Text and Photos by Lam Jia Ern
Coming from the small town of Sandakan itself, the well-known Nature’s City, I never learned to appreciate the beauty of it when I was younger. I was never an outdoors-y type of girl back then. I used to always hide in the shade, complain about the heat & bugs and never one to get down and dirty. Ever since I left out of the country to pursue my dream in becoming a veterinarian, I slowly began to miss the serenity and tranquillity of being surrounded by Mother Nature and all of its breath-taking scenes. Volunteering at BSBCC gave me the opportunity I needed to reconnect to my roots and truly appreciate what Mother Nature has to offer.
First day on the job, and I was introduced to everyone, with Lester being one of the very first, showing me the ropes. Being the awkwardly shy person that I am, I rarely talk to new acquaintances, making it hard for me to “fit it” and come out of my shell, but the bear house staffs instantly made me feel welcomed and kept pestering me to talk, allowing me to feel as though I was part of their little family. There was never a dull moment whenever I was with them. My 2 weeks there, filled with jokes and laughs, flew by in a blink of an eye. As they say, time flies when you’re having fun, and I most certainly did.
In the short amount of time that I was there, I was full of admiration for the keepers’ dedication towards the bears. Regardless of the time of day or location, they will do whatever in their power to rescue or help a bear in need. Their awe-inspiring devotion became something that I aspire to be like when I enter the workforce.
Before getting the experience of working with wild animals, the consequences of keeping them as pets never came to mind, but after being able to witness the heart-wrenching impact it has on the animals, I stand firmly against it. It not only affects them physically, but also psychologically, with many of them showing abnormal/stereotypic behaviours. Keepers try to keep the bears busy by providing them with various enrichments, ranging from stuffing short rubber hoses with peanut butter and dog biscuits to filling up gunnysacks with goodies like a piñata, but it all depends on whether the bears are willing to spend their time on it.
To get the full gist of the behind-the-scenes work it takes to care and rehabilitate a wild animal, you would have to volunteer. You’d never get to witness the amount of blood, sweat and tears, put into the process of rehabilitation to the point where they would be suitable to be released into the wild, by just being a tourist. Volunteering at BSBCC truly made me understand a lot more about sunbears and the work it takes to revive their “inner bear-liness” after living as pets for so long.
I left with 2 weeks of incomparable experiences, unforgettable memories and people of which I am proud to say that I have worked with and to call my friends. During my time there, I managed to catch glimpses of the magical little moments that made all the time, energy and effort worthwhile. If given the chance again, I will jump at the opportunity in a heartbeat. So, thank you to everyone for accepting me into the program and making my time there an experience of a lifetime.
Text and Photos by Shirley Soh
I’m very blessed to have the opportunity to complete my internship for 14 days at BSBCC, although it is just a short period of time, but every moment that I spent here at BSBCC is so memorable. The cute and cuddly Sun Bear, the green and enchanting forest and not to forget all the kind and friendly staff have make my stay here in BSBCC unforgettable. I’m a 3rd year vet student and the reason that I chose BSBCC as the place for my internship is first, because I have always been having interest in wildlife especially in conservation programs and second, because it is closed to my hometown.
From the first moment that I saw the Sun Bear I could totally understand why people would catch them and keep them as their pets, their cute and cuddly features make them looked so adorable. Illegal pet trade are the main threats to the Sun Bear population besides habitat loss and illegal poaching.
During my period of internship here at BSBCC our daily activities include fence checking, cleaning, preparation of feed, feeding, and making enrichment for the bears. To be honest, for the first few days the task is quite challenging and tough especially for a small girl like me, but looking at the bright sight I get to have a free workout session every day and as I get used to the daily routine, things became easier and easier. Not to forget all the friendly and funny staff here that help to make my days brighter, for every day is filled with joy and laughter.
Although I have not learn a lot about the conservation work, but just by being closed to these wonderful creatures are more than enough for me. And yes, 14 days is just too short for an internship/ volunteering period. Lastly, I would like to take this opportunity to thank BSBCC for accepting me here for my internship as well as to all the staff that help me out a lot during my period of internship. I hope that the establishment of this place would create greater awareness and to educate the public about our Bornean Sun Bear.
Text and Photos by Naziah binti Muntil
Becoming an intern at BSBCC was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Before this, I only had a greater exposure on small animals (cats and dogs) and ruminant; less on wildlife animals. By having an internship here, it’s a great opportunity for me to open my eyes and expose myself to become more familiar how wildlife field is like.
2 weeks into the internship, the other interns and I were given the opportunity to join the Bear Care Unit. I helped the team to prepare the foods for the sun bears thus I was able to learn about their foods (what they eat and what foods that cannot be given to them). I also enjoyed joining outside feeding which we fed the sun bears in the pen.
One of the interesting parts throughout my internship here is doing enrichment for the sun bear. By doing this, it helps sun bear to perform its natural behaviour and designed the surrounding to mimic sun bear’s natural environment.
Lastly, I would like to thank Mr Wong Siew Te, Thye Lim, Lin May, and all the bear keepers due to their generosity and time and the knowledge and experiences you all shared with me will be useful as I continue my college career and start the next stage of my life. BSBCC is a place that I will always look back at as the beginning of my inspiration to work with wildlife species and be more active in conservation.
Daily Express. 12th February 2016.
US Ambassador to Malaysia
On the 10th January 2016, US ambassador, HE Joseph Y. Yun arrived in Sandakan for an official visit to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SOURC) and BSBCC. This was the ambassador’s 2nd visit to the Centre after his informal visit in May 2014. Together with the ambassador were delegates of the Portland–Kota Kinabalu Sister City Association, an organization that works on shared concerns ranging from conservation, research and education. Wong and the BSBCC team brought the delegates for a guided walk to observe the sun bears in their enclosures. The visit ended with a presentation of souvenirs to the
ambassador and an evening tea session at the SOURC.
US Ambassador to ASEAN
BSBCC was honored to welcome the US ambassador to ASEAN HE Nina Hachigian to the Centre. Nina and her family were on vacation to Sandakan and visited us on the 6th February 2016. The BSBCC team gave the ambassador and her family a tour around the Centre after observing the orangutans at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.
A new observation platform and aerial walkway were built adjacent to the existing boardwalk at the sun bear viewing area. This additional structure funded by Sime Darby Foundation will be able to cater more visitors to see the sun bears in their natural habitat. The construction is expected to be completed by March 2016.