Category Archives: Sabah

Meet Noah – There is still Hope !!

Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May

He was surrendered by a villager and was found roaming alone at a villager’s orchard with his mother nowhere to be seen. Noah was handed-over to the Sabah Wildlife Department from Nabawan, a southern part of Sabah, and brought into the BSBCC on the 10th of October, 2016. We have named him “Noah”. We are unsure as to why he was found alone, he may have been abandoned, or his mother may have been killed by poachers. Noah was nervous, alert and timid at first sight during the arrival.

“Really Miss my mother and forest so much!”

Noah, one of our newest orphan arrivals at BSBCC

Noah, one of our newest orphan arrivals at BSBCC

Three weeks after his rescue and this little Noah is grown into a healthy and strong bear

Three weeks after his rescue and this little Noah is grown into a healthy and strong bear

He is now settling into the quarantine

He is now settling into the quarantine

On the 10th of October 2016, Dr. Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam from the Wildlife Rescue Unit of Sabah Wildlife Department, performed a general health check. This included an assessment of his overall health, potential sickness, function of the internal organs and physical condition. During the health check, it was found that Noah’s four milk canines had been crushed off. Because of their small and cuddly appearance, sun bears are used in illegal pet trade. This is common with captive sun bears to prevent them from causing injuries and they are easy to handle. As a pet, he suffered from loneliness, rotting teeth, and malnutrition due to improper diet and care. Little Noah nearly lost everything – just because someone was greedy.

Noah is responding well to treatment. He has been receiving a proper diet and has a big appetite which has increased his body weight. He absolutely loves milk, banana, papaya and honey which ends up being a mouthful! Noah spends hours trying his best to get every drop of delicious honey out of the enrichment logs. As soon as he smells the food, he will quickly descend to find it. He will get involved in various types of enrichment to strengthen his muscles and senses. He is mischievous and prefers wrestles with his care taker. He continues to be as playful as ever!!

Noah has adjusted well to proper milk

Tastes fruit for first time!

Tastes fruit for first time!

” Yummy! I wonder is what this taste like?”

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Honey!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Free to Run, Play, Searching for Termites!

Little Noah begin to develop the skills he needs to survive in the wild

Little Noah begin to develop the skills he needs to survive in the wild

Noah require lots of different types of enrichment every day to keep him healthy and happy.

Noah require lots of different types of enrichment every day to keep him healthy and happy.

Noah always enthusiastic about new enrichment

Noah always enthusiastic about new enrichment

Search for tasty treats in her very own Aussie Ball !!

Search for tasty treats in her very own Aussie Ball !!

Dig around for the Honey dew treats!!

Dig around for the Honey dew treats!!

Being curious with  pill millipede !!

Being curious with pill millipede !!

Rolling with Nest ball!

Rolling with Nest ball!

Love to see him just being bear again

Love to see him just being bear again

Chilling at the platform

Chilling at the platform

Chilling at the platform

Chilling at the platform

Snooze in a hammock in the sunshine !!

Snooze in a hammock in the sunshine !!

One of the BSBCC’s missions is to give rescued bears lifelong loving care. The bears are reintroduced to their natural habitat. A huge thanks to the Sabah Wildlife Department who rescued and bought Little Noah to BSBCC. We will provide the best care possible through the rehabilitation process, so someday he can return to the wild. After completing the quarantine phase, Noah will embark on his new life. Little Noah will follow a process of gradual adaptation in the forest till he becomes an independent wild bear, then he will get this unique chance to return to the forest home he was once stolen from. We will take all appropriate steps to ensure that Noah makes a smooth transition into life as a wild sun bear.

He grown into a playful and sweet natured Bornean Sun Bear

He grown into a playful and sweet natured Bornean Sun Bear

What a lovely smile it is...

What a lovely smile it is…

Showing us just glimpse of the sun bear tongue, happy to leave his past life behind

Showing us just glimpse of the sun bear tongue, happy to leave his past life behind

Enjoying his new found freedom

Enjoying his new found freedom

We are confident that he will continue to practice the skills needed to survive as a wild sun bear in the future. Noah will spend his days learning new and vital skills in the forest canopy. We cannot wait for the day when Noah is roaming free back in the forest where he belongs.

 

 

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!

