Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Tee Thye Lim & Chiew Lin May
BSBCC provides care and a second chance for the rescued sun bears to live in the forest by accessing the natural forest enclosure. In the past few months, one of the BSBCC forest enclosure (Pen D) has been temporarily closed for upgrading. We have built a new pool, and have planted new plants in the forest enclosure to keep the bears happy and stimulated. Besides that, there was one part of the area that had been damaged by our active young sun bears, causing exposure of tree roots which would eventually cause the tree to die. So we have built a concrete retaining wall in the forest enclosure to stop erosion and to prevent the large tree from collapsing.
On May 17th 2015, the construction of the forest enclosure was finally done. The six adult bears (one male and five females) group including Fulung, Bongkud, Ah Bui, Mary, Debbie and Damai explored their new surroundings. As expected, it took a while for the bears to venture, but after a few sniffs and a scan through the forest enclosure they became more curious and confident.
In the tropical climate of Borneo, the pool allows the rescued bears to cool down their body. They are free to swim, play, wrestle, and splash in their new pool! Thanks to the generous Buildtech for helping us construct the retaining wall and new pool for the rescued bears.
Look at them now, digging for grubs, climbing trees, playing together, explore the pool and learning how to be just like a wild bear!!
Finally the day for Montom, a 3 years old male sub-adult sun bear, to be introduced with Susie, a 4 year old female adult sun bear, was on the 4th of June, 2015. Montom and Susie were rescued from pet trade. BSBCC have taken an innovative approach of integrating rescued sun bears. These interactions between bears can help them to develop and learn skills that will be needed in the wild.
These two bears got to know each other by being placed in adjacent dens. Once the gate was opened, Montom immediately played with Susie. Susie was not too friendly towards Montom at the beginning. Susie is a short tempered and sensitive female bear compared to Montom who is a happy and outgoing juvenile male bear. Montom just watched Susie in a curious way and sniffed her. Susie greeted Montom with angry growls and paced. Montom showed an interest in play and sometimes would back off when he knew Susie was angry with him.
However, after two days Susie began to grow in confidence and played with Montom. Both showing canines and claws when they played.
For the rest of their first week together, they began to understand and trust each other better, eventually giving space and sharing food together. No aggression was noted and the two bears were observed playfully tumbling around the floor of the den. They learnt the smells and behavior of the others. Montom was seen to be enthusiastic and playful.
Enrichment items such as dried leaves, green leaves, dead wood, climbing structure, and various food based enrichment was provided in the dens to keep Montom and Susie busy and to learn the survival skills. They enjoyed all of the different enrichment items given to them. Montom would grab the food first and break the enrichments!
Seeing Montom and Susie explore the exercise pen together is an absolute pleasure. The integrations are continuing well. Especially Susie who is a sensitive bear and has a tendency to pace. Through this integration, she is learning to be a “bear” for the first time in her life and all the mistreatment, trauma she underwent is in the past. Both of them are developing into lovely young sun bears. Montom shows the most dominance.
Text and Photos by Maryam Nashrah Binti Ahmad
My name is Maryam Nashrah Binti Ahmad. I came all the way from the University Putra Malaysia Bintulu Campus, to do my internship at BSBCC. It was a fun and exciting journey despite all the hardships I have been through.
BSBCC has taught me a lot of things. In this place I have been taught and been exposed to the awareness and the importance of wild animals in their natural habitat. They are not supposed to be kept, hunted or killed.
I’m so thankful to meet Mr Wong, the great man that risked his life in rescuing wild animals.
Wong Siew Te founded the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in 2008 and is the drive behind the project.
In this entry I would like to share about my experience when I was at BSBCC. Enjoy your reading!
"I am determined to help Bornean sun bears. The challenge is huge, and I cannot do this alone. I need help, support and allies. Every voice counts and together we can make a difference."
Wong Siew Te, CEO & Founder of BSBCC
I hope with the establishment of BSBCC, that people will become more aware about the importance of this animal on Earth. Now, I would like to share about the pleasure of working at BSBCC!
