Text by Nithisha Nair
Photos by BSBCC & Chiew Lin May
One in a million- Om is an adult male bear at the age of 14 years old, who currently resides in the second bear house and spends his time under the daylight in Pen G. He is considered to be one of the ‘originals’; the earlier bears who claimed their spots in our centre. He arrived at BSBCC when he was 5 months old on the 4th of August 2005, after being found at a plantation spot in Telupid. As his rescue was well before many, the reason for his confiscation or rescue is unknown and not under record. Aside from losing his left fore claw, he arrived in a healthy condition.
Om had been in quarantine for a lengthy period of over four years, until he was eventually transferred to the new bear house on the 7th of July in 2010. His transfer included a physical health check upon arrival at the new bear house where he showed optimum health!
Om was integrated with a bear named Ah Chong, another male bear, on the 10th of April 2010, they both went through fence training the next day together. Ah Chong was the only bear that Om has ever and will ever be integrated with, as Om is a dominant male bear. Any integration attempts at this age with another male will result in fights, therefore Om is now spending his days solitarily in BSBCC since the death of Ah Chong in February, 2011.
Once they were deemed to have passed the fence training, they were both released to Pen D together. This marked their first steps in the forest since their arrival.
Long after the death of Ah Chong, Om was released to Pen G in February, 2016. This is now considered Om’s pen as it is where he has resided up till this date.
Om is a bear who loves his enrichments, and adores his food, he may be a vicious bear, but to me, he is nothing short of independent and well behaved.
Sun bears, being a part of the wildlife, require exposure to the forest and have their very own survival instincts, regardless of if they were raised in captivity or if they spent every minute out in the wild. Thus, keeping them as pets would not only bring harm to the bear’s physical health, but would also harm the owner as well, once the bear starts to develop their own natural instincts.
When sun bears are kept as pets, they lose the part of them that is needed to survive once they live in the wild. Often, bears that are rescued from being kept as pets completely lose the ability to be released back into the wild. They either lose important survival instinct characteristics or are often disfigured in terms of being declawed to ensure the health of their ‘owners’. Their claws are extremely valuable to their survival; thus, the lack of these things prevents them from being released as their chances of survival are severely reduced.
I would like to end this by saying that the bears are a part of our ecosystem, a part of wildlife and a part of the forest. Let’s do our part by ensuring they remain that way.
Video by Chiew Lin May
Sun bears live in the tropical rainforest of Southeast Asia.
Here Joe, Logan, and Romolina enjoy exploring in the forest- they loved it!
"Where are your favorite places to explore?"
Just before bringing the group of 12 kindergarten kids from Tabika KEMAS Kampung Sanan (age 4-6) for a guided tour to our centre's observation platform, our Environmental Education staff asked a random question of "What do the sun bears love to eat?". They quickly answered "Giuk!" (Giuk means worms 🐛 of sorts in the local Sabahan language) and "Honey!". The kids were full of energy, asking questions along the information boards, and quite excited to able to see some of the bears in the forested enclosures. Thanks to Cikgu Loi and their accompanying teachers for organizing the visit to our centre! Hope to see you all again ;) #EnvironmentalEducation #GroupVisit #BSBCC #TabikaKEMASKgSanan
Text by Alicia Paula
Photos by Chiew Lin May
This is my third time in a row for the past 3 years of volunteering in BSBCC, things are ever-changing, and I am experiencing a lot of new things. One of the new things is the new Platform 2. In 2018, heavy rain and strong wind blew down few big trees and Platform 2 was severely damaged by the fallen trees. When I came back this year and went to BSBCC for the safety induction, I instantly went up to the new Platform 2 to check it out, and it looked pretty good! The other new thing that I noticed, are the number of new staffs that have joined the BSBCC family. Having more bear-keepers certainly helps especially in Bear House 1, outside feeding and kitchen tasks. Talking about tasks, the new bear diet and the list of food distribution among 15 pens, definitely made me take a few steps back…LITERALLY! The ‘Food Quantity’ table is huge, with four feedings in total. Their diets are categorized into fruits, leafy vegetables, starchy vegetables and others (dog biscuit). The food distribution now is more detailed and more complex than before, all differently accommodating to the bear’s nutritional needs. Amaco and Wan-Wan have their own tray of soft foods, only a handful of bears gets porridge and some of them gets cooked chicken, while the rest of the bears get fruits, veggies, and sprouted mung bean. The task to distribute the fruits into 15 buckets is quite confusing at first, but with the help of my buddy, Mizuno, I managed to get a hang of it in just a couple of days. Making and distributing enrichments such as ice block, roll-treat, and egg carton are always a getaway to have a chit-chat with the staffs and volunteers together.
