HELP US, SUPPORT US
From Sweden to Malaysia
Text by Jennifer Ekström
Photos by Jacquelyn Jill Jepiuh
My name is Jennifer Ekström and I am 18 years old. I come from Stockholm, Sweden where I study animal care. I am in my final year of studying and I got the opportunity to go to Borneo and volunteer at BSBCC as my final internship. I have now been here volunteering for five weeks and it has been one of the best five weeks of my life and I am really sad to leave. This has been an amazing opportunity that I have wished to do ever since I heard about it when I started at my school. All the work we do here at the center have been fun but also hard and challenging.
The work during normal days is often similar, in the bear house there is a schedule for the week where you can see what you are supposed to do every day. Some of the work that we do every day is preparing all the food for the bears, clean cages, give medicine and more. Out of that we have went out to collect banana leaves, termites and done a lot of enrichments. The enrichments usually contain of banana and peanut butter wrapped in leaves or wood. The bears always seem to enjoy the enrichments so that makes it fun for me to prepare them. The last week I started my bigger enrichment project together with my buddy Azwie. We used an old enrichment that the bears didn’t use and improved it. The enrichment is now inside of Pandas cage and I hope she likes it.
The staff at BSBCC are all very friendly and helpful, they all have made the work a lot easier and funnier. They are all welcoming and always take good care of you and the bears. It has been fun to get to know and work with all of them. They are always checking up on you so that everything is good cause of the hard work and the heat. I am definitely going to miss all of the staff here at BSBCC.
I have learned a lot of new things about the bears, the rainforest and about the culture. The time here has been wonderful even though as a Swede that are not used to it, had to live with the heat, humid air, insects and of course the leaches. A few years ago, I would have been too scared to do this but I have never regretted my choice of applying to this internship at BSBCC. I am so grateful that I got this opportunity from my school, these five weeks have gone to fast and I am not ready to go home yet. I am really going to miss all of it!
My internship at BSBCC
Text by Jasmine Stark
Photos by Jude Ailton George & Jacquelyn Jill Jepiuh
I came to BSBCC through my school, they sent me to have my internship here for five weeks. Since I started my school, all that I worked for was to be able to come here, I will be forever thankful towards my school and all the people at BSBCC for giving me this opportunity.
My time at BSBCC has been nothing short of incredible. I came here with little knowledge about sun bears and I will be leaving this place filled with new facts and experiences with this species. I am incredibly thankful for the bear keepers and other staff that I have gotten to know during this period. I will miss them and all the beautiful sun bears that I have cared for during my time here. I will definitely not forget Romolina and her peaceful sleeping in trees.
These five weeks have been filled with different tasks, challenges and opportunities. I have performed the usual husbandry tasks and maintenance tasks such as feeding bears, checking the fences and cleaning the enclosures. One of the larger challenges at the beginning might have been the leeches (!) since we don’t have those back in Sweden but I quickly got used to them. The experience here outweighs the challenge of those leeches by miles. Not only have I done these tasks, I have also taken with me a bunch of new enrichment ideas back to Sweden, and I have created multiple enrichments for the bears themselves such as “trisslott” and the smaller stick paradox enrichments. Thank you to my buddy Neal for making this experience even better!
I also got to take part of a health check in which I was allowed to clean paws and take temperature, I’ll never forget that close contact with the bear.
Experiencing the Kinabatangan River Cruise was a great activity on my off days, being able to see so many animals up close without disturbing them is a great way to observe the wildlife, I was lucky enough to spot the rare wrinkled hornbill!
I honestly lack words, this internship has been nothing short of amazing and I do not want to leave. I will never forget the work, the people or the sunbears, I am forever grateful!
Outreach to SK Labuk Subur
Thanks to KLK Sawit Nusantara invitation, we reached another school at SK Labuk Subur in the district of Beluran. Sabah Wildlife Department (Sandakan) and HUTAN-Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Programme (HUTAN-KOCP) joined us and having fun together while engaging the students and the teachers. The organiser and all invited participants provided information on their respective field of expertise while engaging the targets in a fun and lively manner. Thanks KLK Sawit Nusantara for the invitation, BSBCC will be always looking forward to cooperate for any future programme.
Community Outreach on Wildlife Conservation Awareness and Education Programme to Kg. Litang
On the 16th of February 2023, BSBCC EE Unit organised another community outreach to Kampung Litang Kinabatangan. Invited together were Sabah Wildlife Department (Kinabatangan District) and Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC). Although facing several issues before the execution of the programme (the village was hit by flood a week before), the programme was successfully carried out and attracted a number of villagers.
Focusing on the wildlife conflict and legal issues, the programme was intended to initiate joint cooperation between the villagers, and state department, and related NGOs in wildlife conservation. Feedbacks from some of the villagers were positive and encouraging, and we are looking forward to seeing more engagement among them to promote wildlife conservation and living harmoniously with them.
