Tag Archives: Volunteer

An Eventful Stay with Alpha 4!

From the Raleigh Blog:



An Eventful Stay with Alpha 4!

Training is over and expedition life has well and truly begun! The Alpha groups all made it safely to their project sites.

I (Kate) had the pleasure of joining Alpha 4 for their first four days in Sepilok, and am happy to report that they have all settled in well, and are getting down to a lot of hard work in the Bornean Sunbear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). Here is how they are getting on so far:
After a six hour bus journey which included a stop for lunch at a local market and an on board movie(luxury!) Alpha 4 arrived in Sepilok at 1pm, the hottest part of the day. Jungle camp is not too remote compared to many other project sites, but when it’s 31 ?c and very humid, a fifteen minute walk carrying heavy kit seems like at least 10 miles! However, Alpha 4 teamed, and sweated together, and got their entire kit(which included food, tools and their own bags) to jungle camp in under an hour. With longs-o-clock approaching it was a race to get hammocks set up, the long drop dug, food organised plus showers! By 5.10pm camp has been set up and the team decided if they all had very quick, and precise 3 minute showers everyone could get washed before 6pm and spend the night feeling refreshed! The showers at Jungle Camp are of the bucket variety, i.e. one bucket, one scoop and slosh! At first the V’s were a little daunted by these showers, but over the next few days everyone was looking forward and professing their love for the bucket shower!
Sunday was spent improving Jungle Camp and making it feel like home, followed by a meeting with Ypak,the Head Keeper at BSBCC and Adam, who is an intern with Arkitrek, an architect company that will be assisting with the design and construction of the bear refuges. We all got a tour around the centre, and even got to see some Sun Bears on our very first day!

As well as Sun Bears, we also saw a group of Makaks, including some very cute baby ones. However, we were warned that they are very mischievous, travel in packs and will approach if you have any food with you. For this reason we were advised to stay together in a group, and if approached by any, call the rangers- we were no longer saying “awwww” at this point!

Work started straight away on Monday with everyone getting up at 5.30 in order to get breakfast, do a radio sitrep(situation report)and get to the BSBCC, a fourty minute walk away by 8am. The team were divided into two groups in the morning, one to reclaim wood and the other to start clearing a path in the jungle where another bear enclosure would be.

Within the firsthour, Alpha 4’s first leeching occurred, with Bernice getting one on her stomach! By day’s end she had definitely made a few firm friends, getting 4 leeches in total, with Nas following close behind with 3! The wood clearing group also had their fair share of creepy crawly surprises, coming across alot of ants, scorpions, centipedes, some stunning butterflies and a giant stick insect!

By 2pm, huge progress has been made, with a long stretch of the jungle path having been cleared by Jermae, Josh, Berniece, Lucy, Nas and Euan. It went from this:

To this:

After lunch it was time for a team effort. There were two very heavy bits of wood stuck in the wood piles that required a team effort to get out(the tug of war practice from Raleigh Olympics came in handy here):

After removing the heavy wood, everyone moved to the jungle area to help remove a log that was blocking the path. The path that had been cleared was very boggy so we needed to come up with a way to lift it rather than drag it. After a bit of trial and error with the rope, Alison came up with the successful idea of rolling the log onto a curled rope to let everyone get a hold of it. This worked a treat, and the log was removed in minutes to the pile of wood that would be used for the bear refuges.
The work continued on Tuesday, with everyone ending up in the Jungle, and much to Charlotte’s disgust, pretty much everyone experienced a leech or two!The day got quite exciting when the team spotted a snake, and then an orangutan, just metres from where they were working!
According to Nick, it was ‘the most eventful day of his life’, and this is why; the events just kept coming…
·a few celebrations for Euan’s 21st birthday;
·A mock casevac, in which I pretended to injure my leg to see how the team would react, and to ensure that if something happened to one of the PMs that they would be able to manage.
·One amazing curry with fried rice made by Nas and Josh
·A birthday cake, with chocolate AND jam, made by Charlotte and Harriet
·And to top it all of a tropical storm just as we were heading to bed!
A truly eventful four days with Alpha 4!
I’m off to Alpha 3 next, so will have the next update from there very soon!



