Tag Archives: Volunteers

Volunteering – Open Arms of BSBCC

By Amanda Shia, BSBCC volunteer: Feb 18-March 31, 2013

April 9, 2013

One of the question laid in my volunteer’s application form was, “What do you expect to learn by the end of the program?”

That was two months ago. Frankly speaking, I knew nothing of managing, ecology or morphology of neither sun bears nor anything about them except for a general fact they are the smallest species of bears in the world. I went on volunteering for experience, for knowledge, to simply drop that barricade bricks of limited knowledge and take in information in, to discover more through volunteering under 6 weeks.

Welcomed by Gloria and Dawn on the first day! To be introduced to Thye Lim that gave induction on routines in the bear house and safety procedures to follow. In the bear house, formally introduced to David, Beyri, Lin May, Julian, Tommy and Azzry. Everything and everyone was new to me, and astonishing to know out of all the volunteers, I was the second volunteer from Sandakan to be volunteering there.

Daily tasks that revolve around the sun bears are food preparation, cleaning cages, feeding and making enrichments. With routines, practice to be efficient in those tasks gets easier. Trust me when I say that cleaning the cages were not difficult. It was built equipped with water basin and a basket for the bears to sleep. With their diet that consists dominantly by fruits, their faeces are not that smelly, amusingly the faeces are colour-coordinated sometimes.

It was a privilege, to be in very close proximity with the fluffies and cuties. It was a great opportunity to know more about the sun bears more than books can offer from the staffs. Throughout the period I was lucky to observed and be there for ‘little miracles’. The moment when Rungus stepped outside of fenced forest enclosure in Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) for the first time, followed by her group mate Natalie, Julaini and Ah Lun. Integration between Bongkud with other sun bears such as Rungus, Natalie and Julaini as well as Fulung. The youngest sun bear, 8 month-old Damai climbing tall trees and got used to sleeping on trees. These little ephemeral joys are so important for the sun bears as well as the centre, because  these are phases that prepare them and nurture their natural skills to survive in the wild by climbing trees, foraging and digging into soil and logs;  a chance for each of them to ‘be a sun bear’.

It was challenging and entertaining making enrichments for the bears. It was challenging by training up muscles I never thought I have by carrying heavy stuffs, unbolting and bolting, carrying bamboos, walking up a long distance around the forest enclosures and so on. It was one of those days I can proudly said “Yes people, I cut tyres.” The staffs and we volunteers made so many enrichments ranging from 2 different swinging tyres, 2 hammocks, swinging log, bamboos stuffed with fruits, a big water basin and more. The entertaining part was where sun bears played with them. It was enjoyable; having Fulung do a Cirque du Soleil stunt while swinging on the rope of the tyre swing. Mamatai is one of our favourite sun bears in the centre. With her cute stumpy figure, she tried to climb on the swinging log and to rest there is just pure adorable, even hopped inside the tyre swing!

 

Volunteers Ann and Amanda bolting the hammock swing.

Volunteers Ann and Amanda bolting the hammock swing.

Dawn and Ann also tried to make another hammock for the bears.

Dawn and Ann also tried to make another hammock for the bears.


Tommy and volunteer Jeo Soon had to replace blunted saw blade 3 times to be able to cut the tyre into half!

Tommy and volunteer Jeo Soon had to replace blunted saw blade 3 times to be able to cut the tyre into half!

Tommy and volunteer Jeo Soon had to replace blunted saw blade 3 times to be able to cut the tyre into half!

I had the fair share of cutting tyre too, with Louise (right).

I had the fair share of cutting tyre too, with Louise (right).

I had the fair share of cutting tyre too, with Louise (right).

A stumpy figure of Mamatai. That won’t stop Mamatai from climbing high swinging tyre! – Photo courtesy of BSBCC

A stumpy figure of Mamatai. That won’t stop Mamatai from climbing high swinging tyre! – Photo courtesy of BSBCC

Fellow volunteers at BSBCC: (left to right) Ann, Thomas, Amanda, Louise, and me :)

Fellow volunteers at BSBCC: (left to right) Steve, Ann, Thomas, Amanda, Louise, and me 🙂

Have a photo together with the other volunteers on my last day – Jeo Soon, me, Amanda and Thomas.

