The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is listed Sun bear as Vulnerable status. Deforestation, poaching issue, pet trade are still happening out there and all this can eventually lead sun bear to extinction.
There is always hope! So, Please save the Sun Bear before it is too late!!
Text by Charina Pria Photos by Sumira Muis, Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Do you ever feel like getting an ice cream when the weather is scorching hot outside? Or continuously shake your legs or walk up and down when you’ve got nothing to do?
Here at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), where the weather sometimes hits a summery 31°C, we take in extra care to treat our sun bears with our very own version of ice cream called, “Ice Blocks”, which are various fruits in a block of frozen honey-water, then on other days, we trek into the jungle in search of bamboos, sticks, dead logs, termite mounds or anything that is plausible to be creatively created as a “toy” for the sun bears to stimulate naturalistic behavior. This is important because a sun bear in captivity will tend to pace, and what we call this a stereotypic behavior – A behavior that is equivalent to a human’s shaking of legs or walking up and down for a long period of time, hence why these “toys” are an important management tool in ensuring that these bears are stimulated physiological and psychologically.
These “toys”, also known as Enrichment, serves more than just a cure for boredom, but with careful and a thoughtful goal-oriented plan, these enrichment tools can serve a higher purpose in stimulating a sun bear’s cognitive, sensory, locomotion, and social skills and so much more! Since most of the sun bears – young and old – at the centre are rescued from illegal pet trade, these enrichment tools are very crucial to encourage their naturalistic behavior such a wild sun bear would be and have. From using their claws to dig out, their exceptionally long tongue to retrieve honey or fruits, their keen sense of smell and even to their skillful tree-climbing bustle. Here’s a look at some of the enriching toys we give to our sun bears!
Sika, Kina and Gutuk are playing with Aussie Dog Ball, an enrichment tool designed to encourage the usage of their claws, their tongue and overall to stimulate their cognitive skills in order to retrieve the fruits that are being trapped inside, replicating a like-fruit that may be found in the dense rainforest.
Bermuda and Ronnie are using their long tongue to retrieve the honey out of the drilled log. An environment-based enrichment tool designed to peak a bear’s sense of smell, foraging skills and the usage of their long tongue!
Sika, Noah, Panda and Chin are lounging their lazy days on the hammock, made out of used fire hoses, a type of physical/habituation enrichment to encourage the bears to rest up high above the grounds as how a wild sun bear would rest in the canopies of the rainforest!
Fun fact: Did you know that sun bears can also build nests way up high on the trees just as how an Orang Utan would?
Nano, Dodop and Noah enthusiastically clawing their way into the natural treasures (aka termites!) hidden within the log. This type of natural enrichment promotes the usage of their claws, their sense of smell, and their foraging skills too!
Fun fact: When wild sun bears feast upon termites in the rain forest, this ensures the population level of termites to be controlled, thus ensuring a healthy ecosystem of trees from being completely devoured! Thank you sun bears!
A type of enrichment tool to prompt locomotor activity among the sun bears so that the bears can happily climb, climb and climb!
And many more! We thank our keepers and volunteers for the endless commitment for their hard work in creating existing and even new enrichment ideas for the sun bears!
We always strive to maintain and ensure that the sun bears in our centre are well care not only through their diet but an overall welfare and rehabilitation through encouragement with these enrichment tools that is crucial to strengthen the foundation of sun bear skills and hopefully, this progress will eventually lead up to their release back into the wild, where they truly belong.
Today we celebrate our first Sun Bear Day 2017 and on the same time celebrating Dr. Wong Siew Te’s birthday. The objective of this event is to raise awareness on the smallest bear in the world , the sun bear. We invited students of Nature Club from four different schools in Sandakan district to participate in this event. Some activities were held such as Bear Observation, Canvas Painting, Free Airbrush Tattoo and we also set up a photo booth for public. Everyone enjoyed during this celebration, hopefully more participation will be involved in the future. Thank you for all the supports and HAPPY BIRTHDAY Dr. Wong !