A volunteer’s diary – 2 weeks in BSBCC (part 2)

 By Hiu Yeat Har

March 18, 2012

Cleaning the bear droppings is not a hard job at all. Most bear poops are not stinky because the bears at BSBCC eat vegetables and fruits. Due to this ‘herbivorous’ diet, the bear poops are mostly fibre or liquid based. Tao and I do not …have problem with poops though some may think they are smelly and disgusting. Anyway, all the bear dropping are given back to the nature as natural fertilizers as we usually toss them at the nearby forest floor. We also feed some of the bears here with ginger plants as food supplement or we sometimes use them as enrichment for the bear cubs. The bears like to eat the ginger plant leaves while the stalks are not their favorite. However, we can replant the stalks and they can grow again.


March 19, 2012

 Mamatai is one of the female bears in the new bear house. Becasue her house is close to the kitchen area, so we see her more often than any other bears. I always think she has a character; she looks more like a human than a bear. I saw h…er shook the grill bar door twice. I could sense her frustration. Sometimes she just leans against the door, looking at us, telling us something that we don’t really comprehend. I wish I knew bear words, I wish I could mind communicate with her and understand her thought and I wish most she could go back to the wild and lead a normal llife. And I wish most the world is still the same as it used to be, surrounded by green and filled with fresh crisp air.

March 20, 2012

It’s not fun to be in this small cage. Trust me, you don’t want to stay in there for long, not even for a minute especially under the sun. Imagine people put the sun bear in this cage for years. What do you think the cage will do to the sun bear?

March 20, 2012

Today is the last day for the traveler volunteers. It’s time to say goodbye again after nine days working together. Adieu!— with Rebecca Price, Daniel Majilir, Wendy Phillips and Cliph Harman.

March 20, 2012

I finally got the shot of the sun bear’s tongue. Sun bears have very a long tongue which allows them to get their food in deep holes. One of the bears called Bermuda in the new bear house always gets its porridge in a ball. And there is… a hole on the ball from where Bermuda sticks its tongue in and gets the porridge out with its tongue. It’s always fun to see him eating his porridge with his front feet holding the ball and his long tongue getting the porridge out from the ball. Well done Bermuda!

Hamilton vet workers to raise money for orphaned orangutans and sun bears

Repost from http://www.hamiltonadvertiser.co.uk/news/local-news/hamilton-news/2012/01/12/hamilton-vet-workers-to-raise-money-for-orphaned-orangutans-and-sun-bears-51525-30101704/

Hamilton vet workers to raise money for orphaned orangutans and sun bears

Jan 12 2012 by Gary Fanning, Hamilton Advertiser


A HAMILTON vet and a colleague are set to get on their bikes to coin it in for orphaned orangutans and sun bears.

Mum-of-three Julie Innes and veterinary nurse Joanna Boyle will cycle 56 miles from Edinburgh to Glasgow in orangutan and bear costumes to raise much-needed cash on Sunday, February 5.

The charity cycle is to raise money for Sepilok Rehabilitation centre in Malaysia, home to orphaned orangutans and sun bears.

Both women work at Julie Innes vets in Hamilton’s Cadzow Street and are taking up the challenge despite both not having previously ridden a bike since their teenage years.

Joanna (23) spent eight weeks working in Sepilok where the centre strives to protect the remaining wild populations of orangutans and sun bears through conservation and education.

The centre also rehabilitates the animals to that they can go back into the wild.

Julie is originally from Hamilton and opened her veterinary surgery in the town last May.

The 39-year-old has two daughters, Evie and Lily, pupils at St Mary’s Primary School in Hamilton and son Tom who is at nursery.

Joanna, of Muirend, Glasgow, said: “Hopefully through our challenge we will help a little with both funds for medical supplies and food and also raise awareness of these amazing creatures.”

When Joanna returned home, she felt compelled to help these animals and came up with the fun charity cycle idea to raise money for the centre.

Joanna added: “We are very grateful for the excellent response we have received from friends and clients at the surgery.”

Donations can be made through www.justgiving.com/joanna-julie or by popping into the surgery in Cadzow Street.


