Text and Photos by Bellinda Ramond
Hi, I am Bellinda and I am 22 years old. I come all the way from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan to complete my internship here at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. I was greeted by my supervisor, Thye Lim at Sandakan airport. I remember the first time I entered BSBCC’s office. All of the staffs were gathered for their weekly meeting and everyone was staring at me. I felt very nervous but yet excited to start my internship here.
My first day of internship officially started when Thye Lim gave introductions and briefing about BSBCC and their operations. Later, I started to work at the bear house. Roger is one of the bear keepers who gave me short briefing about the works at the bear house and also about the dos and don’ts while at the bear house. Still at my first week, I am still shy to everyone and do not talk a lot... I only talk when I need to. Hahaha! I started to clean the cages at the bear house. It may look easy to clean the cages but actually it requires a lot of energy! It was quite tiring for a first timer like me to clean the cages. Besides cleaning cages, I also have to prepare food for 35 bears. The foods are being separated according to groups. Some bears have special diet too because of their health condition.
I learn how to recognize and remember every bear by remembering their cage location and their groups. After almost 2 months, I can remember all of the bear’s name and their physical appearances that differentiate them from each other! Seeing the bears every day at the bear house also makes me learn every bear’s behaviour. Mister Linggam, who is picky about his food and doesn’t like dirty cage, Om the karate kid who always make noise playing and swinging the wood, Susie the lazy bear who always growl whenever her food is served late, Jelita the bear who sometimes will soak her head inside the water bowl and Fulung who likes to stand up using his hind legs while suckling his fore feet.
My favourite part while working at the bear house is making enrichments for the bears. I like to see the bears use their senses and strengths when they explore their enrichments! Different type of enrichments provide comforting environment to the bears and also enhance their natural skill behaviour such as foraging and climbing.
Besides working at the bear house, every interns or volunteers will go up to the observation platform and interact with the visitors. Talking to the visitors is fun! But it’s not fun when a group of macaques is making chaos at the observation platform...
There are many things that I’ve experienced during my time here including bear annual health check, bears integration, outreach programme to Pitas district and Rhythm of Rimba Wildlife Festival 2015!
I am very grateful to have wonderful people around me especially Daniela who is my roommate, my best friend, and my sister! She is the first one that I miss the most after I left BSBCC. Not forgetting, everyone that I met and spend time with every day, I will remember all the jokes and laughter that we shared together! Huge thanks to the Founder & CEO of BSBCC, Mr. Wong Siew Te for giving me this golden opportunity to be part of BSBCC family for the past 3 months and also to my supervisor Thye Lim, thank you for being a great supervisor and guiding me throughout my time at BSBCC. Thank you to everyone who has been part of my journey at BSBCC!
Thank you so much and see you again! Pounsikou om kopiruba kito kawagu!
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
Tan-Tan came to BSBCC weighing 4.9kg after getting rescued from being sold in the remote region of Paitan. After months of hard work by our team, Tan-Tan has grown fast, healthy, and active and can go back to the forest where she belongs! She greatly enjoys going to the forest where she is free to run, dig, climb and play! Sun bears are forest dependent species. Tan-Tan should live her life completely in the forest and not be kept as a pet.
During the walk in forest, Tan-Tan interacts with the natural environment by experiencing different sights, smells and sounds. She also comes into contact with a variety of trees, plants and animals. As the youngest sun bear cub at the Centre, she is quite a character with a strong sense of humor.
She is small but she is an incredibly great climber. She really is an arboreal little bear. Tan-Tan loves to climb. There is no limit to how high she will climb. She is skilled at climbing high in the canopy, eating wild food and taking a nap on trees. Tan-Tan has used a large amount of effort in search of invertebrate food items to meet her energy requirements.
Tan-Tan surprised us and broke the record that at only 4 months old she was able to build her first tree nest at 8 meters off the ground! The nest is built entirely from green leaves and branches, but it is not completely done. We observed that she tried to test and sit on the comfortable nest. She took a nap and laid back in her newly built nest. It was great to see that Tan-Tan still has the instinct to build a nest. She will surely develop the nest-building skill.
Sun bears are omnivorous and she will eat anything edible that she can find in the forest. Beetles, termites and other forest insects are some of the sun bears’ favorite food sources. A sun bear’s sense of smell is tremendous, and because of this it enables Tan-Tan to locate where the insects are! Tan-Tan eats insects and uses her powerful small claws to break into decayed woods to get easy access to them. She has a long, narrow tongue which is perfectly suited for getting at honey and insects inside trees.
One special thing we observed from Tan-Tan during a forest walk was when she was digging soil from the trees, she vocalized by making a suckle sound. Sun bear cubs will suckle to seek comfort. If Tan-Tan’s mother was around, she would nurse Tan-Tan. Tan-Tan probably thought her mother was inside the tree hollow or den. We will never know exactly what happened, but we do know her mother would have been unlikely to abandon her cub so easily. Mothers teach their cubs everything they need to know in the forest including what foods they can eat, how to avoid predators, resting in the same tree, travelling with her and how to build a sleeping nest. All are must needed skills for Tan-Tan to survive in the wild.
Tan-Tan is happy, healthy and enjoys her free life at BSBCC. It is good that Tan-Tan still has her natural instinct behavior which we can all learn from her. As Tan-Tan becomes a skilled climber, nest builder and forager, we hope she will be a likely candidate to release into the wild. She deserves better, we need to do all we can to help her thrive!