Special thanks to: Hap Seng Plantation Sdn Bhd (Sungai Segama Group) – for granting us entry to the village and providing free accommodation to the organiser and participants Teachers of SK Litang – for facilitating the communication between the organiser and the village community (special acknowledgement to Mr. Gusmit Hj Ning and Mr. Asri) Sabah Wildlife Department (Kinabatangan) – for joining the programme and enabling us to engage the community (special acknowledgement to Mdm Sylvia Alsisto) Sabah Wildlife Department (SORC) – for involving in the prior planning for the outreach programme.
A New Experience!
Text by Alba Nanna Ricking Simoncini
Photos by Jacquelyn Jill Jepiuh
Hi my is Alba Nanna Ricking Simoncini, I am an 18-year-old student from Stockholm Sweden. I have volunteered here at BSBCC for five weeks now. I got this volunteering opportunity through my school, Spånga gymnasium. In Sweden I study animal care and this was a great opportunity to further my knowledge.
These five weeks have gone by so fast it feels like only yesterday I saw the bears and the centre for the first time. When I first saw the centre and the bear house, I knew that I would have really fun here! My first week here was both amazing and super exhausting. I both saw and learned so many new things that I would have never learned in Sweden. This was my first-time seeing sun bears in person, they were much smaller and cuter than I had anticipated! I immediately liked Romolina the most since she looked so adorable sleeping in the trees and she looked especially cute eating carrots. Another bear that I really liked was Kukuton, during fence training with him I really saw how interesting of a bear he was and his backstory really interested me as well, which is why I chose to make my enrichment project for him. I told my buddy David about my idea and with the help of some of the other bear keepers we built it, the saws used for the wood were bad so my arms got really tired. My enrichment idea was a ladder built out of wood that the bears can climb on and play on. Kukuton was a bit skeptical towards it and didn’t really like it but his cage mate Betung and Itam had fun on it and I saw them play on it as well.
Both the work and the off days have been really fun even though it has been tiring sometimes, we tried a lot of new good food as well with the staff which was really fun, and I am really going to miss Milo when I go back to Sweden. My favorite Food was Roti canai! We saw lots of new exciting animals here as well that I have never seen before such as; proboscis monkeys, macaques, big centipedes, hornbills and of course the sunbear! When we walked into the forest to look for termite nests we even saw a wild orang utan!!
The staff was really kind to us and really fun to talk to, they taught me lot of Malay words as well such as terima kasih. It was fun to get to know lots of new people from around the world and to hear about their experiences when working with animals and travelling.
Returning to BSBCC
Text by Khushalinie Kalayarasu
Photos by Jacquelyn Jill Jepiuh
Having volunteered before at BSBCC in August 2016, I was fortunate enough to be given an opportunity to relive this experience once again to advance a good cause in the name of wildlife conservation. My journey continued when I was exposed to the daily operations and the importance of management at running the centre. I quickly recalled the ultimate goal of the conservation centre was to rehabilitate any rescued endangered Bornean sun bears with the hopes of releasing them back into the wild one day.
Despite a short lived 2 weeks experience, it was an unforgettable and enjoyable experience. Some tasks were unfamiliar, but others had a feeling of déjà vu especially the part where I was able to recognize some of the bears, Amaco, Linggam and Simone which I had a privilege to work with previously. Even with certain tasks being physically challenging, I was able to persevere with the help and patience of the team. It was with their unwavering support that I had gained new knowledge and could perform procedures in an orderly manner. At every juncture of my doubt and query, everyone was also readily available to answer about the behaviours of the bears and clarify on some of the tasks.
On one lucky day, I even had the chance to observe and assist Dr Boon with a bear health check. It was truly insightful to observe the procedures she carried out. With my minimal experience in a clinical setting, I learned and understood that multiple aspects of the animal should be continuously monitored by the team without fail otherwise the bear would be in grave danger.
Reminiscing my previous experience at BSBCC, this conservation centre has come a long way. From having just one viewing platform, they have now expanded into a huge operation with 2 platforms, providing a better view of the bears to the public. The determination of the founder and staff in growing this centre shows persistent effort really bears fruition if pursued. A must have resilience in wildlife conservation which I hope to replicate in my own life.
On this experience alone, I have gained a valuable perspective on wildlife conservation and understood more about the amount of detailed effort which goes into the rehabilitation process. I owe this wonderful experience to the team at BSBCC. Everyone has been very friendly and pleasant, making BSBCC a place to remember! Special thanks to Dr Wong, Dr Boon, Pradeep, Jac, my buddy (Oliver) and every single one of the supportive team for their hospitality and invaluable wisdom. I envision to return on a third adventure soon, with a greater hunger for more.