The joy of working in the forest- The volunteer’s diary

Text by Roshan Guharajan and Vennesa Venda

Photo by: Amy Scott, Marieanne Leong, Ng Yen Fern.

 The new volunteers at the BSBCC (Amy Scott, Vanessa Venda, Marieanne Leong, Ng Yen Fern and Roshan Guharajan)  have been tasked with surveying the trees in Forest Enclosure C. BSBCC Project Manager Ng Wai Pak needed this done to have an idea of which trees were being actively used by bears when they are let out into the forest.  We were definitely excited at the prospect of working on this new project. As a few of us were forestry and wildlife students, we hoped to gain some invaluable experience from this venture.

The canopy of the forest enclosure at BSBCC only have one word to describ: dense!

The canopy of the forest enclosure at BSBCC only have one word to describ: dense!

Wai Pak started out by briefing us on what exactly he wanted done. Sun bears leave distinctive claw marks on the bark of trees when they ascend and descend trees. We were taught how to identify these as well as measure tree girth and record canopy cover and ground vegetation. Each of us was given a specific task. Before we started the field work, one of us even suggested that the surveying would take a day at most. However, after the first two hours in the forest we had only managed to survey 20 trees (there were over 100!!). Although it was tiring, it was indeed a rewarding experience. Seeing all the claw marks on the various trees lifted our spirits as the bears in the forest enclosure were doing what sun bears do best: climb. These bears that were once living very sedentary lives in cramped conditions are now behaving like their wild brothers and sisters outside the forest pen. Besides the claw marks, we came across spots where the bears had been digging as well as a bedding site in a hollowed out tree trunk.

Our tusk is to record all the trees in the forest enclosure with sun bear claw marks.

Our tusk is to record all the trees in the forest enclosure with sun bear claw marks.

Amy is measuring the diameter of a tree with bear claw marks.

Amy is measuring the diameter of a tree with bear claw marks.

Being out in the forest proved to be a breath of fresh air after spending most of our time in the bear house. Besides the many leeches and biting ants, we were blessed enough to see rhinoceros hornbills and giant squirrels. One of the bear keepers, Daniel, also came out to the forest to assist us once in a while.  It was spectacular to be able to see nature on its own, and within three days of measuring and analyzing, we were finally done. And it was back to husbandry again… A well spent three days and we bet the bears missed us!

From left to right: Amy, me, Venessa, and  Marieanne have a discussion in the forest enclosure of BSBCC.

From left to right: Amy, me, Venessa, and Marieanne have a discussion in the forest enclosure of BSBCC.

After 3 days of hard work, the tusk was a finally done! Left to right: Roshan, Yen Fern, Marieanne, Venessa, and Danial.

After 3 days of hard work, the tusk was a finally done! Left to right: Roshan, Yen Fern, Marieanne, Venessa, and Danial.

A volunteer’s story at BSBCC

By Marianne Sim

It was a great privilege to work as a volunteer for the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) at Sepilok for four weeks (Feb/Mar 2011).  I was greeted on arrival at Sandakan airport by the forever smiling Wai Pak Ng, BSBCC Project Manager. 
My first day commenced with an induction by the Sun Bear keepers David and Daniel.  I was introduced to all 19 Sun Bears, safety procedures were explained and the keepers demonstrated how to perform the work required. I assisted David and Daniel by preparing food, cleaning pens and providing enrichment for the bears.  The keepers were a pleasure to work with and my enrichment ideas were welcomed.
As a volunteer you really get to know and recognise the bears individually.  They all have different pale orange-yellow markings on their chest and all have their own personality.  The youngest bear is around 6 months old and the oldest bear around 16 years old. 

I was very impressed with the design of the new bear house.  It has a lot of natural light, is well ventilated, easy to clean, and has a well designed feeding/watering system. The outdoor enclosure is a large primary forest area with many tall trees.  This allows the bears to exhibit natural bear behaviour e.g. climbing trees, digging, breaking apart rotten logs searching for insects.

