????, 17 March 2014
????, 17 March 2014
Text and photo by Tee Thye Lim
“Is the Koala a bear species?”
Asked our Project Manager, Wai Pak to the primary school students of SK. St. Gabriel who visited our centre on the 23 Oct 2012.
“Yes, because it looks like a bear!”
A little girl raised up her hand and answered.
“No! Koala is not a bear!”
A little boy refuted from the opposite side. The argument continued for about 3 minutes until Wai Pak announced the answer.
“No, Koala is not a bear species, it is a type of the Marsupial, same family with the kangaroos” said Wai Pak.
Most of the kids have an idea of a sun bear. They’ve seen it on TV programmes, perhaps on the internet, however not in a natural environment.
Some of them also mentioned about the local TV programme, TV3 which aired a documentary about BSBCC last week end: <Sunshine in Sepilok: Tales of the Bornean Sun Bears>
Later, knowing that they were about to see real, life Bornean sun bears, the smallest among the smallest of the bears in the world, the kids couldn’t wait.
The SK St. Gabriel students at first did not see the Sun Bears roaming at the visible spot.
Fortunately, they were able to join the second group of visitors on that day which was the students of the American International School of Hong Kong, guided by the Animal Projects & Environmental Education (APE) Malaysia team.
This time everyone was able to spot the sun bears. More excitingly, sun bears climbing the trees!
At the end of the visit, SK. St. Gabriel presented a drawing to BSBCC. It was inspiring! Thank you so much!
Also, many thanks to APE Malaysia team for your donations! Not forgetting the hessian sacks you brought us. The bears will definitely love rubbing themselves on them!
Lastly and most importantly, thank you for sparing time and efforts to visit our Centre. It was such a great opportunity for us to share the needs of this small small bear species!
We hope to see you again!
Text by Gloria Ganang and photos by Tee Thye Lim
On the beautiful sunny morning of the 14th August 2012, the BSBCC team started the day with a preparation for a remarkable visit of the British High Commissioner to Malaysia, HE Simon Featherstone and his family. Also present during the visit was the Council’s guests, Shire President of Boyup Mr. Michael Giles and his family, the Australian Defence Adviser and Deputy Defence Adviser as well as the new Deputy Director, Office of Australian War Graves, Canberra. Their visit to Sepilok was their first time. The BSBCC team are so honored to welcome them!
They arrived at 2pm, just in time for the bears’ 3rd feeding of the day in the forest enclosure. They were welcomed by the Officer in Charge of the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre (SOURC), Madam Sylvia Alsisto, together with the BSBCC team and a group of international volunteers.
Their visit to the BSBCC was led by our Project Manager, Wai Pak and also assisted by other BSBCC staff. Everyone had a close view of the sun bears foraging and socializing in the forest enclosure. The staff described about the urgent needs of sun bear conservation and talked about the unfortunate background of each of the sun bears they saw in the enclosure.
After the visit to the BSBCC, the VIP visitors proceeded their visit at the SOURC which they were welcomed by a group of orang utan hanging on bamboo stems at the SOURC entrance. This is followed by a tea session with the staff. The visit ended with a presentation of souvenir to the HE Mr. Simon Featherstone. Warm wishes from the BSBCC staff! We hope you enjoyed your visit at our centre!
Text by Gloria Ganang and photo by Dawn Tukalan & Thye Lim
The day at BSBCC on the 4th of July started with a big preparation for the Environmental Education Race (EERace) activity at the centre. The EERace is an environmental education programme held annually in the heart of Borneo districts of Sabah. It is organized by the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) under the Sabah Forestry Department, together with many government and private organizations. The aim of the race is to enhance and deepen teacher’s knowledge and experiences on the environment.
