One of the BSBCC core values is to increase public awareness and activism on the high standard of animal welfare, as it is such a big part and will hugely impacted on our wildlife, as well as enhancing these important messages and increasing awareness about these crucial battles to protect our special little sun bear (as the numbers are speedily decreasing), forest and our children's future. We were delightfully be invited by HUTAN-KOCP to carried out this outreach educational program from Kampung Sangau, Kinabatangan district from February 26th to 28th, 2018.
Ms. Gloria (Environmental Education Executive) delivery her talk on sun bear.
The students were interested watching videos on sun bear played on the monitor screen at BSBCC booth.
School that benefited by this program are SK. Sangau, SK Suan Lamba and SMK Bukit Garam. There were representatives from Sabah Wildlife Department who were also invited to be participated in this program along with us. In this program, there were a lot of activities, including talks, a video show and exhibition booths. We would liked to give a big thanks to our partners HUTAN-KOCP for inviting BSBCC to give and share the information regarding to the foreseeable dangers which sun bears are facing. We aim to develop the idea and provide the knowledge that meets the needs, to recover healthy, diverse, productive jungle for all of us, protecting and repopulate the remaining rare species now and for our future generation. We would liked to use this opportunity to give thanks for everyone’s limitless support.
Text by Emma Pettersson Photos by Sumira Muis (APE)
My name is Emma Pettersson, I am 18 years old, from Sweden. I study animal care in Stockholm and I´m in my final year of a 3-year education. I got the opportunity to volunteer at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre through a scholarship from my school and it is also a part of the internship that is included in my education. I left Sweden, along with my classmate Sara, to volunteer for 5 weeks.
Before I came to Borneo I had never visited Asia, experienced high humidity or worked in this kind of heat before. Everything was new to me, not only the climate but also the culture, the food and so forth. I was a bit nervous before coming here. I wasn´t sure what to expect or how to behave towards the staff. As soon I got here however, I realised that when it came to the people, there was nothing to worry about. They were all very nice and welcoming, and they made me feel comfortable. The climate on the other hand, did the opposite and I have been running around looking like a “sweaty tomato-face” for weeks. It was totally worth it though!
The daily routines at the BSBCC included feeding, cleaning and making enrichments for the bears. The work was challenging at first and the staff kept asking me if I was OK, because I probably looked like I was going to pass out at any moment. I quickly got used to the routines (not the heat though) and slowly started to learn the names of the bears. The part I enjoyed the most was making enrichments and watching the bears play with them. Once I spent enough time in the bearhouse I started to see the different behaviours and characteristics with each individual bear and it made it even more fun to create special enrichment for them. Sara and I got to make our own enrichment and decide which bear we wanted to give it to. Our enrichment was made out of bamboo and had treats hidden inside it. We also made smaller enrichments daily, such as nest balls, where we tied a bunch of leaves around a core of treats into a ball.
We only have a few more days at the centre before we have to go back to Sweden, it´s crazy how fast 5 weeks went by. It has been an honour to work alongside the bearkeepers and the rest of the staff at the BSBCC, who all do an amazing job. It has been my pleasure to get to know the people and the bears during my time here, hopefully I have made some friends. Even though it was extremely sad to hear about the bears´ backgrounds and the traumatic experiences they´ve been put through, the atmosphere in the bearhouse remains positive. I didn´t know much about sun bears before I came to Borneo but during my time here I´ve come to appreciate them and have learned a lot, they are truly amazing animals. Unfortunately, I haven´t been able to get to know all 44 bears as well as I would have wanted, there just wasn´t enough time. However, I did get to see many different personalities and that each individual is different. Huge shout-out to the staff at BSBCC for doing everything you do and for being so positive and passionate about your job, I found it inspiring to see how much you care. Hopefully the BSBCC can continue to educate the public and make a difference for the bears for many years to come. Thank you for these amazing 5 weeks, I will bring many great memories with me back to Sweden.
Text by Seng Yen Wah Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Mamatai is one of our adult female bear who is around 17 years old. The name Mamatai comes from the local Dusun language meaning ‘killer’ and she earned this name due to her previous aggressive attitude. Mamatai was originally kept in Sepilok before being sent to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo and she returned to Sepilok in November 2010 to join us here at BSBCC.
Mamatai is a gorgeous bear with her beautiful grey colour eyes. However, she has unusually short legs compared to other bears and she moves around very slowly. We never thought such a round bear could become an expert in tree climbing, however Mamatai has surprised us and is one of the few bear who has learned how to build a nest using tree leaves and branches. Despite the tree nest being small and messy, she enjoys resting up there. Mamatai is our resident ‘Yogi bear’, as she loves doing various yoga poses when she is resting.
Enrichments are an essential part of the rehabilitation process for our bears. People often ask “what are enrichments?” An enrichment is a ‘toy’ that we make for the bears in order to encourage their natural behaviours. BSBCC staffs and volunteers make daily enrichments for Mamatai including objects such as wooded swings, tyre swings, dead logs and many others. Mamatai really enjoys playing with the large variety of enrichments that we create for her.
On 14th August 2013 Mamatai and her friend (Wan Wan) were released into one of our forest enclosure ‘Pen D’ for the first time. Although Wan Wan and Mamatai had been close friends since they both arrived at BSBCC, conflicts soon developed and resulted in Mamatai being relocated into ‘Pen H’. Today Mamatai is a brave and independent bear who loves to spend her time resting on a large log in her enclosure.
