate and engage with it are honey, peanut butter, bananas, dog treats and banana leaves. These have strong smells, added to which the bears enjoy them – consequently the enrichment is regularly destroyed in order to access every crumb of food! The dry cage is my favourite enrichment because as soon as the bears are let back into the cage, they start exploring, digging and ripping open the logs. Dog treats and mealworms are scattered in the leaves to encourage foraging, which is often the first thing they do. It is rewarding when the bears do this as it shows that they still have their instincts and have a high chance of being released back into the wild.

In this photo, Mark and myself are creating a log feeder for the dry cage we created for Wan Wan. The reason for the cameraman also featured in this photo is that for two days we were filmed creating enrichment, for a series called Bornean Rangers. The idea of this is to show the process of rehabilitation at the centre and demonstrate how volunteers can help.

Working as part of the team here was a fantastic experience – as a volunteer, initially I was worried that I would slow the work down and be in the way, but I was quickly just another member of the team. Everyone was very welcoming, and I felt accepted as a team member and a friend. Although I was the only English person on site, everyone was eager to talk to me, asking questions about England and finding out about me. In the first few days, I struggled to adapt to the heat; this meant that I had to have regular breaks and drink a lot of water. Everyone kept an eye on me and checked on me, asking if I was okay, which made me feel comfortable and looked after. I knew that if I did have a problem, I could talk to them. However, I did not have any problems throughout the project – the team are friendly, funny and always up for a laugh. This made my time here more enjoyable, as I was getting to know people and making friends, whilst working with the bears.

This was taken the same day, on our way back down to the main bear house. We had our expert driver in front, Roger, three passengers, (WaWa, Jackie and myself), and the engine was Azzry, pushing us down the slope. This may have been a less sensible idea, as we didn’t quite manage to turn successfully at the bottom of the slope

So perhaps this wasn’t the best idea, but it was fun and we were all laughing for a long time afterwards!

During my two weeks at the conservation centre, I got to know most of the bears. Initially, I memorised the names based on which cages they were in, but as the two weeks progressed I learnt more about each bear. Their chest marks are like our fingerprints; each one is unique and can be used to identify the bear. The size, shape and colour can vary. However, some of the older bears do not climb so much, so they are recognised by their faces and behaviour more than the chest marks. I found it interesting as I got to know more of the bears, as they are all so different. Knowing their personalities made it possible to create enrichment for specific bears to try to engage them for as long as possible. Naturally, I had a favourite; but doesn’t everyone? I became fond of Along, as he was always sitting on the hanging log or hammock in his cage, watching what was going on. He’s a handsome bear, and as with most of the bears in the centre, I hope that he will be released into the wild in the near future. Some of the older bears cannot be rehabilitated, but I can’t imagine a better place for them to live than here at the centre. The staff are incredible and the facilities are brilliant; the bears have all they could ask for and more. I am so lucky to have been able to spend time here with such passionate people, who care so much for the future of these bears and other wildlife that is at risk due to human presence and actions in the natural environments. I have learnt a lot during the project and I hope to return someday to see the progress here and to see my friends again!

I cannot thank the BSBCC enough for giving me this opportunity. It’s been an unforgettable experience, with amazing people. Good luck for the future and I hope to see you again soon!

2 weeks in BSBCC

Text and Photos by Jacquelyn Jepiuh

After volunteering at BSBCC for a very short  2 weeks, I’ve gained so much insight about how a centre like this works. I’m currently go studying Zoology and Conservation biology so I really wanted to gain more experience in the conservation field. I found out about this volunteering program by simply googling ‘Animal conservation in Malaysia’ and came across an organization called APE Malaysia. I immediately applied for the program they had running during my semester uni break in July and luckily they accepted me! This was also my first time of hearing about BSBCC. After researching into the centre, I was amazed by how much progress they had made since they’ve started – with the release of Natalie and the upcoming release of Lawa – and why haven’t I heard of this place sooner!

Upon arriving the centre, Jess (also another volunteer) and I were warmly greeted by all the staff and briefed on the health and safety issues. The first day of work was the hardest, in my opinion, as the heat really got to me. As a Malaysian myself, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to how hot and humid it really gets here, I just get used to sweating a lot. However, as the days passed I learnt to really enjoy doing the hard work for the bears. I learnt a lot about their arboreal behavior and also the importance of making enrichment for them. The most interesting days I experienced here would be filming for a show on the discovery channel and as APE volunteers, we got to be a part of it! Even though talking in front of the camera was extremely awkward and there were some technical difficulties, I enjoyed making all the enrichments for the bears and seeing them enjoy the enrichment made it all worth it.