Lawa is Home At Last : Second Rehabilitated Sun Bear Returns to the Wild in Sabah

Text by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Photos by Tee Thye Lim & Chiew Lin May

One day in May 2008, a one year old female sun bear cub came from Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo named Lawa to Sepilok. She had a beautiful face which would catch your eye. But, how does such a gorgeous bear end up at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre? Normally, cubs stay with their mothers until they are two to three years old. However, in Lawa’s case, she was separated cruelly by killing the mother in order to get a cute sun bear cub, kept illegal as pet or sold on the illegal wildlife pet trade. Sun bear populations are estimated to have declined over 30% in the last three decades, leading for those bears being in danger of imminent extinction in the wild very real. Now, sun bears have been stated as totally protected species under Sabah Wildlife Enactment in 1997. People who keep them illegally and hunting them, will be fined up to RM50,000 and can be send to jail for 5 years, or both.

Lawa lost her mother when she was still a cub. She had no chance to learn the natural survival skills from her mother. The BSBCC provided her with a second chance, reintroducing her to natural forest enclosures.  Lawa has grown into a smart, agile and independent bear. She is now nine years old, weighs 40.5 kg. She has spend most of her days eagerly exploring up in the trees. She can make beautiful tree nests by using liana and tree branches. Nest building is one of the important but rare survival skills of a wild bear. After six years going through rehabilitation at the BSBCC there is now a happy ending for Lawa as she has acquired many vital survival skills and she is ready to return to her real forest home.

Release candidates are chosen based on their age and survival skills. They have to be fit in four conditions, they need to know how to forage, climb, nest building and lastly, the most important condition is they need to not attach to human and know how to avoid humans, in order to be at low risk of being killed by poachers or turn into a nuisance bear.

Health check starts with Lawa being put on anesthesia by Dr Rosa Sipangkui, Sabah Wildlife Department veterinarian.

On 24th July 2016, the BSBCC is preparing the final stage for the release of Lawa to a core area of Tabin Wildlife Reserve. Located in the Lahad Datu, Sabah encompasses 120500 hectares of pristine rainforest. Before the big day, the bear team again needed to find Lawa in Pen G at 4 pm. Dr. Rosa Sipangkui, a veterinarian from the Sabah Wildlife Department, sedated Lawa. Once sedated, Lawa was moved from Pen G to bear house in order to undergo a full medical examination to ensure she is in good health before her release. Besides that, Wong Siew Te, BSBCC Founder and CEO made sure that Lawa’s satellite collar is functioning and well fitted on her. Finally, Lawa was moved into the translocation cage. She was then placed at the bear house area for a night. Our bear care keepers spent the night monitoring Lawa. She might not have known it, but after today her life will be totally different!

Dr. Rosa and bear team enter the forest enclosure to prepare dart Lawa.

After sedation, Lawa is carried out of from her forest enclosure for a medical check up.

First part of the process is the weighing Lawa.

Dr. Rosa, Wong Siew Te and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Lawa is fully ready for the reintroduction.

Teeth and mouth are checked.

Dr. Rosa, Wong Siew Te and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Lawa is fully ready for the reintroduction.

Dr. Rosa, Wong Siew Te and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Lawa is fully ready for the reintroduction.

Dr. Rosa, Wong Siew Te and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Lawa is fully ready for the reintroduction.

Dr. Rosa, Wong Siew Te and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Lawa is fully ready for the reintroduction.

Dr. Rosa, Wong Siew Te and BSBCC team perform a full health check on the bears’ health to make sure Lawa is fully ready for the reintroduction.

When all the data has been collected and recorded, Lawa is placed into a translocation cage.

When all the data has been collected and recorded, Lawa is placed into a translocation cage.

It is time to go! On 25th July 2016, when it was still dark, the bear release team was getting ready to depart from Sandakan to Tabin Wildlife Reserves on two trucks, taking Lawa to her second chance in the wild. The release team started in full force for the release of second sun bear back into the wild.

Lawa is loaded on a truck for the ride to a new home in the wild.

The team arrived at Tabin Wildlife Reserve Headquarter at 8.15 am. The morning sun and clear sky reminded us to start moving.

When arrive the entrance of Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Lawa peeks out!!

Sabah Air Aviation Sdn. Bhd Bell 206 Jetranger landed at Tabin Wildlife Reserve Headquarter.