The Sun Bear is a ‘vulnerable’ species and could become endangered unless the circumstances threatening its survival improve.  Sun Bears are threatened by habitat destruction, conflict with humans, poaching for bear body parts and bear bile used in Chinese medicine and the pet trade.  The Sun Bears natural habitat has been destroyed as the land is taken over by palm oil plantations.  Palm oil is found in a variety of products on our supermarket shelves including margarine, chocolate, biscuits and soap to name a few.  It is important that we all take responsibility for the products we put in our supermarket trolleys and we keep the pressure on governments, manufacturers and supermarkets to improve product labelling so we can make informed choices about the products we purchase. There are many medicinal alternatives to using bear body parts and bear bile in Chinese medicine.  Please use these alternatives and end the bears suffering.  Sun Bears make very bad pets.  Although they appear cute as babies they have long claws, sharp teeth and are very strong.  They soon grow up, become difficult to control and end up depressed in confined cages.  Their home is the forest and they should never be kept as pets for human entertainment.
I particularly enjoyed observing the bears in their forest enclosure and during their enrichment activities.  The youngest bear Natalie, approximately 6 months old, is a joy to observe (http://sunbears.wildlifedirect.org/2011/01/16/update-of-natalie/).  Natalie has endless energy, is constantly playing and exhibits natural bear instincts.  Natalie has the right qualities to be released back into the wild but in order to do this funds are required to start the rehabilitation process.  Staff are required to care and monitor her until she can confidently display all the skills needed to survive in the forest on her own.  With your donation (http://www.leapspiral.org/content/support_leap.php) or merchandise purchase (http://www.zazzle.co.uk/gifts?ch=theborneansunbear) the BSBCC will be one step closer to this happening.  Funds are also required to build a Sun Bear visitors centre at Sepilok.  This will be an important educational facility and gives visitors the opportunity to learn about this charismatic bear species. 
While working as a volunteer I observed first hand the hard work, long hours and dedication of Siew Te Wong (CEO and Founder of BSBCC) and Wai Pak (BSBCC Project Manager).  They are great ambassadors for the Sun Bear.  They are men of integrity and are extremely committed to helping the Sun Bear.  I am 100% confident that any donation you make will be wisely utilised and benefit the Sun Bears greatly.
Thank you Wong and Wai Pak for an unforgettable volunteer experience.  I feel extremely privileged to have worked with such dedicated people and remarkable animals.  I will miss the people and the bears but look forward to coming back and seeing how the bears have developed and progressed to their final destination, their true home, THE FOREST.

Marianne Sim

United Kingdom

Natalie the sun bear cub and Wai Pak (left) encountered Marianne (right) and Paul (middle) who were woring on the enrichment in our old bear house.

Natalie the sun bear cub and Wai Pak (left) encountered Marianne (right) and Paul (middle) who were woring on the enrichment in our old bear house.

Jelita the sun bear climbing a tree in the forest enclosure at BSBCC

Jelita the sun bear climbing a tree in the forest enclosure at BSBCC

Lawa the sun bear peeking through the undergrowth vegetation in BSBCC.

Lawa the sun bear peeking through the undergrowth vegetation in BSBCC.

A big week for Linggam & Natalie the sun bears


By Paul Clenton IMG_4774

Lingham is a very handsome, 6 year old male bear with a gentle and friendly personality. He was first brought to Sepilok as a cub (only 3.5kg) in August 2004 after being found at a logging camp at Kampung Pinangah. After a stay at Sepilok Linggam went to Lok Kawi Zoo. He was transferred back from Lok Kawi due to reported aggression problems (though that has never been observed here) and lack of space. Since coming here he is noticeably healthier though perhaps slightly underweight. Linggam is currently undergoing training and this week was finally able to go out into the forest enclosure.

I was watching him discretely while he took his first tentative steps out into the natural world. The transition to a wilderness environment is challenging for an adult bear which has grown up in a world of iron and concrete, but as I observed him it was obvious to see he was constantly thinking, calculating the safe distance to go from his doorway. Some might criticise him for not just running off outside and climbing a tree, but it is this caution he was demonstrating that keeps bears away from hazards in the wild. His approach did not surprise me; he seems the most pensive of bears, when I reflect upon howe he interacts with his enrichment items.

I look forward to observing him over the coming days and weeks to witness his discovery of the wonderful piece of rainforest habitat he now can call home. Watching a bear simply “be a bear” is an incredible thing to do.