A team of 4 participants and 3 facilitators reached the centre at 9.30 am with no idea of what was planned for them. The first activity was the “Bear Acting” activity where the participants was placed in cages as displayed animals. The BSBCC staff and facilitators acted as visitors. They were camera flashes and food thrown from outside the cages. The participants were also ignored for a few minutes, when everyone stepped away from the cages. The purpose of this activity is to allow the participants to experience what it feels like to be badly treated by people who visits displayed animals. Later, the participants shared their experience to everyone. They felt awful and threatened of the “visitor’s” way of treating them. This unique experience encourages participants to understand the importance of prioritizing animal feelings and welfare.
The next activity was preparing “toys” or enrichment for the bears. The participants were given various materials such as cardboard, ginger leaves, ropes, honey, peanut butter and many kinds of spices. They were encouraged to use their creativity to construct “toys” for the bears. They produced great enrichment and the bears loved it!
The participants took a brief 30 minutes break before they continued with the tour around the centre. This focuses more on sun bear ecology and the aims of BSBCC as a conservation and rehabilitation centre for sun bears in Sabah. Since the sun bear is known as the “least known” species among the bears in the world, describing the sun bear facts to the participants are fresh and fascinating. The activity ended with participants detecting sun bear claw marks on the trees along the boardwalk. We hope the participants enjoyed their half day activities at BSBCC. Looking forward for more exciting activities on next year’s EERace!
Text by Anna Wade
Photo: Siew Te Wong
Here at the centre, enrichment is a key focus and it is important that all of the staff and volunteers have a complete understanding of what providing enrichment entails. Over a 3 day period, BSBCC project manager’s Wai Pak dedicated his time to helping the team to understand the importance of enrichment for all captive animals as well as the importance of meeting the animals daily needs. In attendance were the 3 office staff, Gloria, Thye Lim and Dawn, 2 of the keepers, Daniel and Beyri, the 3 current bear volunteers, Anna, Miriam and Leanne and the volunteers on the travellers program… so it was quite a full room!
Wai Pak broke the talks into 3 categories; the 1st talk was on animal welfare, the 2nd was on enrichment and the 3rd was on types of enrichment, and also gave examples of when enrichment can go wrong. Everyone was encouraged to engage in the talk by asking questions and there was some very good points raised, especially in regards to what is best for our bears at the centre. Overall the response from everyone involved was very positive. As many of the enrichment ideas have already proven to be successful with the bears, it encouraged us to think more outside the box. Hopefully everyone will take what they learnt away with them and use it to positively improve the lives of the bears and any captive animals they encounter in the future. Thanks Wai Pak!!
Debbie the female sun bear cub was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on January 6th and sent to us on the following day. Today (Feb 16,) we did the first health check for Debbie since she was sent here about a month ago. The check up is a routine check up for all new bears house in BSBCC to inspect abnormality, potential diseases, and body condition. Debbie was sedated by the Veterinarian from Sabah Wildlife Department and Orangutan Appeal UK Dr. Nigel Hicks and senior ranger Mr. Elis Tambing. All of the handling process went well. We also took body measurements, where she tipped the scale at 13 kg, hair samples, and blood sample. Everything looks pretty good for her. Although we did not weigh her when she first came here, I am sure that she has again few kilograms over the past 5 weeks and deposited some fat on her as well as we found out during the check up. Once the blood test results came back and clear for any diseases, she will join the party of Mary and Fulung to form the sun bear cub gang. For the youngster, there are no better enrichment than the companionship of other cubs when they are in captivity. Together they can interact with each other, play fight with each other, support with each other, and snuggle with each other!
Grow well Debbie! We are glad that you are in our care.
Text by Siew Te Wong; Photo by Pia Sundstrom
Text and Photos by Siew Te Wong
Few weeks ago a group of 40 students and teachers from Karamunting Primary School (Sekolah Kebangsaan Karamunting), Sandakan, visited Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre and the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. Wearing the typical white and dark blue school uniforms, the students have a great time visiting the two conservation centres and learned about sun bears and orangutans.
