Today BSBCC was visited by a group of 3-5 years old children accompanied by their teachers from a childcare centre called as the Pusat Jagaan Selawat Nabi, Sandakan. The children, consisting of orphans and zakat (alms) recipients were taken to listen to a talk about the sun bears and subsequently observing the bears in the enclosures. It is a short visit but meaningful after all; the children were filled with excitement to watch the bears roaming and doing their activities in the enclosures. Thanks for the visit, Pusat Jagaan Selawat Nabi, Sandakan.
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by BSBCC & Chiew Lin May
I was still an infant when I arrived at the local mini zoo in 2008. I was found in Tawau district of Sabah and was later sent to Kudat district, in the northern part of Sabah.
My friend and I were displayed in a mini zoo as panda bears, but instead we are Bornean Sun Bears.
The reason behind this was to attract visitors or inexperienced animal managers, who apparently did not have the knowledge or skills to care for the animals that they received, which could be why we were mistaken as species we are not.
We were fed with chicken daily which led us to have bigger body sizes compared to other sun bears our age.
My suffering ended when I was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on the 6th of July 2010, and was brought to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) on the 10th of July, 2010.
During the arrival, no external wounds were found on me, except my friend, Kudat showed his fur coat had multiple alopecic patches. We were both placed into Quarantine.
On the 8th of August 2010, after I completed my 30 day quarantine period, I was growing well and I was then a ten year old, adult female sun bear.
I have beautiful mauve-coloured eyes. I started to enjoy the delights on offer in this new environment.
Rescued sun bears at BSBCC are given a second chance to live freely in the BSBCC forest - free to explore, forage, climb and play as wild sun bears.
On the 20th of December 2013, I was undergoing fence training, which is one of the BSBCC’s rehabilitation processes that is before the bears can go out to the forest enclosure.
This stage is very important because the BSBCC forest enclosures are surrounded by electric fences that prevent the bears from escaping. However, up until now this fence training had not worked with me due to the fact that I still bared the scars from years of trauma after being locked up in a cage for entertainment purposes.
The bear care staff never gave up on me by trying to introduce me with new bear friends (Natalie, Ah Lun, Julaini and Rungus), to help improve my social and survival skills, and gain trust towards these rehabilitation processes.
It would take time for me to learn to trust the outside forest world.
On May 20th 2014, I had a traumatic injury on the rostral area due to an aggressive bite from a male, adult bear in the neighbouring cage.
Thank you to Veterinarian, Dr. Laura who helped me by reconstructing suture of the tissue on my rostral area. The bear staff kept a close watch on me and took care of my diet. Slowly, my snout improved.
On the 1st of July 2015, I was moved to another cage near Amaco (the oldest bear). I loved having these new dens to explore. I loved splashing in the water and taking lots of baths in the dens.
BSBCC provide the best care for all the rescued sun bears in our Centre, different enrichment activities are given by bear care staff in order to stimulate our natural behaviour and keep us occupied.
I am a big foodie and enjoy the bear’s main diet of fruit, coconut and HONEY!
I am very inquisitive and am always quick to come whenever there are YUMMY treats. There are different types of climbing structures and I take great joy in climbing them. I love the opportunity to play with a number of toys. I will figure out a toy by tapping on them with my superb sharp-curved, long claws and by checking them carefully. We love volunteers designing comfy bed for us!! It brightens our day!
My best friend is Amaco who is a male bear. The integration has really enriched my life.
Most important is that I am the first play pal for him. I am very sweet towards him so we love playing together. We are playing and wrestling non-stop. We share a very close bond and can be seen hanging out together.
However, I am sorry that I do not get along well with Chin, as sometimes she will get feisty if I wrestle with her which will end up in small brawls during play fights.
This year something has changed my life! With the help from our lovely volunteer, Khairunnisa Faisal and keeper, Adrian. Here I started to put my past behind me and recover from my traumatic years in captivity. A huge smile crossed my face as I received the life that I deserve!! I was finally brave enough to take my first step out to the forest after five years of training. I love to explore the grassy forest enclosure, forage for my favourite termites and rest in the hammock. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to try learning as a wild bear!