A hammock: an amazing enrichment for the bears to imitate having nests above the ground

Beautiful Jelita! 🙂

Mark, Sumira and I getting filmed testing the hammock for Bermuda!

I would like to give a big thanks to Wong and all the staff of BSBCC for being so welcoming, especially to the bear house and maintenance team for being so nice and entertaining – there was not a day I wasn’t laughing or smiling. Also, a special thanks to the APE team, Mark and Sumira, for taking such good care of us and teaching us about everything. Everyone I’ve met here are so dedicated and passionate about their job. I have no regrets and it has been such a great opportunity to spend my break productively with amazing people and animals. I want to wish everyone good luck with their future endeavours and good luck with the release of Lawa, I hope everything runs smoothly!

Lots of love,
Jackie

The Bear Necessities

Text and Photos by Lee Jia Wei

Tomorrow? Oh boy, how time flies! Just a flurry of constant diggings at the bearhouse and suddenly I’m going off real soon! Suddenly 20 days doesn’t seem that long at all, haha!

Being able to volunteer here was honestly, such a blessing from the start. Initially BSBCC had so many interns and volunteers, that they couldn’t afford to take in anyone else until September! However, I was determined to volunteer here, and finally a chance came – an intern student pulled out, and I was given the opportunity to be at the place I wanted to be! When I was told I got accepted, I was literally running around the entire top floor of my house, as if I struck a goal in football, haha!!

How is volunteering in BSBCC? I would say it was exactly I imagined it to be! We did so many things in a day, that lunch break became a luxury, and sleep was heaven, haha!

Everyday, as I am staying in the volunteer hut ‘Bjorn Hala’, I would wake up and make breakfast with my fellow housemates, and around 7.30am, we would go off to BSBCC. We’ll clock-in and start work at 8am when we reach there.

First, we will see which job we are assigned to. On some days, we help to clean the cages. I love how this particular chore tends to bring some people out of their comfort zone, as we have to deal with bear poop and leftover food scraps! In my opinion, cleaning the cages is the toughest of the day’s work, but once you finish cleaning a cage and it’s squeaky clean, you’ll have such a wonderful sense of achievement when you realize the bears would feel comfortable too!

Also, we have to check the electric fences, just to make sure there are not foreign matter obstructing its current. This is also fun, as I get to enter the bear jungle enclosures! (They made sure there aren’t any bears in the enclosure first before me and a staff went in) I got to see the jungle environment the bears explore in the day and it was great to see how big it was!

Then there is another job – the kitchen. I love being in the kitchen! Here, we help prepare the bear’s daily meals. From cooking porridge to washing, slicing, measuring and dividing fruits and vege – it is a blast for me!

Other side chores in which everyone helps everyone to do include feeding the bears in the bear house, feeding the bears out in the enclosures:-

Making enrichments (stuff in which bears can play with):-

Finding materials needed for enrichments:-
(Ginger leaves, dried leaves)

(Logs and sticks)

(Trekking to find termite nests)

(Bamboo and banana leaves)

And of course, giving the bears their enrichments!

Some of the small enrichments we make include:-

Bamboo feeders,

Fire hose feeders,

Nest balls,

Fruity ice blocks, aussie dogs (a sturdy ball with food in it) and Kongs (small rubber toy in which food can be inserted in it); and the big enrichments we make include hammocks, wooden structures and structures made from the fire hose. Usually in the afternoon, we will work as a team to prepare the enrichments, and give them to the bears in the late afternoons to play.

In overall, in my opinion, volunteering here is a “daily routine filled with surprises”. Sure, you know what to expect every single day, but there are so many aspects on what you actually DON’T expect, that makes your days different from the other. Like there was one day, a huge liana plant toppled from the top of a huge tree, and blocked our walkway. We have to cut and remove all the liana in the afternoon, and boy, some of the liana were spiky!

Also, we had to scare some cheeky macaques away because they were blocking the walkway. I also got to see the bear who is going to be released this month, Lawa, in her nest on a tree in her enclosure!

On some days, we get sessions with the founder of BSBCC, in which he was eager to share his knowledge with all of us. I was really happy I finally got to meet him in person as I am going to do the same course as him in university next year!