Our project manager Wai Pak gave them an induction about ecology and conservation of the sun bear at the pavilion.
The group then break up into two subgroups so that they were more easy to manage (:)).With a high curiosity and anticipation, the students marched to the bear house to meet the sun bears.
Wai Pak told them the organization and the background information of BSBCC.
I briefed the students on the ecology of sun bears and what them such a special and important animal in the forest ecosystem.
“Sun bear is not a pet! You cannot keep sun bear as pet!” Wai Pak told the students and shared the stories of our rescued sun bears. “Many sun bears that were kept as pets end up being locked up in small cages!”
One of the activities that we did that day was to “lock” few volunteer students in a tiny sun bear cage , pretending that they were pet sun bears. That particular cage was used by a private owner to keep his pet sun bear for years. We asked them, “How did it feel to be lock up in this tiny cage for 5 min?” “Imagine some sun bears were being caged in this tiny space for more than 10 years!” They all went silent..
This field trip for sure was very educational and informative to the students from Karamunting Primary School. They not only see some real sun bears for the first time in their life but also learn a lot about their plights and the conservation issues. We hope we could raise sufficient fund soon so that we could build the visitor centre and bring these students to experience a better learning environment.
Text by Amy Scott
Photos by: Ng Yen Fern, Marieanne Leong, Amy Scott and Ng Wai Pak.
I have just returned to Australia after spending almost 2 months volunteering at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sepilok, Sabah on the island of Borneo. I arrived at Sandakan airport on July 6th and was met by a smiling Wai Pak the BSBCC project manager and Marieanne and Fern two Sabahan volunteers whom I was to enjoy several weeks living and working with. We then did a few necessary bear centre errands, banking, shopping, a trip to the post office etc before heading back to the centre in Sepilok about 20km away where I met other volunteers, Venda and Roshan, and hard-working bear keepers David and Daniel. It was also my first meeting of the sun bears. I guess the first thing I noticed, that I wasn’t expecting, was how agile the bears were, like monkeys – climbing all over the cages and on the tyre swings and branches including upside down. It was very entertaining to watch! This was just my first day and I didn’t know then what a great experience was ahead of me.
We all stayed at the volunteer house with Wai Pak about 5 km from the bear center in a lovely rural setting. The house is a large old double story timber house with 3 bedrooms and living room/office upstairs, and downstairs the kitchen, eating area and bathroom. I came to love the house, particularly its open air style and surroundings of banana and palm plantations and an orchard of limes. I enjoyed watching the geckos in my room moving about and catching insects, and the front balcony was a great vantage point for watching amazing electrical storms and also squirrels and birds darting about in the palms next door. We had as many limes as we liked for making ‘lime cordial’ and also chilies for cooking and we enjoyed many of Wai Pak’s great creations in the kitchen (and while we’re on the topic of good food, BSBCC CEO Wong certainly makes a superb dumpling amongst other dishes! J).
So what does a ‘typical’ working day at the Bear Centre involve? Of course a typical day is not always typical but usually Wong would pick us all up at the house at about 8.00am and after a quick breakfast at the Sepilok cafe, of normally Mee Telur (noodles and a fried egg) and a Kopi Nai (coffee with condensed milk) we would start work at the ‘new’ bear house about 8:30. After greeting David and Daniel and a bit of pre-work ‘cheeky banter’ it was time to change into our rubber boots (gum boots if you’re an Aussie) and start the first task of the day washing the 22 trays from the bear’s early morning rice porridge breakfast. These are disinfected, scrubbed, rinsed and stacked for drying.
Next the fun commences! – The cleaning of all enclosures in the main bear house: Sweeping up piles of bear poo and old and wet leaves and grass, scrubbing and hosing floors and walls squeegeeing the floors dry and scrubbing of water troughs. New foliage, vines, and branches are then collected from outside for distribution around each newly cleaned enclosure.
