Text and photo by Ng Bee Yin
Gir-de-Gir-de-Gir-de-Gir-de…. Damai was suckling her arm in front of me and looked at me with her piercingly sharp eye. It seems like she was begging me not to leave her. Though I always smile for her cuteness whenever I see her, but this time, her actions penetrated my heart and triggered a sense of sorrow. I told myself, I should say goodbye to every single bear in the bear house today. With grief, I turned to the other side and looked at Fulung. This male bear was scratching his throat after gulping his meal and did not bother to show a single sadness on my very last day! Probably he is a tough guy who repressed his sadness in front of a pretty girl whom had been preparing his food for the past 30 days. Mary, on the other hand, approached me. She sniffed and put out her paw for me to fondle her. I moved backward refusing to do so. I felt very close to these sun bears. I know their names, their room locations, their enclosures, their cuteness, their history, etc.
I was the most creative chef in the bear house! Vegetable ice blocks can also be very delicious to sun bears. Honey corn ice blocks, inspired by ABJ (Ais Batu Jagung). It is troublesome to cut the corns for the juice. The satisfaction is not just from relishing the taste, but also a visualeuphoria of the colorful ice blocks. With colors from sweet potato, watermelon, pineapple, banana, guava, papaya, corns… It is not really hard to create rainbow in the sun bear’s kitchen. I wish to show some of the nice photos of fruits that I had chopped but I couldn’t find any of them. Chopping fruits is not easy especially when doing it alone. It requires a lot of physical strength. There would be a lot of cuts, blisters on fingers because too much of rubbing against the knife handlebar,and also some bruises on legs when one is preparing the food for the bear because the food are heavy to handle. It does indicate why there are only male staffs in the bear house.
I am not very experienced in doing this. Whenever I was cleaning the cage, I feel like calling my maid to do this for me during my volunteering period here. Hahaha! I bet my parents will not believe what I had been doing over here. The stains on the cages had to be cleaned all the time to keep the sun bears healthy.
Dried leaves collection was done together with BSBCC ground staff Azzry, Tommy, Mizuno and David. Precautions need to be taken while collecting the leaves because there were a lot of fire ants. These dried leaves were put into the cages for adding some coziness to the cement floor by keeping it dry and comfortable.Talking about dried leaves, it plays an important role in keeping our bears healthy. In concrete floors, wet floor is a problem, because the bears’ feet are prone to peeling due to hydration. This is exacerbated by the fact that the moist condition is also a breeding ground for infectious fungi and bacteria. Hence, foot problem can be a chronic issue. Furthermore, during hot weather, the heated concrete encourages cracks on foot pads. Besides that, cement floors damages skeletal system, muscle strain, circulatory system, footpad lesions, callus formation and pressure sores. All these can be mitigated by placing dried leaves on the cement floor. I am honored to be part of this sacred job in BSBCC with all the bear house man. I always work with these four guys, though for not a very long time, I get to know some of their habits. Azzry like to say: “Menahan dia…”; Mizuno like to say: “Marah ke? ”, “Rumput” “Pahit! ”, “ Moi… Moi…”. Sometimes I got annoyed because I’m not “marah (angry)” but he kept asking as if I was angry all the time, but later I realized he likes to ask that to most people. I also like to annoy Mizuno by calling him “orang asli (indigenous person) ” just like the way he likes to call me “ah Moi (Chinese girl)” to annoy me. Tommy is the “si lalat (the fly)” which is the name most of the ground staff call him. David likes to tell stories about him when he was a soldier. His conversation always begins with: “Dulu… Masa saya… (Once when I was….)”
A female sun bear with an unusual sleeping gesture. Ah Bui was sleeping with all her limbs widely open, lying comfortably on her favorite spot in enclosure C.
One fine day, around 4pm, Tompong (the orang utan) paid us a visit at the observation platform. Gloria got excited and took several photos with this semi-wild orang utan. Tompong went into enclosure D and took two corns and one sugar cane. I took a photo with her while she was focused with her scrumptious meal. She knows that there is a lot of food in the enclosures and she came again the next day to make a nest at the platform area. She had been visiting the platform 3 days in a row.
Loki, the latest cub that arrived BSBCC. I am very lucky to witness her arrival. That was the first time I saw a sun bear cub because nobody except for authorized staff is permitted to enter quarantine. Sun bear cubs are pretty much the same like those shown in the videos played at the center, but it was astonishing to see the real one.
We went to collect termite nests for the sun bear’s enrichment and also checked out the waterfall at the far end of the nearby bird trail. The waterfall is very small, pristine environment though. There wasn’t anyone else there, not a single litters sighted, no picnicking groups and no smokes from barbeque. Unfortunately, no fallen termite nests found. I’m not sure why but the locals believed that termite nests cannot be collected if it is not fallen or broken because it will bring bad luck.
I like to be at the platform because I love talking to visitors about the sun bears at BSBCC. Furthermore, I learn more things from other interpreter, especially Mr. Wong, Thye Lim, Lin May and Gloria when I listen to their conversations with the visitors. Besides the information that they provided to the visitors, I like to pay attention and learn some communication skills from them. There were a lot of memories at platform, mainly with the visitors. One of the most unforgettable one was a group of Italians who recorded me speaking and I only realized that after speaking with them for a long time; the two German ladies who took photos with me for no reason; some locals who questioned and couldn’t understand why I was volunteering; Some Chinese tourists who can never control their volume; Those who had given me their name cards, etc. The photos were taken on the very last day of my service at BSBCC. I asked the visitors to take some candid shots with me as a memory. The lady in purple standing with me was my last customer. I asked to take a photo with her because she was my last customer there, she laughed and took some photos with as well.
Shannon Samuel, a friendly girl with sweet smiles that I met at the platform. She is a volunteer at the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre who likes to pay us a visit and watch the sun bears for hours. We got one step closer each and every time we met at the platform. She brought me to see some cute orang utan babies at the nursery, I especially remember Bidu-bidu. Shanon always shares amazing stories of caring for the orang utans which I found really interesting.
This might be Tompong, the nice orang utan that was visiting the BSBCC observation platform.
To all BSBCC members, warmest thanks for all your kindness and do forgive me if there is any mistake that I’ve done unintentionally. I will remember all of you. Lester Elis and Ronny Jumahat, thank you for keeping me safe from cheeky macaques most of the time. Mizuno Merek Men, Ong Kim(Peter) and Tommy Johnny, thank you for the jokes which enlightened my days at BSBCC. David Tahir, thank you for the guidance and the stories of your history. Leslina Elis and Faironytha Pius, thank you for the friendly treatments and “Crunch ice cream(s)”. Thank you Azzry Dusainyou’re your companion and guidance. Thank you Gloria Ganang for the knowledge that you shared to me. Special thanks to Thye Lim and Lin May for recommending me such a good place to volunteer and for sharing a lot of knowledge with me, besides bringing around Sandakan. Many, many thanks to Wong for providing me the opportunity to contribute to the BSBCC.
Special thanks again to Wong who enables 6 kilograms of fresh tiger prawns to arrive my hometown Ipoh safely.