Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Kicking off this month, we focus on more enrichment activities! Enrichment is one of the important key aspects for rescued sun bears in rehabilitation and plays a huge role in the volunteers work. Spending time in the forest is not always easy, but we are always grateful to the volunteers who spend their time and skills to help sun bears. The bear care team will tell you what volunteering life is like on a typical day in Borneo as a sun bear assistant, and why volunteers play such an important part in contributing to the causes. It will never be the same experience twice, but that is all the more reason to keep volunteers coming back to BSBCC!
It feels like it had only just begun! Groups of volunteers were split into smaller working groups with bear care team leaders and were assigned to varied tasks. Everyone has been busy working alongside the volunteers to complete the maintenance, construction and making enrichment project. Volunteers learnt as much as they could and soaked everything in. The team’s constantly were coming up with new ideas to stimulate and challenge these rescued sun bears. Volunteers got their hands dirty and ended up with stinky clothes!
Team A’s Project
(Azzry, Sumira, Chee Yoong, Georgia and Sophie)
The team built an “Olivia Tower” inside the forest enclosure of Pen E. In Latin, the meaning of the name Olivia is Olive, a symbol of peace. This Olivia Tower is specially made for one of our rescued adult female sun bears, Chin. It is her playground. The variety of climbing frames is for helping Chin to build strength and she can also take a sweet nap. This tower helps to stimulate Chin’s natural behavior in the wild. They can observe how Chin makes her way into the forest for her daily rehabilitation process. The teams focus was on building, mixing cement, and digging!
The team carried the hardest wood (i.e. Iron wood) with foundations been dug, installed the woods and vanish the wood to avoid termites. When it comes to sun bears, the tower structures have to be sun bear proof! It is amazing to see the creativity they build.
Many thanks to Team A for working hard in the sun and rain to get the Olivia Tower finished in time. The team was very enthusiastic and created a great learning environment. Again, big thanks to our awesome volunteer, Barbara Katsifolis, for your donation and supportive voice for the sun bears.
Team M’s Project
(Mizuno, Batrisyia and Alexander)
The team focused on building a rustic-looking house for Bjorn Hala’s dog – Momo. The wooden house will serve as a safe den for Momo to deliver and raise her puppies. They made it out of recycled iron wood and made sure they provided the puppies with enough space to eat, play and sleep. The wooden house will keep them warm and cozy. The team has worked tirelessly to spread love for Momo. It was brilliant fun for everyone who took part! Congratulations! On July 15th, 2017 Momo gave birth to two cute puppies. Momo looks quite happy inside her little home!
Team R’s Project
(Roger, Syaqil, Simon and Shannon)
This team is helping to design and build an essential access walkway outside the perimeter of Pen A and Pen K. The old walkway was facing deterioration and was muddy. They will construct a new walkway with durable material to ease the access for staff to the outside perimeter to observe, check or feed the bears. This project involves lots of sawing and hammering. Doing whatever else is useful!
Team B’s Project
(Brandon, David, Athirah and Lawrence)
Cleaning and general upkeep of the enclosures is an important task for us. It is challenging to maintain structures in the Bornean rainforest. The team makes sure the sun bears have a comfortable and safe forest enclosure to use by taking good care of their living spaces. Thanks to the dedication from the team who got the project done.
All teams also engaged fantastically with the enrichment activities! We had so much pleasure observing these sun bears as they rolled around and were quite playful with the enrichment created by volunteers and staff. The juvenile bears enjoy rotating through a list of toys. There is nothing more rewarding than discovering some enrichment that lights up the day of sun bears!
Photos shows the difference types of enrichment:
The volunteers have fallen madly in love with each of the sun bears. They were a hardworking, dedicated bunch from all walks of life! They worked tirelessly to provide these bears with the needs to survive and had many laughs. We can see that each project offered a very difference experience and was unique. Enthusiasm was always high and we were able to achieve great goals to save the forgotten bear - Sun bear. Knowing that we have made a big difference…
Sumira, Syaqil, Athirah, Batrisya, Chee Yoong, Laurence, Shannon, Simon, Sophie, Georgia, Kimberly Louise and bear care team, thanks for being a part of our enrichment project! Good job team! A loud cheer for all your efforts!
The first ever Labuk Bay Carnival 2017 was held on today, 30th July 2017 at the Mile 19 Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. A lot of activities was held during this event and our team (BSBCC) was happy to be part of it! The Labuk Bay Carnival started off with the Fun Run 8KM and Fun Ride 20KM early at 6.30 in the morning. Other activities held were boat paddle, mini games, lucky draws and performance by Chris Aban. Besides that, booths and exhibition from the BSBCC, the Sandakan Borneo Bird Club, Artlex Centre and the Sandakan Fire & Rescue Department were also there to make this carnival to be more happening. Thanks to the organizer for inviting us to participate in this carnival and congratulations to all the winners!
CNN.com, 28th July 2017
By Kathleen Toner, CNN
Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia (CNN): With his wire-rimmed glasses and mild manner, Siew Te Wong could be described as a Malaysian Clark Kent.
This wildlife biologist is a Superman of sorts -- a tireless defender of the world's smallest bear species: the sun bear.
"I often call the sun bear a forgotten species," Wong said. "When I first started, 20 years ago, no one has ever studied sun bears. Most people do not know that they even exist."
As he studied the animal and realized the threats it faced from deforestation and hunting/poaching, he knew the bears were in serious trouble.