The next task for the day is cutting fruit for the morning fruit feeding. A combination of fruits and vegetables (but majority fruits) are given twice a day to the bears and can include apples, oranges, snake fruit, corn, bananas, papaya, corn, cabbage, beans and water melon.
The morning fruit feeding is at about 11:00 and the afternoon feeding about 2:00. Fruit is scattered and spread around enclosures to promote more natural foraging behavior. After the morning feeding, fruit is chopped for the afternoon feeding and put into large bowls in the fridge over lunch. Rice, for the afternoon rice porridge meal, is also put onto cook in two large pots. Then it’s washing of bowls, knives and chopping boards and a general tidy up of work area before lunch.
After lunch the rice is served out into individual trays for each bear to cool down prior to feeding at 4pm. Sweet potato or raw egg are mixed with the rice on alternate days. The afternoon fruit is then fed along with cleaning and collecting of foliage for the ‘old’ bear house. *The ‘old’ bear house is the original bear house (also includes quarantine for new bears) and the main or ‘new’ bear house where most bears now live was completed in 2010. Funding for an additional bear house is underway and when completed, bears from the ‘old bear house’ will be moved here.
Following cleaning of the old bear house time is often spent in the afternoon preparing enrichments for the bears and a large part of the volunteer role at the BSBCC involves undertaking tasks that provide environmental ‘enrichment’ for the sun bears while they are in their cages in the bear house.
Enrichment is the process of providing stimulation to an animal in an unnatural situation such as when in captivity that provides a more natural environment and promotes normal behaviors and activities. Enrichment also attempts to reduce repetitive or stereotypical behaviors that can be observed in animals that have been kept in small enclosures for extended periods with no stimulation. Many of the bears that arrive at the BSBCC have been in this situation.
In a wild situation sun bears will spend a lot of their time on the move, foraging for food, digging and climbing. They will interact with the natural environment experiencing different smells and sounds and come into contact with a variety of plant and animal species and different terrains. The BSBCC is the only sun bear center in the world that has natural rainforest habitat for the bears to roam, and seeing the bears digging, foraging and exploring their outdoor environment and just acting like wild sun bears was definitely one of the highlights for me at the center. However due to several reasons including current space limitations as the bear center expands and new bears keep on arriving, not all bears can be outside in the forest enclosures at the same time so providing enrichment to the bears while they are in their cages in the bear house is an important part of the BSBCC program. The main aim of the enrichment process is to provide as many elements as possible of bear’s natural habitat and then provide other sources of stimulation for the bear’s senses that provide extended periods of activity and interest. The longer the enrichment keeps the bears busy and interested the better!
There are various categories of ‘enrichment’ that can be provided and some of the ‘habitat’, ‘physical’ and/or ‘sensory’ enrichments prepared and provided to bears at the BSBCC include:
Food enrichments included:
Other than the husbandry work we also conducted a couple of small studies and some field work while at the BSBCC. The first involved an assessment of trees within forest enclosures to see which trees are preferred by sun bears for climbing, and which characteristics led to this tree preference, e.g. height, species, canopy cover etc., (see blog http://sunbears.wildlifedirect.org/2011/07/15/the-joy-of-working-in-the-forest-the-volunteers-diary/). The second was a small gut passage rate pilot study, which involved mixing seeds (dried beans) with the food of several bears and recording how long seeds took to pass through the gut of the bears. This information could contribute towards learning more about the role of sun bears as seed dispersers in the rain forest and it is hoped may lead to a larger student project in the future.
I also undertook some bear behavioral monitoring over a period of a week in August spending a few days in both the ‘new’ and ‘old’ bear house that involved recording what activity each bear was performing every 5 minutes from various categories of ‘natural’ and ‘stereotypical’ behavior. It is a good technique to determine the rate of natural compared with stereotypical or non-natural repetitive behaviors that bears are performing and help with identifying which bears need more enrichment and how bears are improving over time that they are at the center. I found this to be a very interesting little project learning a lot more about sun bears and their behavior.