Not only that, I got the chance to go onto the platforms and talk with the visitors about the sunbears!

As an added bonus, I got to see three cubs – Boboi, Kitud and Tan-tan – being released into the wilderness for the first time. They have never set foot in the forest, and, seeing them slowly tapping the wooden ramp, putting their first paw onto the ground and hearing the staff proudly announce that “they have touched the ground!” felt like I was part of the Apollo 11 mission, except it was the phrase “one small step on the jungle, one giant leap for bearkind”! ^-^ I was really beaming with pride, as when I first came here, they were all still undergoing fence training and playing with one another. On that day, I saw these three bear friends help each other overcome their fear of the unknown, and took their first step onto the soil and grass – they looked so happy!! ^^ One day, I bet, they’ll be roaming in the forest of Tabin once again, back to where they belong.

Boy, I learnt so many incredible things here. I saw how humanlike the bears are! It was so surreal realizing that I am working with bears the first time I stepped into the bearhouse. Seeing them climb everything reminds me of myself when I climb everything in playgrounds! They are so curious, and so intelligent too. Seeing them figure out what to do with their enrichments really made me feel, “Wow, how similar they are to us!” And every bear had his/her own unique behavior and facial features, just like humans, that my initial thought of recognizing the sunbears via their chestmarks dissipated as quickly as it came. Chin always is having so much fun playing with wood, Along is always curious at my washing brush, Kitud loves to stand and watch you, Linggam loves your sincerity, Simone loves to try everything, Cerah and Jelita are friendship goals…. It resolidified my thoughts – We are all animal. We are all equal. No being is superior to the other. Why do us humans put ourselves higher than every other being? The mere fact is we are all the same. We are all breathing. We are all, Life.

And the people. Oh the people! They are probably the definition of “smells like team spirit!!” They ARE team spirit. Everyone in the bear house helps each other like no one else. Not one is selfish. Everyone, literally EVERYONE, is as friendly as anyone can get. At first, as I am from Penang (West Malaysia), I felt a little left out as I wasn’t too fluent in Malay and couldn’t exactly express what I wanted to say. As the days went by I slowly got used to their way of speaking and now “apa-apa saja yang mereka bilang pun saya tau bah” 😀 We had so much fun together after work. They took me out for Hari Raya, watch a movie, have a bbq party together, grocery shopping, tour the orangutan center, eat outside, hear a talk given by Mr. Wong in Sandakan city, and Mr. Wong even brought us to his house to try the food he made himself! It doesn’t feel like a routine when I’m around them – they will crack the silliest jokes and tell the most amazing stories, experiences, even randomly throw in incredible facts, and anime. Oh yes, and I’ve met so many people who studies/studied about the environment like I do – in which in Malaysia, we are a rare breed! Haha! Think this volunteering opportunity is serious? Yes, everyone takes the work seriously. But the atmosphere around the people? Not!! They’ll make any serious atmosphere disappear in an instant! This is the power of Sabahans!

Will I come again? Are you kidding me? Of COURSE! I can’t wait to see more and more bears released into the wild, and more bears rescued and rehabilitated. A LOT of the public think this is only a “center” and what they don’t know, is that ALL bears are RESCUED and are given a second chance to go back into the wild. I really want to see them released back into the Bornean rainforests, where they belong, and I know they are going to continue doing a great job at this, as long as they stay true to their mission. 🙂

I’m not sure if he minds this, but I’m going to quote a particular staff because this sentence has such a positive impact on me:-
BSBCC Staff: “I’m going to quit this job, when there is no need for it anymore.”

Me: *thinks sadly that he means that when the sunbears are extinct* “What do you mean no need for it anymore?”
BSBCC Staff: “When there are a lot of sunbears in the wild, and they are not even endangered anymore.”
Me: :’)

This is hope. And I’m hopeful for the sunbears.
This is a dream. And they are driving it.
I expect big things from you guys 😉

Just the Way It Should be For a Sun Bear Cub

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

“Growling, and bawling loudly” every day from one of the female sun bear cub, Dodop. Sun bear cubs will begin bawling long, and loud when frightened or separated from their mothers. Cubs also scream in distress like human babies. This has happened to Dodop because she was treated like a pet, kept in a house and lost her four permanent canines. She has absolutely no fear of humans and has loss of wild instinct. Usually mother and sun bear cubs will stay together in the wild for two to three years, as they should be. It is likely that Wawa and Dodop’s mothers were killed by poachers. Their mother defends them, warms them, nurses them and teaches them survival skills. Sun bear cubs require around the clock care. This is undoubtedly why Dodop looks so sad and depressed when her care taker is not around.