Text by Shauna Tay Photos by Sumira Muis, Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
My name is Shauna, I'm 24, Malaysian and an aspiring conservationist! I first came to know about BSBCC 7 years ago when Dr.Wong took me in as a young eager volunteer wanting to get some experience in animal husbandry and conservation. It has been incredible coming back after so long; the centre is now open to the public, the staff team has grown ten-fold, the capacity for bears has increased and the centre as a whole has developed in every way possible.
As a volunteer, we are given the opportunity to work closely with the bear keeping team. They are so giving of their time, knowledge and expertise - you learn something new every day! It has been great getting to know the staff, bears, and the everyday routine of maintaining such a facility for rescued sun bears. These bears have such different personalities, backgrounds, and are all on their own journey through rehabilitation. As an individual who strives to have a future in conservation, volunteering here for two months gave me insight into what it takes to develop such a project. Understanding the bear care, animal welfare, marketing, education and management side of things was important and I'm thankful to BSBCC for providing this learning platform.
I was also fortunate enough to accompany their outreach team to local schools in the area, assisting them as they conducted sun bear awareness booths, presentations and games for students of varying ages. It is essential to spread awareness of the challenges that of sun bears face, and to encourage young people to appreciate and respect nature. This is key to changing perspectives and ultimately the reality of these magnificent bears and other wildlife.
While working with the bear keeping team, we made various enrichment structures for the bears like fire hose hammocks (a favourite), hanging wooden logs with holes for honey, fruity ice blocks (another favourite), banana and peanut better nest balls and much much more. We would dedicate our entire afternoon to making enrichment for the bears who were unable to go into the forest enclosures. This was a really great part of the programme and an everyday practice by the staff. In the last few weeks of my placement, the bears Simone and Along were undergoing fence training - which is a sizeable indoor training pen (looking out into a forest enclosure) with an electric fence. This is essential as they need to familiarise themselves with the fence before being able to enjoy the spacious forest enclosures. I was able to do the behaviour monitoring for them at this time, which was a great learning opportunity and a reminder of how overwhelming it can be for these bears to be given bigger spaces after living in small cages for most of their lives.
The beauty of volunteering at BSBCC is that your ideas and opinions are taken into account. Your questions are always encouraged and appreciated, replied to with a smile and good reasoning. This is what makes it such a welcoming place. Thank you again for the incredible experience! I miss my bear family and hope to come back soon with more expertise of my own so I can better contribute to the future of our bears.
Text By Charina Pria Photos By Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Hailing from Subang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia, my name is Charina Pria, a 23-year old Sunway University undergraduate student who’s majoring in Biology and minoring in Psychology. I first heard of The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) when I first went on an expedition with Raleigh International to Sabah in 2014 and my volunteering experience brought me to Imbak Canyon, a pristine Class-1 Protected Rainforest in Sabah, where I’ve had the opportunity to learn about the amazing biodiversity that habituates many wildlife animals there, including Sun Bears! That is when I learnt about BSBCC where the rangers mentioned about the conservation efforts of sun bears in Sabah. Fast forward a couple of years later, when the time came to apply for an internship placement, BSBCC was obviously my first choice because I was excited and ready to learn about the biological aspects of sustainability, wildlife conservation and not forgetting, the sun bears! After applying and undergoing an interview with BSBCC, I was very grateful to be given a placement here!
3 months of my time here, I was exposed to many different things at the centre – namely the four pillars that the centre was founded upon, which are, (1) Education, (2) Rehabilitation, (3) Welfare and lastly, (4) Research. In each pillar, I had the opportunity to work, learn and be exposed with a diverse group of people who had impeccable knowledge and skills who were so helpful to pass on and to teach you everything they know about sun bears, the work they do and WHY they do it!
