On the 24th and 25th of October 2017, BSBCC joined a conference exhibition on the International Conference on Heart of Borneo (HoB) that was held at the Magellan Sutera Harbour Resort, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. This two-day event organized by the Sabah Forestry Department, themed 'A Decade of HoB Initiative: Accomplishments and the Way Forward, marked the 10th year of HoB's initiatives. The event was officiated by Sabah Chief Minister Y.A.B. Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman. Hundreds of participants from various organizations, sectors and higher institutions: locally and international participated in this programme. The objectives of this conference are to share the current achievements of the HoB Initiative throughout a decade of its implementation, to re-assess major activities which are critical to the HoB and the responsibilities of stakeholders by key sectors; and to streamline and coordinate actions towards realising the HoB Initiative.
Heart of Borneo Initiative
Ms.Gloria interacting with the VIPs during their visit to our booth.
A tour visit to the conference exhibiton by Sabah Chief Minister Y.A.B. Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman.
A tour visit to the conference exhibiton by Sabah Chief Minister Y.A.B. Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman.
Ms.Gloria showing a sun bear skull to the participants.
Ms.Risnayati sharing her experience in conducting an outreach programme to the paticipants.
Group photo with secondary students.
Ms.Risnayati interacting with the students from Institute of Teacher Education
Dr.Wong Siew Te together with the HoB participants.
Sapulut Forestry Development Sdn Bhd booth.
Department of Agriculture Sabah booth.
Partners of Community Organizations in Sabah (PACOS) booth.
Text by Ng Li Shuen Photos by Ng Li Shuen and Seng Yen Wah
Hi everybody! My name Ng Li Shuen, 21, studying Environmental Science at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, Malaysia.
One month of volunteering at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre has been a valuable and unforgettable experience. I was first introduced to BSBCC by my friend/course mate Darren who encouraged me to apply as a volunteer and as a companion for him during our summer break. We also attended the Wild Wildlife with Kancil and Friends event held by Malaysian Heritage and History Club (MHHC), where we got to meet and talk to Dr. Wong for the first time. Malaysia being one of the megadiverse countries in the world is losing its wildlife and biodiversity, thus learning about conservation and working with wildlife has never been a more crucial and timely task. In the hopes of uncovering how conservation work is done in our country and exploring my potential career path, I applied for BSBCC and anticipated the adventure that awaited me. It wasn’t long before I was working in the heart of conservation and it was a thrilling experience. Upon arriving at the Bear House, I met my buddy Brandon who briefed me thoroughly on the operations of the Bear House and guided me through all the tasks. Day by day, we worked alongside other bear keepers (collectively known as Bear Care Team) with a daily routine of cleaning cages, kitchen work (E.g. preparing porridge, fruits and vegetables, and other dietary needs), feeding the bears inside the Bear House and in the forest enclosure, fence checking and making enrichment for the bears. I also got to work under the Environmental Education unit where I’m tasked to interact with visitors at the centre’s observation platform, educate and raise awareness on sun bear ecology and the importance of not only their conservation but also of their forest habitat.
Outdoor feeding at Pen C. Once the bears have passed the electrical fence training, they are reintroduced into the forest enclosure where they have plenty of space to roam.
Me, Darren and peanut butter-filled fire hose.
Making egg carton enrichment!
Sawing belian wood for Nano and Noah’s bear house. It's hard work but hey, how often do we get the chance of using a saw?
Cutting banana leaves~
As all volunteers are required to build a special enrichment for the bears, I designed a structural + food enrichment called The Heavenly Bear Tree for Phin, a 9-year old adult male sun bear’s enclosure. Enrichment functions to emulate conditions of the natural environment and bring out the bear’s wild instincts, it also helps reduce the time spent on unhealthy behaviours like pacing. Because some bears have yet to reach the criteria to be reintroduced into the forest enclosure, enrichments are important in the rehabilitation process especially for bears who spend a lot of their time in their dens. So, I thought why not make a tree in its den? This enrichment aims to encourage movement and climbing and enhance the bear’s sensory stimulus (E.g. using their tongue, claws and scent). Though I hoped Phin would climb the log, he climbed on the grills instead to get to the banana-filled fire hoses. My guess is that Phin probably doesn’t yet understand the function of the “tree” since he is still undergoing fence training (or maybe this tree is simply un-climbable XD) Nevertheless, it did make Phin climb all over the cage to get all the juicy bananas.
