Today on the 30th August 2022, BSBCC received a group from Politeknik Sandakan on the purpose of carrying out a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) work. The group consist of 34 participants helped the Centre to clean the forest enclosures (cleaning lots of coconut husk and shells) and preparing some enrichments for the bears. The group also got their chance to witness the bears enjoying the enrichments made by them. A good cooperation has been established between BSBCC and Politeknik Sandakan for the past few years. We hope more good things can be achieved between the two sides in the future. Thank you Politeknik Sandakan!
On the 29th of August 2022, BSBCC was invited by Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) to a joint outreach programme at Sabah Group Plantation, IOI Group, Luang Manis, Beluran together with HUTAN-Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Programme. The programme aimed for the staffs and community, together with the students living in the plantation. Among the activities are talks on the law and enforcement, conservation of orangutan and sun bear, exhibitions and activities with the students. Although it was a short programme, we are feeling grateful for the cooperation given by the IOI Group plantation management, who accommodated us warmly. We are looking forward for more cooperation in the future, thanks to all involved in the programme!
Text by Sarah Lourdes
Photos by Jacquelyn Jill Jepiuh
— My unforgettable summer jaunt rolling with the sun bears --
When I made the decision to volunteer at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), I had a vague idea of what to expect. It was a measured decision based purely on my love for, one, the rainforest and two, animals. Putting the two together, I thought, would surely be a recipe for a delightful summer. Serendipitously, I got more than I could have asked for.
With induction briefing out of the way, entering the bear house for the first time on day one, I came face-to-face with what was to be my summer love affair 😍. There she was – all four paws up against the grille, baring her strapping furry underbelly was Simone, a beautiful hale and hearty 13-year-old boisterous bear. It was the first time I had laid eyes on a real-life sun bear.
Realising she had a captive audience, Simone proceeded to scale the rails and brachiate in her den with all the aplomb and mastery of a Cirque du Soleil trapeze artiste! And she did it with such ease. Being a fitness enthusiast myself, I was riveted by the agility of this 72-pound beast! 🤩
A few more of this Olympic gold-medal-worthy performance later and it was clear that she was a bear after my own heart.
Now, there’s a lot to love about every bear at the centre, each with their own charm and unique ability to melt your heart one way or another. And I am deeply fond of all of them. But Simone, she was my Jerry Maguire — she had me at hello!
Like an entertainer, Simone loves giving a performance. And I was her biggest fan. You see, hers is the first den you see as you enter the bear house. Without fail, every morning and afternoon, returning to the bear house post-lunch, you would be greeted by this artistic display of her athleticism. Same routine every day, and I never tire of watching her. Secretly, I like to flatter myself and think she was just thrilled to see us. Though in truth, her excitement probably stems from knowing that she would be fed soon! LOL 🤣…… But no matter, roll over Lady Gaga! It was an entrance [and a welcome] unlike any other.
Every bear at BSBCC has a story. And this is Simone’s. Simone was rescued from her former owner who kept her as a domestic pet (outrageous, I know!). While she was not physically abused or mistreated like so many there with tear-jerking backstories, she was unnaturally raised in captivity (read: kept in a cage) for most of her formative years which adversely shaped her outlook. As a result, she has been conditioned to prefer being indoors, which by all accounts, is abnormal behaviour for a bear or any wildlife for that matter.
All volunteers are tasked with designing and creating an enrichment project for his/her chosen bear(s). No surprises, Simone became the subject for my project idea. Given her aversion to going out into the forest, she is robbed of the joy of climbing trees like bears ought to and love doing, foraging for food in what ought to be her natural habitat. I decided to bring a bit of the outdoors indoor to her. With the help of my assigned buddy Dellson — who always had my back, taught me many a great thing about wildlife and everything I needed to know about bear care, and bless him, did all the heavy lifting 🤗 — we erected a “pole” fashioned from the trunk of a fallen tree in her den. Holes were drilled randomly along the trunk, and in them, we stuffed little treats that bears love — banana puree, honey, peanut butter, etc. — designed to encourage her to climb and hunt. Tongue-in-cheek, I named my project “Pole dancing in cell no. 19!” 😁 (#19 is Simone’s den).