Have a photo together with the other volunteers on my last day – Jeo Soon, me, Amanda and Thomas.

Have a photo together with the other volunteers on my last day – Jeo Soon, me, Amanda and Thomas.

It was a blessing, to meet incredible staffs. Right from Wong, to staffs Gloria, Wai Pak, Dawn, Thye Lim, Lin May, bear keepers David and Beyri, general workers Julian, Azzry and Tommy as well as volunteers who walked in to help the centre. They have been the backbone of the centre; taking responsibilities to care the welfare for the bears, and they have been a great help in guiding me throughout the volunteering period. They made volunteering so much enjoyable rather than a burden. They are dedicated staffs, as well as lovely friends.

It was like a mini travel pocket, getting to know volunteers who came from around the world in one similar aim like mine. Both Steve (UK) and Ann (Belgium) carried young spirits, never dimmed or hesitated in getting their hands down and dirty making hammocks and swinging logs. Amanda Pauli (US) and Thomas (UK) are wonderful people who dedicated their career helping out children, utilising their break by volunteering around.  Lee Jeo Soon (Korea), a to-be vet doctor; does not mind breaking a sweat making enrichments under the hot scorching sun. Louise, a great company to be for everyone and surprisingly enjoyed cutting tyres the most. I had fun with everyone; get to know them more from their respected countries.

Figure 2 from Top (Clockwise): Dawn, Amanda Pauli, Thomas, Louise, Lin May, Thye Lim, Wong, Jeo Soon, Me and Gloria. – Photo Courtesy of BSBCC.

Figure 2 from Top (Clockwise): Dawn, Amanda Pauli, Thomas, Louise, Lin May, Thye Lim, Wong, Jeo Soon, Me and Gloria. – Photo Courtesy of BSBCC.

Figure 2 from Top (Clockwise): Dawn, Amanda Pauli, Thomas, Louise, Lin May, Thye Lim, Wong, Jeo Soon, Me and Gloria. – Photo Courtesy of BSBCC.

The last day:Everyone! Except Wong who left for Singapore and Thye Lim (the photographer)

The last day:Everyone! Except Wong who left for Singapore and Thye Lim (the photographer)

The last day:Everyone! Except Wong who left for Singapore and Thye Lim (the photographer)

 

Until the very last day, I left the centre knowing so much and learnt a lot about how conservation works and needs more work and awareness to come by before opening for public to visit. It is kind of sad to miss out more of the sun bears’ development like Damai and progress of stepping out into the enclosure for the first time, as well as being steps away from being candidates for release. These achievements I will miss, but I will come back to visit to catch up soon.

These respected staffs are dedicated to their work to bring this developed centre a safe haven for the rescued sun bears. Not only for saving their population an endangered species, but a second chance to live. They top that off with tasks creating a global awareness of the little known bears. What they do need aside from funds and donations are the local volunteers. At first I thought it was a privilege and unique to be one of the first locals to volunteer. Now that I think about it, local people should take part by volunteering to not only aware the existence of this species in our beautiful Borneo land, but to acknowledge them, protect them by being against poaching or body parts trade, and be in any way of help to tell, share, spread word. By being hands on and practical to conserve at the centre, locals will be more impacted and realize that one man’s action could do so much to help.

 

New playground at BSBCC future enclosure!

Text by Gloria Ganang and photo by Tee Thye Lim

The BSBCC is on its way to construct its second bear house that will be able to occupy 16 bears. This new bear house will be surrounded by a 1.21 ha forest enclosure. However, some parts of the forest enclosure are swampy and have no trees for the bears to climb. How do we make use of the space? With the help of ideas from Arkitrek and hard work by the Raleigh International volunteers, our future enclosure is now equipped with a playground for the bears.

Check out these pictures!