The Bornean Eco-Film Festival was on in Sandakan in July. It showcased a number of environmental documentaries many filmed in Sabah and highlighting local environmental issues. It included the Bear Trek film Promo showing the work of bear researchers from around the world and featured Wong undertaking his research on sun bears in Danum Valley which was fantastic to see. Wong also did a presentation on the BSBCC and issues facing the sun bears that was very well received by the audience and hopefully will lead to wider awareness of the plight of the sun bears.
I very much enjoyed my time at the BSBCC and in Sabah and met some great people and gorgeous sun bears which really are the most remarkable animals! At the same time I learnt a lot about sun bears and the threats they are facing now into the future and why they need our help so much. It was a great experience for me and I highly recommend it to anyone! Thanks Wong, Wai Pak, Daniel and David and all the volunteers I worked with for looking after me so well and to the sun bears for making it such a wonderful experience!
Original posted at http://sandakantours.blogspot.com/2011/08/blog-post_09.html
Text: Jasmine Soon Yean
Last week Wai Pak and I attended the Asia for Animal 2011 Conference in Chengdu, China. Representing Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, we are the only participants from Sabah, and one of the few animal welfare, care, and rescue organizations from Malaysia to attend the biggest event and gathering of the year for animal lovers all over Asian countries. The conference was hosted by Jill Robinson and her team at Animal Asia Foundation. During the conference, I am honored to deliver a talk during the “Compassionate Conservation” session and my talk entitled “The holistic approaches of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre to conserve sun bears in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo.” I am grateful to the organizer of the conference to provide the travel expenses for me to share our experiences working with sun bears with the audience.
The abstract of the talk is as following:
The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) is being developed in Sabah Malaysian Borneo as rescue, rehabilitation, education, and research centre for the sun bear. In Sabah, these bears continue to be threatened by forest degradation and habitat loss, illegal hunting for bear parts and to protect crops, and poaching to obtain young cubs for the pet trade. As a result of these threats, many young sun bears are living in unnatural and solitary captive conditions throughout Sabah, with no access to outdoor areas. The goal of the new BSBCC is to promote Malayan sun bear conservation by (1) creating the capacity to confiscate, rehabilitate and release suitable orphaned and ex-captive bears back into the wild; (2) providing an improved long-term living environment for captive bears welfare that cannot be released; and (3) educating the public and raising awareness about this little known species through visitor and education outreach programs, and (4) conduct research on both captives and wild sun bears. The BSBCC was established as a non-profit organization in Sabah in 2008. It is a joint project among sun bear researcher Siew Te Wong, Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD). Funding for the project is acquired through various grants from funding agencies, individual donations, government supports, and special events. Bear Action Teams (BATs) volunteering program provide the opportunity for locals and international volunteer groups to get involve on husbandry and construction of the facilities. We develop BSBCC from a holistic approach involving multiple levels of people that work toward compassionate conservation where animal welfare, education, research and conservation the species all meet on the same ground. This approach is particular important to conserve threaten species like the sun bears so that maximum conservation outputs can be achieved without wasting the already limited conservation resources in this region.
Beside attending the conference and meeting and networking with everyone. We also visited the AAF’s Chengdu Moon Bear Rescue Centre. It was truly an eye-opening experience for us to see and to learn the day-to-day operations and husbandry of the centre which currently is home to more than 160 moon bears and few brown bears. We are grateful to the centre for letting Wai Pak stay for few more days after the conference to learn more about the day-to-day husbandry and veterinary care of these rescued moon bears. All of the knowledge is crucial to help BSBCC do a better job on caring and managing our rescued sun bears.
Finally I also visited the Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu to see the third species of bears beside the moon and the brown bears – the black and white bear- Giant Panda! They, of course, is the complete opposite of the little known sun bear because giant panda is THE super star, super celebrity, super worship, super popular and by far THE most well known bear species in the world!