So our Bear Care unitmade the decision that Dodop and Wawa need to be introduced to have their first ever bear friend. Finally the big day arrived on 25th June 2016, where we integrated Dodop with Wawa. Dodop is 11 months old and Wawa is 7 months old. She is bigger than Wawa. On that day, Dodop was transferred to an adjacent den. It was a new environment for Dodop at the beginning but she quickly adapted to it.

As soon as Wawa saw Dodop, she kept barking in a deep voice at Dodop for the first 15 minutes. Dodop was shocked and barked back. But Wawa being the curious one went into the den where Dodop was located, and tried to approach, and sniff her. Wawa wrestled her and was teaching Dodop to fight back by showing small, strong canines and small, sharp claws! The cubs wrestled and pawed non-stop with one another for about 30 minutes before one of them gave up for a rest.

Wawa was very curious towards Dodop and barked on her during their first meeting.

This is a special day for Dodop and Wawa. This could be their first contact with another sun bear after a very long time.

They still definitely curious!

This friend as something to say…

Wawa already start her curiosity and playfulness.

 

Wawa and Dodop share the same large dens. Wawa is willing to let Dodop explore the world but only on her terms! They spend a lot of time climbing enrichment structures, wresting each other, chasing, sharing the same enrichment and taking naps inside the hammock or basket. They have developed and acquired new survival skills as wild bears. They have big appetites! They keep putting on weight and eating a variety of food, including milk, sweet corn, banana, papaya, honey dew, watermelon and honey. Both of them tend to get more fruits on themselves than in their mouth!  Wawa now weighs 16.10kg and Dodop weighs 20.90 kg. Wawa is the more outgoing of the two cubs. Dodop’s condition is continuing to improve and she has becomea more confident little cub after meeting her new friend, Wawa.

Wawa is the kind of bear who is up for anything…

Dodop has a distinct personality and habits that are unique to her. She enjoys the love and attention she receives.

They spend a great deal of their time playing and wrestling together.

They spend a great deal of their time playing and wrestling together.

They spend a great deal of their time playing and wrestling together.

A great new playmate!! Dodop (left) is pawing Wawa (right).

Wawa show to Dodop that she has strength too!

Wawa show to Dodop that she has strength too!

All happily grasped between grateful paws.

PLAYTIME!!

Bear cub keepers give the cubs various enrichment items – these could be dead logs, puzzle feeders, the Aussie dog ball, dry leaves, green leaves,a fire hose pocket filled with peanut butter and many others. Both of them are extremely playful and love to investigate the new toys together. They socialize with each other and explore their surroundings.

Wawa shows more dominance compared to Dodop. Although being the youngest and smallest, she never feels threatened by Dodop. For the rest of the weeks, they integrated well and cared for each other better. No serious aggression was noted. They spend more time learning how to be in a beautiful friendship, and to be happy, healthy, agile sun bears after all that they have been through. For them, life is full of happiness and filled with new things to explore which is just the way it should be for a sun bear cub.

Even Wawa was smaller than Dodop. Wawa is total boss.

They love to mock wrestle with each other.

They are full of enthusiasm who enjoys making the maximum use of enrichments in the dens.

They are full of enthusiasm who enjoys making the maximum use of enrichments in the dens.

They are full of enthusiasm who enjoys making the maximum use of enrichments in the dens.

They are full of enthusiasm who enjoys making the maximum use of enrichments in the dens.

They are full of enthusiasm who enjoys making the maximum use of enrichments in the dens.

They are full of enthusiasm who enjoys making the maximum use of enrichments in the dens.

Sometimes they play, sometimes they find a tasty snack, and sometimes they nap far above the ground.

So much happier with their pain and trauma removed.

They are many more sun bears suffering due to habitat loss, hunting and illegal wildlife trade. The number of sun bears have fallen by at least 30% over the past 30 years. We need to highlight ending wildlife trafficking which includes ending demand, strengthening wildlife laws and enforcement. We need to stand up and do our part!