In the Education Unit, I worked alongside Gloria, Ina, Sharon, Bellinda, and Jeremy in their educational activities such as their School Outreach Programmes. I travelled to primary and secondary schools around Sandakan for a week and handled BSBCC’s education booth and helped raise awareness about sun bears, the conservation matters, the issues of sun bears and what BSBCC is currently doing to help these sun bears. It was definitely an enriching experience because I got to converse with a handful of school students, teachers and even school staffs on these matters, and not only get to spread what I’ve learnt from BSBCC, but I also get to listen to their point of view, their questions and participate in meaningful discussions.
Explaining to students about Kong, a type of enrichment tool we give to the sun bears at the centre.
I even got the chance to be Sunny, BSBCC's sun bear mascot! Definitely a highlight of the entire outreach because I get to see children (and teachers as well) happy!
After having gone for the outreach programme, I continued on helping in the Rehabilitation and Welfare Unit, or more affectionately known as the Bear Care Team. This was where most of my internship period was spent and where memories were made! I was placed under the buddy care of Mizuno who taught me the steps of working in the Bear House and guided me throughout everything in the centre – cage cleaning, kitchen duty (preparing all of the sun bear’s dietary requirement, etc), fence checks, enrichment building and not forgetting, his ever-enthusiasm in helping me to recognize and learn more about each sun bears in the centre with captivating stories.
Me, Tommy (left) and my buddy Mizuno (right), helping me build up an enrichment platform for sun bear, Wan-Wan. Enrichment is very important as enrichment can help to improve the bear's physiological well-being & encourage and stimulate natural behavior & instinct. There are many types of enrichment, and this platform is aimed to be a resting and habituation enrichment where the bear can rest up high above as how they would be resting in trees in the wild.
Done with Wan-Wan's platform!
Buddy Mizuno and I once again building a 'table' as an enrichment for sun bear Nano, Noah, Kina & Sika. This furniture enrichment can help encourage the bears to climb, hide, and play!
Sun bear Noah, inspecting and being curious of the table!
Not only Mizuno, but I owe my experiences to the entire Bear Care team – Thye Lim, Lin May, Azzry, Yen Wah, Roger, Lester, David, Tommy and Andy and the volunteers and interns that I have met throughout my time here, whom I’ve fostered amazing friendships with.
Posing with our finished bamboo feeders (another type of enrichment) for the sun bears with probably one of the craziest people ever, Sophie, Jen and Jojo.
Extremely passionate people that I’ve managed to meet and learn from. (and joke with too!)
Lastly, not forgetting Dr. Wong Siew Te, who has been an incredible and inspirational role model throughout my time here, who’d take time out from his busy schedule to have sessions with the volunteers, where you can ask him all sorts of questions ranging from sun bears, to conservation issues, about the centre, its history, challenges, future plans and so much more. I’ve met a lot of incredible people here at BSBCC (and bears!) in this short amount of time, who have taught me patience and more importantly how essential it is to have passion in the work you do, as passion is ultimately what will drive you to grow, to learn and to keep on thriving forward when things get bumpy. I am immensely grateful to BSBCC and Dr. Wong for all the guidance, the teachings, the laughter and not forgetting, the invaluable experience that has given me the clarity to be a part of a community that cares and works in the wildlife conservation field.
The utmost passionate team I've ever met and it was a pleasure helping and working under you guys!
Text by Seng Yen Wah Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Hi, I'm Kina!
Time has flown! Kina recently just finished her quarantine care under BSBCC and is a one year old female juvenile bear. Previously, she was kept as a pet for more than a year before her owner decided to surrender her to Sabah Wildlife Department. Her owner claimed that Kina’s mother abandoned her when they were crossing a road and her mother got frightened and ran away while leaving her behind. During that time, she was just a bear cub and had not opened her eyes yet. She showed signs of malnutrition with her relatively small head compared to her body size. With an appropriate diet in BSBCC, she now weighs 18.4kg! Her favourite foods are papaya, honeydew, egg and of course milk! Though, even with her favourites, Kina is not picky and still enjoys all the food that we have given to her!
My favourite foods are honeydew, coconut and hmm.. many more!