Me and my buddy Mizuno, also made an enrichment for Panda and Chin to play with. We made an enrichment called ‘Rolling Log’, by propping up two inverted ‘V’s and shoving a long metal bar through the log. Placing the log with the metal bar onto the inverted ‘V’, to make it turn when it is clawed and rolled by the bears. Me and Mizuno smeared some peanut butter onto the log, so the bears could use their strong long claws to roll the log. Surprisingly, both bears completely demolished the log off the metal bar in less than 3 days. I figured it’s because the trunk of the log was wet through and could easily fall apart.
Other than duties in the bear house, I was given the chance to participate in bear health checks along with Dr. Boon, Lin May, and Pradeep. It was my first time assisting in the health check, so I took my time to observe the procedures to carry out the health check. I was first assigned with taking and writing down the temperature of the bear every five minutes and was told to notify them when the temperature has any drastic changes. Lin May wanted me to learn how to use the stethoscope to count the bear’s heartbeat. It was really hard to find the heartbeat’s rhythm, and I gave up after some time. Pradeep and Lin May assured me that it is challenging to pinpoint the bear’s heartbeat, in a room filled with beeping sounds and the sounds of the small polishing machine on the bear’s tooth. After that, I returned the stethoscope to Pradeep, and continued to take temperature from the bear.
I also got the chance to join Dr. Boon, to assist her in neutering some cats and dogs in SPCA Sandakan. I joined her twice, first time is with Dr. Boon and Andy, second time was with Nithisha. We mainly helped her with passing the tools and preparing medications, while she did the neutering surgery on the cats and dogs. Observing the procedure was definitely not for the weak stomach. After injecting the anaesthetics, some of the cats threw up. The neutering also involved stitching, and being very generous with the alcohol solution as a disinfectant.
Another thing that I noticed, is when all the BSBCC staffs brought their own food container to eat for lunch. On my first day of volunteering, I had to go and grab lunch at the cafeteria because I did not prepare any food for lunch to be kept in my container. On the next day, I slowly started to make a commitment to cook for lunch, its either I cook the night before or wake up early the next day to prepare it early in the morning. Me not being a morning person, I prepared my lunch the night before. Another method of packing lunch is when eating out for dinner. Every time Thye Lim and Lin May went out for dinner together with the Bjorn Hala family, they would always bring a basket with their food containers inside. When ordering, they would also order food for lunch to be eaten the next day, and they would also ask the hawker to pack the food into the container, instead of using plastic or styrofoam container. Other staffs also brought their own container to pack their lunch, whenever they feel a little lazy to cook it. After seeing that, I got inspired of how they are contributing their efforts to reducing plastic waste in everyday doings. The next dinner that we had together, I brought my own container as well. Knowing that my lunch from the restaurant is not plastic or styrofoam packaged, made me feel really good. Even though my actions are small, it is better than no contribution at all.
~ Self-reflection ~
Coming back to BSBCC to volunteer for the third time, allows me to comeback to myself after a year of continuing my studies. I am a person that really loves outdoor adventures and always having craving to enjoy what the Earth provides. Having my hands and eyes on my laptop and my phone for most of the time, is really straining to the eyes and not really a good way to replace free time with electronics.
Volunteering in BSBCC does not only gets me distracted from my phone, but also helped me to build some muscle strength and stay in shape. I could carry a bag of sweet potato in each hand, carrying it up from outside the bear house and walking all the way up to the kitchen, without dropping or dragging the bag on the floor. Volunteering in BSBCC also teaches me about not being afraid with our common invertebrate visitors, such as the Pill-millipede and the Tractor-millipede. With some help, I managed to gain confidence to let these cute and harmless invertebrates to crawl onto my hand. It definitely tickles at first, but soon got used to it.
Along with the friendly and easy-going staffs of BSBCC, really made the experience more worthwhile. Random laughing moments everywhere I go, even at the simplest things. The day never goes by without something to talk or to laugh about. For some examples, Kala is still being sensitive and does not want to return into her night den, one of the staff found a blood python near Quarantine area, young macaques managed to come into the bear house and stole a lot of dog biscuits, a free-roaming Orangutan chilling on top of the training pens of Bear House 2, and many more. What is there to regret when gaining volunteering experience in BSBCC, nothing!
Video by Chiew Lin May
Music I am Happy by AShamaluevMusic
The best things in life are FREEDOM
Smile, Hug, Friends and Love
We are grateful to receive a visit from students and teachers from SK Lahad Datu II this morning. In conjunction with the school's "Kids Eco Camp" activity in Sandakan participated by 20 students, these students came to learn more about sun bears through the activities conducted at BSBCC. The students were briefed about important sun bear facts and BSBCC's effort to protect them before the "Sun Bear Explorer" activity took place where they had to answer questions from an activity book whilst watching sun bears roaming around the forest enclosure. The students also get the opportunity to have a Q & A session with Dr. Wong Siew Te where they asked numerous questions about sun bears and BSBCC's conservation efforts. We had a wonderful learning session with these school kids and we look forward to another session with them in future! We also like take this opportunity to thank the school for their kind donations to support our efforts at the Centre. Your support really means a lot to us and the sun bears!