BSBCC are delighted I have been able to let go of the previous trauma in my life.
I have overcome my fear and feel completely at home! Sun bears are classified as a Totally Protected Species under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment, 1997. Please STOP keeping sun bears as pets! We DO NOT belong inside cages. Years of being kept as illegal pets have left many of us suffering from long term disabilities and physiological trauma. It requires considerable time and expense to restore the wild behaviour to us that have been victims of the illegal wildlife pet trade. If you care about us, you would not want to be left out of the fight for our survival. Please be our voice!
Video by Chiew Lin May
The rainy season is slowly starting up in Sepliok, Sabah.
Sun bear Logan and Romolina enjoy a small break in the rain.
Video by Chiew Lin May
"Basking in the sun was all I could think about!"-Mary the sun bear
Photos by APE Malaysia
Curious. Explore. Love. Brighten their day!
Hammock Amok Project in Hanoi Wildlife Rescue Center, Hanoi, Vietnam!
Enrichment improves the quality of life of animals in captivity, by promoting natural behaviours and instincts. There was also great progress made with this Hammock Amok Project. Together with APE Malaysia and Air Asia Foundation, they work tirelessly to provide the most stimulating enrichment for the animal’s well-being and provide the best care. Needless to say, the animals are very thankful for their special treat!
Million thanks to APE Malaysia for giving BSBCC this opportunity to join this Hammock Amok Project. It was a fantastic experience!
Video by Chiew Lin May
What was the highlight of your weekend?
"I think mine was foraging the bird's nest fern!" - Little Romolina
Text by Mayuko Takeda
Phots by Chiew Lin May & Sumira Muis@APE Malaysia
Hello, I’m Mayuko. I’m 20 years old and from Japan! I’m studying biology in Japan. I wanted to be a volunteer in animal related projects and then my professor told me about BSBCC when I consulted him. This is why I came here.
My daily tasks in BSBCC are preparing food, husbandry work and making enrichment for the bears. My typical day started from weighing the amount of the fruit first and then bear house cleaning. Sun bears eat vegetables. So the smell of their feces was not as bad as I thought. However, my teammate and I had to clean the walls and doors too. It made me tired. If we didn’t clean the night dens carefully, they’ll get sick. So, I did my best!!
I like to make enrichment for sun bears. For example, we put some apples and honey in the Aussie Dog balls which has a hole in there. To make the enrichment harder, we also put leaves and egg cartons in the Aussie Dog balls so it is harder for the bears to get apples and honey. So they can enjoy getting the treats while playing with it
Collecting termites from jungle is also part of the enrichment for the bears. We can see how they use their long tongue to forage. All of the bears are individuals with different personalities. In the case of food, some likes sweet potatoes while others like cucumbers. How could I understand that?? When I cleaned the night dens, I checked what is left. On the other hand, one thing I was worried about was that I was afraid I couldn’t remember every bear’s characteristics within just 2 weeks.
Actually, I have one more reason why I wanted to come here. The reason is that I wanted to know what I desire. To tell the truth, I’ve lost my way. Of course my passion towards animals is undoubted but should I get a job or should I go to university to get a master degree? When I said to Mr. Wong, he advised me that I should choose what I think makes me happy. One day after collecting banana leafs on the way going back to the center and blown by the wind, I thought suddenly this is what I always wanted to do. I want to learn about wildlife and I want to do anything for their well-being. This 2 week volunteering experience would be a chance to reflect on myself again.
Finally, Thank you to all of the people I met here!! Sometime it makes me really happy when they talked to me in Japanese. They are kind and funny. Also they taught me Malay - “saya mau makan”. Actually I felt nervous on the first day because I’m not a English native speaker, but it was groundless apprehensions. I was so excited to volunteer at the BSBCC from the second day.