She has adapted well in quarantine since she arrived here at BSBCC and spends her time in her cage that is full of fire hose enrichment products such as fire hose hammock, wood hammock, and a heart-shaped honeycomb. Other than that, she also likes to play KONG, Aussie Dog Ball, and her favourite toy, the Bear Ball!! She totally is an enrichment lover. She loves to stay on the hanging platform where this allows her to stay up high and for her resting needs. The hanging platform is like her secret garden – It brings us much joy and happiness to see her bring her favourite food or toys up there to play with it.
My cage is full of fire hose enrichment products!
The Aussie Dog Ball is inside the Fire Hose Basket.
I got the Aussie Dog Ball! Let me see what is inside the ball!
I fit in the basket! And I want to bring along the Aussie Dog Ball with me!!
In order to encourage her natural bear behaviour, keepers let her out to a larger den where there will be a larger space for her to explore around and get closer to the forest. Kina will step out from her cage with utmost curiosity and will explore the environment around her from every single corner like a good inspector. She enjoys staying in a natural environment like a den that is decorated with leaves and decayed wood. Most of the time, she explores the enrichment that has been prepared in the den. Kina’s day can be so simple where even a small decayed wood can simply make her day. She just knows how to enjoy the time with her own ways by lying on the dry leaves and turning on her relax mode.
This is the new den for me!
Let me check every corner here!
Is it something here?
Or maybe here?
Finally I'm here on the 'Platform Tree'!!
Tree barks in the basket!
See! I'm so good in playing with tire!
This is the forest that I have been looking for!
Closer to the forest make me hyperactive!
Let me introduce this is my favourite enrichment, bear ball!
I like to bring the bear ball with me!
Natural environment make me feel like I'm home!
I'm enjoying with all the leaves and woods.
Make me be a happy kid!!
Dancing like an Opera!
Kina is a playful bear. The keepers will play fight with her so she can also learn some of the defence skills to protect herself later onwards. She shows her strength during the play fight that can be seen through pawing, which is a bear way of playing. However, some of the bear survival skills cannot be taught from a caretaker such as foraging, building a tree nest and so on. Hence, we plan to introduce her to a new bear friend who can teach her to become a real bear using the bear way. We one day hope that Kina will forage, build nests and stay in the wild because she truly deserves it, and deserves to be a real wild bear.
Since being rescued from a village in Sikalabaan, Sabah on February 9th 2017, Sika, a five month old, female sun bear cub, has completed her time in quarantine.
Sika is being bottle fed five times a day in FIDO dog milk replacer
She has shown tremendous growth in the last month. She is an active, healthy and beautiful female bear cub. She now weighs 7.25kg.
Chart shows the growth curve of Sika cub (Updated 4th April 2017). Showing Sika is in good health and gain more weight
The next rehabilitation phase for Sika is taking her out for walks in the forest. The problem with Sika is that she is still nervous to step out from her dens and the bonding between her surrogate mother is still weak. She was caged alone as a pet in a chicken mesh cage after losing her mother. All little Sika knew was pain and fear. She has needed to gain back confidence and trust towards her new surroundings.
To prepare her in gaining back strength, confidence and trust, we have moved Sika into a larger exercise den with an environment which is as close as possible to life in the wild. This exercise dens is full of natural habitat enrichment such as dead wood, green leaves, leafy browse, climbing structures, a platform, and treats to stimulate and prepare her for life back in the wild.
Bear care team are help to setting up in various type of environmental enrichment
We gave Sika the opportunity to venture out for the very first time. Once Sika was brought to the larger exercise den, she was easily stressed by noise and paced with alert at the new larger exercise den. She kept vocalizing and was uncomfortable with it. We tried to comfort and help her adapt to the new environment by showing her new enrichment toys. Sika needed plenty of time.
Thankfully, she did it! She calmed down and adapted to it. She decided it was time to explore the whole exercise den. Sun bear cubs require a lot of exercise to practice their physical skills and grow stronger! Her courage has grown with each day and she has started exploring.
Sika naturally curious but also very alert
She becoming more playful and less nervous!
Stretching body before enter exercise dens!
