Text by Celeste Kara Lequigan Chalk
Photos by Celeste Kara Lequigan Chalk & Chiew Lin May
Hellllo, my name is Celeste Kara Lequigan Chalk and I was fortunate enough to spend two magical weeks at the BSBCC from the 6th of June to the 17th of June this year, 2019. I consider the title to be a summary of my experience. I signed up for this programme on a whim and without any previous experience with animals, let alone such incredible animals like the sun bears! My time here has been so surprising in the best way- I was prepared for the sun bears and my love for them, but I was not prepared for the love I felt instantly for the BSBCC team. As cheesy as it sounds; it’s not just the sun bears, the staff at the BSBCC and the APE team radiate a warmth and sunshine that reflects the animals they work tirelessly for everyday- it’s contagious!
I made an effort to speak to as many of the staff as I could and I never felt unwelcome or uncomfortable- on the contrary, from the first day I immediately felt an ease about this new environment that I was diving head first into. Without fail, every staff member that I had the pleasure of speaking with- either directly or indirectly- exuded a glowing passion for their work, the bears and the cause. It was truly inspiring- I’m leaving the team and this beautiful place in the world more informed and excited to spread the word! Save the sunbears! Be a thoughtful and selfless person on this planet.
My favourite quote is: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is ever going to get better, it’s not”- and the whole team at BSBCC and APE couldn’t embody this value any better if they tried.
I had the ever patient and curious Brandon for a buddy- his kindness and smile was such a reassuring familiarity to have everyday and I appreciated his guidance and willingness to teach us. Then there were Mark and Sumira- our incredible program coordinators who were there everyday as a friend and support when we needed it, filled with boundless knowledge to share and stories to laugh over. There are FAR too many staff to call out by name as all of them filled my heart with joy! There was an array of tasks that we had the great fortune of carrying out, like; creating enrichment, observing the bears, preparing the food and even cleaning the cages! All of the tasks and every moment was devoted to one sole focus- the sun bears! What a pleasure it was to be surrounded by such like minded people with a common goal and passion for this!
I was fortunate enough to spend these two wonderful weeks with Priya, my knowledgeable roommate who was always so generous with her wisdom of the animals! Together, we got to experience and assist in not one, not two, BUT THREE vet checks! Wow, how lucky are we!? It was an incredible experience and Dr Boon was so patient and willing to explain exactly what we were doing and why- even to a Psychology student like myself! It was amazing watching her teach the other staff and build up their confidence in carrying out those duties with the bears.
I was expecting to be sad writing this but instead I’m only overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude for the experience and memories. I’m leaving with a full heart- and a full stomach. As Winnie the Pooh said (a secret Sunbear according to Thye Lim): “how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”. It’s not geoodbye, it’s jumpa lagi!
Video by Chiew Lin May
Time for some relaxed playing among the plants!" -Little Romolina
The Oscar and Golden Globes winner actress, who’s known famously for her role in the modern James Bond films and for the upcoming film adaptation of musical theater ‘Cats’ this year, Dame Judi Dench came to Sabah last April for her documentary filming by one of the world’s leading documentary film makers and producers, Anthony Geffen. The documentary, “Judi Dench’s Wild Borneo Adventure” features the Dame’s experience with Orangutans, Sun Bears, elephants, crocodiles and hornbills. This is not the first time for Dame Judi filmed a nature documentary; she has previously worked with Geffen on another BBC Special documentary titled “Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees” in 2017. Our team in BSBCC was so delighted to have Dame Judi just in time for the release of Boboi, Kitud, and Tan-Tan back to where they should belong. It has been a wonderful experience filming with the Dame and it was really great for BSBCC to be also featured in her documentary, as the viewers can watch in more detail on how our rehabilitated orphan bears being released back into the wild. The story is told in Episode 1, which is being broadcast on 2nd July 9pm in UK channel ITV1. Quotes from Dame Judi Dench about the series: “I can’t quite believe we are here and what we are going to see. What we are going to find out. What we are going to discover.” “I’ve learnt how vulnerable this wonderful place is and what we need to do to save it. This journey has affected me so much, and I’m thrilled I’ve been asked to be an ambassador for its rainforest.”