Hanging bridge made out of reclaimed wood materials and fire hose

Making use of old tyres to walk on muddy ground

Now everyone can climb!

Perfect spot for sunbathing!

The Raleigh volunteer group who finalized the structures. You guys are awesome!

AMAZING!

The Raleigh International volunteers came from all over the world and gathered at this tropical island of Borneo to work on projects as this one. They worked with heavy tools and materials, tolerated with unpredictable weather, had countless leach bites under their socks and went back to their camp site muddy and tired everyday. However, they have done it for a good cause, which is to provided the bears with additional activities  in the enclosure. These structures can be utilized in many ways to enrich the bears. We are sure that any bear would instantly check out the structures as soon as they find it. Perhaps the roaming orang utan and macaques will do as well..or any of the BSBCC staff!

Million thanks from the BSBCC team to the volunteers! We hope you enjoyed working with us!

We would also like to thank Ian Hall, founder of Arkitrek who made this project possible. Not forgetting Arkitrek intern, Adam Brown for your dedication to guide the volunteers all the way until the end of this project.

Bear hugs to everybody!

7 days with Oakland Zoo Volunteers

Text by Gloria Ganang and  photos by BSBCC team.

The BSBCC is very fortunate to have volunteers from the Oakland Zoo, Oakland, California helping us in the process of building up the centre. They arrived on the 17th July 2012. They planned 7 days of their stay in Sabah at the BSBCC helping us doing husbandry works and enrichment for our bears, maintenance works, and research as well.

Volunteers from Oakland Zoo doing painting for the bear cage

Fire Hose Hammock in progress
4 fire hose hammock have been done by Oakland Zoo volunteers !! Thank you so much !!

The volunteers comprise of 17 people of the age 15-19 years old and led by 2 group leaders, Melinda Seivert and Stacey Smith. We are also lucky to have Manuel as their tour guide who had worked hard together with the group at the centre. Each volunteers had experiences working in the zoo for at least a year. Sun bears are one of the animal species they have in their zoo. This was their first trip to Borneo, therefore they were very excited for their activities ahead. The group was given an introduction talk by our project manager, Wai Pak on their first day. It was followed by a tour around the centre. Later in the evening they helped us do a final clearing of construction bits and pieces around our newly constructed bridge and platform. The next 5 days, the teens was divided into groups and did various tasks of the centre’s improvement. They did husbandry works which include renumbering guillotine doors at bear house, repainting rusted cage bars and collecting dried leaves for bear enrichment. They also cleared leaves and branches around enclosure fences, cleaned hot wire along enclosure, piled up reusable wood materials, greased bolts on bridges outside enclosure fences, cleaned drainage and covered drain area with gravel. The group also made new enrichment for our bears which include 4 fire hose hammocks and 5

Well done !!
The paper mache enrichment were ready for the bears

 

They also did a research on public knowledge of sun bears by interviewing visitors around Sepilok.

Volunteers interviewing the visitor in the area of Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre

Results for public survey on sun bears

Wong (BSBCC founder and CEO) gave a brief lecture about sun bear ecology before the group get to experience the tropical rainforest adjacent to the centre. We traced animal footprints such as wild boar and mouse deer and bear claw marks on tree barks, saw some species of lizards, birds and insects. We also saw plenty of cicada and termite nests. The volunteers were fascinated with the different kind of living organisms in the rainforest. However, the attention went most to the all time famous leaches! Everyone helped each other making sure there were no leaches on them.

Bear’s claw mark on the tree
Can you spot it ?

The group spent their last day watching our exclusive video of “Big Dreams Little Bears”. We would like to thank the group for their contribution to the centre. It was such a wonderful and enjoyable experience and we definitely learned a lot from them! Thanks for sharing your time, ideas, and laughers with us. Looking forward for another group to visit! Hugs and kisses from BSBCC team!

Watching “Big Dreams Little Bears” exclusive video.

Final session with Wong

Oakland Zoo volunteers and BSBCC team

A4 Sun Bears…….. you gotta’ Love em’

 
For the first time ever Raleigh has been granted behind the scenes access to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. Raleigh have been working here for years but have never been able to photograph or video at the secretive centre.
 
