Text & Photos by Koo Wei Chee
I always want to work with animals since I was young, but due to the wrong decision that I made in secondary school where I took art and commerce stream instead of science stream. I could not get to the field I wanted after graduated which was zoology or environmental conservation. Thus the only course that I could take was biotechnology which gave me a second chance to enter to bio-related field, Although it was tough to manage the course, I finally maintained the CGPA of 3.0 before taking my last subject which was internship and that was the chance to grab the opportunities to search a job that I liked. After searching for many related companies or organization and even other biotechnology companies when I started to think there was no chance already, BSBCC finally had a positive reply from both the e-mail and online interview, I was very surprised and happy to have this opportunity to enter the field of wildlife. These took me 7 years overall since my mistake in making the wrong decision in year 2007.
This was the first time I travelled so far by myself to Sabah from my hometown in Peninsular Malaysia, I didn’t know what I would face without any experience in handling animals. However, every single moment spent in BSBCC and the wildlife essence in Sepilok had made my four months of this internship period a wonderful experience, memory, and history (16th October 2015 to 3rd February 2016)!
I worked in the bear care unit for these four months. I was quite clumsy at first about the daily routine in cleaning the cages and food preparation, then I was able to pick up the skills and found my own way to do it without changing the motives. I was very grateful to work with those passionate, dedicated, and friendly staff in the unit, we had these kind of same thought that we do our job seriously and meanwhile we joke around sometimes to make the works lively.
The best part I liked in my work is the enrichment part where we manually make different sorts of products to enrich the bears. There are food enrichment such as bamboo feeder, ice blocks, egg carton parcel, PVC tube feeder, termite nest etc., environmental enrichment such as collecting dry leaves, banana leaves, twigs and branches, and also have some clean-up occasionally.
After working in the center around 6 weeks, I asked for projects to do to learn more, I got myself an integration, fence training, and enclosure training for 3 bears and. It was not an easy task because those bears were kept in captive and never touch the earth before, every single training was like a start, to see their behavior of things they never seen before. There was a memory which I will never forget, Sunbearo the bear got zapped by the electric fence during its fence training session, he barked in panic, he didn’t know what to do but to climb up, every single climb got more zap. The keeper in charge ran quickly to turn off the electricity, Sunbearo then climbed down when he noticed that the cage next to the training pen was opened and quickly ran into it to climb up to rest in the hammock. The whole session after that (around 20 minutes). Sunbearo and the other bears actually do not need to feel this pain, it is all due to those people who illegally keep them as pets which screw the whole life of those animals. I’m here to express this message to the public, hoping no other people will keep any of those sun bears as pet again. The best thing was that after more than two months of those training, they touched the first time on earth and able to climb their very first tree, that moments really brightened the work I had done for the centre.
Other things that I needed to cope up with other than the work in BSBCC are basic cooking and languages. The house where volunteers and interns live doesn’t have any grocery shop nearby and I never cook at all before my internship so everything started from zero from cooking even eggs, and slowly to cooking vegetables and chicken lately. I can say that I’m proud to present my own cooked dishes to serve to my parents by now. As about the language, I seldom talk in Malay language due to my education background, I rarely understand a full sentence when people talked to me in Malay and things got even challenging when people in Sabah talk in Malay faster and somehow a slight difference of using words. I knew that this was the chance to allow me to talk more in Malay language so I was very happy that I learnt a lot from the staff. Whenever I didn’t know a word, they were eager to help me to translate it to make my sentence full.
What I knew from this moment was that I will show no regrets even if I could not continue my dream work after fighting so hard and the fury persistence in order to get this internship opportunity because I have experienced it. And this is what most people do not have it, the encouragement to do what they want to do. Special thanks to BSBCC founder and CEO Mr. Wong Siew Te for giving me this opportunity and my supervisor Mr. Tee Thye Lim for being such a great mentor. I did have a positive idea for my future career, and I will still continue my first objective to other bio-related field if needed.
Spread A Message Contest
A total of 67 students and six teachers arrived at BSBCC on the 13th of October. The school group from SK Bandar, Sandakan was welcomed with a brief presentation delivered by our Environmental Education Officer, Miss Risnayati. The students and teachers then visited the observation platform to see the sun bears roaming in the forest enclosure. The "Spread A Message" activity took over after that.
The students get to work in their group of six to seven and was assigned to create a meaningful message to raise awareness about sun bears. After they were done with their artworks, each team needs presented to their teachers and schoolmates about the message they have chosen.
Every group did very well in completing their tasks. "Sayangi kami, lindungi kami(Love us, protect us)" was one of the messages created for the sun bears. We hope that the students will continue to spread out the message and more people will learn about the sun bears.