"The more I learn about them, the more I care. The more I care, the more I worry," he said. "I have to help them."
oday, Wong's nonprofit, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, is the only sun bear sanctuary in the world.
Wong -- known as "Papa Bear" -- and his team have rehabilitated and cared for 55 rescued sun bears since 2008. The group now also educates the public about these animals.
Sun bears are found in the rainforests of south Asia, and the small bears play a big role in keeping these woodlands healthy. Many plants and animals depend on them to spread seeds, create nesting sites and control the termite population -- functions that keep the ecosystems in balance. Healthy rainforests provide clean air and water to the entire world.
But the sun bear population has decreased by 30% during the last three decades. In 2007, the bear was officially classified as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Currently, 44 sun bears live at Wong's center -- all of them were orphaned by poachers or rescued from captivity. The center has also become one of the leading tourist destinations in the area, helping to raise awareness about the sun bear's plight.
"They can see how special the sun bear is and learn about how their survival (is) important to ours," Wong said, "so they can take some action when they go back to home."
For Wong, this work is simply his responsibility.
"Sun bears became part of my family. When they're endangered, I care for them. When they are in trouble, I speak for them," he said. "I want to be the voice for the sun bear, to fight for the sun bear, to ensure the survival of the sun bear."
"But my ultimate goal is to save the entire forest ecosystem ... that is so important to the survival of mankind."
CNN spoke with Wong about his work. Below is an edited version of the conversation.
CNN: How did you get involved with the sun bear?
Siew Te Wong: I grew up keeping different pets and rescuing birds that fell from nests. I always wanted to be an animal expert or a veterinarian. After high school, I went to Taiwan to study veterinary science, and that's where I got involved with studying wildlife. In 1994, I came to the University of Montana to study wildlife biology and I met a professor, Christopher Servheen. He was looking for a Malaysian student to do a study on sun bears. I said, "I'm your man!"
CNN: Tell me more about the threats these animals face.
Wong: Over the last 50 years, many of the tropical forests in this region have been cleared, and with deforestation, sun bears have lost their habitat. And even though sun bears are a protected species, they are hunted for their meat and their body parts, which are used in traditional Asian medicines. This is literally wiping out local populations.
Their babies are also kept as illegal pets. Their cubs are really cute, but people don't realize that this baby bear will turn into a destructive beast. In the end, they will either kill the bears or lock (them) in small cages. We are doing lots of educational awareness to make sure that people don't keep bears anymore.
CNN: How do the animals spend their time at the center?
Wong: Every day after breakfast, we release the bears into the forest enclosure. This is where they learn to forage, climb trees, build nests and socialize. All of those activities help them get ready to be released and survive in the forest.
At 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., we give the bears different fruits, and at 4pm, the bears come back and have dinner in the bear house. We keep them inside at night because this level of bear density in the forest is not natural. We also want to monitor their well-being. However, there are a few bears left out for the night, which is good. One day, they will live there all the time.
CNN: How many bears have you been able to release?
Wong: We have released two bears so far, and this year we plan to release four more. There are many bears that we cannot release because they were in captivity for a long time. They lost their instinct to find food, they're habituated to people, and many that were rescued as adults cannot climb trees. There are also bears who (were) malnourished or who had their claws chopped off. They don't have the skills to survive in the forest, so they have to stay here for the rest of their lives.
Hopefully in the future, there'll be more bears ready to be released. I want bears to live in the forest and not in captivity. (That) is where they belong. It is their home.
Want to get involved? Check out the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre website and see how to help.
To donate to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, click the CrowdRise widget below.
Donations are accepted through LEAP (or their full name, Land Empowerment Animals People), a U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
Yesterday, on the 27th July 2017, BSBCC was invited to do awareness programme in Sandakan Baptist Church Kindergarten and today the school group came to visit our centre. The school children were accompanied by their teacher and parents. BSBCC’s Education Team gave a brief introduction and safety precautions before they were brought to the observation platform. After observing the bears in the forest enclosure, the school group engaged with the activity, bear origami. One of our aims in BSBCC is to raise awareness among the public about sun bears. We were glad to share our knowledge on sun bears to them and they really enjoyed learning! Thanks to teachers and parents for their efforts and time to take the school children to visit to our centre and learn about sun bears.
Today BSBCC was invited to do an awareness programme on sun bear in Sandakan Baptist Church Kindergarten. Approximately 75 students aged four to six were involved in this programme. The students and teachers got excited and eager to learn more about the sun bears. The programme started with a story telling (The Wild Tree Houses) session by Ms. Gloria, Environmental Education Executive. After listening to “The Wild Tree Houses” story, Ms. Gloria conducted a wildlife game for the students. Our sun bear mascot, Sunny was also present to help the students understand better about physical characters of a sun bear. We also set up display booth at the school. All of the students enjoyed their time learning about the environment and wildlife species through exhibitions. We hope that they can gain more knowledge on the importance of protecting the environment and our precious wildlife species. Thanks for inviting us!
A total of 46 preschool children of Tadika Tai Tong, Sandakan and 24 preschool teachers and parents visited BSBCC today (25th July 2017). Our staff conducted a brief introduction on sun bears to the group by using our sun bear mascot. After that, the children were brought along with their teachers and parents to the observation platforms to see the bears roaming in the forest enclosure. We are happy to all of them enjoy their time learning about sun bears and its environment. We believe that environmental education can help in the efforts to save sun bears and their habitat for generations to come.
Star2.com, 18th July 2017