Video by Chiew Lin May
What will happen if the forest without sun bear?!
Let see the important role of sun bear and how they protect the forest ecosystem.
Text by Priya Colville
Photos by Chiew Lin May
My name is Priya Colville and I am from Scotland in the UK. I had just finished studying animal collections with conservation when I started my two week volunteer placement at the centre. Having seen lots of documentaries about Borneo and its wildlife I knew that I wanted to volunteer and that it would help expand my knowledge of in-situ conservation work. After searching through the internet I came across the BSBCC, discovering the story of how it began and with the great reviews from other volunteers I knew it was somewhere I wanted to volunteer at.
Once I arrived I quickly realized the heat and humidity was something I had never experienced but luckily never struggled with that much throughout the two weeks. After arriving at the airport I was introduced to Mark from Ape and my dorm mate Celeste, both were incredibly friendly and easy to talk to, already making me feel at ease. I then met Sumira from Ape and some of the team at the centre to complete my induction before starting. The two weeks went very quickly but I enjoyed every second of it. Some of the best parts included being involved with the Oms annual vet check, learning more about the conservation strategies in Borneo from Dr Wong and the staff and being able to make and distribute the enrichment by collecting the dead logs filled with termites from the jungle, creating Sigalungs snack stick and the digiripipes and observing the bears interact with the enrichment such as Panda with the barrel the scared Amaco due to the noise.
Having decided to travel to Borneo for two weeks without knowing anyone and limited contact with people from back home I never felt lonely due to the incredibly friendly people including those at the BSBCC, from APE, from Paganakan Dii and Celeste. Everyone was so willing to help us enjoy ourselves and making sure we had no problems that there was nothing bad to say about the whole trip. I got to experience a conservation project in Borneo like I had wanted and in my off days explore other animal sanctuaries and see the diverse wildlife including the red leaf langurs at the Gomantong Caves that traveled above me in the canopies.
The whole trip is unforgettable and definitely something I would recommend to everyone and I can’t thank the staff enough for the fantastic time I have had including my buddy Brandon who helped me throughout my time at the BSBCC and always had a smile on his face no matter what. I hope to come back and experience it all over again. Termia kasih.
Video by Chiew Lin May
What is your favourite thing like about sun bear?
Here is just a little Romolina in the forest enjoying all WILD things!
Text By Umadevi A/P Murrty
Photos By Umadevi A/P Murrty & Chiew Lin May
Hey there, I am Umadevi, a 20 years old from Perak. I am a second year Animal Health student at University Putra Malaysia Bintulu Campus.
How did I came here and What BSBCC has done in my life?
Being a nature lover that I would love to live amidst nature and care for the animals and wildlife have always been my peculiar interest and passion since I got into my studies. All I wanted to do was work with wild animals. I completely admire a position in BSBCC because I found something incredibly satisfying about acting in a way that is consistent with my principles. Many people who do voluntary work say that it has helped them to feel more confident in all sorts of ways and fun-filled days with the bears. This boosts my interest level up since I love to learn through hands-on experience. I felt good knowing that I’m doing something for a good cause. So, that’s how I got into here in BSBCC and it is probably the best decision I have ever made. It is my first time working with wild animal that listed as vulnerable species on IUCN Red List, THE SMALLEST BEAR IN THE WORLD-SUN BEAR. Doesn’t it sound so cool ? It’s getting a taste of what you want to do with the rest of your life. Unfortunately my time over here is going to end in a week.
The work here in bear house is heavy duty and it took a while for me to adapt to their hectic schedule. I must say that I’m just so amazed how the whole bear house is run. I believe looking after 43 bears with different behaviors is a huge task and yet the bear house still filled with jokes and laughter. I amazed to work with people who has a big heart for animals. Thanks to the people around me. My internship days typically involved cleaning the pens (oops, getting completely wet with water splashes), food preparation, feeding, checking the electric fences, assist health checks, making enrichments or physical jobs. I particularly enjoyed feeding the bears at the forest enclosure. It’s a great pleasure to watch them enjoying their food happily as well as splashing themselves with water from their water container.
