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Text and Photos by Simone Steinfurth
"Hi, my name is Simone and I have come from Sydney Australia to volunteer at the BSBCC for 2 weeks. My usual job is as a trainer within a bank/investment company and so you may be wondering why I chose to volunteer with wild animals. Well, I love to travel and whenever I have, I have tended to navigate towards animals. Talking to friends and family, given they knew my love of travel and animals, they suggested volunteering with animals; and as soon as they put the information regarding BSBCC in front of me - I was there - almost literally!
Working at the centre has been hard work, I will not lie. Chopping approx 60kg of fruit and vegetables each day and doing some cleaning and distribution in hot and humid conditions has definitely been a bit of a challenge. But the reward has been to be near 33 beautiful bears each day! It has only been a short time for me but I can see that they definitely have their own personalities and characteristics and I hope to remember them for a long time to come. I encourage you to check out the BSBCC site and have a look at all those wonderful faces!!
The staff at the BSBCC have been very inclusive allowing me as a volunteer to experience what it is like to take care of a bear on a day to day basis from feeding and cleaning them to observing them and providing them enrichment tools so they can work towards being released. (Mind you, you cannot touch the bears as 1. they are wild and 2. the purpose of the centre is not to create pets but to get them healthy for release back into the wild.)
Enrichment tools can be anything from placing a fruit iceblock in their cage to a large rotten log to encourage them to bring out their natural foraging instincts for food.I had a go at making food parcels in old discarded firehoses as well as "vegetable hamburgers" out of vines, egg cartons (with some food enticement inside of course)! The hamburgers didn't last long with 2inch+ claws. Mind you, nothing lasts too long except firehoses, ironwood and tyres with those claws. One bear in the centre, Amaco, has about 10cm claws!!
I have also been given a chance to speak to the general public when they come to visit the bears. I found speaking with the staff and others was a great way to build on my understanding and impact of and on the bears.
Although I do not have a background in animal husbandry, ecology, biodiversity, etc.... I can see that Siew Te Wong, the founder of the BSBCC has done a terrific job in establishing the centre as a "refuge" for these bears which have been rescued from being kept illegally as pets, or from the blackmarket or from palm oil plantations or farms. I truly wish him well in his endeavours to keep building on the centre and eventually releasing some back into the wild.
So people please, think of the Sun Bears and how you can help them.