We have been visited by a group of 4 to 5 years old children from a childcare centre from Tongod, Sabah known as Taska Visi Hikmat, today on the 15th of November 2019. The group accompanied by their parents was brought to the platform while been briefed by member of BSBCC EE unit. Along the tour, the children showed their genuine curiousity watching the bears, expressing their excitement when the bears showed themselves up. This is more true to some of the children when they saw close up of bears snoozing in the enclosure. Pure hearted and innocent, this is the generation that will lead the effort to protect our treasure in the future and it is our duty to shape them to love the wildlife and nature. Thank you for the visit, Taska Visi Hikmat Tongod.
On the 14th November of 2019, BSBCC has been invited to participate in an event at the town of Sipitang Sabah called as the Back To School Program under the organization of Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) and Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu. This program showcases the principles of the philanthropic work of both YSD and Rotary Club while promoting the education and awareness on the conservation of our wildlife and nature to the public; especially toward the younger generation. The event started with opening speech from YSD representative and engaging talks from BSBCC and Marine Research Foundation, focusing on the conservation of sun bears and marine wildlife. The event was attended by Y.B Datuk Seri Panglima Dr. Kamaruzaman Hj Ampon (President of Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu, Dr. Hajah Yatela Zainal Abidin, (Chief Executive Officer of YSD) and YB Datuk Dr. Yusof Bin Yacob (Minister of Education and Innovation of Sabah). The program, Back To School Program itself is a great program for the students indeed, aiming to reduce the burden for the students at Sipitang; 500 students coming from SMK Sindumin, SMK Pengiran Omar, SMK Pengiran Omar 2 and SMK Padang Berempah enjoyed the donation of school’s equipment for the upcoming school session of 2020. We at BSBCC would gladly love to extend our gratitude to YSD (which has been assisting a lot to BSBCC for the past few years ago) for the invitation to the program which is an excellent platform to promote the awareness and conservation of the sun bear to the public. Till we see each other next time!
Text by Nithisha Nair
Photos by Nithisha Nair & Chiew Lin May
After only a week after my internship, I decided it wouldn’t be the last time I’ll be in BSBCC, I got my money saved and bought my tickets almost immediately, and once finals were over, thus began my two weeks volunteering in BSBCC.
I’m Nithisha, a 20-year-old from Selangor, and I am obsessed with this place.
I’m not exaggerating when I say this environment feels a lot like ‘home away from home’, I’ve missed all the familiar faces, whether it be the staff, the bears or even the dogs back in Bjorn Hala. Even more so now with the addition of new friendly faces like Bithrenley and Danny.
As an intern, the schedules and procedures- especially for feeding, were systematically always changing over the period of my internship. So, coming back after over 4 months, there were plenty of obvious changes for me to catch up to.
It’s always interesting coming to understand why the diet is shaped a certain way or why they do certain things around here. This time around, the bear house team even got the chance to sit through a dental lecture with Dr. Boon to understand the dental checks that she carries out on the bears, and hopefully will be able to carry out on the bears annually. It was really fun understanding and counting up the canines and the molars of the bears.
My favourite part of our bear house duties has always been feeding, I love seeing every bear’s different ways of foraging and eating.
Not to mention all of the enrichments we make on the daily to occupy and keep our bears happy, new enrichments that I got to make this time included the happy sack and a ‘frozen salad’ ice block
I even got to assist in making a divider between two training pens to allow two male bears to be able to venture out at the same time without engaging in a growling match. Making the divider involved cutting zinc into perfectly sized measurements, painting them and attaching them in between two training pens.
During my volunteering, I received the pleasure of getting Boboi (Jeniur Justin) as my buddy, he’s a pleasure to be around and will never leave you in any state but happy. Thank you for guiding me and letting me tag along these two weeks boboi, your efforts goes a long way of imprinting itself in my memories.
To summarize my two weeks volunteering, it was wonderful. I even got to know Alicia and Amanda who were both also return volunteer/ interns just like me! Every single staff played a huge role in making my stay special and memorable, I don’t always admit it but they are who I’ll miss the most leaving this place. A million thank you’s and a million more wouldn’t be enough to describe how thankful I have to have gotten a chance to do my internship here and now volunteer here.
When the time and place is right, I truly hope to be able to come back and volunteer again someday, till then,