Text and Photos by Chew Ying Yi
I am Ying Yi and I am from Malaysia. My classmates and I had an opportunity to intern in Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) for 2 weeks. This experience have greatly ameliorates myself in term of knowing more about Malayan Sun Bear and conservation of wildlife in Malaysia. As a vet student, it wasn’t the first time I hear about the sun bear but it is only since the time spent in BSBCC made me realized that the Malayan Sun Bears need help.
Malayan Sun Bears are the world’s smallest bear and the sub species of Malayan Sun Bears in Borneo are much smaller than I thought it would be. The fully grown Borneo Sun Bear is almost the same of a giant breed of dogs (But they are NOT supposed to be kept as pet like dogs!).
With the Bears
Our daily routines basically were on the management of the bears. We cleaned their inside enclosure, prepared their daily food, fed them, prepared their enrichments and gave them their enrichments. Of course we did observation on the bears behaviours during the feeding time and when we gave them enrichments.
The most daily looking forward routine to me is to observe them. They are really lovely and cute with all kinds of poses when they do their daily activities such as sleeping, eating, climbing on trees and so on.
Within the short period of internship, we are lucky to have a chance to observe Chin to first reintroduce back to the forest. Spending a few days integrating Chin with other bears, and after training at the training pens, the guillotine door is open for Chin to access the outside world I was doing the ethogram for Chin on the first day for 30 minutes. It was really heartbroken for me to see wildlife to be curious and at the same time afraid of the forest which is their natural habitat. It took her 3 days to finally step out the inside enclosure and step on the forest ground.
Due to their ‘cuteness’ and their small size, they were often kept as pets, which is really erring to be done. Publics often do not understand that wild animal is designed to be wild. Keeping them as pet can be dangerous to the owner as they grow and become stronger. It is nature to them to play rough because that’s how they would play with their siblings or mother in the wild and this behaviour is uncomfortable with human. The more concern matter is the Sun Bear where their welfare are being compromised and attainted. People are doing wrong things to say that they love Sun Bears but in fact they are harming and abusing them. This fact does not only refer to sun bear but includes every illegal keeping of wildlife as pet.
I like the meeting session every Tuesday very much where every division discuss about the problem faced and give suggestion to solve the problems. This is the time where I get all the passionate aura of people working in BSBCC and everyone is working so hard to give more to the sun bear.
There is not much treatment to be done which means it is good news as most of the sun bears are doing really well in the center. Prevention is always better than cure. Having a good bear management did largely reduce the incident of them getting injured.
My classmates Yee Nin, Ema and I were welcomed by Thye Lim, our supervisor at the Sandakan airport when we arrived. I am really grateful that BSBCC provides transportation and accommodation, this had been very helpful to us. Bjorn Hala is the name of the place where we stay. Experiences here was fascinating, it’s the first time for me where I need to prepare my meals for myself for so many continuous days. This had been challenging but definitely one of the most memorable memories in my life! The day ends and the night starts so early over here and it gets pretty dark at 6.30pm. There was one day where the no electricity supply in the night and we had to prepare our dinner in the dark. The beginning of food preparation was a chaos, the process of cooking it was jumble, the food was tolerable and the cleaning part – hmm. In summary, this can be quite fun in a way!
Even though as a vet students, I was dismayed when we were not given change to be in the quarantine, I am really happy at the same time to realize about the strict rules and management in BSBCC. This is really good and positive to have place such as BSBCC in Malaysia that concern animals (sun bear in this case) more than to entertain human. Animals including wildlife deserve better as we human are the one that invade their home and freedom.
Thanks to Mr.Wong for giving us a chance to have a closer look into sun bear and having such a place to do more for the sun bears and correcting the mistakes done by us human to the wildlife.
Thanks to Lin May and Thye Lim for willing to share all the information and helping us a lot whenever we need help. I really gain a lot from both of them.
Thanks to Nick our housemate to fetch us every day to BSBCC, back home, to wherever we requested and cleaning up the mess and trouble we created.
Thank you very much to Azzry for guiding me since the first day at the bear house. His guidance made me less panic being in the new environment.
Thanks to every single staffs in BSBCC. Everyone has been so friendly and willing to help.