Here's me setting up Phin’s enrichment. Tying fire hoses filled with bananas and peanut butter through holes drilled across the log.
Climbing on top of the cage with Mizuno to secure the log. How exciting!
Darren (Bottom left), Andy (Top left) and Mizuno (Bottom right) were there to help. Ginger leaves were added to bring life to the tree (and of course, to get in the way of the bear)
Voila, The Heavenly Bear Tree is completed~ Doesn’t it look heavenly hehe
Phin got excited when he smelled the enrichment from the adjacent cage. He finally got his treat.
Though some tasks were physically challenging for me at first, I felt myself grew stronger every day as the weeks passed. Believe me or not, I even have muscles (small ones la haha!) now from scrubbing cages, scooping porridges, lifting fruit baskets, sawing logs and woods, walking around the forest enclosure xP But if I were to be completely honest, doing all the physical work was so much fun and fulfilling. Challenging and proving myself wrong about my strength was what fueled me to keep going. And I must thank all the staffs, especially buddy Brandon for being so kind and understanding towards my physique and always lending a hand when I needed it!
Brandon buddy and me
During my free time, I like to walk around the bear houses to observe and admire the bears and recognize them. Brandon was always there to help me recognize special features like their chest marks, facial appearance, and behaviours. One day after work, I walked around bear house 2 to refill the water containers just to make sure the bears have enough water to drink over the night. The minute Linggam’s water container was filled, he stood up and started splashing the water onto his body and occasionally looking into my eyes and sniffed as if to acknowledge and say thank you! Something about this had me in awe that I left the water running for him as he continued to splash for a good 5 minutes. From then on, I grew fond of Linggam and so did the obligation to fill all the water containers in bear house 2! It feels good seeing the bears healthy and thriving in the centre. If it wasn’t for BSBCC, I can’t imagine countless sun bears being held captive and have lost their ability to survive in the wild. But what really made my whole volunteer experience worthwhile was how amazing the people here are. Everyone had been friendly, welcoming and caring since I first arrived. The staffs welcomed any questions we had and did not stinge on sharing their knowledge, experience and stories of the bears. And not forgetting my days in Bjorn Hala! From sweating through multiple power cuts to cooking and showering in the dark, feet chewed by the overly affectionate and adorable Miko, I did not even miss home. I sincerely thank the staffs for being so kind to us and treating us like family. Thank you for making Bjorn Hala such a homely place, I really felt a sense of belonging when I was here. No matter in the Bear House or Bjorn Hala, I will never forget the conversations, the jokes, laughter and stories we shared. Of course, not forgetting Darren who walked this one-month journey with me 😊
Miko in Bjorn Hala <3
And last but not least, or should I say, leaving the best for last! Thank you, Dr. Wong, for giving us this wonderful opportunity to be part of BSBCC. It has been an honour and privilege serving the bears and working alongside an amazing crew in a Bornean rainforest and engaging in meaningful discussions with you during our Q&A sessions! Despite being so busy, you never neglected us and took pride in having volunteers as part of your centre’s conservation efforts! The story of your journey and endeavor is truly inspirational and will always remind me that it takes not only passion but also determination and hard work to make your dreams become your vision and mission.
Picture with the incredible founder Dr. Wong Siew Te aka Papa Bear, Wira Negaraku (My country’s hero), CNN Hero 2017
I was also luckily enough to be interviewed by CNN
Only after volunteering at BSBCC had I known the existence of this beautiful bear species in our country, only after volunteering in BSBCC had I known that world’s only conservation centre for the world’s smallest bear species is proudly situated here in Sabah, Malaysia. Only after volunteering in BSBCC had I met the most genuine, passionate and dedicated people that go out of their way to care for the bears and rehabilitate them back into the wild. Only after volunteering in BSBCC that I realized.. I really need to improve my Malay speaking. The main ingredients of successful conservation work, I’d say? A passionate founder and leader like Dr. Wong, a dedicated crew and a handful of curious and inspired volunteers/interns. Thank you again for opening my eyes to the world of conservation, for exposing me to the Sabahan slang and culture, for generously sharing your stories and experiences, for introducing the knowledge and insights on what it takes to conserve our Malaysian Biodiversity.
