Category Archives: Volunteers

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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

Volunteering in BSBCC – An experience of a lifetime

Text and Photos by Tammy Tan Kar Yee

My name is Tan Kar Yee, people call me Tammy. I was a volunteer in the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) for two short weeks, starting from May 10th, 2016 until May 23rd, 2016. I wasn’t a student of any wildlife biological or forestry studies, I majored in multimedia design in my studies. Everyone was wondering why did I applied for volunteering in BSBCC, actually, why not? The reason I participated in BSBCC volunteering was merely a simple “I love animals,”. I am locally from Sandakan, as I grew up I was taught of the importance of balance in nature, and the responsibilities we bear (no pun intended), so I applied and started my time as a volunteer.

What I learnt from my volunteer experience

  1. Sun bear poop is not as smelly as you think it is.

Sun bears have a rather healthy fibre-ish diet consuming fruits, veges, honey, earthworms, termites and et cetera. Sometimes their poop smells like rotten(actually digested) fruits, and sometimes its stronger depending on what they ate. I would say it’s actually better than someone’s acidic fart that made me ran for miles.

2. Sun bears are arboreal, they can stay on a tree for as long as they want.
Being arboreal, sun bears are really really great tree climbers. So if you see one in the wild, you’re not gonna be safe climbing a tree. They can stay on a tree sunbathing, taking a nap, digging for termites/ honey. Until they actually feel like coming down from the tree, to look for food, to do their “business”, or another tree to climb.

3. Sun bears are opportunistic omnivores.
Being opportunistic omnivores, it means they eat whenever and whatever they find. (That’s kinda like me) Some of the bears are obese because they would try to eat everything they find. It is in their natural instinct to store fat in case they can’t find any food for a some time.

4. They are uncontrollably adorable animals, but they are not your pets.Sun bear cubs are so small you would mistake it as a puppy, but they are not meant to be pets for human beings. They are shy bears, but they are not afraid to attack when threatened. Just like your pet dog at home, sun bear cubs needs the protection of their mother, to teach them climb trees, find food and survive.

For now I’ve been talking about sun bears, but there are still a lot that does not know about sun bears at all. That is why they are also called the least-known bears, the forgotten bears. As much as i want to tell you more about sun bears, I find it much more memorable and easier to learn about them if you visit them in BSBCC.

When I joined the volunteer programme i was ready for all the hard work, but the process was too fun and inspiring I hardly felt any fatigueness (after the first 2 days, due to my lack-of-exercise body). I get a group of amazing people guiding me throughout the two weeks, teaching me what they know.

I get to wash and clean bear pens, help prepare food, help with feeding, and make enrichments for the bears. David, Mizuno, Roger, Thye Lim, Lin May, Lester, Azzry, Yen Wah has been great companions throughout my two weeks in the bear house.

They taught me more than I could ask, i am very grateful of that. (And those who helped me washing trays, you’re the best XD ) Through highs and lows (slopes), water supply and electricity supply dying, occasional visits by orangutans and macaques adds on to the awesomeness of this experience.

Other than being in the bear house, I also helped BSBCC designed a few banners for the 2nd observation platform and aerial walkway launch. I am very glad that I was able to put my design skills to use, and it was great to hear compliments on my designs.

My experience with BSBCC has been life fulfilling and really enjoyable with all the great people. I would like to thank Mr. Wong Siew Te for starting BSBCC, which had made such big difference to these lovely bears that are vulnerable. Thanks to all the lovely staffs in the bear house and also office + platform. I have learn so much from each and everyone of you, thank you for being a part of this wonderful organisation, spreading the love for sun bears.

There are so much to tell, and I can go on for days, but I will let you experience this yourself. Actions taken and efforts made by all these wonderful people will make a difference for these sun bears, I enjoy this so much I will probably be back again! Wildlife and sun bears conservation needs all the help it can get, not only people related to the field, you can make a difference too. 14 short days of volunteering, friends for a lifetime, a life fulfilling journey.

