Text and photo by Gloria Ganang
One of the aims of BSBCC was to serve as an education platform for the public to learn about sun bears. One way is through interpretative signboards at the Centre. It was in 2012 when we first started developing our signboards. The BSBCC team started making plans and getting ideas as soon as the access boardwalk and observation platform was completed.
In early 2013, Wong received an email from Ayesha Keshani and said that she wanted to help in any exhibition design works. Her offer came at the perfect time. Ayesha arrived at BSBCC a few weeks later and started working on the layout of the signboard. We never knew that there were so many details to consider in building signboards. We went out searching for materials available locally and visited places to check out which material is the best for outdoor displays. The nearby Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) was a great help! Hubert Petol, whom has been designing and building signages at the RDC for many years showed us around the park, met his team and also visited their workshop. We were truly inspired with their ongoing commitment to make RDC a learning Centre of the tropical rainforest. Material wise, we couldn't figure out anything better.
A layout of the signboard was made, sizes were determined and Ayesha was leaving. It was the end of her volunteering period. Ayesha was still very determined to get the signage done and kept in touch through email.
Then came Jonathan Dolan from Arkitrek, who was a great help in making the structures of the signboard. The main idea was to have the signboard strong enough so they are not easily broken by free roaming macaques and orang utan. Therefore, Jon came up with strong metal frames which should be strong enough for even people to sit on! With the helps from our grounf staff, the signboard frames were built.
In the mean time, we had Jocelyn Stokes a photographer and a student at the Oregon State University who happened to be at the Centre, doing her research on sun bears in captivity. She offered to help out with the project. We worked out the content and the text for each signboards. It was a fun process and we learnt a lot! Wong (BSBCC's CEO & Founder), in between his busy schedule, always made himself available in adding and checking inputs of the content.
Lin May (our Coordinator) worked so hard together with Jocelyn compiling a collection of amazing photos for the signages.
Later in 2013, Dr. Sheala Peake from the University of Sunshine Coast, Australia (USC) came to visit us. Seeing our needs to build signboards, she introduced us to Kevin Todd, a senior lecturer in Arts and Design from the USC. Kevin worked out some signboard theme with his students and brought the designs to the Centre. All staff gets to give their opinion on which theme would be the best for our Centre.
We sent him contents and photos. Kevin and his students worked out their magic and turned our contents and photos into a very unique design of signboards. Thanks to the full commitment from the USC in helping us to complete the signboards and ship them here.
We also like to take this opportunity to thank the GEF Small Grants Programme for providing the funding to build these signages.
Not forgetting our staff Thye Lim and his friends Tok Ern Lai, Laurent Pong Chun Chih, Lai Yin Yee, Susan Sam and our friends Lin Jing Fen from Asiatic Black Bear Researcher from Taiwan Pin Tung Rescue Centre who are great help in writing the Chinese translations, as well as Miss Betty Susanti, a local teacher and a good friend that has worked hard working on the Malay translations. Now with 3 language translations, we can reach more people from different backgrounds to learn about sun bears.
Thank you very much for all your supports! More plans are coming to make the Centre a great learning platform about sun bears and a worthwhile experience for visitors !
Text and Photos by Georgie Kaye
Hello! My name is Georgie Kaye and I am from Yorkshire in the north of England, UK. I have just completed my studies at the University of Cumbria and have achieved a 2:1 level degree in Animal Conservation Science BSc!
I decided that as my studies were coming to an end it was time to spice up my CV with some more relevant volunteering experience. I’d done plenty of research projects and even helped to coordinate at a conservation biology conference, but I’d never taken part in any extensive animal husbandry.
However, gaining experience was not the only reason. Bears have always been my particular interest and passion, especially the lesser known tropical species. I searched for bear projects in a number of different countries but none seemed as dedicated and passionate as the BSBCC team. They really understand the importance of educating the public about sun bears as the majority of people have no idea these bears even exist! Therefore I decided straight away that I wanted to be a part of this project and support it as much as I absolutely can. I organised everything with my friend Jodie (who has also shared her own story) and off we went....
We arrived on the 10th of June at the Sepilok Jungle Resort. Straight away you notice the beautiful trees and all the different sounds of the forest, then you notice the pond with huge fish! So much nature already and we’d only been off the bus for 2 minutes...
The same evening, after settling in to our room (and adjusting to the heat!) we met some of the team and other volunteers we would be working with. I can’t emphasize enough just how friendly everybody is at BSBCC. That night we fell asleep to the incredibly LOUD rainfall outside! You get used to this, I promise.
The next day we got to work! Now, the work itself is not particularly difficult BUT add the heat and jet lag and you have a tiring combination! Don’t worry though, the staff take good care of you and as long as you drink PLENTY of water you’ll be fine! Some of the tasks include preparing the fruit and veg (a lot of it!), preparing the ‘bear porridge’ (rice), carrying and scattering the fruit and veg outside for the bears, cleaning the indoor cages and preparing fun enrichment for the bears to keep them entertained! If you can think of a few different things that will help to stimulate the bears and get them active then don’t hesitate to tell a member of staff, they love new ideas!
Lots of bear names to remember, but with time you’ll get the hang of it! All the bears have their own personality and preferences. Some are sweet and quiet, like Mary, and some love to Splash and mess around, like Bermuda! During your time there you’ll definitely get to know your own favourites.
The work is important and it is essentially why you’re there, but the staff understands that you would also like to explore the local area, particularly if you’re from another country like me! There’s plenty of other things to see, like the canopy walks at the Rainforest Discovery Centre just down the road or busy markets in Sandakan. If you love your food Wong knows all the best places to eat so just ask! If it has his recommendation then you’re definitely up for an excellent meal. If you have a sweet tooth I can personally recommend the cake from the ‘Fat Cat Cake House’ in Sandakan.
Now, let me guess, you want to know all about the bears, right? And the orang-utans? And all the other crazy creatures you’re going to see? Is that maybe why you want to come to Borneo? Well, you’re just going to have to come and see them then aren’t you! Get out there! If you need a little more persuasion here you go:
If you want to know more about life as a volunteer or more info about the bears and conservation then take some time to read the other volunteer blogs or even get in touch with the BSBCC team! You don’t need a conservation degree, you don’t need husbandry experience, as long as you absolutely want to help and think you can dedicate yourself to caring for bears then get in touch!
Little Mary here looks forward to seeing you!