This year our release team will be using helicopter model Sabah Air Aviation Sdn Bhd (Bell 206 B3) Jetranger Underslung to reach our final destination.

Discussion on Lawa release operation.

We made the final release preparation and inspections to ensure the safety. The operation was split into two difference trips. The first trips, the team entered the mud volcano of Tabin forest to evaluate and identify the suitable release site.

Aerial View of Tabin KM-22 Mud Volcano.

They checked the wrapping net thoroughly.  After final checks on Lawa by Dr. Rosa and Wong Siew Te, the team took the transportation cage and loaded it into the wrapping net. The process went smooth.

At 10.15 am, Wong Siew Te (BSBCC CEO & Founder) and Lawa was finally lifted up into the blue sky, heading to Tabin mud volcano. At 10.35 am, Bell 206 Jetranger that carrying Lawa landed safely on the Tabin mud volcano.

The weather cleared as it felt the joy of welcoming Lawa to her true home in the Tabin forest

The Bell 206 Jetranger Helicopter carrying Lawa in her translocation cage landed safely on the Tabin mud volcano.

The arrival of Lawa was greeted by the sound of birds in Tabin Widlife Reserve. The sights, sounds and smells of Tabin Wildlife Reserve will be very new for Lawa. Immediately Lawa was taken to the release side by BSBCC team. Lawa looked well rested, happy and ready. She realized there were so many higher trees in pristine rainforest around her. She will soon free and ready to live a new life as a true wild sun bear!

Could not wait to be free in the forest!

The experience Lawa has gathered during six years at the rehabilitation center will help her explore her true home in the core area of Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

The team is carrying the translocation cage into the release site inside the forest.

The team is carrying the translocation cage into the release site inside the forest.

The team is carrying the translocation cage into the release site inside the forest.

Wong Siew Te is feeding Lawa with honey water.

After everything was set up, the moment to open the door and let Lawa take a deep breath with the sense of freedom arrived. Once the translocation cage was opened at 11.10 am , Lawa run out of the cage quickly. She was very fast, directly heading into the deep forest! We hope the best for her now! She will be starting to explore, forage and adjust to her new habitat. It was an emotional moment for all of us watching her walk away from the transportation cage and – off course – us. One moment we could still see her and at the blink of an eye, she disappeared into the tall trees. She finally home, in the forest. Enjoy your freedom Lawa! May you have a long and happy life there! Our bear care team will carefully monitor her progress via her satellite collar.

Sun bears are forest animals. They are playing important roles in the forest. They are forest gardeners. After they consume fruits, they travel along and disperse the seeds in the forest. They carry the seeds away from the mother tree, so that the seed has a higher survival rate. Next, they are forest engineers. Sun bears are excellent climber. One of the reasons that they climb up a tree is because they want to harvest the honey from bee hives. They will use their strong canine and sharp claws to tear off the tree trunk and get the honey inside. After that, it will create a cavity that provides a resting place to other animals like hornbills and flying squirrel. Besides that, they also are forest doctors. Termites are small insects which eventually cause a tree to get sick or die. This is because some termite species will build their nest inside the trees. But, sun bears eat termites. So, sun bears can help to control the population of termites and keep the forest healthy. Last but not least, they are forest farmers, because they are good diggers. They do a lot of digging which can actually help to mix up poor soil and rich soil to enhance the nutrient cycle in the forest. And, that is why we call them “the keystone species”.  Lawa is now been released in the forest. She is carrying out a very important task. This is what she needs, the forest and the freedom.

Lawa is ready to embark on a new journey: living in the wild.

We would like to take this opportunity to say a huge Thank Yous to the most amazing partner, the Sabah Wildlife Department, Dr.Rosa Sipangkui, the Sabah Forestry Department, LEAP, the Tabin Rangers, the BSBCC team, our volunteers and Brad Josephs who help fundraise and Kynite Filming Crews who helped and supported us generously with Lawa’s release. Thanks to the years of hard work spent rehabilitating Lawa, she will have the opportunity to roam free in the wild, back where she belongs. Reintroduction programs for sun bears are very costly. We need your support to protect this magnificent species from extinction. Help us release more sun bear back to wild by donating at www.bsbcc.org.my. You can make a difference in the future survival of sun bears!

 

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 😉

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!