I was dead chuffed when she took to it like a crazed hangry bear! 😂… even ripping off some of the bark on the tree trunk trying to get to the hidden treats. Her unofficial moniker by some of the bear keepers is "the destroyer" for a reason. Though I’m happy to report that the pole was still standing at the time I left… with some scrapes and bruises, but still standing 😊.
My two weeks flew by too fast at Concorde speed, during which I learnt much and experienced many firsts, including my first leech bite 😳. Spend enough time with the bears and you’ll learn that these magnificent, intelligent creatures behave a lot like humans; each with their own personality, likes/dislikes, quirks and emotions that they aren’t afraid to show.
Here are some observational humour in the sun bear kingdom. There’s Kudat who loves to taunt you by taking a dump right after you’ve cleaned his den! (No shit! Excuse the pun). Ronnie Boy will refuse to eat his pumpkin unless it’s served to him boiled; not too hard, not too soft, but just right. Sigalung, I think secretly has a crush on Simone, but Simone’s just too cool to care 😂. Linggam the gentle giant, who at 99 lbs is easily one of the largest bears there, yet is always bullied by the female bears two-thirds his size. And of course, we know Simone the showgirl who lives for the applause! 😎. What’s not to love?
It was for me an inspiring and life-affirming experience. Leaving the bear house at the end of my stint, I promised myself that I would be back again for a second chance at another summer love affair… uh, I mean love-a-bear 😊. And the next time, I will be taking the slow train and staying for longer than two weeks.
As part of our efforts to raise public awareness about sun bear conservation, the BSBCC Environmental Education Unit reached out to the children of Baptist Church Kindergarten (Main Branch) on August 25th, 2022. The programme includes an interactive talk about sun bears with Sunny the Sun Bear as the model, followed by sun bear mask colouring session.
The programme continued on August 26th, 2022, when the children visited us at BSBCC. We brought them to the observation platform to let them see the real sun bears in the natural forest enclosures. Each of them is given a worksheet activity, and they need to observe and spot the animals in the forest other than sun bears.
We hope they are enjoying the visit and learning more about the wildlife, especially the sun bears.
#bsbcc #sunbear #environmentaleducation
Today, we have received a group visit from Baptist Church Kindergarten Sibuga, Sandakan. There are about 22 children, 2 teachers, and parents in this group. Last Wednesday, the Environmental Education Unit of BSBCC reached out to them in their school to give them an interactive talk about sun bears. Today, we brought them to the observation platform to let them see the real sun bears in the natural forest enclosure. During the guided tour, each of them is given a worksheet activity, and they need to observe and spot the animals in the forest other than sun bears. We hope they are enjoying the visit and learning more about the wildlife and their habitat, especially the sun bears.
Today our Environmental Education Unit reached the Baptist Church Kindergarten Sibuga as a part of our effort to raise awareness about the sun bear to the public, especially the children.
The program includes an interactive talk about sun bears with Sunny the Sun Bear as the model and mask colouring session.
The program will continue on this coming Friday 19th August with the children will be visiting our Centre along with their parents. We are looking forward to seeing them!
Happy World Elephant Day! Our event yesterday was very successful as we celebrated World Elephant Day at Kg. Bilit Hall, Kinabatangan. This memorable day, that is on the 14th of August 2022, BSBCC opened an exclusive exhibition to support the effort of raising awareness of the importance to protect our wildlife. The ceremony was officiated by Mr. Aiddie Jamali, Enforcement Officer of Sabah Wildlife Department, Kinabatangan District.
This event was also livened up with presence of NGOs and GOs such as Sabah Wildlife Department, HUTAN-KOCP, Seratu Aatai, GAIA, and KKM.
Other than opening up a booth and giving casual talks for the community of Kg Bilit, there were also lucky draws, quizzes and colouring sessions that was prepared for them. The attendees from all range of age have actively participated in all of the sessions. A huge thank you for the Community Honorary Wildlife Warden and Seratu Aatai for organising this wonderful event and also inviting us to participate in it. It was a very fun and exciting day thanks to everyone!
Today, BSBCC received a group visit from Sekolah Agama Seri Wawasan, Sandakan. The group consisted of 150 students (ages 6–14 years old). The group is given a briefing on the Do's and Don'ts, followed by a guided tour to the observation platform to observe the rescued sun bears in their natural forest enclosures. We hope they had a great time here and gained new knowledge about sun bears and their habitat.