With them crew
You wanna work for the bear, you gotta be the bear! Top row: Chee Yoong (Left), Athira (Middle), Batrisyia (Right). Bottom row: Syaqil (Right), Me (Middle), Darren (Right)
Azzry rewarding me Linggam’s tag :D
Sun bears are currently facing the threats of deforestation, poaching and illegal pet trade. They are deemed the least studied bear but BSBCC is slowly changing that. I hope more and more people start to cherish our biodiversity and become part of what protects them. I strongly encourage anyone to volunteer at BSBCC because why not for an experience of a lifetime for a good cause!
Ending my story with a flashback and a quote that is now engraved in my heart.. In one of my last sessions with Dr. Wong, to answer a question asked by one of the volunteers he turned around to his magnificent bookshelf where he stores his treasured sea of knowledge, picked a book- Jane Goodall: 40 Years at Gombe, and recited: “Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help, shall they be saved.”
It has been an incredible journey. Until then BSBCC <3
My name is Chantal Jeffrey and I study a bachelor of animal ecology at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia for which I completed two weeks of volunteer work at the BSBCC. Now, I won’t lie, it was tiring, hot work but let me tell you why it was so fulfilling and worthwhile.
Starting at the centre, I was welcomed by extremely lovely staff whose politeness and contagious happiness instantly struck me. All of the bear keepers, workers and other volunteers were informative, happy to help and answer all questions which benefited my learning experience. They were encouraging, bubbly and always smiling which really made me feel part of the BSBCC family. I was shown the hard work and skills it takes to be a bear keeper and the immense dedication I witnessed, by all staff, to caring for the sun bears was truly inspirational.
Testing out the equipment for the bears.
Daily jobs included food preparation and feeding for both indoor enclosures and forest pens, enclosure maintenance and cleaning as well as creating enrichment for the bears. I took part in making several different types of enrichment such as nest balls, stick paradox and ‘proposal day’, which all had the same concept; hiding peanut butter and/or honey within leaves or sticks so the bears needed to rip it open to get to their treat. Other enrichment included placing food around and on top of the enclosures to encourage the bears to climb, providing them with termite nests and placing logs and branches in enclosures for them to rip into. It was rewarding and an absolute joy watching the bears’ reactions and seeing them enjoy their enrichment.
Whilst completing these jobs, I got to know some of the bears. They all have different personalities and characteristics, from the cheeky cubs ‘Nano’ and ‘Noah’ to the quiet ‘Kuamut’. All were beautiful and unique and working so closely with them was unreal.
As well as aiding in the animal welfare side of things, I was also sent to work on the viewing platforms. There, I communicated with tourists, introducing them to bears, educating them about sun bear morphology and ecology and ultimately, promoting awareness of the importance of their conservation. It was very satisfying, knowing that I was helping to spread the word about this incredible and beautiful species. Working for the sun bears at the BSBCC was absolutely amazing and so rewarding. Despite only being two weeks, it was a truly unforgettable experience that left me with countless memories and I would go back and do it all again without hesitation.
This photo of myself (left) with my fellow USC student volunteer, Brittany Lang (right) and Dr Wong, was taken after one of the sessions where we were given the chance to ask him any questions, in person, which was incredibly interesting and educational.
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!
More than 70 students from University Malaysia Sabah's Institute of Tropical Biology and Conservation visited the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and BSBCC to experience conservation works on the ground. The students were divided into several groups to learn the operations of both rehabilitation Centres. Yesterday each groups presented their experience working at both Centres for a day. It was a great learning opportunity for these future conservationists and hope to have more groups coming in future.
Dr. Wong sharing his experiences in wildlife conservation
Dr. Wong receiving token of appreciation from UMS
Students sharing their experience
The students were divided into several different groups to complete their tasks
Dear all, Hi, I am Thong Wai Keen from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I am a conservation biology student from the University of Malaysia Sabah. The reason I decided to volunteer in Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is that I am convinced that a good center itself will be a great platform for a fresh graduate to learn and apply what I studied back in the University.
To some of us, volunteering may be something that allows us to earn a wonderful lifetime experience with the beautiful animals and spectacular nature. In my experience, I realised volunteering is simply giving and sharing what you have with those who are in need. It can be your time, your money or even your love to the mother nature. For me, volunteering is working on animal welfare with lots of patient and persistence are needed.
I served in two roles as part of my work with the volunteering program. Taking good care of the bears and their welfare is one of our major works. I assisted the staff in cleaning cages, preparing food, feeding, fence training and making bear enrichment. I learned to treat the bears with extra care and respect. It's amazing to see the bears eat well and growing healthy in a clean environment.
I am helping on fence training for Dodop and Wawa.