She will gaze up at the nearby forest surrounding her exercise dens.
FOREST will be my HOME!
She always goes straight to the big log and pulls off its branches. After one week, we are pleased with her progress in finding the strength to venture without any hesitation.
Since little Sika was moved to larger exercise dens, she have been develop at a great rate!
Sika is learning to trust her surrogate mother without fear. She will be growing and learning under the guidance of her surrogate mother.
With great love the surrogate mother teach Little Sika how to climb tree!
She loves rolling and wrestling, and she is just so happy. Sika has excellent climbing skills. She uses her small curved claws to create a cavity in the climbing log to get the ants. Sometimes she will climb high to get a better look and avoid strange sounds! We envy her tree-climbing skills!!
Curious Sika climbs higher the platform tree
Sika is busy in digging!!
Sika digs the log hole in search of insects and leave distinctive claw marks!
We envy her tree-climbing skills!!
Little more playful!
Tired after play !
Tired after play !
Sika fun, for sure!
She is learning and experiencing that life as a wild bear can be great. She knows her tragic past is now behind her and is discovering her natural behavior. She has proven herself to be a sweet natured sun bear! We hope the next move will be taking little Sika on walks in the forest to let her experience the true Bornean environment.
Bring Sika to walk in forest in preparing Sika to live independently in her forest HOME.
Bring Sika to walk in forest in preparing Sika to live independently in her forest HOME.
Hi. My name is Barbara and I am a travel agent from Melbourne, Australia. I volunteered at the BSBCC in Sandakan for two weeks in February 2017 and not one day goes by where I don’t think back to my placement. I have so many wonderful memories and learnt so much.
I visited the Sun Bear Centre as a tourist a couple of times and I remember clearly telling my local guide that I will be back to take part in the volunteer program. Four months later I found myself in gumboots with a hose in my hand in the bear-house, sweating profusely. The whole experience was incredibly well managed by the dedicated local Ape Malaysia staff. Sumira and Mark on the ground in Sandakan are just wonderful and there was nothing we could not approach them for. Ape Malaysia has a fantastic process in place to make sure volunteers are well prepared and understand what this placement is all about.
The same goes for all the staff at the centre. I wished I could speak at least enough Malay to follow the conversations because there was always laughter in the room. Everyone was very easy going but at the same time incredibly dedicated to the purpose of the centre. I felt welcome the minute I walked in and not long after I was just one of the team.
One of the biggest challenges for me during the two weeks was to remember names and I do apologise if I don’t mention everyone I have met. It’s because I just can’t remember them all but I will come back and try harder next time. The same goes for the bears; 44 bears are a lot even though they all have distinctive chest marks. Two weeks just wasn’t enough for me to remember them all. Thank you to the keepers and Sumira for patiently showing me again and again at feeding time who was who.
We spent most our time in the bear house and someone asked me the other day, “Was it heart breaking?” It’s a valid question. I would have rather seen these beautiful animals out there in the forest where they belong but I came well prepared and with a purpose to support the staff in creating the best possible environment for the bears that cannot be released into the forest at this stage.
I must say that I was just so impressed how the whole bear house was run. It’s a huge job to look after 44 bears and everything that goes along with it, and yet there were smiling faces all around and there was always time for a little joke. I am not an expert on wildlife behaviour but I am sure the bears pick up on this positive attitude around them. Of course, many of them show typical stress behaviours which relate back to their traumatic periods while being kept as pets prior to being rescued. Apart from that the atmosphere was mostly that of contentment.
After the first few days we understood the daily routines, and started to have more and more time to concentrate on creating enrichment items. These range from structures that make the bears more comfortable, to toys out of bamboo, wood and old fire hoses which are donated to the centre. Every bear has a different personality and respond differently to enrichment items. Therefore a lot of thought goes into the creation of various structures and some of them may not turn out to be as appreciated by the bears as we hoped. After spending so much time with the bears, I did start to have a bit of a weak spot for Gutuk who has very poor vision and spends a lot of time on the ground, while other bears climb up into their hammocks to have a rest. One of our bigger enrichment projects was to build a “bear bed”. The idea was to encourage Gutuk to step off the floor and use this bed rather than the concrete floor.
