Text and Photos by Wong Wai Ying
Welcome to Sandakan!!!
This is the first time for me to travel alone, step into Borneo for volunteer work in BSBCC. There are a lot of people curious about what is sun bear, what you going to do with these bear? Well, here is the reason for me to experience it and introduce these cute bear to everyone.
Back to nature always is my wish.
On 11 October 2014, a warm welcoming from my friends Thye Lim and Lin May who I didn’t meet up for last 3 years. They gave me a brief intro of BSBCC and we start up the day by preparing sun bear’s food for the whole days. Although sun bear is the smallest size in bear species, however they have a good appetite. We need to prepare porridge, fruits (Banana, Papaya, Langsat, and Salak), and vegetables (Sugar cane and sweet potato) with different portion for daily basis diet requirement of 35 bears. Coconut and honey drinks are their favourite foods.
First eyes on sun bear, they are so special. Each of them has their own chest mark, behaviours and personalities. Why they are suckling, pasing, tapping and regurgitation all can be explained by experience staff. This is why BSBCC staffs, bear keepers and volunteer who stay long at centre be able to recognize the sun bear even from far distance. I’m no exception. Feeding time is the best way to get closer and recognize them. Until the last day of my duty, I’m able to recognize more than half of the sun bears’ name in the bear house.
BSBCC give the best effort in conserving sun bear. Most of the bear here were rescued from poacher where they kept in cage since young for display purpose, pets or even almost become a plate of dish. However, with the cares that provided by bear keeper, all the sun bear grow healthy and are trained to be survived in natural environment. Different designed of food enrichment (slot fruit inside the bamboo; put honey inside the Aussie Dog Ball) and cage enrichment trains the sun bear in food scratching and tree climbing. What amazes me is the way they peel off the coconut for drinking and taste on the fresh of coconut. Ronnie, one of the adult sun bear peel off the coconut just within 20 seconds. It really stunned me for a moment.
In the bear house, we are not supposedly having a close distance with the sun bear as it might dangerous in an unknown condition. However, I’m so lucky that being able to witnessed Chin, a female sun bear moved from quarantine to bear house and joining with others in this big family. All the bear staff cooperate with each other, did a health check for Chin, before it really release and let it adapt to this new environment. For time being, Chin no longer feels aggressive with keeper and its new friends. She needs to pass through the test on electric fencing before release to outside world and interact with others sun bear.
During leisure time, I had the chance followed Mr. Wong and Fairo went to nearest waterfall to catch fish for aquarium project in the centre. Such a long time didn’t go for jungle trekking and this really makes me feel excited. Along the trails towards the destiny, we saw a lot of termites’ nests with different shape and a lot of stations to spot the Borneo bird species.
Sabah on the island of Borneo is well-known with the beauty of natural environment with relatively accessible wildlife animals. Others than sun bear, I had saw orang utan in Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre walk around, how the long-tail macaque grab the food from sun bear, chased by 9 months old pygmy elephant, saw a red giant flying squirrel gliding from one tree to another tree at Rainforest Discovery Centre, orchid praying mantis that caught by Nick, and a bundle of pill millipedes. During the Kinabatangan river cruise, more and more wildlife species can be found at here. In the late afternoon and early morning, we saw proboscis monkeys, basking monitor lizard, pig-tailed macaques, crocodile, mangrove snake, hornbills, and other birds’ species.
2 weeks passed and my volunteering work had come to the end. It’s hard for me to say goodbye. Staying at BSBCC really make me learn a lot. Working experience and knowledge that gained over here are can’t buy with money. Conservation work for animal is not an easy job and a lot of people do not understand how important it should be done for future generation. However, Wong and BSBCC team set up a fine example in sun bear conservation path to all of us. He is a father and also a life-guard for all sun bears. Therefore, no matter whom you are where you come from, if you have the wish to make a change for sun bear and your own, here is the place. All the hard work that you contribute is really paid off.
Thank you everyone!!!
I do appreciate everything from deep of my heart. Wish you guys all the best and keep moving on. Sun bear need you guys. So work with passion and dreams come not so far.