Every morning I prepared the porridge and fed the bears. Every bear has their own portion of food based on their specific requirements. So we needed to refer to the tabulated amounts of porridge that have to be distributed to the bears.
On our first week we were briefed about so many things. We were still curious about the sun bears and their own history which lead us to ask a lot of questions to the staffs of BSBCC, especially the Bear Keepers.
After we fed the bears we were divided into different places for different duty. Some of us would clean the cages in bear house 1 and bear house 2 and some of us worked in the kitchen.
For second feeding we prepared boiled eggs, vegetables and fruits. As an opportunistic omnivore, they eat food like watermelon, papaya, honey dew, banana, salak, pineapple, coconut, sugar cane, corn and sweet potato.
After we finished with our duty, we would follow the keepers to feed the indoor and outdoor bears.
After lunch break we would make enrichment for the bears, with the guidance of keepers. Enrichment acts as their toys and it helps to reduce their stereotypic behavior. Different enrichment was given every day to the bears.
This was our activity on the second day of internship. We collected decayed logs, dried leaves and banana leaves. We even constructed new hammocks for them!
That face we made when we were collecting decayed logs with Ronny and Mizuno
Text and Photos by Zalifah Husna Ali
Zalifah Husna Ali – Vet To Be UPMKB
"The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience" - Eleanor Roosevelt
I never thought that I would be here, doing my internship. It happened too fast. 29th of April was the day that I nearly dropped my internship. But I knew, that would be the most stupid decision I would ever make in my life. I arrived late at the airport and I was alone. But thank God everything went well.
When we first came here, we were told not to touch the bears. Seriously, that broke my heart. I thought that I could hold them. But let’s not hate what we don’t understand. I refrained myself from touching them even if I wanted to. I eventually realised that love is not about possession. Love is about appreciation. They are meant to be in the wild and someday soon they will be released into their natural home.
I don’t know where I should I start. I wanted to tell every single thing that happened from the first day I stepped into this centre. But I know it will take forever and I want the future volunteers to feel the love themselves when they come here. I bet none of you could explain how it felt to be here. It honestly had never crossed my mind, being able to be close to the bears. Among the 35 bears, Fulung and Linggam have won my heart.
I always thought that 70 days are more than enough time to do the internship. But believe me, if I could stay here for another countless months, I would. Having you guys as a part of my life will always be the best thing that ever happened to me. I will surely miss each and every one of you.
“I’m going to make her well known” – Wong Siew Te
I can still vividly remember the first day that I walked into BSBCC. 500 metres from the entrance, there was a signboard on the history of BSBCC, picturing Mr Wong and his favourite bear, Mary. By only looking at the sign, I could feel the shivers running down my spine. I stuttered when I first talked to him. He has my full respect. His dedication and devotion on rehabilitating animals and bringing them back into their own habitat has opened my eyes and taught me that sometimes, happiness is not gained by spending a lot of money to go for an expensive vacation. Sometimes, happiness can be gained by just looking at these beloved animals going back into their natural habitat.
We were informed that they had never accepted diploma students before. Thanks a million to our supervisor, Mr Thye Lim. I learned a lot from him. He shared everything that he knew and he never said no to our opinion. Even though he is a guy, he is so thorough with his work.
Undoubtedly, along with hardship there is ease. I was so thankful to have Nick as my housemate. He spent his time helping me with my termites breeding project and supported me whenever I felt like giving up. I don’t know how should I repay his kindness towards me.
Mizuno, David, Azzry and Tommy – these are the people that I will miss the most. They never failed to make me laugh. They gave me the best experience. Working with them never made me feel tired. Mizuno who always made funny whenever he spoke to me. David who never stopped talking about his army life and taught us a lot about bears. Azzry, the guy who was born to smile. Reckly, the guy that has funny laugh. Not to forget, Ong Kim who could always make me laugh just by looking at his face. Lastly, Salffazryean who could never be separated from Pepsi Cola. They treated me like their own sister. That’s what made me comfortable and thus love them even more.