Natalie has started to eat some more solid food. She gets 2 trays of rice a day, just like the other bears. The only difference is that her tray has only about 1/4 the typical serving. Awww, baby! She looks so adorable when she tucks in to her rice porridge with her little paws resting either side of the tray. She also gets several servings of milk, served like some posh coffee with chocolate flakes, only her warm drink comes with dog biscuits!

Raleigh International in Borneo an Interview with Wai Pak from the BSBCC

 Raleigh International in Borneo an Interview with Wai Pak from the BSBCC

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/fE1qdijgWNM" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Bearing up in Borneo

Paul Clenton, an educator, teacher and animal lover from UK has been a volunteer at BSBCC for few months by now. He has been putting a lot of effort to help us raise awareness for sun bear since last year (read http://sunbears.wildlifedirect.org/2010/05/06/sun-bears-in-taiwan/ ). I am really impressed with his energy and enthusiasm and thankful for him to help sun bear and BSBCC on various tasks.

Please read Paul’s blog at http://bearingupinborneo.wordpress.com/ about the life and stories when he is helping us at BSBCC in Borneo.


know your enemy, broaden your minds..

know your enemy, broaden your minds..


by SayLin

My cousin’s a nice guy.. always happy-go-lucky and popular with his friends from what I can see. He’s been working in Sandakan for 3.5years now. He is the head of operations at a major oil palm plantation company. Oil palm plantations, one of the biggest enemies of conservation efforts in Malaysia. While catching up with him, I had a unique insight into the ‘enemy’s’ point of view. And I better understand the situation and difficulties that people like SiewTe face. This entry is not personal in any way to my cousin, the state of Sabah, or any culture mentioned.

The State: Sabah, as I might have mentioned, was the richest state in Malaysia 30 years ago. Today, it ranks as the poorest. What went wrong? Sabah enjoyed wealth at the expense of the rainforests. The logging industry propelled the state into such riches in its hey-day. However, unlike Sarawak, it did not set any limitations to the setting up of companies locally. The logging companies from 30 years back, have all packed up and left with their riches. The others have converted their land into oil palm plantations. The people of Sabah were deprived mostly of the lion’s share of the riches, perhaps only benefitting temporarily from jobs during that prosperous era. Today, Sabah is left with a sea of oil palm and a weak financial situation. The money from oil palms continue to drain out of Sabah into the hands of wealthy businessmen. Wildlife and environment are simply not one of their concerns, unless there is a tourist industry where money can be earned.

The Culture: Having lived with the Orang Ibans(Sarawak) back in 2003, I do understand that the ‘bumiputras’ of Bornean Malaysia have their deeply spiritual cultures, respecting their land to a certain extent. However, unlike the Aboriginal people of Australia, they do not have that relatively deep sense of emotional attachment to their land. Its a difficult Australian Aboriginal concept to explain, one that my Professor in UNSW struggled to explain in UNSW. The Australian Aboriginal people see themselves as part of the land, and they only took what they needed, no farming practices whatsoever. However, the indigenous people in Borneo are quite different. Sarawakians and Sabahans at least practise some form of farming, and they hunted.. a lot, not with blow-pipes anymore, but with handmade guns today. With today’s economical problems brought about by urbanization, they hunt even more. In addition to the indigenous people here, there is an unbelievable proportion of illegal immigrants in Sandakan itself, and along with them their hunting and environmentally unfriendly practises from The Philipines and Indonesia Kalimantan are imported.

Today, Sandakan is a place where ‘fishermen’ sell their fish at wet markets with missing limbs… Limbs blown up along with the corals and declining fish stocks. Dynamite fishing, a practice commonly found in The Philipines. The Indonesian Kalimantan immigrants speak of wild boars(bearded pig) crossing the same huge rivers while they were on boats bound for Sabah. Such a fascinating story that would thrill any Biology student. Except the story ends with hapless wildboars struggling to climb up the muddy river banks. The immigrants butchered them by the hundreds and sold them at the local markets. Orang Utans, do they really cause significant damage to Oil Palm companies when they steal from them, I ask. Yes they do, my cousin answers. Its not about that particular batch of harvest being affected. When Orangs steal, they usually cause damage to the meristem tissue of the plant, resulting in irreversible damage or damage that takes years to recover. I’m not familiar enough with botany, but this was the answer I got.

