Text by Chung Chyi Wei
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Hello, I’m Chyi Wei, a postgraduate student in sensor technology at Cambridge University; hence, the two weeks I spent volunteering at BSBCC was very different to my usual discipline and offered an interesting insight into animal conservation. Moreover, as a Sabahan living abroad, it was a nice reintroduction to the unique local culture and people.
Working in the bear house makes apparent the care, effort and planning that go into the centre—the meticulousness and intricacy of which are definitely overlooked from a visitor’s experience alone. It was fascinating to listen to the team describe each bear in anthropomorphic traits (my particular favourite is the severity of forehead wrinkles to tell between Julaini, Rungus and Ah Lun), and to learn of the harrowing stories of their past. Daily work consists of feeding the bears (four times a day), cleaning cages, preparing food and enrichment activities; morning tasks are allocated on a rota basis, so there is something different to look forward to each day. There is constant emphasis on the importance of enrichment for the stimulation and well-being of the bears; I like the creative and innovative ways the team employ in using recycled or organic materials to create food-based and structural enrichments—each of these has a deceitfully complex name, like Stick Paradox (basically a bouquet of twigs hiding peanut butter, for which sunbears have an insatiable appetite, in the middle). I was also fortunate enough to participate in a health check for Soo (where I learned of the many biological, genetic topics yet unknown and unstudied about sunbears, e.g. blood type), and an integration observation for Chin (to determine if this very solitary bear—even by Sun Bear standards—was ready to join an established sub-adult group of eight).
Lastly, my volunteering experience wouldn’t have been half as enjoyable if not for the friendly and welcoming team at BSBCC and APE Malaysia. Many, many, many (this is probably still insufficient) thanks to Sumira (for her expert insight into the field, tales of her interesting career and nuanced discussions on Asian-Western cultural differences); as well as to Azzry, Brandon, Fianilee, Lin May, Mizuno, Roger, Susan, Thye Lim and Wah Wah (for sharing their stories and knowledge, and not screaming at me once). Thanks!
Video by Chiew Lin May
Big smiles for Sunday!
Dodop uses her superb strong teeth and claws to tear trees open to reach ants!
On 9th of October 2018, SK Lahad Datu IV visited BSBCC as a part of post UPSR activities for the Year 6 students. The group consists of 18 students and 6 teachers had been warmly greeted by the staff of BSBCC and were given a talk about the sun bear. The students also involved in a simple but challenging word game and also manage to see the sun bears in the forest enclosures. It is hoped that the information shared to the visiting group will be benefiting them especially for the students. Thanks to SK Lahad Datu IV for the visit to BSBCC.
BSBCC was invited to be one of the participants in the World Animal Day 2018 celebration in UMS (5th & 6th Oct 2018), organized by JK Kebajikan, Rekreasi dan Libatsama Masyarakat (KaRIB) of Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Borneo Animal Welfare Society (BAWSS), and International Aid for the Protection and Welfare of Animals (IAPWA); sponsored by The Animal Kingdom Sdn Bhd.
By celebrating World Animal Day 2018, students and public are invited to come and join the interesting forum and talks session, visit the exhibition booths by various NGOs (for domesticated animals and wildlife), commercial booths, fitness booth, purchase delicious food from food trucks, and also join the blood donation activity.
Thanks to all the animal lovers who came along from different places, supporting us. Please spread the word to family and friends, let's be responsible and kind to all animals!
Together we can save animals, together we can offer a better future to animals!
Here are some pictures of the workshop session held by reVoiced band with local music students from SMK Muhibbah Sandakan. It was an honour for BSBCC to host the workshop by the American A Cappella band here at our Centre on 5th of September, 2018.
The session also incorporated sharing of music culture between reVoiced members and the students. Everyone had a great time! Thanks to US Embassy Kuala Lumpur for bringing us together in this fun and interactive session!
Program Pendidikan & Kesedaran Konservasi Hidupan Liar (Siri 2) 2018. The 2018 (2nd Series) Education & Wildlife Conservation Awareness Programme was successfully conducted for Telupid District in Sabah from 1st to 4th of October this year. Four primary schools (SK Menanam, SK Langkabong, SK Sogo-Sogo, and SK Linayukan) within the Telupid District has been chosen for this programme, with the support of our usual partners in conducting these programmes: Sabah Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) and Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme (HUTAN-KOCP). Various activities were carried out in the one day programme for each school, which not only focused on talks and presentations but also include interactive videos, quizzes, mini games, and introductions to the wildlife in Sabah. Tons of thanks for WRU and HUTAN-KOCP for their participation and also not forgotten all of the schools' students and staffs for their kind hospitality.