My Volunteering Experience

Text and Photos by Viktoria Forstén


My name is Viktoria Forstén, I´m a 19 year old animal lover from Sweden. I got the amazing opportunity to volunteer at the BSBCC through a scholarship from my school. For that I am forever grateful. I travelled across the globe together with my three friends Emelie, Evelina and Kim, and it was the greatest experience of my life.

First of all I want to say how amazing everyone at the center is. That goes for Mr Wong, the bear keepers and everyone working in the office. I feel so blessed to have gotten to meet you all and working alongside you guys.

Unfortunately we live in a world full of destruction, made by us. If we shorten the earths’ lifespan into 24 hours then that means we’ve been here for one day. If we keep looking at it in that perspective, do you know how long it has taken for us to destroy forests and made so many animals go extinct? Three seconds. In three seconds we have done all this, and yet we keep doing it. This isn’t supposed to be a depressing text but it’s true. When I first saw how much rainforest that has been burnt to the ground and been replaced with palm tree plantations it broke my heart. We call ourselves Homo sapiens, which means wise man. But if we are so wise then how could we let this happen? How could we destroy our home that has done nothing but give us life? This earth that we call ours is so beautiful and brings us so much joy. We have the pleasure to explore the deepest of oceans, climb the highest mountains and watch how life begins and how it ends (naturally). We share this earth with amazing creatures and can even create strong bonds with some of them. We have the nerve to claim this earth and everything that comes with it, ours… But we are only guests here. Now you’re probably confused as to how this has anything to do with volunteering at the BSBCC. The point I’m trying to get across is that we have, and are currently ruining not only the sun bears’ home but all the other animals’ home too. By volunteering you are trying to help make a difference to save this species, but how can we save them if their home is being taken away from them in such a raging pace.

In all this chaos there is still a few good people out there, people like the BSBCC crew, who I would call heroes. We need more people like that, to clean up the mess we’ve created. I’m happy centers like this one exist but at the same time I’m sad that we’ve done so much damage that we now need to put a massive amount of money and energy into something the nature once had under control.

What the center does for these bears deserves an award, honestly. Personally I didn’t mind the hard work because I thought it was a lot of fun. My favorite task was getting dead logs from the forest and giving to the bears as enrichment. Since all of the bears can’t go outside due to their traumatic past, enrichment is very important. We used lots of natural materials like logs, leaves, bamboo etc. to give the bears. It was usually made to hide food inside of it, for example we made little nest like balls made out of leaves and grass that we stuffed with fruit and honey. Even fire hoses were greatly appreciated; those were used to put peanut butter inside of them so that the bears got to utilize one of their natural behaviors, which are using their long tongues to get food.

This is what I call “the rope log”, an enrichment made for the bear Amaco.

When you volunteer you get to see a totally different side of the bears that you don’t see as a visitor. It is great being on the platform watching them foraging for food, climbing trees and behaving like a bear should behave. Although once in the bear house you get a feel of each and everyone’s different personalities. My favorite bear was Chin because of her playful ways; I could sit and watch her play with her logs all day long, if that was possible.

If you’re coming from a colder country like me, the climate change is going to have an impact on you. I remember how red and sweaty I would get from cleaning the cages in the morning. The key is to drink lots of water. Even walking the daily feeding route made me look like a tomato. Being pale and not being used to the heat made me look all kinds of crazy, the staff probably thought I was going to pass out several times but I was fine, haha! It was fun and that’s all that matters.

Let’s talk about our accommodation! The volunteers live in a big house kind of, with numerous rooms, an outdoors kitchen with an amazing view and a few toilets and showers. It is simple living but I guess that won’t be a problem for anyone coming to Borneo to volunteer. I loved it anyhow! The place is called Paganakan Dii and there’s even a café that belongs to the accommodation that serves drinks and food. An advice from me is to not cook your own dinners. It is way cheaper, faster and easier eating at the café.

The kitchen view

The gorgeous view over the house!

This is what the accommodation looks like, the rooms and kitchen at the top floor and toilets + showers behind the white doors downstairs.

I’m not going to lie I was a little nervous about meeting the staff for the first time. I’m somewhat of a shy person and the fact that we had to communicate in English was a bit nerve-racking to me. Once I met everyone there was nothing to worry about at all. They were so nice to us and they made me feel really welcome. The language barrier was not a problem; they were really good at explaining everything in English so that we understood. They told me that I was going to cry on my last day, because apparently that is very common among all volunteers. I did not think they were going to be right, but believe me when I say this, you will cry. Saying goodbye to the bears on our last day felt like someone had died. I was crying rivers, it was kind of bad.