I can go on about the difficulties that conservationists in Borneo face, after which… But what I am trying to say here is that it is important that we do a reality check. Know your enemy, know what you are up against, and broaden your minds. It is easy to be in University and claiming that you wish to make a difference. It is easy to go on conservation trips and volunteering. I can easily head back to Singapore in 3 weeks feeling happy and satisfied, having seen nothing but Sepilok Reserve. However, conservation was never about self-satisfaction.

It is true, we have to start somewhere, but it would be naive to think that we have already made a whole lot of difference with such actions. Education is the key to changing the mindsets of people, the root of the problem. Conservation extends beyond lecture notes, visiting reserves and doing voluntary work. We have to think big, because the problems are way way bigger than what we expect them to be.

Sandakan, Borneo: Day 2

Sandakan, Borneo: Day 2


By Say Lin

Its 2333hrs back at the Staff Quarters. Wai Pak is across the table from me, having a Skype conversation with CEO of BSBCC, SiewTe. Its highly intriguing listening to their public discussion about the Sun Bears’ behaviours.. the things to look out for, the vocalizations, the facial expressions. I feel privileged to be able to experience but a tiny part of their very promising conservation project.

Day 2 was a very thought-provoking day. We got to see more of Sandakan during our medical check-up at the town clinic. It is standard procedure for volunteers in Sepilok Nature Reserve, as there is a likelihood of humans transmitting diseases to the resident Orang Utans at the centre. BSBCC is afterall situated within Sepilok Orang Utan Reserve.

When we talk about animals of Borneo, we usually think of the Orang Utans, the Proboscis Monkeys, the Asian Pygmy Elephant and Asian Rhino etc..  Its hard to believe that such a cute looking and atypical bear species have gone relatively unnoticed by the world.

Orang Utans are classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List with numbers ranging slightly above 30,000. Bornean Sun Bear populations are only approximately a third of that. Today, there are less than 10 researchers studying both subspecies of Sun Bears, both the Bornean and mainland Asian ones. They are so misunderstood in terms of their medicinal properties, their natural behaviours as well as their threat to humans. They are known as the forgotten bears of Asia, the least studied of all 8 species of bears in the world.

On our way to the new BSBCC facility itself, we got to see a rescued baby Asian Pygmy Elephant. The poor little one was caught in a snare in a plantation and got abandoned by its herd. Its foot still bears the painful scar from that barbaric device. Its been in quarantine for 3 months, awaiting its fate at a zoo in Malaysia. Orang Utans could be easily seen nearby, with juvenile ones still in training to prepare them for life in the wild.

We finally got to see the 12 Sun Bears at the BSBCC facility. I must say that it is a brightly lit and well designed enclosure.What struck me most was how small the bears were, barely 1.3m in height, they are slightly smaller than their mainland Asia counterparts. Throughout our orientation of the facility, Wai Pak was most informative, explaining things to us in great detail.


As can be seen here, these highly arboreal bears are not clumsy at all. Their sense of balance will easily put many of us to shame. Their excellent climbing skills and balance allow them to access fruits high up in the trees, often from unstable platforms.

BSBCC is working closely with the Forestry Department as well as the Wildlife Department of Sabah. I managed to talk to Sylvia Alsisto, one of the main people in charge of the Sandakan Wildlife Department. She warmly welcomed me and talked positively about how she looked forward to sharing information with us, and how we can help the centre. Wai Pak then continued with a briefing intended for all volunteers at the centre.

From today, I have a better appreciation of the difficulties faced by Wong and co. I can clearly see the challenges faced by researchers who wish to set up such conservation projects, how it is a long drawn battle. I now better understand the type of collaboration needed with the government, the funding required from NGOs and where the money and manpower was needed. The details of such projects are slowly surfacing. BSBCC is still in its initial stages with an exciting future ahead.

It was very nice of SiewTe to personally welcome us to the centre via Skype. I am most impressed by how he described the project not as one which harbours potential, but a project with success as a definite conclusion.

Posted May 14, 2010 at 12:44pm