Text & Photos by Koo Wei Chee
I always want to work with animals since I was young, but due to the wrong decision that I made in secondary school where I took art and commerce stream instead of science stream. I could not get to the field I wanted after graduated which was zoology or environmental conservation. Thus the only course that I could take was biotechnology which gave me a second chance to enter to bio-related field, Although it was tough to manage the course, I finally maintained the CGPA of 3.0 before taking my last subject which was internship and that was the chance to grab the opportunities to search a job that I liked. After searching for many related companies or organization and even other biotechnology companies when I started to think there was no chance already, BSBCC finally had a positive reply from both the e-mail and online interview, I was very surprised and happy to have this opportunity to enter the field of wildlife. These took me 7 years overall since my mistake in making the wrong decision in year 2007.
This was the first time I travelled so far by myself to Sabah from my hometown in Peninsular Malaysia, I didn’t know what I would face without any experience in handling animals. However, every single moment spent in BSBCC and the wildlife essence in Sepilok had made my four months of this internship period a wonderful experience, memory, and history (16th October 2015 to 3rd February 2016)!
I worked in the bear care unit for these four months. I was quite clumsy at first about the daily routine in cleaning the cages and food preparation, then I was able to pick up the skills and found my own way to do it without changing the motives. I was very grateful to work with those passionate, dedicated, and friendly staff in the unit, we had these kind of same thought that we do our job seriously and meanwhile we joke around sometimes to make the works lively.
The best part I liked in my work is the enrichment part where we manually make different sorts of products to enrich the bears. There are food enrichment such as bamboo feeder, ice blocks, egg carton parcel, PVC tube feeder, termite nest etc., environmental enrichment such as collecting dry leaves, banana leaves, twigs and branches, and also have some clean-up occasionally.
After working in the center around 6 weeks, I asked for projects to do to learn more, I got myself an integration, fence training, and enclosure training for 3 bears and. It was not an easy task because those bears were kept in captive and never touch the earth before, every single training was like a start, to see their behavior of things they never seen before. There was a memory which I will never forget, Sunbearo the bear got zapped by the electric fence during its fence training session, he barked in panic, he didn’t know what to do but to climb up, every single climb got more zap. The keeper in charge ran quickly to turn off the electricity, Sunbearo then climbed down when he noticed that the cage next to the training pen was opened and quickly ran into it to climb up to rest in the hammock. The whole session after that (around 20 minutes). Sunbearo and the other bears actually do not need to feel this pain, it is all due to those people who illegally keep them as pets which screw the whole life of those animals. I’m here to express this message to the public, hoping no other people will keep any of those sun bears as pet again. The best thing was that after more than two months of those training, they touched the first time on earth and able to climb their very first tree, that moments really brightened the work I had done for the centre.
Other things that I needed to cope up with other than the work in BSBCC are basic cooking and languages. The house where volunteers and interns live doesn’t have any grocery shop nearby and I never cook at all before my internship so everything started from zero from cooking even eggs, and slowly to cooking vegetables and chicken lately. I can say that I’m proud to present my own cooked dishes to serve to my parents by now. As about the language, I seldom talk in Malay language due to my education background, I rarely understand a full sentence when people talked to me in Malay and things got even challenging when people in Sabah talk in Malay faster and somehow a slight difference of using words. I knew that this was the chance to allow me to talk more in Malay language so I was very happy that I learnt a lot from the staff. Whenever I didn’t know a word, they were eager to help me to translate it to make my sentence full.
What I knew from this moment was that I will show no regrets even if I could not continue my dream work after fighting so hard and the fury persistence in order to get this internship opportunity because I have experienced it. And this is what most people do not have it, the encouragement to do what they want to do. Special thanks to BSBCC founder and CEO Mr. Wong Siew Te for giving me this opportunity and my supervisor Mr. Tee Thye Lim for being such a great mentor. I did have a positive idea for my future career, and I will still continue my first objective to other bio-related field if needed.