I filmed for 2 days on an all access pass seeing the bears inside their original cages, inside the amazing new ‘Bear House’ and even entering one of the bear compounds. Alpha 4 is doing amazing work at the centre and is incredibly privileged to work along side these beautiful bears.
 
A wonderful experience with a wonderful creature.
  

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/KB0QjmHhNSk" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

 
Video by Ed Gregory
www.thekidtravels.com
==================================

Wong’s notes: A huge thank you to Ed to help produce this video. It is awesome!

To all the Raleigh volunteers, you are the heroes and heroines who came to build this centre step by step, piece by piece. I will never thank you enough for your hard work!

 
 

A volunteer’s diary – 2 weeks in BSBCC

By Hiu Yeat Har

March 9, 2012

Estee and I have gone through our third day of volunteering work. We were much more efficient than the previous day after knowing the routine work. Finally, we have time to take a closer look at the sun bears observing them just few feet aw…ay from us. We notice that the bears have powerful claws. Besides using them to climb up and down, the bears also use them to grip on a targeted object. Once an object is locked, it can never get away from the bear claws. We also learn how strong their arms are. Humans can never have the strength equivalent to a sun bear. When walking on the floor or soil, they only depend on its bear pads which are hairless. Sun bears are also ‘powerful coconut breakers’. All these bear facts fascinate us, and we would like to learn more about them whenever we can in the days to come.

 

March 12

Having breakfast at the Sepilok Cafeteria with other volunteers and Wai Pak (one of the full-time staff at BSBCC). The second guy on the right of the picture is Rushan is leaving today, so we are having a farewell meal with him. He is from KL and will be heading to Minessota for his master degree in September. We are all glad to know him coz he is extremely friendly, helpful and funny. We will miss him.

 

March 14

Yesterday, Tao and I took a day off to visit Labuk Bay. It’s about 28km away from Sepilok where we work. We took a taxi (cost us RM 100) and reached there to catch the 9:30am feeding time. The wetland area is in the oil palm estate itself. Compared with Klias Wetland in KK, I had a closer encounter with the proboscis monkeys, Oriental Pied Hornbills and Silver leaf monkeys. To tell the truth, I appreciate wildlife more than any stage in my life now. They are simply beautiful and their existence adds more colors to our world, and I think we should try all we can to make sure their survival is not threatened. Our existence lies in their hands and not vice versa.

March 14

 

The bears had corns today. When an ear of corn was thrown on the top of the cage, it didn’t get through the holes. But it didn’t upset the bears at all. They climbed up the cage and used their claws to pull the corn through the holes easi.ly. Then they used their claws again to grip on the fresh corn tightly and shear the husks with their teeth. Most ate it on the floor but one enjoyed its delicious snack in its own basket. A few lay on the floor and used their forearms’ claws to hold the corn while munching it with their teeth. It’s fun to see how bears shear a fresh ear of corn. I found that the more time I spend with the bears, the more I feel they are human like. I somehow feel sad to see them living in captivity and not able to enjoy a care free life like us. And so I ask myself what rights do we have to take their habitat and life away?

 

March 15

Wong took us to attend a talk given by Dr. Pilai Pooswad from Thailand on Tuesday night. Dr. Pilai is an internationally recognized hornbill expert and she is also the only hornbill conservationist in South East Asia. She builds, modifies and repairs hornbill nesting areas for the hornbills to breed, converts the hornbill poachers to hornbill research assistants and collects years of data to find out if her effort has increased the population of hornbills in the designated areas. After listening to her talk, I wonder how can we not admire a woman and her team who devote their lifetime to create a community-based conservation? How can we not support their work and thier passion trying to maintain the balance of our ecocystem so that we can have a better place to live in?