“A day without laughter is a day wasted” this signifies those visitor centre staffs. Fairo, Rahim, Becca, and Lester. Putting them at the reception counter was one of the best decisions. Their smile and warm greetings could make visitors pay double for the ticket. And those lovely office workers, Mr Rizan, Miss Ina, Miss Erni, Miss Gloria, Kate and Daniella who were never mad at me, thank you.
They are a bunch of happy people. They know how to deal with every situation.David told us that we need to be strong as those are the things that we need to deal with when working with these animals. You know, time moves so fast when you love some people. Thank you for those countless memories. I will keep them safely in the deepest dungeon of my heart. Thank you :)
Text and Photos by Ain Adlina
Hi! My name is Ain Adlina. I am studying in Animal Health and Production. How did I start my internship at BSCC? By randomly searching on the internet…I searched any centre that managed wild animals in Sabah because I don’t have any experience on wild animals. So this is my journey at BSBCC for 3 months with my course mates, Garnette, Husna and Maryam.
First time at this centre, there was an introduction about the centre, sun bears, rules at the bear house and what we were going to do here. This was given by the Centre Operation Executive, Thye Lim. The first week I worked in the kitchen, preparing food for bears with the help from Rica and Tom (volunteers) and the following week I started to clean cages in bear house 1 & 2. I imagined that I’d clean cages with smelly bear feces but actually it didn’t smell as bad as I’d imagined. We had a routine change every day, a few days were cleaning cages and some days were preparing food for the bears in the kitchen. These two routines were in the morning session, while in the evening we would make enrichment for the bears, either food based, a hammock or a wood bridge. Duty in the morning session was quite busy, especially when preparing food as you need to be punctual and efficient. After duty in the bear house was completed, it was feeding time for indoor and outdoor bears. I enjoyed the outdoor feeding, as we got to scatter food at each forest enclosure and saw the bears during outdoor feeding, especially when they ate coconut.
Apart from working in the bear house, we had to go to the platform to talk to visitors about the centre and the sun bears here. And THIS was the only thing I didn’t want to do because I’m bad at public speaking, my confidence level is zero. When I saw my name during the first and second trials at the platform, I was so nervous but eventually after two weeks duty at the platform, I got used to it and was excited when I had to go there. I overcame my nervousness and public speaking fear very well with the help of other staff here. As Thye Lim said, educating people is quite challenging and I accept that challenge. I met a lot of visitors that came from all over the world, shared thoughts and experiences with them, especially about this centre and the rescued sun bears here.
Not only that, I had the chance to go for the outreach programme at SK Sungai Padas with Gloria, Ina, Reckly and Daniela as well as with HUTAN- Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Programme (KOCP). Here we educated people about sun bears and other wild animals to increase their awareness. BSBCC receives volunteers from across the world and I had the opportunity to work with volunteers from Sweden which were Julia and Kim, Simon from Belgium, Tom and Rica from UK, Kate from England as well as a group from PERHILITAN Peninsular Malaysia. I also had the opportunity to learn Swedish from Julia and Kim.
On the 16th of May 2015 I got to see the beginning process to the release of an adult female sun bear, Natalie, which was a health check before she was taken to Tabin Wildlife Reserve. BSBCC staff and veterinarian was there throughout the health check. And to see the vet doing their job, was inspiring and made me feel more excited to become a vet someday. The saddest part was the last goodbye to Natalie
During my internship here, I learnt a lot about punctuality, efficiency during working, building and improving my soft skills, confidence when talking to people and most important was to learn about sun bears which are currently endangered. Last but not least, special thanks to Mr.Wong, Thye Lim and Lin May for your approval for my internship here. Thanks for all your guidance and advice during my internship here and for helping in my mini project. Thank you to Thye Lim, Mizuno and David (the bear keepers), Nick who assisted and gave me guidance during my time at the bear house and to other BSBCC staff, thank you for your kindness and professionalism during my internship here. I have no regrets choosing this centre to complete the 3 months industrial training and I would love to come back again!