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



Fortnight in the Forest

Text & Photos by Nicola Chin

My two weeks at the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre could be described in many ways: hard work, eventful, fun, enriching, etc. Ultimately, it was a wholesome experience I have absolutely no regrets about, and I’d like to tell you about what I did there, and why it was worth it.
Full days of work were the norm, with a large range of tasks that went towards maintaining the facilities both indoors and outdoors (cleaning and fence checks), keeping the bears well-fed and occupied (food preparation, feeding and enrichment, more on that later), as well as other projects that would go towards improving the lives of everyone at the centre. Tiring as they were, me and the other volunteers could go away each day knowing that our work there made a difference.

Among my favourite tasks as a volunteer was enrichment, which involves fashioning objects for the sun bears to interact with, be it a bamboo shoot filled with tasty fruit, or a bed of dried leaves to forage through. Enrichment gives the bears things to do, and teaches them to use their senses and bodies like they would in the wild, which was always fun to watch! My other favourite project was getting to decorate the bear house walls, upon the request of Lin May, one of the bear care staff. As someone who loves art, it was wonderful to be given the opportunity to contribute to the centre with my drawing skills. I painted a series of bears engaged in different enrichment activities, and sketched some more bears in the kitchen; these were then painted by Lester, another one of the BSBCC staff.

Making Bamboo Fence

Education was another important part of the programme. I learned loads about the sun bears, their troubles at the hands of poachers, and their role in the Malaysian forests, and through an educational booth set up in the centre, us volunteers were able to impart our knowledge to the visitors there. This was difficult, because many of the visitors were simply not interested, but it was rewarding whenever someone adopted a bear, or even just went away knowing one more fact about sun bears.

The bears themselves were an interesting bunch! A handful to take care of, they were a delight nevertheless, and the bears’ individual personalities revealed themselves with time and observation. I found that it was best when I appreciated the bears as animals with wild instincts, for both their benefit and mine. But it’s admittedly hard not to call them cute when you see one lying on its back, licking the piece of peanut butter filled fire hose it has cradled in its paws!
The BSBCC team members were helpful, friendly and dedicated; it was clear that they took their respective roles as sun bear carers seriously, as shown by their attention to detail, and how they made sure that us volunteers knew what we were doing every step of the way. Our programme facilitators from APE (Animal Projects and Environmental Education) were very much the same, and I appreciate the effort they put into taking care of me, and ensuring the programme was well organised.

I joined the volunteer programme as a gap year student looking for a project, and came away glad that as a local Malaysian, I was able to play a part in the BSBCC’s mission. The efforts of the team come from noble hearts, and I would highly encourage other Malaysians to try out this volunteer programme for themselves!

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…

Memorable 5 weeks at the BSBCC

Text and Photos by Emelie Siippainen

My name is Emelie and I am a student from Stockholm, Sweden. I study animals so that I can become an animal keeper one day. My school gave me the opportunity to travel to Borneo and volunteer at the BSBCC and off course I took that chance! Ever since I was a little kid I loved animals, actually the first job I ever wanted was being a farmer because I wanted to milk all the cows. That dream soon developed into a life of loving animals and being an environmentally conscience person.

The first day at the sun bear center I was super nervous but very excited. But after meeting the BSBCC team I felt much better and quickly realized I was finally there, for the amazing bears. I got used to the daily routine quickly and started to learn the names of all the bears. During the first days the work was a bit challenging and very physical, but after a couple of days things got easier and easier. I got to do everything from cleaning the indoor enclosures to giving the bears porridge, fruit and corn, like a real bear keeper.  In the afternoons we were working on enrichment projects. I loved the enrichment project time, I found it fun to come up with ideas and use my imagination to challenge the bears. After giving the bears the enrichment, I could have stayed and watch them for hours! It was so much fun being a volunteer in Borneo!