Do you hear the trumpet sound? It is Mr. Elephant trying to say, "Happy World Elephant Day!"
On August 12, 2022, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center (BSBCC) was invited to attend World Elephant Day, with the theme "Sabahan People Live Harmony With Elephants" at Sabah Forestry Institution Hall, Telupid. On behalf of State Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, YB Datuk Jafry Arrifin, the ceremony was officiated by assistant permanent secretary 1 of State Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Mary Ossidore Malangking.
Together with NGOs and government organizations such as Sabah Wildlife Department, Danau Girang Field Centre, HUTAN-KOCP, Seratu Aatai, and Community Elephant Ranger Team (CERT), BSBCC opens an exhibition to keep up with the effort to tell the public why it is important for us to protect our wild animals. Other than that, there are other interesting sessions such as casual talk about human-wildlife conflict and lucky draws. There are Sabah Forestry Institution students and other attendees who come to our boots showing their interest in getting to know more about sun bears. The event was a success thanks to everyone!
Text by Sarah Nabilah Hamdan
Photos by Jacquelyn Jepiuh, Jude Ailton George, Sarah Nabilah Hamdan
Time flies, no worries. That’s what Ivan said to me the first week I’m here. It surely is. I’ve witnessed the transition of bear care staff, learned about the progress of Wawa's release into the wild, and participated in bear relocation. I’ve seen Soo came out from the training pen after 2 years of not stepping into the forest enclosure and climbing a tree (others claimed Soo does climb, but only in the cage). I’ve seen Dr. Boon getting chased by an Orang Utan at the clinic, running around the Hilux. We had celebrated Luna’s first birthday. Been through a no-water phase to finally-I-can-sanitize-a-cage. From only knowing Amaco to recognizing every sun bear at the bear house, even the macaque too (lmao Brian) T.T
Fascinating and intriguing; each one of the bears has its quirks and habits. Some vacuum their foods doesn’t even bother to peel the banana while some like to take their own time, laying down on their back enjoying the banana, bit by bit (Yes Sigalung, that’s you). Some crack opens the coconut using their strong jaw, while some throw the hard shell on the ground to break it. Easy for Kipaku, he would steal other’s opened coconut (Legend say it Kipaku has finally learn how to crack coconut on his own). I can sit and talk about each one for hours but let’s not write a whole book here.
I’ll miss scrubbing the walls and floors while getting my cloth wet from the nearby water spray. I’ll miss prepping up their food. I’ll miss seeing the sun bears fighting over the sweet flesh of fruits scattered around during feeding session. I’ll miss the feeling of giddiness when I was invited over to assist with bear health check-up. I’ll miss doing enrichment together with everyone while listening to their legendary stories or venturing into the forest to seek for termite nest. I’ll miss doing fence check *roll eyes* and guessing what kind of bird sound that we listened to. Oh, surely not going to miss the part where I had to involuntarily donate my precious blood to the mini vampires a.k.a the leeches. I’ll miss learning new things every day.
I imagined it’d be a lonely road, being the only intern throughout the 3 months period, but nope. The staffs took a good care of me and ensured I experience lots of things. Though I can be a lil bit of cheeky and annoying, they were patient at all times (sorry guys hehe). They were super supportive, amiable and helpful in any way. Thank you and gracias Dr. Wong, Pradeep, David, Jac, Julamih, Jude, Oliver, two-legged Logan, Neal, Awie, Yuery and Dr. Boon for the fun working environment. Not to forget, Nurul, Arin, Max, Ina, Hanif and everyone at the centre. Thank you for everything – the knowledge, the skills, the banter, the stories, the memories, our friendships. I am truly grateful.
BSBCC has come so far, ever since 2008. I hope that BSBCC will continue their remarkable effort in ensuring the sun bears’ welfare being taken care of and attain their goals of educating the society locally and globally. I hope that everyone has the chance to know about the sun bears and love them. Love them in a way we educate more people to know about the sun bears. Love them in a way no one keeps them as a pet anymore. Love them in a way we protect them in their natural habitat - the rainforest.
Coming here was worth it. If taking care of the sun bears is one of my favourite songs on my Spotify playlist, I’d repeat it 100 times.