  March 16

 

The new bear house has many ‘secret’ doors. If I’m not mistaken, each cage has 5 doors. There is one door leading to the forest enclosure, the other two are for the bears to go in and out from cage to cage if both are open, the bigger door is for the convenience of the staff either to clean the cage or for other ‘human’ purposes. There is only one door which I am not sure what it is used for and haven’t had the chance to find out yet. It is placed within the bigger door itself. In fact, there is also another opening which is more like a ‘window’ where we slide the food tray in and out during meal time. In my view, all these doors allow the bears to have more space to move around and also ensure the safety of the staff whose bear friends may get rough sometimes. Spending an average about six hours each day in this new bear house is like spending my time at my own house taking care of all the family members and handling all the house chores. It’s my second home now. Its sight, its smell and its sounds evoke every sense of my mind and I know deep down my tears will give away the day when I leave the place and the bears behind.

 March 16

 

The project manager of BSBCC Ng Wai Pak gave two talks about providing enrichment for sun bears and orang utans. Volunteers from both Orang Utans Rehabilitation Center and BSBCC attended the talks just the past Thursday and Friday afternoo…n. I have never heard of enrichment activities for animals before this. I have never learned in my text books about the importance of providing either artificial or natural environment or programs that can help to create mental stimulation and encourage natural behaviors for the animals in captivity. To be frank, I have never been raised to understand animals need a good quality of life as we do. I have never been taught the physical and the psychological well-being of the animals should be our concern. In fact, the ignorance about all living things on the earth has inflicted many pains, fears and deaths to the animals. And therefore, it’s time to change. It’s time to give ourselves a chance to know ‘who’ they are and what they need.

 

 

A sun bear connection

Text by Alexander Montana Sethi

I have to sit and think back to recollect how long I’ve been here. Time has passed me and circled back and passed me again. I’ve gotten lost in the experience but I’m sure time is still running properly elsewhere. Its been three weeks since I’ve been here. My first two days were the last two days for the previous batch of traveller’s volunteers so my first night was a night out and second was their going away party. It was a great ice-breaker for me. The next day work started. I met all the bears but still memorizing names till now. I know all my favorites like Baby Foo (Fulung), Om, Nathalie, Manis, Kudat and Panda, and Amaco. Even through the small amount of contact we get, I’ve gotten familiar with quite a few and I think they can recognize me. Baby Foo, is the exception. He came after I did, and I’ve gotten closest to him because he’s still a baby and when he first arrived his bite wasn’t very strong. He arrived after my first week and in that time, we got to paint his cage and set up logs and a bunch of climbing equipment and hammocks (made of towels which he tends to rip through in a day or so now that he’s strong enough). When he first got here, his coat was rough and felt like a stuffed animal toy, but already with the diet he is on we can see his belly has gotten plumper, he is filling out, getting very strong, and his coat is nice and soft now that I want to pickup him up and play with him like he was my own cub.

 

Alex and Amy "enriching" the den of Fulung with branches and leaves.

Alex and Amy "enriching" the den of Fulung with branches and leaves.

Alex and Roshan preparing an enrichment item for Amaco the male sun bear. This time is a dead tree with lots of small branches tied up with vines. Hope Amaco like it!

Alex and Roshan preparing an enrichment item for Amaco the male sun bear. This time is a dead tree with lots of small branches tied up with vines. Hope Amaco like it!

 

I had no idea about conservation before getting here. I was always interested in animals and so volunteering on a conservation project seemed like the right choice for me. I am now so glad that I found Wong and the BSBCC because it has been the greatest experience so far. Its great to work hard and see the results, healthy animals. I stay until end of October with BSBCC then transfer to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center where I will work until December. Seeing as they have enough volunteers I would have liked to volunteer with BSBCC for my whole stay here but I had no idea about either organization prior to coming so splitting my time between the two seemed like the right choice. I have met most of the staff here and everyone has been quite welcoming. I’ve also made some friends that I’m positive I will keep in touch with after leaving. Amy, Wai Pak, Daniel, Roshan, to name a few.. So many people here and its such a community (with its ups and downs) but now that I’ve found my place I am very comfortable and happy and looking forward to enjoying each day. Work hard and the reward come naturally.