In theory, it was a great idea and we were very excited to put it into action. After a little while of investigating I did catch Gutuk once with all 4 legs on the bed.
However, in the end I think the bed turned more into a toy for Chin who is Gutuk’s companion and one of the most playful bears. He had a great time standing on top trying to rip it into pieces. Sometimes the simplest things are the most successful and I think piling up lots and lots of dry leaves in Gutuk’s cage was probably more successful than building a nice piece of furniture. Staying as close to nature as possible seems to be a good approach to keep in mind.
There is a lot of trial and error when making enrichment items. The staff are open to any suggestions and will help the volunteers turn any idea into a workable option. In fact, the most memorable moments were the afternoons we all spent together crafting for the bears. It showed how much can be achieved as a team and it was just so much fun having everyone together joking around while being incredibly productive.
I would like to thank Dr Wong and all the staff at BSBCC for inviting me into the team for a short while and for Ape Malaysia who facilitate such a wonderful program.
As a travel agent specialising in responsible tourism, I have made it my goal to educate as many of my clients as possible about what a good volunteer and wildlife experience should be. I am super keen to return once a year to the BSBCC and encourage people to participate with me.
As travellers, we must start to play a role in protecting the last remaining rainforests we all crave to see and support some of these amazing people that just don’t give up and put their heart and soul into wildlife rehabilitation and conservation. You are all wonderful role models and I can’t wait to come back. In the meantime, I will talk about my experience back at home and hope to raise a little awareness about sun bear conservation.
See you all in 2018. That tree better still be there. 😉
Text by Seng Yen Wah Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Noah, a ten months old male bear cub was found when he was still young, and people thought he was a dog, until they took a closer look at him and realised that he was a sun bear. They kept him as a pet for a while until they surrendered him to Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) at Nabawan, the southern part of Sabah and was then sent to Lok Kawi Zoo. After a general health check, we found all of his milk teeth had been crushed off which effected his tooth growth and development.
On the other hand, Nano, a two years old male juvenile bear was found in Kota Marudu, the north of Sabah. A lady saw him being kept in a small chicken mesh cage and decided to save his life by buying him from the seller with the price of RM 1,500. After purchasing, the lady surrendered Nano to SWD and was then sent to BSBCC.
Noah and Nano are quite different bears. Noah is bright and active while Nano is shy and quiet. In the beginning, Noah showed his curiosity on Nano by sniffing and exploring around Nano’s cage. He climbed up on the cage bar and started looking for Nano. In the opposite side, Nano was just stayed up high on the hanging platform or hanging log. He became alert once the sliding door opened while Noah went inside his cage. Apparently, Noah is the one who approached Nano first. However, Nano showed aggressive signs by barking and growling at Noah. Feeling scared, but nevertheless Noah never gave up on him. Noah’s friendly efforts can be seen by inching himself closer to Nano day by day. Noah was trying so hard to form a bond of friendship with Nano and finally with success, Noah eventually melted him with his warm, friendly heart. Now, they can play fight the whole day. Now, they love to spend time with each other as we can always see them sharing a hanging platform together, where they like to take a rest and play.
Due to their friendship and interaction, Nano now spends more time climbing rather than just resting on the hanging platform because of Noah’s adventurous persona. Nano also now initiates play fights and sometimes paws Noah as well. Noah would never disappoint Nano, for they would hold a long play fight as Noah would take the initiative to help Nano by using the Bear way, which is playing, once realizing or noticing when Nano paces. Friendship is not easy to build up between Noah and Nano as it took them to warm up for around four months. Time is a miracle. At the moment, Nano has shown lots of improvements! He has reduced his stereotypical behaviour by spending more time with Noah and has started exploring the environment around him and the enrichment in it. It definitely takes time but we can wait for him. We really hope Nano and Noah can grow up happily with each other and one day would leave the trauma behind, gain the strength and head back to the forest together, where they really do belong.