BSBCC continued to join in the outreach programme organized by our education partner, HUTAN-Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Porgramme (KOCP). During September to October 2015, five schools in Lahad Datu were visited. Lahad Datu is located in the eastern part of Sabah. Danum Valley Conservation Area and Tabin Wildlife Reserve are the protected areas within the Lahad Datu district which are important habitats for many wild animals.
It has always been a privilege to have the opportunity to raise awareness on our wild animals among school kids. "Why do we need to protect these wildlife?", is one of the common questions that raised by the students. The education team never fails to enlighten the students with the help of interactive activities to stimulate their understanding on the plights of our wild animals.
1) SK Telisai, Lahad Datu (28th September 2015)
2) SK Silam, Lahad Datu (29th September 2015)
3) SMK Terusan (30th September 2015)
On the 12th January until 16th January 2016, a group of 10 volunteers from The Peninsula Community Project through World Challenge arrived at our Centre and helped to build a mini observation platform outside enclosure A as well as perimeter steps outside the forest enclosure. This benefits BSBCC by reducing fundraising burden by building international support for conservation of wild animals in Borneo.
The team was supervised by Jason Tan Ming Hau from Arkitrek with the help from BSBCC staff. Upon arrival of the team, an introduction talk about sun bears and BSBCC was presented by BSBCC staff. This was followed by a health and safety briefing before the team started working.
On behalf of BSBCC team, we want to thank the Peninsula Community Project for helping us in upgrading our facilities.
Malay Mail Online, 18th January 2016.
SANDAKAN, Jan 18 — The carcass of an adult sun bear floating in Kinabatangan River was the last thing Swedish tourists Tommy Eriksson and his wife Teuta Hajra expected to see while on a cruise to spot wildlife.
They managed to capture photographs of the bear at about 6pm on Jan 16, and shared the images with Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) chief executive officer Wong Siew Te, today.
The carcass was the lower part of a sun bear that was cut into half with both the hind paws missing and seen floating downstream at Kampung Sukau, close to an agriculture estate.
According to Eriksson, his wife was the first to spot the floating carcass on the river and when they got closer to it, they realised that it was actually half of a sun bear carcass.
Eriksson said they felt depressed and angry after seeing the dead sun bear which they believed was a victim of poaching.
“We feel sad witnessing the scale of deforestation is this area. The act of killing the animal is really brutal. This country has so much magnificent wildlife and I hope that it will take care of their habitats,” added Teuta, who broke into tears when she saw the carcass.
The sun bear carcass was recovered later in the night with the help of Kinabatangan—Corridor of Life Tourism Association (KiTA) members and sent to the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) for investigation.
In a joint statement issued by the SWD and BSBCC, Wong said the bear was killed in cold blood and that the act was an illegal one that should be stopped immediately.
“The sun bear population is already seriously threatened by the loss of the rainforest, and they have lost their habitat due to agricultural development.
“The remaining population is very fragile and faces extinction. Sun bears play many important roles in maintaining a healthy forest ecosystem,” Wong said.
There are no estimates on the number of sun bears in Sabah’s wild and those that are found orphaned or caged as part of the pet trade are usually sent to BSBCC for rehabilitation. — Bernama
The Rakyat Post, 18th January 2016.
A Swedish couple went cruising along the Kinabatangan River recently and became distressed when they caught sight of the remains of a sun bear.
The husband and wife, Tommy Eriksson and Teuta Hajra, spotted the carcass floating in the river and later shared online the image, captured on Jan 16 at 6pm.
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) chief executive officer Wong Siew Te said today the carcass was the lower part of a sun bear that was cut into half, with both of the hind paws missing and seen floating downstream of Kampung Sukau, close to an agricultural estate.
“Eriksson told me that his wife was the first to spot the floating carcass. When they got closer, they realised that it was actually a sun bear carcass cut into half.”
The discovery made the foreign tourists angry. They believe the protected animal had become a victim of poaching.
“We feel sad witnessing the scale of the deforestation is this area. The act of the killing is really brutal. This country has so much magnificent wildlife. I hope that it will take care of habitats,” said Teuta, who broke into tears when she saw the carcass.
The sun bear carcass was fished out of the river later that night, with the help from Kinabatangan – Corridor of Life Tourism Association (KiTA) members and handed to the Sabah Wildlife Department for investigation.
In a statement, Wong said the bear was killed in cold blood and said such illegal acts must be stopped immediately.
“We believe poachers took parts of the sun bear’s body to meet commercial demand.
“The paws are for a delicacy while its gall bladder is said to have medicinal value. Both items can fetch high prices.
