Text by Peter Lowe
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
I arrived at Sandakan airport in the late afternoon Sunday 05/03 to be met by the driver to take me to Paganakan Dii where I was welcomed by Robin, went to the accommodation to join my fellow volunteers, Jonas, Sofia and Yu Endo on our induction with Sumira. Great to be back to this special part of the planet with very special people :-)
The next day was a leisurely start, breakfast in the dining area at Paganakan Dii then off to the BSBCC with Robin driving. Re-united/welcomed by many friends at BSBCC, clocked in, walked over to the Bear House to re-bond with the keepers and the stars, the Bornean Sun Bears :-) I had the privilege of having Roger as my buddy for the second year :-) I learnt so much more from both Roger and all at BSBCC during this time about the bears, their husbandry, their country/culture and, of course, the fun, wonderful company, thank you all :-)
There was high excitement with mixed emotions as Damai and Debbie were to release the very next day. As we walked to the bear house we passed the 2 travel crates in which they would be transported for their new life. Magical to be here to share this with everyone, a wonderful achievement.
All went to plan with the team and bears leaving early next day and returning, after a very full day in the early evening minus the 2 bears, mission accomplished with some remarkable videos recording their first moments of freedom, very different from each other !!
I did not believe that the experiences I enjoyed during my placement at BSBCC in 2017 would be surpassed. Wrong!!! I was given the opportunity to join a team of vets and BSBCC staff to sedate and undergo Advanced Reproductive Technology (ART) training on Sunbearo, Along, Bermuda and Sigalung in the nearby clinic. Once sedated each bear was transported by wheelbarrow to/from the clinic where the various tests were undertaken. It was part of this experience to help with lifting the bears, conducting the tests and to take a turn in pushing a bear loaded wheel barrow !!The team worked tirelessly the whole day with no break till 16.30 for refreshment. I opted to do the same and then we all went for supper to a restaurant near Sandakan. What a day, thank you !!
As last year I particularly enjoyed the weekly question sessions with my fellow volunteers with Dr.Wong. They had some very interesting questions and great replies. We were also invited to a lecture on Melioidosis which was very interesting.
This year leeches were very much in evidence whenever we ventured into the rain forest to collect items to make enrichment for the bears. I got the nickname of "leech magnet" as I collected more than my fair share.
2 of my career choices in my early teens were to be a zoo keeper and a vet. I was a student member of the royal zoological society of London and soon realised that being a zoo keeper was not such a glamorous vacation as I had imagined nor particularly well paid !! I then found out that to become a vet required years of study and was not cheap. I knew my family could not support me nor was I studious !! So both these early career choices were long forgotten. Now in the past 3 years, thanks to APE Malaysia's voluntary programmes, I have fulfilled both !! Amazing/unforgettable experiences, thank you.
I joined my fellow volunteers for several excursions during our time off = a night walk in The Rainforest Discovery Centre. We were fortunate as it was a clear night with exceptional lighting and saw the infamous flying squirrels, a Tarsier at very close quarters and much more !! A visit to the Sandakan Memorial Park and to Sandakan, plus Andy and Mizuno kindly took us for a Steamboat supper = yum !! On another free day I trekked in the Sepilok Nature Reserve which was a very special time, magical fauna/flora.
Thank you all who make these experiences possible and the wonderful work you do, you are all so special and bring so much happiness to so many !!! I plan to join you all again in March 2019 !!! To anyone considering partaking in the APE Malaysia project DO IT !! You will not regret it. Yes it is hot, at times messy, hard work. However you will always remember the fun you will have plus this amazing, unique experience. Maybe, like me, after being part of this project you will want to return !!
My love to you all.
SBCC's Education Team organized Sandakan Wildlife Conservation Awareness and Education Programme (Series 1) 2018 for Sandakan district together with our partners from HUTAN - Kinabatangan Orang Utan Conservation Programme (KOCP), REEF guardian, Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU), Sandakan Borneo Bird Club and Sabah Wildlife Department. BSBCC‟s education team have visited four schools in Sandakan, which were SK Batu Putih, SK Sg. Kayu, SK Sri Melanta Jaya and SMK Pangiran Galpam.
Various activities were held during this programme including talks, games, video show and colouring activity. Each participating organization also set up an educational booth for the students and teachers to visit.
Thank you to our partners from different organization for joining us in the programme and we are looking forward to working together again in future programmes. Last but not least, huge thanks to the teachers and pupils of the schools for their support and participation in this programme.
List of schools/organization visited in March and April 2018.
By Chiew Lin May
"These are mine and these are...MINE!!!"- Kitud, female sub-adult bear
Yes! It is Sunday!
An appetizer of the day!
By Chiew Lin May
Little Wawa and Dodop do not mind the rain at all as they having a great time playing and wrestling happily with their friends. Perfect moments for them to practice and develop their skills in the canopy forest! It was so delighted to see them quite a feisty nature!
Hopefully, tomorrow will be a sunnier day!
By Chiew Lin May
“Damai and Debbie may face many challenges to survive but this is the best life we can offer them in the hope they can propagate and maintain a healthy sun bear population in Tabin Wildlife Reserve.” – Dr Wong Siew Te (BSBCC CEO & Founder)
On last 7th March 2018, two adult female rescued sun bears (Damai and Debbie) were released into the wild after undergoing long years of rehabilitation at the BSBCC.Watch Damai and Debbie are an incredible journey back into the wild!!
Releasing sun bears back to the wild is one of the most rewarding parts of our work. BSBCC hopes to release more rescued bears to the wild. The entire journey to release one bear is of high cost and we are looking for your continued support to make this happen.