Mamatai is a perfect example in showing the role that sun bears play in the forest. Many plants and trees rely on sun bears to disperse there seeds. The sun bear consume a variety of fruits and as they travel they leave seeds spread throughout the forest, giving the sun bear the title of the ‘forest planters’. Sun bears are also excellent climbers, able to reach heights of up to 60 metres and this leads to their role of ‘forest engineers’. Sun bears climb in order to harvest honey from beehives and use their claws and canines to tear the tree trunks leaving a cavity in the tree. This can provided nesting sites for other animals, such as hornbills and flying squirrel. Sun bears are also considered to be the ‘forest doctors’. They help trees to stay healthy by controlling the population of termite. Last but not least, sun bears are the ‘forest farmers’ as they love digging helping to mix the poor soil and the rich soil together and enhancing the nutrient cycle.
Although Mamatai is getting older she is still enjoying her life here at BSBCC, she continues to climb, forage and rest, building nests in the forest. The sun bear is a forest-dependent species and the forest is also dependent! Say NO to illegal logging and protect their natural habitat for them! They cannot speak but you can and the actions we take can help them to have the life that they deserve!
My name is Sara, I am 19 years old and from Stockholm, Sweden. I am in my final year studying animal care and I got the opportunity to come to Borneo and volunteer at BSBCC through my school as an internship/scholarship for five weeks. It is definitely a decision I don’t regret! This experience has been one of the most challenging things I have ever done, but also one of the best. The warm weather and humidity is not easy to handle for a Swede and combined with the work is sometimes hard. But knowing that I get to help the bears and take care of them makes it all worth it and after a while, you get used to constantly being sweaty and red in the face.
The work every day is usually very similar due to the set daily routines. We either work in the bear house or in the kitchen, which means cleaning cages or preparing food for the bears. Other than that, we feed the bears inside and outside, make enrichments for them or other activities such as collecting banana leaves for the bears. The enrichments consist of hiding fruit in leaves or fire hose with peanut butter or honey. This is good for the bears because they have to use their nose and try to find the food, encouraging their natural behaviour. This will help them learn to find food in the wild. We usually make enrichment every day in order to stimulate the bears and keep them entertained.
This is an enrichment we made that we named “bjornflotte” (bear raft) where we used bamboo and hid dog treats inside.
It is so much fun to watch the bears play with their enrichment and you can tell they appreciate it, which makes the work really rewarding. I have fallen in love with sun bears, even though I didn’t even know they existed before I came here. They are such incredible animals, they’re so playful, intelligent, and adorable. Have you ever seen a sun bear eat a coconut? It is the cutest thing you will ever see in your life. After a few weeks, I had learned their names and their different personalities and I feel like I have really gotten to know the bears. It is so tragic that the reason why there aren’t a lot of sun bears left in the wild is because of us humans.
Wawa, Dodop and Noah enjoyoing coconuts.
I am really impressed with the staff working at BSBCC, their dedication and everything that they do to help the sun bears. They really want what’s best for the bears and do everything they can to rehabilitate them and take care of them in the best way possible. Everyone is extremely friendly and helpful and they make work so much more fun. Right from the start we were welcomed into their team and it has been great getting to know everyone. They were always considerate when we weren’t used to the heat and needed breaks sometimes and they taught us everything we needed to know about the bear house and the bears, which was really nice. The staff and the bears are definitely what I will miss the most about Borneo, and I will be so sad to leave everyone.
Even though it has been tough from time to time, with the heat, the hard work and when I had the flu for a week, it has been the most amazing time and it was so worth it. The ups and downs and all I have experienced here have made me grow as a person and I know that I can handle more than I think. During my five weeks here, I have learned so much about animal rehabilition, this country with its culture and people and the importance of hard work. I am super grateful to my school for sending me here and to BSBCC for doing an amazing job for the sun bears!
I will miss everyone so incredibly much and I hope I can come back and visit soon! :)
My friend Emma from school and our buddy Brandon (the best buddy ever!)
Mrs. Risnayati & Mrs. Sharon represented BSBCC for the launching of Pangolin awareness sculpture at Sandakan airport, Sandakan on the 13th February 2018. Organized by Future Alam Borneo and Danau Girang Field Centre, this event was officiated by Datuk Hj Kamarlin Hj Ombi, Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Sabah. The objective of this educational exhibit is to raise public awareness of the critical status of this shy creature in our rainforests, at this high traffic location that is the airport. The pangolin sculpture itself has been painstakingly created by a Sabahan artist, by recycling plastic materials from numerous common place sources. The Sunda pangolin has been upgraded to a totally protected species in Sabah. This giant art pangolin sculpture reminds us to protect and stop hunting this little known species.
A pangolin awareness sculpture at Sandakan Airport, Sandakan, Sabah
Mr. Anton Ngui, Chairman of Future Alam Borneo Society giving a welcoming speech
This event was officiated by Datuk Hj Kamarlin Hj Ombi, Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Sabah.
Dr. Benoit Goossens and Ms. Elisa Panjang sharing about the plight of this Sunda pangolin
BSBCC was invited to do an awareness programme on sun bears in Sandakan Vision School on the February 7th, 2018. Approximately 80 students, aged between seven to nine years old were invited to be involved in this programme and they were all very excited and eager to learn more about sun bears. The programme began with an introduction session by Ms. Gloria, our Environmental Education Executive followed by Mrs. Sharon’s introduction to our sun bear mascot. Our sun bear mascot, Sunny, was present to help the students understand better about physical characteristics of a sun bear. After that Ms. Melynda conducted a "Who Am I?" wildlife guessing game before Mrs. Risnayati played a short video about sun bears. We also set up a display booth at the school. All of the students enjoyed their time in learning about the environment and wildlife species through exhibitions. We hope that they will gain more knowledge on the importance of protecting the environment and our precious wildlife species. Thanks for inviting us!