“We condemn such acts, especially since the sun bear population is already seriously threatened from loss of the rainforest to agricultural development, thus affecting their natural habitat.”
Wong noted that the remaining population was very fragile and faced local extinction.
“Sun bears play many important roles in maintaining a healthy forest ecosystem. The loss of this sun bear is not just bad to the environment, but for everyone as a whole.”
He said there are no estimate on the exact number of sun bears in Sabah’s wild, including those found orphaned or caged.
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
On the 30th of October 2015 we were pleased to welcome two new rescued sun bears to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.
Introducing Boboi (Rescue Sun Bear 45), a one year old juvenile, male sun bear
Kitud (Rescue Sun Bear 46), a 14 month old juvenile, female sun bear
Both bears were handed over to the Sabah Wildlife Department in Singgaron village, Ranau district. They were both ex-pets. Their names were given to them by their previous owners who surrendered them to authority.
The story reported to the rescue team was that Boboi originally was from Pitas, Sabah and Kitud was originally from Mengkapoh village, Ranau district. Both of them were handed over by people. They were kept together in one cage and were fed with milk, rice and fish.
On the 1st of November 2015, we conducted a health check for Boboi and Kitud. Dr. Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam from the Wildlife Rescue Unit of Sabah’s Wildlife Department performed a general health check. This included an assessment of their overall health, potential sickness, function of the internal organs, and physical condition. Boboi was 15.55kg and Kitud was 12.1kg. The blood test results have shown Boboi and Kitud are healthy.
We are glad to report that Boboi and Kitud are showing positive signs of improvement. Kitud is very slow paced when eating and quite well behaved compared to her friend, Boboi, who is a very cheeky and energetic sun bear. He will find ways to enjoy himself. These two bears have a very close bond and can be seen loving to hang out together. They spend their time foraging, exploring, sharing their food, play fighting and climbing together.
On December 15th, 2015 Kitud and Boboi were integrated with Tan-Tan (an eight month old, female sun bear cub). This was a special day for Tan-Tan as it was her first contact with another sun bear after a very long time. They discovered a wonderful new friendship.This allowed them to greatly improve social skills. Tan-Tan seems to become more playful when interacting with Boboi and Kitud. The three sun bear cubs are living together and are sharing one large den. All worked out well with the integration and they did not show any signs of aggression.
Here are some pictures that show how the three sun bear cubs play fight and settling into their new life.
Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan are given different types of enrichment to stimulate and prepare them for life back in the wild. Boboi is always curious, huffing on the new enrichment toys while Kitud and Tan-Tan will normally without hesitation just destroy or play with it. They like to be dirty while enjoying the never ending enrichment and love getting care from our bear care staff. They are relishing in the extra space to play, run and climb. Boboi and Kitud have quickly adjusted to their new surroundings. They get a balanced diet that comprises of milk, vegetables and fruits. They are not choosy when it comes to food and have a good appetite. These three cubs are happy to leave their past lives behind and are learning to be wild bears again.
The sad reality of each rescued sun bear cub at our center is that they came from having lived through a bitter past; usually kept or traded by humans and having been separated from their mother at a very young age. These three little rescued bears are no different. The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre’s mission is to conserve sun bears through improving animal welfare, raising conservation awareness with education, conducting research, and rehabilitating the sun bears like Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan who have a second chance at returning to life in the forest! Sun bears are in grave danger of extinction in the wild and we need to help them as much as we can. Please spread the message that sun bears belong in the wild and should not be kept as pets, no matter what the circumstances.
My Sunshine Coast, 6th January 2016.
Four University of the Sunshine Coast students travelled to Malaysia recently to help design a brighter future for sun bears in Borneo.
Design students Stacey Goebel, Haijing Li, Kym Franklin and Jana Stadelman completed a 10-day work placement with the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sabah that involved producing a new website and educational materials for the organisation.
This centre provides care and rehabilitation for rescued sun bears, a species listed as vulnerable following a 30 percent drop in its population over the past 30 years.
USC students are also involved in an ongoing project to produce interpretive signage for visitors at the newly opened centre.
Senior Lecturer in Art and Design Kevin Todd said resources like a website and information booklets were crucial for not-for-profit groups like the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.
“I think the interpretive signage really deepens the experience for a lot of the visitors, because it provides some context for the threats being faced by sun bears,” he said.
“Other students have also produced a 52-page educational booklet in Malay, Chinese and English language, to be used by schools.
“The students’ work will help this small, developing group reach its fundraising goals and, in turn, grow the organisation.
“This is real work for the students, not a university project, and they’ve now got something in their portfolios that they can demonstrate made an impact in the real world.”
The organisation website is now live at www.bsbcc.org.my and the booklet is available as a PDF download.