I had a fulfilling and unforgettable time when volunteering at BCBCC. This is an irreplaceable experience. I swear I’ll come back!!!
Text by Oona Lily Mcginty
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Sumira Muis (APE Malaysia)
My name is Oona and I am a University student volunteer from Bristol in the UK. Initially I chose to come and work with the bears here because my dream is of eventually working as an anti-poaching ranger, to protect endangered animals from poaching, habitat destruction and the illegal wildlife trade in countries all over the world.
Getting the opportunity to experience working in-situ in the jungle for the first time was fantastic, and it was incredibly useful to get to try out working as a keeper in this environment, as I already have at a number of sanctuaries and wildlife rescues at home in England. Learning how the role differs from country to country and having to quickly adapt to the differences in local wildlife and climate was a very valuable skill for me.
Doing quite a lot of art in my spare time was certainly put to good use here as well, as a few days into my work I noticed that there were some partially finished murals that had been started by a previous volunteer on some of the walls between bear houses one and two. With our volunteer co-ordinator’s permission, it was hugely satisfying to be able to then sit for a while in the afternoons to finish them off, refreshing that area of the centre for the bears and workers to enjoy throughout their time there.
Learning first-hand about the specific husbandry of the kinds of animals that I will later strive to protect, as well as the uses of different kinds of enrichment for their care and what the bears gain from interacting with each one was very interesting. Getting the chance to go out into different areas of the jungle with the other keepers to do things like gather natural greenery for their enclosures, as well as learning about their diet and collecting different types of native fruits for the bears to eat was absolutely a highlight of my trip. It was nice as well to see that because of the daily effort put into these keeper activities, living in this environment prior to re-release was not so restricting to the bears’ natural diet, or their instinctive interactions with the sorts of surroundings that they might otherwise encounter in the wild.
More than anything however, I think that having the chance to venture out on my days off from work and witness first-hand some of the deforestation and destruction of the land outside of Sepilok and Sandakan has been the biggest eye opener for me.
It has made me even more determined in committing life to working towards alleviating the necessity of housing rescued animals in protected areas such as these, and further served to ignite my passion for protecting these amazing creatures and all others like them.
So I would like to say thank you to the BSBCC for this incredible opportunity, and as long as you are needed in the world, please never stop doing the wonderful work that you do here for these beautiful animals.
Oona Mcginty, Vounteer. - 2019
Video by Chiew Lin May
The omnivorous sun bear relies on primary on fruits and insects to meet its needs.
Logan found a rat carcass at the forest! Cravingsss!
Text by Anna Martinsen
Photos by Chiew Lin May
Hello BSBCC Bear Talk Blog!
My name is Anna, I’m 20 years old and have just spend 30 days working as a volunteer at the Bornean Sun bear conservation center. I’m from Denmark, so getting here took a lot of time! In Denmark, I just finished a 1-year dance education and now I’ll be having a gap-year, where I will be working, travelling, dancing, living. I found out about this place because I went here (Sabah) with my mom two years ago, and on the way made a very good friend. Just before I finished my dance education, I found the flyer for the BSBCC volunteer program and decided to just do it..
First week working at the center offered a lot of work in the kitchen! These bears, I tell you, they eat a lot. Chopping up 36 kg of sweet potato or pumpkin, not even to mention the bananas… so many bananas every day. The work in the kitchen is fun when everything is flowing, one person is cutting, another is rinsing, a third is weighing. One time, while I was weighing bananas, a big spider jumped out and onto my shirt. Something you get used to while working here.
Some of the male bears also get porridge with animal proteins, such as cooked chicken, egg, etc. They also get a fair amount of beans, because like human children, they have to eat their greens. They get so excited when they see you with the tray, and even though it is so tempting, you really cannot touch those sweet, furry creatures.