 

Alex tried to communicate with Fulung, a trans-species communication in progress.

Alex tried to communicate with Fulung, a trans-species communication in progress.

Give Fulung a piggy-back ride.. Play time it is!

Give Fulung a piggy-back ride.. Play time it is!

Beside the play time and fun time, cleaning time is for sure all volunteers do most!

Beside the play time and fun time, cleaning time is for sure all volunteers do most!

 

Alexander Montana Sethi

You are invited! Big Dream Little Bears Preview Screening in Melbourne

If you live in Melbourne, Australia, please join us for the Public Preview Screening of Big Dream Little Bears!

Time: Thursday, September 29 · 5:30pm – 7:30pm

Location:

RMIT University, City Campus

Building 5, Level 3, Room 01, Bowen St

Melbourne, Australia

More Info:

Set in the Borneo jungles, Big Dream Little Bears, is a story of hope.
Dr Audrey Low flies from Australia back to her former homeland to
assist Malaysia’s top sun bear expert, Siew Te Wong, as he enters the
most crucial and unpredictable phase of a ten-year dream to save the
smallest bears on earth from extinction.

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A Day in the Life of a Sun Bear Volunteer

 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.

Me with fellow volunteers, Venda and Roshan, and bear keeper Daniel.

Me with fellow volunteers, Venda and Roshan, and bear keeper Daniel.

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).

Wai pak cooking up a storm!

Wai pak cooking up a storm!

Another delicious meal

Another delicious meal

The volunteer house

The volunteer house

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.

Me scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing!

Me scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing!

Venda sweeping, sweeping, sweeping!

Venda sweeping, sweeping, sweeping!

Marieanne cutting fruits

Marieanne cutting fruits

Preparing rice porridge for the bears

Preparing rice porridge for the bears

Trays of rice and sweet potato cooling ready for the afternoon meal

Trays of rice and sweet potato cooling ready for the afternoon meal

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:

 

 

  • Piles of dried leaves and grass for foraging, play and bedding for the nest basket and stimulation of senses particularly touch and smell.

 

  • Foliage, braches and vines including edible and non-edible species that provide both food, shelter, bedding and in general a more natural environment providing different textures, tastes and smells.

 

  • Large logs and tree stumps for climbing, resting on and tearing apart with their claws.

 

  • Water baths for wallowing and playing in – sun bears love water!

 

  • Tyre and wooden swings and hammocks for climbing, play and resting and to provide vertical structure to the enclosure.

 

Collecting branches

Collecting branches

Making a bamboo swing for little Natalie

Making a bamboo swing for little Natalie

Myself and Alex (volunteer/ Bollywood dance extraordinaire) preparing a cage, with climbing structures and various types of foliage for the arrival of Fulong, a small young male bear that arrived a couple of weeks before I left and who is now I’m sure, growing big and strong.

Myself and Alex (volunteer/ Bollywood dance extraordinaire) preparing a cage, with climbing structures and various types of foliage for the arrival of Fulong, a small young male bear that arrived a couple of weeks before I left and who is now I’m sure, growing big and strong.

Food enrichments included:

 

  • Scatter feeding and hiding of fruits around the enclosure in different structures and at different heights to promote natural foraging behavior and extend feeding periods.

 

  • Filling ‘Kongs’ (strong rubber dog toys) with banana, one of the bear’s favourite foods- Kongs have a hole in the center and the banana is packed in tight. The Kongs are then thrown on the roof of the cage and the bears quickly climb up to take a look. It takes some skill and ingenuity by the bears to pull the Kong through the bars inside where they can then scoop out the banana with their claws which again keeps them busy for a while because the hole is small and their paws are big!

 

  • Large water ice blocks filled with various foods including fruit and/or corn and dry dog food are a favourite of the bears. Being large, solid, frozen and slippery it takes some time for the bears to access the food inside and keeps their interest for ages which is the objective!
Fruit ice blocks

Fruit ice blocks

  • Whole coconuts provide the bears with activity and interest for quite some time, eventually cracking them open with a combination of their powerful teeth and by throwing the coconuts against the walls and floor. Once they have made a hole they drink the juice by holding the coconut between their feet and lying on their backs and then break open the rest of the coconut to eat the flesh- Quite a treat to watch!