Bear Claws High Five xx
BSBCC EE Unit was invited by KLK Sawit Nusantara Bhd to carry out an educational outreach programme to SJK (C) Yuk Choi, Sandakan yesterday on the 14th February 2023. Tagged along with us throughout the programme was HUTAN-Kinabatangan Orangutan Program (HUTAN-KOCP). Activities such as exhibitions, interactive talks and coloring the wildlife mask were included to attract students of different age groups, suiting their comprehension level. The presence of Sunny the Sun Bear also livened up the programme as the kids expressed their excitement on him.
We strongly believe education on wildlife conservation must start from our youngsters, so they can be the next generation continuing our job in the future. They will become the voice of the voiceless: nurturing them to love the wildlife will be the first step of all.
SK. Gabungan Telupid visit
Thank you, SK Gabungan Telupid, for visiting us yesterday. We are glad that they come from a distant location and chose to visit BSBCC for their school day-trip programs. They are given a guided tour to the observation platform to see the bear roaming in the forest enclosure of BSBCC.
We hope they enjoyed their time here, gained some knowledge about sun bears, and spread our words to save the smallest bear species in the world.
Volunteering at BSBCC
Text by Leah December Derksen
Photos by Jude Ailton George
I spent two weeks volunteering at BSBCC in January 2023. I am on a quest to learn from grassroots conservation centres, and was therefore excited to discover the work being done at BSBCC by Dr. Wong and his team. A naturally curious person by nature, I was full of questions, both mundane and arcane. The keepers and Dr Wong himself were happy to oblige me, doing their best to satisfy my never-ending queries. I am grateful for their generosity in sharing their knowledge and their patience.
When participating in new experiences time seems to fly by, and my time at BSBCC was no exception, as was the consensus amongst the other volunteers. Some learning curves were quickly mastered, like learning not to turn on the hose when the end is directly in your boot. Others were not so easy, like learning to visually identify each bear. Gradually the individuality of each bear became apparent, though I can’t say I came away entirely victorious in my identification skills.
Daily activities contained enough repetition to enable me to gain comfort and confidence with the tasks assigned, but enough variation to keep me engaged and constantly learning. The bears and the forest hold many wonders and I am thankful to have had an opportunity to have a glimpse of their lives.
While the bears are steal-your-heart adorable, it is worth repeating that BSBCC is doing the best they can, but ideally their bears would not be in captivity in the first place, which is largely due to the pet trade. It results in bears like dear old Amaco who was kept in captivity for 18 years before coming to BSBCC and was 30 years old at the time of my visit, who is unwilling to go outside, no matter how much coaxing the keepers do. He will never experience life in the forest. All he knows and will ever know is the confines of a cage. While carefully cared for by the keepers, his best life would have been in the forest.
Despite volunteers having only a short time at BSBCC, our role is not over when we leave. Advocacy remains one of the strongest tools of conservationists. So, share this message when you go home: wild animals belong in the wild. A bear or any other wild animal does not belong in your home. In the event of injury or orphaning, they should be cared for by those who know how to give them the best chance of returning to their natural homes. No matter how cute, no matter how unique, no matter how interesting, let’s leave the wild in the wilderness.
Also, continue to support the work of BSBCC and other agencies like it. Running NGOs is a constant fight for funding, so give financial support when you can. If you cannot contribute financially, lend your voice publicly, whether on social media or by telling your friends, family, and colleagues about your experience. Bears and the forest are not indestructible. If we do not work to protect them as Dr. Wong and his team are doing, they will not remain forever. Because it is due to human activity that their safety is threatened, it is our responsibility as a species to own up to and fix our mistakes.
From the bottom of my heart, BSBCC, thank-you for the experience I had here and all the work that goes on behind the scenes to further a mission that at times seems futile. Your work is appreciated and valued. For those considering volunteering at BSBCC, it will be a rewarding experience that you won’t easily forget.
School Visits from SK. Tanjong Aru, SK. St. Mary Labuk, SK. Sangau Kinabatangan and SK. Pulau Bum Bum Semporna.
We received four group visits in one day yesterday. These group visits are from SK Tanjong Aru, SK St. Mary Labuk, SK Sangau Kinabatangan, and SK Pulau Bum Bum Semporna. We are delighted that they chose to visit us for their school trip program.
The groups are briefed on the safety rules by our Environmental Education Officers, and they are brought to the observation platform to see the sun bears roaming in the natural forest enclosures. Also, we conducted the "Bear Observation" activity with each group of schools, where they needed to observe what the bears were doing in the forest enclosures and relate it to the bears' role in the forest.
We hope they had a great time here and gained some new knowledge about sun bears while helping us spread awareness by sharing their experiences with their friends and family. Thank you!
Write to us at our
PPM 219, Elopura,
90000 Sandakan, Sabah,