Text by Tara Sofia Jadwani-Bungar
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Bermuda, Mizuno tells me, is the biggest bear the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). Yet he barely comes up to my nose when he stands on his hind legs. Across from him is Wan-Wan, a female with the loveliest pink nose. She eats bananas delicately, removing the peel with her claws before sliding the banana fruit into her mouth. They are the first two bears I meet at the BSBCC.
I’m Tara, a 19 year-old university student from Melbourne, Australia and my stint at the BSBCC was my first time in Borneo. I’m studying to be a vet and would like to someday work in “conservation medicine”. Volunteering at the BSBCC introduced me to working in that sector.
The first day at BSBCC was slightly overwhelming (in a good way) because everything we were doing was new. Myself and two other overseas volunteers, Sienna and Imogen, went through a series of inductions that ensured we knew all the safety precautions and rules for the Bearhouses. You’d think this would be boring but simply being at the centre is so novel that everything seems exciting and interesting.
I learned so much about the bears – from their diet to their behaviour and their relationships – that my head was practically bursting with sun bear facts for two weeks. Some of this information came from a two-hour Q&A session the interns and volunteers had with Wong, the founder of the BSBCC. The most exciting part of this session was learning about the future of the BSBCC (can’t spoil it for the rest of you, though). The bearkeepers themselves are pretty incredible people and they showed me the everyday work that goes into running the centre and keeping up with the bears. They can get pretty creative when thinking up new enrichment for the bears.
The volunteer programme was really well-run, too. There was a great balance between routine and variation. Our days would start at 8:00am with feeding the bears breakfast (rice porridge). This would be followed up with cleaning the indoor enclosure or kitchen duty (chopping up fruit and vegetables for the bears and cleaning the kitchen area). Then we’d head out to feed the bears in their outdoor enclosures. By then, it was usually lunch time (12:00-1:30pm) which was spent in a lovely air-conditioned room. Afterwards, we’d take care of afternoon feeding. This was a bit more of an adventure as we’d often be followed by a very bold troupe of macaques. They’d regularly try and swipe the bears’ food. Back at the Bearhouse, we’d build enrichment activities before feeding the bears dinner and tidying up. Home time was 5:00pm on the dot.
Building enrichment was my favourite part of the day. Partly because it was really interesting to see what we could come up with to entertain/stimulate the bears. It was also when I got to talk to the keepers and the other interns and learn more about the bears and Borneo. Brandon, one of the keepers, and his buddies were building a firehose spider web for Along’s indoor enclosure. Imogen, Sumira and I made balls out of firehoses for the cubs in quarantine. Boboy spent quite a few days on a platform for the newest bear cub, Romolina. One afternoon, a group of us led by Mizuno walked in the surrounding rainforest searching for termite nests for the bears. I’m happy to say I did not get a single leech bite during my stay.
On some days, we’d head out in the ute (pick-up truck) to collect banana leaves, weeds and vines for enrichment. This was one of my favourite activities because I got to see more of the outskirts of Sandakan. Also, Mizuno’s driving was great. On two occasions, Imogen and I manned the education desk in the souvenir shop and I spent some time on the observation decks talking to visitors. Watching the bears from those viewing platforms was quite different from seeing them in the bearhouse. Funnily enough, I only realised how cute they were when I saw them from the visitors’ perspective. They had seemed cute before but I’d also learned to see them as individuals and hadn’t had the time to really coo over them.
Another memorable experience was assisting the vet and bearkeepers during a health check. Linggam was sedated and brought out to the examination table to have a wound on his leg checked. I helped take his measurements and his pawprints (inked and stamped just like ours).
My fortnight at the BSBCC was one of the happiest I’ve had. Despite it being a centre for bears, it was the people at the BSBCC who made my trip. Everyone, from the bear keepers to the local interns to the education staff, was kind, welcoming and open to questions. Most of all, their love and respect for the bears was clear in all their work. Thank you, in particular, to Sumira, our project coordinator, for being not only a teacher and guide but a wonderful friend.
My time at the BSBCC also showed me how difficult conservation and rehabilitation is. How do we know when a bear is ready to be released? How can we teach a bear that has never been in the wild and has never had mother how to be a bear? How can we release bears when there’s hardly any habitat to release them into? All these questions hang over the BSBCC and every other conservation effort. I don’t think there’ll ever be a perfect, full proof answer for any them. We can only do our best to heal the damage we’ve done. Some would say that that is very pessimistic but it’s quite the opposite. The people at the BSBCC are realistic but also hopeful and very dedicated. They’re problem solvers and they believe that they will find a way. They have to if they’re going to save Sun Bears.
Video by Chiew Lin May
In the wild, sun bears spend their time foraging, climbing and resting on trees. Looks how Noah chilling out in the forest!
Please take action to protect sun bear home.