 

  • Sections of bamboo or PVC pipe are packed tight with fruit and grass and thrown on top of cages. This provides a two part enrichment one is the difficulty in accessing the food while the pipe is outside the cage which again takes some skill, and the second is ripping apart the empty bamboo case (and sometimes the PVC pipe!) which some bears take great delight in doing!

 

 

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!

The very handsome Om exploring his forest enclosure

The very handsome Om exploring his forest enclosure

Big Dream Little Bears

  by Howard Jackson and Dr Audrey Low.

 film invite

After a year and half’s work on our documentary witnessing the pivotal moment in Wong’s big dream for his little sun bears we decided it was close to completion and high time to test it on an audience. The Sydney Film School where Howard works was kind enough to offer their screening theater and so we set about inviting a wide cross section of people to see our big dream little film. Normally, with a preview, all the principle team; the producer, publicists, designers, marketers, sponsors, investors etc, etc…and the film makers; director, camera, sound, editor, talent, narrator, colorist, score composer etc, etc, etc, fill half the theatre. But for our film (our big dream no budget as we’ve come to call it) has a sum total of 2. The thank-you’s and congratulations and stroking of one another’s egos, were therefore mercifully short.

 It was an evening screening but we made it a point to let people with children know they were welcome and so in amongst the heads of university departments, Borneo experts, professors, our Sydney sun bear expert (Lesley Small), a small smattering of film makers, educators, advertising people, animal lovers and members of the general public; we had a dozen or so kids ranging from four years old to twelve.  Some looked fidgety and bored before we had even begun our introduction and we couldn’t help thinking it could only go downhill from there.

 The lights went down, the title came up and within the first minutes the kids had settled and were giving the story their full attention. We hadn’t really considered this film to be something that would engage children so I have to admit we expected them to lose interest after a while but against all expectations they sat with their eyes glued to the screen for the full 52 minutes and 38 seconds.

 As filmmakers you tend to judge the audience appreciation (or not) by the sounds and movements throughout the theater.  The right ones came pretty soon after the film began: a nice series of chuckles and outright laughs at the interchanges between Wong and the international bear crew and the oughs during the darting and medical procedure.  I noticed someone almost jumped off their seat when the first bear was zapped by the electric fence and the macaques stealing the bear’s food were a special favorite.  Towards the end a distinguished professor called out “Oh no, she’s not going to go” when it looked like none of the bears would ever leave the cage and then when it happened called out again “Good on you girl.”

 In short the audience reaction exceeded our best expectations, and certainly exceeded our worst. The kids were doing Wong’s slow motion “Free the bears” impersonations in the foyer (if you haven’t seen that, it’s on the Wildhoop youtube channel).  The question and answer time at the end, normally a polite formality went on so long we finally had to say we surrender and that we wanted to get to the food and drink we had prepared. 

 One of the heartening aspects of the screening for the BSBCC was the number of people who came up to us afterwards, whist sharing a beverage or two, to ask us how they could help or donate to the cause. The fact they could see where the money was spent and that Wong and Wai Pak, and the people dedicated to Malaysian conservation, were making a difference, or put another way, they could see hope, really struck a chord with people. It also surprised them to learn that you could build a purpose built facility in Malaysia that cost around about the same amount as it takes to fund a fairly low budget documentary.

 It has been a fascinating journey for us. We originally went to Sabah to shoot some footage so as to put up a clip on the web to help publicize Wong and the BSBCC and at the same time to use the clip to try to get film investment here in Australia so we could go back with a crew to make a slick documentary. The first part of that plan was a resounding success (we’ve had just short of 50,000 hits on Youtube alone), the second part, wasn’t quite a resounding victory. Insisting we feature the team of people working on the bears without superimposing a western presenter in front of them was never going to help get investors. But, like Wong, we weren’t going to give up. We looked back through the footage we had shot and realized there was a stand-alone story within.  Well, we hoped. It’s hard to tell until you put in front of a real flesh and blood audience

 Doing every job between two people is a long and tiring process, we’ve had to stop occasionally to go out and teach so we could start the next stage, but having a close to completely finished project within the time we’ve taken is about what it takes for a production house.