Later on during the first week, we had a presentation from one of the interns, Nathalie and later from Lin May about the sun bears and why we’re doing this work. It was literally heartbreaking to see how people treat these animals. Sun bears are small animals, the size of a big dog, so some locals catch them and keep them as pets. This is bad for several reasons such as:
1) Diet - local people don’t know what a sun bear eats and they feed it like a pet or, if the family is poor, then they’ll feed it with whatever, even with Milo. You can ask about Montoms story.
2) People don’t realize they are wild animals and that they grow bigger and stronger as they become adults.
3) The last thing people might do is poach wild sun bears, is if they believe in traditional medicine and kill it to get the gallbladder, paws, teeth and fur for a variety of uses.
The second week was a bit more “active”. We started a lot of different projects and had a lot of fun. Starting out, the bear house needs to be cleaned daily. This is not as hard or smelly as people make it out to be, but then again I have some experience from working at my aunts farm. First you have to clean out poop, which there’s a lot of, and in a lot of different colors (from their diet). Then we washed out the cage with a lot of water and scrub everything, and finished off with drying the floor.
It’s not just work, work, work. The staff in the bear house are so friendly and fun, so everything becomes more fun. Some of the cages have leaves, logs, enrichment all made/brought in from the staff.
We made a lot of enrichment during 1st and 2nd week. Enrichment is a tool we use to stimulate natural behaviours, like using sense of smell to find delicious food, rip cotton bags apart to get food. A lot of it has to do with using either paws or mouth to get to food in some ways.
While making the enrichment, you’ll get a great opportunity to chat with the keepers (the staff). You talk a lot about what’s different from back home, ask questions about their cultures, things to try, and of course, you learn a bit of Malay. Enrichment can also be sticks or branches, banana leaves and we even went trekking in the jungle for termite nests.
This week and the 3rd also offered bigger projects! In one of the pens they needed to build a platform for the bears to cool down under, play on and use for enrichment. With blood, sweat and tears, we finished the big platform within 1 1\2 weeks! The bears absolutely love the platform now, and they’re often seen sunbathing or playing on it.
During the 2nd and a part of the 3rd week I got to train and observe one of the bears, Sigalung. He is a bear with fear of heights, so we tried to lure him out with food on the platform and then on the steps down to the ground. It was a slow process, but he made some progess. After some observation, Sumira and I decided that the stairs were too steep, and that’s why he is not going down. We talked to my Buddy Keeper (You get “assigned” to a keeper when you start working), Mizuno, and we made some sketches for a ramp that wold make the ground seem less terrifying. We measuared, found supplies and got to work, but just three days after we mounted to skeleton for the ramp, some of the other keepers saw Sigalung on the ground. In his pen. Looking for food. That little jokester played a prank on us, but we still managed to finish the ramp.
During the 3rd and 4th week we still did the usual duties, cleaning, prepping food, building a ramp for Sigalung, but we also got something extra! I got to join some health checks. First one was on a big male, Bermuda, second one was little Chin, third was Mary and fourth was Wan-wan. While doing the check up, as a volunteer, you monitor pulse, respiration and temperature. You also carry the bear from the bear house to the truck and vice versa.
Another memorable health check was Wan-Wan. Wan-wan is 12 years old and has a lot of dental problems, so while doing her dental check, they found out that 7 teeth needed to be extracted otherwise she’d be in too much pain to eat. 7 teeth! Crazy.
This week we also had fun going rambutan picking! It’s like apple picking but with rambutans (like lychees). You get to see the nature, talk with your co-workers and eat rambutans, #perfect. While collecting rambutans, a bird’s nest fell from the tree. A bit later we found the egg and Natalie and I decided to try and rescue the nest, so mama bird could find it.
Before finishing up my rambling about this dreamy work here, I want to mention the people. The people working here all have a heart of gold and are so friendly. We went out to dinners, events, they care about your well-being. If you ever even thought of volunteering, you should do it because of the people!
Biggest, warmest, most loving thanks and bear hugs to everyone here from Anna Banana! I will definitely come back!
Thank you, you’re welcome, goodbye.