Also the climate was a huge change for me; Borneo is hot and very humid, whereas in Sweden it is cold and grey. And the food is so different. But just to be able to come to a country, live there and be a part of different culture is amazing! Everyone is so friendly and happy all the time, there is never a dull moment. I absolutely want to come back and met everybody again, and especially the bears. The work that is being done at the BSBCC is not easy and it is not cheap, the entire team has to deal with pessimists that are questioning them and the work that they are doing all the time. But their purpose is to preserve the sun bear and to educate the public about them.

Charlie, Me, Filippa and Julia preparing some enrichment.


Charlie, Me (Emelie) and Koo with our bamboo enrichment.


I spent 5 weeks in Borneo at the BSBCC working with these amazing animals. I have learned so much, not just about the sun bears but also about conservation work and what I can do to make a difference. It is a once in a lifetime life changing experience. I have met so many wonderful people and I had a blast working with the staff at BSBCC.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank BSBCC for having me as a volunteer and the staff that helped so much during my period of volunteering. I hope that Centre will create greater awareness and educate the public about the sun bear.


Filippa, Harith, Charlie and Me out for a ride to collect dry leaves for the bears.

Time to make a difference

Text and Photos by Shannon Samuel

I am a Zoology student from Western Sydney University in Sydney Australia, ever since I was a kid I have wanted to make a difference to the life of everyone, my love has always been the love of animals, a good friend of mine reminded me when I got down that I was the ‘voice for the voiceless’, animals have no voice when their home or family is getting destroyed they can’t yell and scream and say stop. If they can’t who can, my aim is to make the lives of many magnificent animals better in particular the lives of these beautiful sun bears happier.
Previously I had volunteered in Borneo at the Sepilok Orang-utan centre however after visiting the BSBCC multiple times I was adamant to come back and volunteer with the Bears. I spent two weeks in Borneo at the BSBCC working with these amazing creatures.

The duties and activities ranged from pouring porridge to cleaning the enclosures to doing education, and enrichment. There were many exciting and wonderful adventures to be had. I loved the enrichment time after lunch in the afternoon, I found it fun to think up ideas to challenge the bears. I loved that it challenged me to think of enrichment that would take the bears a while to destroy. I loved the hands on creating that it involved. It was so much fun to give the bears the enrichment after giving them their dinner, I could have stayed and watched them for hours.

I had the wonderful experience to involved during the second week of the program in some conservation education, this is what I love, I hope that one day I can be doing conservation education and research as a career, these are the things that I have trained for my whole life. It would excite me to able to talk to the visitors of the BSBCC and encourage them to make donations or sponsorships as well as shed some light into the conservation of the Bornean Sun Bear, it was a wonderful experience to be able to complete in a place I love so much.

?I loved the two weeks that I spent volunteering in the BSBCC so much, it is a life changing and a once in a life time experience, to have the insight into the world of bears is something astonishing. I have made so many new and grand friends on this experience and it is one of the many reasons why I want to come back many times in the future.

Bearing Witness to Life Behind the Scenes

Text and Photos by Lam Jia Ern

Coming from the small town of Sandakan itself, the well-known Nature’s City, I never learned to appreciate the beauty of it when I was younger. I was never an outdoors-y type of girl back then. I used to always hide in the shade, complain about the heat & bugs and never one to get down and dirty. Ever since I left out of the country to pursue my dream in becoming a veterinarian, I slowly began to miss the serenity and tranquillity of being surrounded by Mother Nature and all of its breath-taking scenes. Volunteering at BSBCC gave me the opportunity I needed to reconnect to my roots and truly appreciate what Mother Nature has to offer.

First day on the job, and I was introduced to everyone, with Lester being one of the very first, showing me the ropes. Being the awkwardly shy person that I am, I rarely talk to new acquaintances, making it hard for me to “fit it” and come out of my shell, but the bear house staffs instantly made me feel welcomed and kept pestering me to talk, allowing me to feel as though I was part of their little family. There was never a dull moment whenever I was with them. My 2 weeks there, filled with jokes and laughs, flew by in a blink of an eye. As they say, time flies when you’re having fun, and I most certainly did.

