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Text by Henry Smith
Photos by Jacquelyn Jill Jepiuh
When I decided I wanted to go traveling on my 18th birthday I also realised I wanted to do something worthwhile. I looked in some travel brochures and saw a small black bear with a yellow patch on his chest. I instantly fell in love with them and thought this is what I’m going to do at the end of my trip. So, after three and a half months of traveling around eastern Asia and Australasia I finally ended up at the BSBCC.
My first thoughts were that this place is incredible, and my thoughts were correct. Everyone working at BSBCC was amazingly friendly and helpful when it came to explaining the work we’d be doing over the coming fortnight. They then continued to be helpful and friendly when we carried out the tasks. You’re paired up with a bear keeper when working and mine, Julamih, was particularly patient when it came down to me trying to guess which bear was which. At first it was hopeless and I could only get one or two correct names, however by the end of the two weeks I reckon I could correctly name at least ten.
The work we did was hard and it did smell a bit, although this made it all the more fun. Apart from cleaning up after the bears we got to complete tonnes of smaller activities depending on what day it was, my favourite was hiking out into the jungle to search for termite nests, which is a favourite for some of the bears. The variety in tasks combined with the humour of the bear keepers and also the thought of doing something worth made the time go by very fast.
The other volunteers staying with me in the volunteer house were also incredibly kind, sadly for them I said I’d cook most nights, although my mediocre food aside we had a great time and I’ve definitely made some friends for life.
The work they’re doing at BSBCC is incredibly important for this species of bear that is under so much threat. And without the extra help from the volunteers the bear keepers wouldn’t be able to as much for the health or happiness of the bear. I had tonnes of fun and made some memories that will last forever, I’ve also discovered more about Bornean sun bears and how getting them back into the wild is the best thing for them. I’d thoroughly recommend to anyone wanting to volunteer with the sun bears specifically or any animals, you’ll love it.