Please support the BSBCC ongoing sun bear release program! If you would like to help bring these sun bears home, you can make a donation here http://www.bsbcc.org.my/donate.html
By Chiew Lin May
Sun bear rehabilitation is a long process. From being rescued to her time in quarantine to forming relationships with other bears to stepping out into the forest enclosure, these events have given Tan-Tan a new journey in life.
Sun bears are in grave danger of extinction in the wild. Let’s make second chances for them to be free sun bears in the wild. Please spread the message that sun bears belong in the wild and should not be kept as pets, no matter what the circumstances.
By Chiew Lin May
If you want to know how to get through the sunny days in style - make like a sun bear !!
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
On January 10th, 2014 a six month old, male sun bear cub (Rescue No-37), was rescued from a Mini Zoo and Hot Springs in Tawau, South Eastern Sabah. Sunbearo arrived to BSBCC from Lok Kawi Zoo on the 10th of March 2014
Thin and dehydrated. His life at the Tawau Hot Spring was spent in a confinement cage. Like so many other rescued sun bears, his mother had been killed and he had been taken from the forest. Based on his teeth and malnourished appearance, it was likely he was being fed the wrong diet. His weight during the arrival was 11.6kg. Originally he was known as Tan Sri, which was the name of his owner from the Mini Zoo and Hot Spring in Tawau. Sunbearo is a special sun bear cub and has been adopted and re-named by Neways International (Australia) Pty. Huge thanks to the support from Neways International (Australia) Pty, which enables us to protect Sunbearo.
Sunbearo has a beautiful tiny crescent sun in the shape of a “V” on his chest!
He was placed into quarantine before being introduced to the other cubs of his own age.
He seemed very fragile as his muscles were not strong due to his tiny size, and he was nervous when it came to climbing. The bear care team gives him and his friends a chance to play in their dens. He was given new enrichment toys and a healthy diet.
He quickly adapted to his new home where he has become more trusting and relishes every fresh fruit. HONEY is not an exception!!
On the 24th of April 2014, Sunbearo and Loki were integrated for the first time.
He slowly started to build trust with the bears and learnt that bears can be great friends. Loki, Bintang, Montom, Susie2, Damai and Kala are Sunbearo’s bear play friends. They love playing with each other.
He enjoys having friends to share freedom experiences with. Slowly, he has put his past behind him and is learning to be a wild bear again.
A shining start to the day! On the 28th of December 2015, Sunbearo had finally overcome his fear and took his first step out on the forest soil.
It is a great pleasure to see the first glimpses of these rescued sun bears stepping out to forest for their first time! Sunbearo sniffed around the tall trees.
He knew that he deserved a better chance to express his natural behavior and learn how to become a wild bear.
He is now outside foraging, climbing and enjoying himself. He loves the opportunity and uses all his senses to forage in the soil!
Sun bears are the arboreal bear and spend their time in trees. Sunbearo and Montom will immediately climb up and wrestle on top of the trees.
His long, sickle curved claws will help him in climbing trees and scraping off tree barks for termites.
He has a strong, close bond with Loki. Sunbearo and Loki can be found loving hanging out and spending time up in the trees, watching everything going on around them.
After four years of undergoing rehabilitation at our centre, Sunbearo has grown in size, skill and confidence.
He is a fussy eater.
If there are special sweet treats in the enclosure, Sunbearo usually hoovers everything up and licks every last bit of honey without wasting it! Around feeding time at the bear house, he can often be found growling for food. But most of all, he just loves foraging for extra protein.
In regards to nest building, we have not seen any tree nest building behavior from him. He will stay a while in a nest built by Loki or Damai.
Sunbearo is doing better and is enjoying life in a natural forest.
It is amazing to see a sun bear that was literally suffering from pet trade now looking healthy, free from pain and enjoying life as a sun bear. Sun bears are threatened in Southeast Asia by rapid poaching, illegal wildlife trade and habitat destruction. Please help us fight to free the bears from their major threats. The exploitation of the greed towards this little known bear species must end.
BSBCC continues to receive group visits throughout the year. On March 10th, 2018, we have received different group visits with a total number of 119 visitors in just one day! They are from HUTAN-KOCP, University Kebangsaan Malaysia, SMK Sandakan and volunteers from Sepilok Orangutan Rehabitation Centre (SOURC).
The first group visit was from HUTAN-KOCP which is a family group visit, they were given presentation on sun bear, after the presentation they were invited to answer questions from the Sun Bear Explorer Book. The children get the answers from the signboard and by asking questions from the staff. The other groups were given a presentation on sun bear before they were brought for a tour to the observation platform. We are so excited to have group visiting, as this will be our golden chance to share the knowledge and interesting facts of Sun Bear to everyone. It is a heart-warming feeling to see everyone who are so willingly to spend their time here with us in BSBCC, whom are all eager to learn more about the connection between the importance of protecting our environment and our rare species, sun bears.
List of group that visited to BSBCC in March and April 2018:
A visit from SK. Rancangan Suan Lamba to BSBCC today. There are 34 students with their teacher involved in this visit. The students were given presentation on sun bear by Ms. Risnayati. Before they went to the observation platform to see the sun bears roaming in the forest enclosure, they were given mini tasks to test their understanding on sun bear from different topics about sun bear. This activity encourages and develops creativity in the students as well as to increase the understanding on sun bear. We hope that students and their teachers enjoyed their time at BSBCC learning about sun bears and the environment.