Time for making bear enrichment!
Time for making bear enrichment!
Time for making bear enrichment!
Time for making bear enrichment!
I was also educating the visitors by conveying the information about sun bears to them on the platform. It's a natural role for me as I really love to share my knowledge with people and it's really satisfying to see the visitors so interested in the fun facts about sun bears. After all, making visitors to understand and share with the world that sun bear does not belong to us, the zoo, the center but the forest is what matters the most. I believe the power of education can create a stronger sense of conservation within people to share an awareness to save our wildlife and our planet.
Last but not least, I would like to express my utmost gratitude to Dr. Wong Siew Te, the founder of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), the Sabah Wildlife Department, Land Empowerment Animal and People (LEAP), Sime Darby and all the BSBCC staff for working so hard to save sun bears and dedicated to release all of them back into the wild. Thank you! Best, Thong Wai Keen
There are no words that can tell how much I love to walk in the forest in the sun.
Every bear carries different baggage arriving to BSBCC. But they learn everything necessary from the beginning in the forest enclosure with their friends.
In nature, sun bear cubs stay with their mothers until they two to three years old. When people take cubs away from their mothers, they also take away their chance of learning the survival skills from their mothers as well. If people only keep them as a pet in a small cage, they can never learn what they need to survive in the wild. This is the reason why our integration program becomes so important for the bears. The best enrichment for a bear is another bear. When they spend their time with their friends, they can learn relevant skills from them. Besides that, socialization can help to reduce bears stereotypical behavior. The forest enclosure provides them with a natural environment and enough space where they can explore with lots of activities, such as foraging, digging, climbing and play fight with each other.
Loki, you see I found a watermelon here and lots of delicious fruits. –Sunbearo
You got one and I got one too.
There is no one to disturb our nap time.
Sun bears are the smallest bears among the bear species. But, they have the longest tongue amongst their peers. Their tongue is about 25cm to 30cm long. They not only use their long tongue to lick the honey out of bee nests, but also eat small insects found in decayed wood, such as ants and termites. By using their long tongue, they can reach the deep inside of bee nests or decayed wood to get themselves lots of yummy treats.
Sun bears have a keen olfactory sense. In order to encourage them to utilize their sense of smell, food is scattered around in the forest enclosures by bear keepers. This will encourage them to do more foraging. In the forest enclosure, they can also forage for the small insects.
Let me use my sense of smell to find the small insects for my yummy snack.
I think I found a small insect in the dead wood.
Sun bears have very strong canines and sharp claws. They are the excellent climbers. With the help of their curved shape claws, the can climb up trees reaching to 60m heights. Sun bears are the arboreal animals. They climb up on trees for sunbathing and resting. Besides that, there are using their claws for tearing apart the dead wood to get their important source of protein, the small insects as well.
These leaves smell good!!
Opps, my belly.
Let me do some exercise.
Should I climb up higher?
I think I need to take a rest first.
You see how I’m using my canines to bite on the tree branch.
I got busy foraging here.
Sun bears are a forest dependent species. The expertise of sun bears in their habitat makes them survive in the wild. However, poaching issues are still threatening their survival even though sun bears are a totally protected species under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment of 1997. Poachers are continuously hunting them illegally for consumption, medicine or decorative purposes. Please save the sun bears. They deserve to stay in the wild free and happy. Thank you!
Fireflyz Issue003, Jan 2014 By Ravinder Kaur Ravinder Kaur shares her experience and her love for these vulnerable creatures When I was a child, a zookeeper brought a Sun Bear cub towards me. The cub placed its paw in my hand and I was taken aback. Even at such a tender age, the bear had very menacing claws! Most Malaysians are unaware of the fact that there are bears in their tropical rain forest. The smallest of all bear species in the world, the Sun Bear roams the tropical evergreen rainforest of Borneo, Sumatra, and Peninsular Malaysia. Being omnivores by nature, they feed on termites, ants, honey and figs. They are usually solitary animals and do not hibernate. Interestingly the female bears use natural tree hollows as bathing sites. The two major threats to sun bears are habitat loss and commercial hunting. The sun bear has been listed as a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Being a Malaysian, I take pride in the fact that The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in the only sun bear conservation centre in the world. It was founded in Sabah in the year 2008 as a two stage effort to provide care, rehabilitation and release of orphaned and captive sun bears. It also aims to increase awareness about these majestic bears. For more information on these bears, talk to the expects directly at www.bsbcc.org.my