Tag Archives: Jocelyn Stokes

Three Amigos

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Photos and text by Jocelyn Stokes 

Over here at the centre the bear crew can’t help but take a keen liking to a trio of young sun bears who may have actually been acrobats in a past life.  While one is hanging upside down from the ceiling with its head arched back and legs flailing in the air, another will be swinging though the air in a tire, whilst the other is usually balancing stealthily in the corner, arms straight up, or perhaps tearing open a coconut.  They’re a regular riot to observe with their overflowing abundance of character and youthful antics!  Deemed the ‘three amigos’ by a troupe of loyal volunteers from New Zealand,  these three bears,  Jolita, Lawa and Cerah, truly delight in each other’s company. “The reason they get along so well,” explains Wai Pak, the onsite Educational Officer, “is because they are so young.  At their age they need playmates.  They all happen to be the same age, as well, and they have grown up in captivity, so they are particularly fond of each other!”

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  It’s a truly enjoyable sight to behold when a group of young wild, animals with a rather unfortunate past can be helped to live in such contentment.  And, why not?  These bears are blessed with more love and attention than most creatures could dream of having.  Although their living space in not quite adequate yet, these bears are still receiving the utmost care.  Through the hard work and dedication of the small BSBCC staff, along with the fresh, motivated energy of the volunteer groups, these bears receive healthy nourishment, instinctual stimulation, and well-cared for environments.  All the bears have to worry about is how they’ll break open their next coconut and even that doesn’t seem to challenge them for too long.

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1 – Labors of Love – our friendly bear caretaker, David, is bringing sugar cane, fruit and other yummy treats for the bears.

 

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2 – Wai Pak is happily raking dry leaves to put into the bear cages, which helps to create a more natural surface for them to walk on.

 

 

“I am in Borneo!”

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By Jocelyn Stokes  

As my plane landed on that grassy runway, I looked out the windows to see banana trees surrounding rustic village huts and noted quite emphatically to myself,

 “I am in Borneo!”

Wai pak and Billy met me just outside the Sandakan airport gates with warm, friendly smiles and swooped me off to the local market and clinic for a brief health check. The visit to the clinic is quite mandatory, I have discovered, when working in such close proximity to the protected wildlife. Wai Pak is the most qualified member of the SSBCC staff that is currently residing in Sabah. He has a great knowledge of the centre and an admirable fatherly relationship to the bears. Billy is the architect’s assistant who is also deeply interested in the welfare of the bears, along with the design and construction of the new bear centre.  I have taken the role of not only the onsite conservationist photojournalist, but also the very first official BSBCC volunteer.   It’s a very exciting time for the BSBCC.  Phase 1 of construction for the new centre is in full swing. I feel privileged to be here to witness the great changes that are occurring.

The new centre will provide the ex-captive and orphaned sun bears a more natural environment, in a secure section of the forest reserve, so that they can be safe and outdoors! It’s terribly sad to see these amazing, beautiful wild creatures living behind bars.  Although it is better for them to be safe here in these cages, than in life-threatening situations elsewhere, it is not suitable for them to be so confined.

Since Siew Te Wong founded BSBCC and took over the care of the confiscated sun bears from Sabah Wildlife Department’s Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in 2007, there have been vast improvements in the current bear facilities.  The bears have much better living conditions than before, yet the new centre will be optimal. The new centre, when fully built, will be able to accommodate 43 bears (31more than currently). Thus, there will be space for more confiscated bears that may need to be rescued and rehabilitated. Sadly, with the progression of various threats against the safety of the wild sun bears, including habitat loss, pet trade and poaching, there will most likely be many more bears that are in need of rescue.

The BSBCC, with the help of LEAP, has raised enough money to fund the first phase of the building construction; however, to complete the proposed plan quite a bit more funding will be necessary. I am hoping that through my photography I will be able to raise more funding for the construction of the new centre.  Unfortunately, the costs of maintaining the facility and sustaining the bears will also increase will the new centre because the small government funding they are currently receiving will cease to exist.  This is an even greater incentive to ‘get the ball rolling’ on raising money for the magnificent sun bears and their new home!

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Wong’s notes: Jocelyn is a photographer and writter. You can learn more about her and her work at http://www.jocelynstokes.com/. We are very thankful that Jocelyn could come to help us at BSBCC to do what she do best: photograph and write about our bears, centre, and the forests.

Thank you Jocelyn!