 Since the great response to the Sydney Film School screening we’ve had an offer to show it in Melbourne at another film school and, both interestingly and coincidentally, after our surprise at Big Dream’s success in entertaining kids, we’ve had a distribution offer that could see the little bears be viewed in schools and universities (with an education pack included). The film was described as moving, inspiring, and perfect for young people. We’re still in negotiation but it does show that Wong’s belief, if only people knew the Borneo sun bears exist, they would be interested and love them.

 We’re almost there, just few last tweaks to sort out the broadcast specs, (the first time we’ve encountered something we can’t do or learn to do ourselves), but we are ever so close to having the dream ready for audiences to join Siew Te Wong and his fantastic team on their quest to save one of Borneo’s rarest and unknown (hopefully we can do our small part to help to change that) treasures.

 Future plans? Obviously this process has sent us stark raving mad, we keep dreaming of going back to Sabah and doing another one. Anyone working with animals that no one has ever heard about and no film company would ever invest in. Contact the two crazies at Wildhoop Productions.  

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[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/bqYRr_pO_44" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Wong’s note:

Wong’s note:

Thank you Howard and Audrey so much for accomplishing such a tremendous task for “making” (producing, directing, filming, editing, narrating, …………) Big Dream Little Bears. I would never have thought that this project has come this far. I still recalled clearly the first email that Audrey wrote me and offering help few years ago.  “Do what you do best to help us” was my replied. True enough, Audrey said her husband is a film maker and can help us make some videos to promote our course. The end result is much better! Big Dream Little Bears is a great gift from Howard and Audrey and Wildhoop Production to me and BSBCC. This is a great documentary that recorded what was happening during the few weeks when we moved the sun bears from the old bear house to the new bear house. We now can always remember every single detail – including the continuous sneezing from my allergy to sun bears.

Thank you Howard. Thank you Audrey. Thank you Wildhoop Production!      

 IMG_3925aa

At Last!

By Paul Clenton

Repost from http://bearingupinborneo.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/at-last/

 

Anna's not hobbit, she's just further from the lens!

Anna's not hobbit, she's just further from the lens!

 

Yesterday was monumentous for me as I finally got to meet up with Anna Cocker. It was very exciting for me to meet her because I have heard so much about her in the past had taken us months to find a mutually-convenient time and place to get together, but I’m very glad that we did. Anna is an amazing person who has earnt her stripes at the BSBCC through contributions made at both Sepilok and Danum Valley, aswell as through her efforts to raise awareness and funding in the UK.

 

Anna radio-tracking in Borneo

Anna radio-tracking in Borneo

It was great to talk to someone who shares my enthusiasm for sun bears and their conservation. We met up at Stafford Railway Station and went for a “Beartrek” around Cannock Chase. We spent 6 hours in constant conversation about the the bears, life in Borneo and the people and places we knew; even Wai Pak’s dog got a mention! It was probably ‘good therapy’ and certainly very motivating for both of us.

Like myself, Anna has done sporsored events and given talks on sun bears; there is much that we can learn form each other by pooling our experiences. Single-handedly raising awareness for sun bear conservation can be challenging, especially when day-to-day life gets in the way of things, so I think it will be highly beneficial for us to work together and share our ideas on how to accomplish this.

Anna and I have aggreed to get together again in a few weeks to further discuss our plans to get the Sun Bear Conservation Trust back on track and firing on all cylinders. I have a strong feeling that something good is going to come of this.

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Wong’s notes: if you are from UK and would like to join Sun Bear Conservation Trust, please contact Anna Cocker : <[email protected]> or Paul Clenton [email protected].