Honey Month with The Honey Bears

Text and Photos by Wong Chung Li


BSBCC is a place where I have lovely experience for both my volunteering days and my school tour. Back when I was still a student from Yu Yuan Secondary School on 2013, I had a precious chance to visit BSBCC with my classmates along with teachers before it was opened one year later. It’s a fruitful and fabulous tour as we could see the bears which we have never seen. In addition, the staffs were telling a lot of interesting facts to us and the ways we can conserve these cute creatures. At that time, I hope that I could do something for the bears.

However, I have postponed the plan until three years later. It’s my summer vacation of my university, so I decided to join BSBCC as a volunteer for a month. On my first induction, I was given instructions and rules I have to obey. This boosted me up and I really can’t wait for it to be started.

Morning

Ok! I have to drive 10 miles daily from home to work on early morning. As volunteer, I was offered a chance to stay in Bjorn Hala, a staff house which accommodates some staffs and volunteers but it’s a bit crowded then. On morning, we are assigned to different works according to the schedule but usually we have to prepare the foods or do fence checking first. Fence checking is an inspection of the voltage of our fences surrounding the forest enclosures and confirmation of the bears staying in the forest. We have to remove some branches trapped between the fences which lower the voltage. After that, we back to bear house and do our following works. Sometimes, I was assigned to clean cages. At first, I felt that the faeces and the dirt in the cage smelled unpleasant. After one month of “training”, I can say loudly that I can endure and get used to it already haha!

In cleaning cages, I learned that the faeces of the bear reflect what they eat and the different behaviour of different bears. A few naughty bears love to distract and disturb me from the neighbouring cages and when they grab the things, I can barely get it back due to their overpower strength. In doing kitchen works, I also learn of what bears eat every day and some special diet for some bears.

Afternoon

After preparing the second meal of porridge, we will go outside feeding. Outside feeding enables me to see bears playing in the forest in a short distance and have trained my stamina on carrying buckets of fruits and walk on the forest. When feeding is done, we will do some enrichment for the bears. Bears do pacing while they stress out. Some may injure themselves by doing so. The purpose of doing enrichment is to reduce their pacing behaviour and somehow encourage their climbing and foraging skills. I really enjoy this activity. It gives me a sense of achievement when the bears play it and try to suck the foods out.

After coming here, I start to differentiate each bear by looking at its appearance other than its unique chest mark. I also understand how complex the process of placement of bear from integration to fence training to forest enclosure and finally release is. The release of bear requires a lot of energy and money but it allows the bear to enjoy the wild again. Our bears all have sad past when they were still cubs. So I really hope that they can live happily afterwards.

Mr Wong, the CEO & Founder of BSBCC is a kind and knowledgeable wildlife biologist who has studied sun bear for 20 years. He always shares his stories and experience with us during his free time. He has a lot of books inside the office and he can always remember where the information comes from. His stories of building up the BSBCC and sacrificing his personal life are really inspiring. Other than sun bear, Mr Wong study birds well too. After I tried his foods, I believe he will become a famous chef if he didn’t become a wildlife biologist.

I would like to thank all the staffs, especially the bear keepers and maintenance team which I always work with (Forgive me for not mention the names one by one). Given my limited ability to speak Malay, they can still communicate with me well. They are so friendly and patient in teaching me the ways to use some equipment. We have chit-chatting a lot and know about each other well. I also love to listen to their working experience and other stories.

I would like to give credits to Lester, my buddy. This is because he really helps a lot and provide professional advice to me on doing our enrichment called “Swing Along” for one of our bear called Along. As I know, Along still hasn’t stepped on our enrichment yet haha. Besides, he is a funny guy and always influent in atmosphere. Without him, we always feel like we lack something. At last, I would like to say that it’s a great honor to work along with you guys and being a part in helping sun bear. Thank you!

Thank You BSBCC

Text and Photos by Christine Anne

My name is Christine Anne and I am a Lead Zoo Keeper at Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ), Seattle, Washington, USA.  I have worked at WPZ for three years but have been a zoo keeper for 14 years.  At WPZ I work with a variety of species but I specialize in large carnivores and work with African lions, Malayan tigers, and sloth bears to name a few.  I have worked with bears for many years and first met Wong, founder of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center (BSBCC), in 2009 when he presented his research on sun bears at the Advancing Bear Care Conference in San Francisco, California.  I had the opportunity again to hear Wong speak at the Advancing Bear Care Conference in Banff Canada in 2011, where he spoke about BSBCC and its progress and future.  Since first hearing of BSBCC it has been a personal and professional goal of mine travel to Borneo and volunteer.