Text by Monika Lapka Photos by Chiew Lin May and Seng Yen Wah
My name is Monika and I'm 24 years old from Australia. I worked as a zoo keeper with mainly giant pandas for 3 years before I decided to quit my job to travel around Asia volunteering at a number of different animal conservation organisations.
The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is the third organisation I have volunteered at since starting my travels. I found out about BSBCC during an Advancing Bear Care conference in Vietnam a few years ago, where I met Dr. Wong the founder and CEO of BSBCC. I spent 1 month volunteering at BSBCC and loved every second! I have learnt so much about Bornean Sun Bears, their husbandry requirements and the steps needed to successfully rehabilitate and release them into the wild. I am very grateful to have worked and helped such a beautiful centre who's main priority is definitely the welfare and survival of the species. Dr. Wong and his amazing team are doing an outstanding job for the sun bears.
I felt apart of the keeping team straight away, feeling very appreciated and respected.The keepers and staff that I worked with were extremely friendly and incredibly funny, always making me laugh. The amount of care and passion that the keeping staff have for the bears is very inspirational.
Manual labour and cleaning makes up most of the daily tasks. Cleaning the dens every morning can be quite challenging especially when the weather is very hot and humid. But it doesn't matter that you get all sweaty and smelly because what really is important is giving these beautiful rescued bears a lovely and clean space to spend their time.
One of my favourite parts of the day is making enrichment. A definite highlight was actually the first day when all the keeping staff, interns and volunteers gathered together in the afternoon to make enrichment for the bears. Everyone was sitting around making nest balls out of vines we collected earlier and egg carton sandwiches filled with ginger leaf and bananas. It honestly felt like a big happy family all talking and joking. It was a very heart warming moment for me, I felt apart of something special and a family away from home.
Another highlight was making one of my enrichment ideas come to life for one of my favourite bears, Bermuda. I got the idea from a picture I saw of a similar type of enrichment but for elephants! I thought a mobile, like what hangs over a baby's cot, could potentially be fun and mentally stimulating with the items attached rotating 360 degrees around above the bear. One of the staff, Tommy, helped me put it together and I had an absolute ball making it with him. We called it Bermuda's Lullaby and it turned out exactly as I imagined it in my head. It also looked very neat and pretty, very important I know, especially when a bear is potentially going to destroy it in seconds. We installed it in his den with a few peanut butter and honey smears in the PVC pipes and Bermuda loved it! Swinging it around and grabbing for the PVC pipe. It was wonderful to see that he enjoyed Tommy and my creation so much.
In my final week volunteering I was fortunate to see 2 new arrivals Kina and Sika. 2 tiny little bears that had been rescued and brought to BSBCC for a new start and potentially be released back into the wild in the future. Sika is only 6 months and Kina a year old. I had made firehose cubes before and one of the staff members, Lin May, asked me to make one for the new arrivals. I ended up making a loose cube which turned out to look like a ball. It wasn't until the day after the arrival of the 2 bears that Lin May showed me a video of Kina playing with the ball I'd made! Kina was rolling it around, lying on her back biting it, scratching at it and throwing it with her mouth. It brought tears to my eyes seeing this tiny little bear who had been stolen away from her mother and kept as a pet, in an environment far from her natural habitat being able to feel joy and start feeling more comfortable to settle into her new home. This was the most rewarding experience for me.
The biggest thank you to Dr. Wong Siew Te and the staff at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre for having me volunteer at their beautiful centre! Volunteering at BSBCC has been an amazing experience that I will remember forever. I have absolutely fallen in love with Sabah, it is such a magical place that I plan to return as soon as possible. I have met some of the kindest, generous and absolutely hilarious people here in Borneo, making life long friends. I was truly sad to leave and say goodbye to what felt like home. The work, passion and determination that the BSBCC team have for sun bears and their conservation is truly inspirational! Keep up the amazing work and I will return soon to finish my Sabahan training!