Is that all? When I first came to bear house, I was terrified working in kitchen. I won’t lie, the first week of me being here is like a small kid that escaped from the hustle & bustle of city who doesn’t know anything about preparing food in kitchen. Believe me, I still break a sweat though. But, isn’t there a way that it can be done? What always kept me going was all the lovely bears as well as the cheerful staffs. In fact, things become even more fun as the days passed by.
I would say, creating enrichment for the bears is also very fun and adventure. Trekking into the jungle to find termite nests, collecting banana leaves, logs, sawing a bamboo, manual hand drilling for the first time, adding branches, logs and dry leaves to mimic a forest enclosure in the cage some of the merrymaking time in here. Designing and making a climbing, swinging structure for the three cubs- Romolina, Logan and Joe.
In addition to enriching the sun bears living conditions, I had learned about sun bears in the different stages of rehabilitation and the process of releasing them back into the wild.
On my 6th week here, we managed to construct a structure type enrichment for Kudat and I guess Kudat really loves it.
I was lucky enough to involved in an important part of the process- putting the electronic collar around Boboi, Kitud and Tan-Tan’s neck before release back in the wild. Furthermore, I was given an opportunity to observe Romolina, Joe and Logan’s integration process with another big group of bears. Watching them gets along with each other like watching ‘tom and jerry’ in tv- IT’S ADORABLE !!
ADRIAN DAMSHA, was my assigned buddy. Why his name sounds so weird? This is what was playing on my mind on the first day. Thank you Ady, guiding me and tolerating my childishness throughout my internship. (SABAR ITU INDAH haha). He always used to say that ‘You’re my responsibilty’ HATI-HATI. Sometimes, he reminds me about my elder brother who used to take care of me. 2 weeks prior to ending my internship, we started constructing a ram in training pen-G for Ronnie Boy. Actually, Ronnie had traumatized by the past life and don’t want to go down from the cage. Isn’t it better to make a change ? Aren’t you interested in seeing Ronnie in forest? So, we did managed to accomplished the mission of making a new ram in 2 days with the help of two strong boys of BSBCC-Mizuno and Nizam.
Not forgetting the staffs in BJORN HALA (inc Tylee Lim, Lin may)- bear house. A smile creeps on my face and I don’t know the reason. It’s the first time for me where I need to prepare my meals for myself for so many continuous days and yeah honestly, that’s what I do hate in my internship. This had been challenging but definitely one of the most memorable memories in my life! From zero knowledge of cooking to something better is unbelievable. So much of what is best in us is bound up as a family. The thought of meeting new people in a new place and trying to act mature in an environment I was not sure of scared me. But, after a week everything changed. Endless play fights, sharing moments, playing pirate barrels, chasing each other, lovely dogs- panda and milktea, watching the stars at night, a home that taught me to be more independent, hearing stories, learning from their journey and making memorable friendships. I love having this memories- all those days. Hmmm, I miss Bjorn Hala. I’m so sorry at times I acted childish and hyperactive (mostly all the time LOL). I’m sorry if so ‘ bipolar’ early mornings- but I wish I can overcome that. This family is pure and all I’m wishing is happiness, take care everyone.
Not to forget the educational team, for giving me a chance to visit two different schools around Sandakan for outreach programs. Outreach program plays a major role in raising awareness of conservation of sun bears among kids.
It’s the end of a unique adventure. I wanted to thank each one of you. Thank you Dr Wong for the sharing sessions and the delicious cook as well !
I came to BSBCC to make a contribution, and I feel I did, but the bear house contribution to me was even greater. My 10 weeks here feels overwhelming. As the days went by I started to feel completely at home in BSBCC. If this is what I love, then it will be worth it. The first path I took was the path of internships to help the bears to heal and grow in their natural habitat. Thank you so much for this rewarding experience and accepting me as a part of your team. Thank you everyone for enlightened my days at BSBCC. Do forgive me if there is any mistake that I’ve done unintentionally. But in the end it was time to say goodbye. Keep in touch, big bear hugs. LOTS OF LOVE, UMA.