Through my work with the Malayan tigers at WPZ, the zoo supported me in an opportunity to accompany other zoo keepers from North America to peninsular Malaysia.  We visited the Taman Negara to participate in a citizen conservation program called the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers.   We participated in anti-poaching patrols and experience the forest that presents so many challenges to tiger researchers.  Through the support of the Puget Sound Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers, I was able to include BSBCC in my travel plans.

Upon first arriving at BSBCC I was warmly welcomed by Wong and his staff.  One of the first things I noticed about the conservation center was the amazing signage that they use to help educate visitors about sun bears.  These signs are placed along the path that leads to the viewing platforms for the forest enclosures where the bears live.  These platforms give a great opportunity for guests to see the bears in their natural forest habitat.  As a zoo keeper I notice things that a regular guest may not notice.  Things like the nice high railings on the platforms to keep guests from leaning over the enclosures, the perimeter of the enclosures and how they are situated around the holding facilities, how the staff gains access for feeding and checking fences, and the many natural behaviors being displayed by the bears.

Volunteering
The volunteer orientation was very familiar, since the same rules apply in my daily job.  Things like don’t enter an area that has a bear in it, don’t touch the bears, don’t do anything that makes you uncomfortable or you are unsure of.  Working with animals like bears is a serious business no matter what side of the world you are on.  Although I am a zoo keeper, I also understand that this is not WPZ, these bears are not my normal charges, and it is a privilege to simply be in the presence of these amazing animals that deserve our respect and care.  Care of an animal has many forms, from cleaning holding dens, to grounds work, to the office, and guest services.  As a volunteer I had two assignments:  the bear kitchen, and enrichment making.

Kitchen
The kitchen is the lifeline of the whole animal care program, preparing food that provides the very nutrition that all 41 bears at BSBCC rely on for survival.  Through food preparation I can honestly say that I touched every bear at BSBCC through their food.  It is constant work in the kitchen preparing food for the 4 meals each bear gets each day.  For 41 bears, that’s 164 meals prepared, each day.  The base diet is rice porridge, with each bear getting an individualized amount in the morning and again in the evening.  When you are done portioning out porridge, you make a new batch, there is constantly something cooking in the kitchen, with two large pots of porridge made everyday.  For the other feedings, the bears get keepers choice of fruits and vegetables, with bananas a main staple every day.  I learned of a new fruit called snake skin fruit.  The skin of this fruit really does look like snake skin, and when peeled it has cloves inside similar to garlic but it has the texture of an apple and, to me, tasted almost like mild pineapple.

When we were not preparing food, we were cleaning the kitchen and doing dishes.  I had looked forward to the whole experience for so many years that I was so happy to do something so simple, yet so helpful to the overall operations.  I also had the opportunity to feed some of the bears, either sliding the porridge to them in the bear holding areas, or helping with the scatter feeds for the outdoor forest enclosures.  Both experiences allowed me to see the bears up close and observe more of their behaviors.  I am very interested in animal behavior, so opportunities to observe behavior are always special.

Enrichment
I was also assigned to help make enrichment for the bears with the keepers.  We mainly focused on bamboo enrichment and we went out to collect the bamboo, and worked on cutting it up and building different enrichment items for the bears to receive inside the holding areas.  Bamboo is great because it can be made into all kinds of things, but sun bears are very destructive so we had to balance complexity of the enrichment item with the value to the animal.  We made a variety of puzzle feeders and used different enrichment food items inside like peanut butter and honey.  We used leaves from forage plants to fill the feeders as well.  I was able to observe the bears with the enrichment items that gave the bears opportunities to problem solve and manipulate the items.  One bear in particular received one of the more challenging items and spent about 10 minutes investigating it, ripping it apart and eating the peanut butter off of the ginger leaves and out from the bamboo.  He was very vocal the whole time he was interacting with the item, which may indicate that he was slightly irritated at the complexity of it, but he took the time to fully destroy the whole thing and enjoy all that it had to offer.  It is always nice to watch the animals interact with something that you have made for them.


The opportunity to be part of the BSBCC program and contribute in whatever way I was needed was motivating and inspiring.  Wong’s enthusiasm for his work and the development of a word class conservation center is obvious and contagious, and is the driving force behind its continued success and future development.  It was an AMAZING experience with amazing staff and animals, one that forever stamps a sun bear paw print on my heart as I journey on.