With the one and only Lester

In the short amount of time that I was there, I was full of admiration for the keepers’ dedication towards the bears. Regardless of the time of day or location, they will do whatever in their power to rescue or help a bear in need. Their awe-inspiring devotion became something that I aspire to be like when I enter the workforce.

Pre-lunchtime we-fie with Lin May, Thye Lim, Lester, Koo, Mizuno, Azzry and me

Before getting the experience of working with wild animals, the consequences of keeping them as pets never came to mind, but after being able to witness the heart-wrenching impact it has on the animals, I stand firmly against it. It not only affects them physically, but also psychologically, with many of them showing abnormal/stereotypic behaviours. Keepers try to keep the bears busy by providing them with various enrichments, ranging from stuffing short rubber hoses with peanut butter and dog biscuits to filling up gunnysacks with goodies like a piñata, but it all depends on whether the bears are willing to spend their time on it.

After we collected tree trunks for the cubs (Charlie, Julia, Harith, Koo, Tommy, Ronny, Mizuno, Roger, David and me)

To get the full gist of the behind-the-scenes work it takes to care and rehabilitate a wild animal, you would have to volunteer. You’d never get to witness the amount of blood, sweat and tears, put into the process of rehabilitation to the point where they would be suitable to be released into the wild, by just being a tourist. Volunteering at BSBCC truly made me understand a lot more about sunbears and the work it takes to revive their “inner bear-liness” after living as pets for so long.

Preparing the cages for the arrival of the new bears

I left with 2 weeks of incomparable experiences, unforgettable memories and people of which I am proud to say that I have worked with and to call my friends. During my time there, I managed to catch glimpses of the magical little moments that made all the time, energy and effort worthwhile. If given the chance again, I will jump at the opportunity in a heartbeat. So, thank you to everyone for accepting me into the program and making my time there an experience of a lifetime.

Meet Vicki, a bespectacled bear with surprisingly fair arms and face, and likes painting.

Memorable 14 Days

Text and Photos by Shirley Soh

I’m very blessed to have the opportunity to complete my internship for 14 days at BSBCC, although it is just a short period of time, but every moment that I spent here at BSBCC is so memorable. The cute and cuddly Sun Bear, the green and enchanting forest and not to forget all the kind and friendly staff have make my stay here in BSBCC unforgettable. I’m a 3rd year vet student and the reason that I chose BSBCC as the place for my internship is first, because I have always been having interest in wildlife especially in conservation programs and second, because it is closed to my hometown.

Naziah (left) and me (right) waiting for transport on our first day of work

From the first moment that I saw the Sun Bear I could totally understand why people would catch them and keep them as their pets, their cute and cuddly features make them looked so adorable. Illegal pet trade are the main threats to the Sun Bear population besides habitat loss and illegal poaching.

Feeding time

During my period of internship here at BSBCC our daily activities include fence checking, cleaning, preparation of feed, feeding, and making enrichment for the bears. To be honest, for the first few days the task is quite challenging and tough especially for a small girl like me, but looking at the bright sight I get to have a free workout session every day and as I get used to the daily routine, things became easier and easier. Not to forget all the friendly and funny staff here that help to make my days brighter, for every day is filled with joy and laughter.

Sawing bamboo for the enrichment

This is my first time using the drill

Preparing ice block for the bears

Selfie time!! With the lovely and wonderful staffs

Although I have not learn a lot about the conservation work, but just by being closed to these wonderful creatures are more than enough for me. And yes, 14 days is just too short for an internship/ volunteering period. Lastly, I would like to take this opportunity to thank BSBCC for accepting me here for my internship as well as to all the staff that help me out a lot during my period of internship. I hope that the establishment of this place would create greater awareness and to educate the public about our Bornean Sun Bear.