Being there for five weeks was truly the best time of my life. The mixture of the warm weather, the cool insects, the amazing people I met and the bears made the experience awesome. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have gotten that opportunity. For everyone reading this, please consider going there to volunteer, I promise you it will be a time worth remembering.

I love leeches; here is my one and only leech I had the pleasure to feed 

Mamatai enjoying the outdoors

A huge thank you to the bear keepers and everyone at the center for making our time there better than ever imagined! I miss you and the bears!

Huge hugs/ Viktoria

 

 

Lawa gofundme Campaign

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

 

Lawa has been thriving since she was rescued. She is eager to show that her world is in the forest! Lawa is an agile and cheerful sun bear.  She is become excellent in foraging, digging for grubs, sniffing out bee hives, climbing trees and building a tree nest on her own. It makes you realize how wild these sun bears are meant be.

With her strong natural instincts and mastered all the survival skills, Lawa will soon be a great candidate to release in the wild. Please help us to make Lawa’s freedom possible and give her a future where she belongs! Your support is vital to us. We cannot do it without you!

Here is the site just specify for Lawa gofundme campaign.

https://www.gofundme.com/savethesunbears

Your donation is much appreciated!

 

Volunteer Period

Text and Photos by Julia Riverstal

Hi, my name is Julia Riverstål I am currently 18 years old and I am from Stockholm, Sweden.I am on my final year at an animal care program in Sweden at Spånga Gymnasium. It is thru my school that I have got this amazing chance to see and actually be a part of the amazing work that they do at the Bornean sun bear conservation centre for a total of 5 weeks.

In April 2015 I visited the centre for 4 days with a few others from my school and it is totally stunning to see the progress that some of the bears have been doing in less than 10 months! When I was here the first time some of the cubs were still in quarantine and to see them high up in the trees at the big bear house is just the best receipt to understand that the centre is really making a difference!

My Swedish immune system have unfortunately not handled the Bornean flora of bacteria so good so I have been sick a lot and sadly I had to stay at home for some time. But even if i were sick and had to stay at home I could still help the centre with translating a Swedish TV program about Sun bears, so at least I could do something. I have never felt so appreciated and welcomed at another place and all of the staff at the centre is just outstanding in their way of showing their appreciation and kindness to the volunteers.

Some of the things that you do is routines and are pretty much the same every day, you clean the cages, prepare the food and feed the bears. But even if you do this every day it is never the same, one day the cage is almost clean and the next day it is filled with enrichment or you just have to clean a cage where there has been a complete poop party, haha! With the feeding, both inside and outside you get a perfect chance to see that everything is good with the bear, not being interested of food is a big indicator that something is wrong. Of course it is just a blast to see the bears playing around trying to crack coconut or to see them lie on their back eating sugar pipes. In the afternoon you focus on doing enrichment and if you ask me this is the most fun thing to do, to build or make something that will keep the bear busy for a while. It is not as easy as it seems, there is a lot of things you have to keep in mind when doing this.  First of all it has to be safe for the bears to play with and then you have to adjust the enrichment to the bear that you are going to give it to and I can tell you that it is a lot of different personalities in those bear houses.  The last week we got to be a part of BSBCC´s educating program, I was able to talk to visitors and spread the word about the sun bears situation and what they do at the centre. Educating the people is just as important as talking care of the bears in the bearhouse and it felt really good and surprisingly I met a whole group of Swedish people!

My time at the centre has been amazing, it has been a roller coaster journey for me as a person but it has opened my eyes and given me perspective that has enriched me as a person! I have would not have changed it for anything and if someone is given the opportunity that I was given, take it, you will not regret it!

I want to thank my school, every staff member of the centre and the sun bears for this amazing journey!
A big Swedish brown bear hug from me!
?
// The pale, chubby and red faced volunteer 😉 <3

Doing bamboo feeders!

I the making of a table for the quarantine and also the result with a Thye lim on top!

Insects, huge insects!

Very sleepy sun bear!

Hungry sun bears!

Some of my new friends.

The weather that welcomed me back to Sweden…