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Text by Avril Lim Shu Ting
Photos by Seng Yen Wah
“There’ll be a lot of hiking to do. We hiked almost every day.”
Well, that didn’t deter me from applying for my internship at BSBCC. In fact, I was so over the moon about it as I am an outdoor person and one of my pastimes is hiking. Yes, we hiked a lot indeed. It may sound tiresome, but the fact that my stomach would start rumbling every 3 to 4 hours usually turned me off when I was all pumped up for work. (*Inserting a laughing-while-rolling-on-the-ground emoji*)
“Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help.
Only if we help, we shall be saved.” - Jane Goodall
One of my dreams is to be involved in any conservative efforts; however, most places require certain payment to do so, and I had no idea that BSBCC offers scholarships for Malaysians to participate in volunteering programs. During my internship with my coursemates, we had an opportunity to speak to the founder and the CEO of BSBCC himself, Dr. Wong. He is truly inspirational and his immense love for wildlife is unfathomable. During our talk, Dr. Wong mentioned the quote above which to this day, is still imprinted in my heart deeply. I lived my dream for two weeks and what a way to contribute to the conservation and rehabilitation of sun bears albeit a little!
Meeting the sun bears
Wildlife is feral and human intervention should be as minimal as possible. On the first day, I was terrified but at the same time in awe to have seen the sun bears at such a close distance. Their claws are long and sharp and their canine teeth, needless to say, could just rip you apart. As I was volunteering there, my fear gradually faded away as I learnt more about their behaviour and some amusing attitudes, like how Kudat, the sun bear, would bring his feed to his basket and eat it to his heart’s content while lying on his back.
“Amaco is the oldest bear here. He has never set a foot in the earthy ground.”
Amaco, the 29-year-old bear, was brought up in captivity and he has ever since feared of the outside world. To him, the cage is the safest place for him. Seeing his long claws and him walking abnormally with his claws curving towards the ground, I could somehow feel the pain he is going through. Everyone is required to make an enrichment project for the sun bears and at first, I wanted to make something huge like a hammock for my favourite sun bear, Sigalung, who is known for his muscular upper body and eating his favourite feed on his back like a baby. On second thought, I should help Amaco to improve his life quality, to alleviate his suffering even though it is not much. Therefore, my buddy, Jude, and I built a scratching board for Amaco to “trim” his claws. I named it Modified Scratching Board as we put some feed beneath the wood planks to encourage him to scratch the board for a transitory pleasure. HE DID IT!
Truly, I had an amazing adventure and experience volunteering here. My eyes are opened to the wonders and efforts in conservation and rehabilitation. The firsthand experience is absolutely remarkable, as it is not mere popcorn and National Geographic channel. Lastly, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to all the bear keepers, the staffs and Dr. Wong for providing me with such a wonderful opportunity and guiding me throughout my internship. Thank you! <3 (That’s less than 3. Such is love.)