Text by Grace Cheong Wei Yen
Photos by Grace Cheong Wei Yen & Chiew Lin May
Personally, I feel that this experience has opened my eyes to how much work it actually requires to take care of human beings, and how much more these bears need! Coming from an Asian background, the concept of filial piety is constantly reinforced, and now I truly realize how much effort my parents have put into raising me. Besides that, I have been privileged to have a first-hand experience of taking care of the sun bears which are endemic to Borneo only, a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Furthermore, there is no such satisfaction as witnessing a bear finally succeed in doing something that you had a part in!
So if you are seeking to escape the busy city life or to explore your interest in wildlife, or even carry out an internship as part of your program, then this is the place to be! Never mind all the bugs, this is a rare chance to catch a glimpse of other animal species endemic to Borneo like the sacred kingfisher and rhinoceros hornbill, or even Asian pygmy elephants! If I had the chance or time to come back a second time, I definitely would not hesitate.
Text by Angeline Ngu Hong Huong
Photos by Chiew Lin May
Hey everyone! This is Angeline Ngu from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. I am a primary school teacher and also a hardcore bear fan. I am really astonished by the adorable sun bears in the forest enclosure during my first visit to BSBCC. Watching the bear sunbathing on top of the tree through the telescope almost melted my heart. No doubt it was love at first sight. Coincidently, I met Dr. Boon who is a bear doctor in BSBCC and she explains all the stories about the sun bears and the details about the volunteer programme. That’s when I made up my mind to spend my Christmas holiday volunteering in BSBCC.
Despite knowing it would be tough working with wild animals, some more need to trek in the jungle, I actually hestitated a little just before departing. But since I am really looking forward to seeing the sun bears, here I am, about to end my two weeks volunteering with a really heavy heart, especially to say goodbyes to all the sun bears when I have just started to recognize them by their characteristics =( And not forgetting the friendly staffs in BSBCC whom I call the bear family.
For me, it is a bittersweet experience working in BSBCC. Let’s first talk about the sw-eeeeett part. It’s a big bear family here in BSBCC where the keepers are like the parents to all the sun bears. You must witness how worried the keepers are when the bears are not feeling well. They would try everything to make sure the bears take their medication. Throughout the volunteering days I had so much laughters with the keepers and all the friendly staffs in BSBCC as we share everything from our family to the bear stories. Not forgetting the Christmas party in Bjorn Hala, the keepers are capable of doing everything from fixing electric fence to cooking. The food they prepared is finger-lickin good! The sweetest part, the keepers constantly checking us volunteers out to make sure that we can handle our tasks and are always there to help whenever we need. We had so much laughters inside and outside BSBCC. Here comes the bitter part. I would say it is really tough taking care of wild animals as it requires a lot of heavy work. It is a great challenge for me to trek through the muddy and slippery ground in the forest especially during rainy season to check the electric fence. A big thank you to my buddy keeper, Mr. Pradeep who always tolerated me and my snail pace when hiking up and down the hill. Carrying heavy objects like food and wood is inevitable in the bear house but the keepers are always ready to help. Overall, all the hard work is worthwhile as long as the bears are happy and healthy.
Volunteering in BSBCC is truly an eye opener. I am privileged to having been able to join medical checkup session on the oldest bear in BSBCC, Amaco who is currently 27 years old with Dr. Boon and Dr. Reza. I was tremendously nervous before that as everyone is worried that he might not be able to pull through the process due to his age. Fortunately, he did and he was recovering well! During the process, I have learnt how to measure a bear’s heartbeat, respiration and body temperature. All this sounds pretty easy until I was inside the clinic and was really panicing because I could not hear the heartbeat even with a stethoscope. Meanwhile, Dr. Reza patiently taught me to first feel the heartbeat then hearing it would be easier. It works like magic! I was also given the opportunity to help Dr. Boon in recording dental details of Amaco and to trim its nails with a mini saw! That is something new! I enjoyed everything throughout the process as I know I would never have the opportunity to experience all these in my life. Not a single day passed by that I did not learn something new while working with the sun bears. Yeap! That is me trying to complete the entire “mission impossible” and I am proud to say MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
Text by Ng Jie Min
Photos by Chiew Lin May
Hi, I am Ng Jie Min from Bukit Mertajam, Pulau Pinang. I am currently 21 years old and studying Bachelor Of Communication (HONS) Public Relations in Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman,Kampar Campus. I do love nature and wildlife, so I decided to join BSBCC and serve as a volunteer in this semester break. This is my first time doing volunteering with wildlife and animals. In these two weeks, I learned a lot about the smallest bear in world, which is “Sun bear”. I also helped to clean their cages, feeding, prepare foods, make enrichment, and participated in their health check and did fence checking.
Thanks to have my buddy Pradeep, who introduced me to the sun bears. I now know that every sun bear has their own name and story behind them. In the food preparing sessions, it was complicated because every sun bear has their own food diet. Mostly we need to prepare a lot of fruits and vegetables for the bears, such as bananas, watermelons, papayas, pumpkins, cucumbers, mung beans, dog biscuits, bak choy, sweet potato and coconuts
Sometimes I also joined the keeper to fence check even though it is raining day. Yuckssss, it is muddy and leeches are everywhere! But I still try to face it because I know that this is a valuable lesson that I cannot get to learn in my life anywhere else. Making enrichment for sun bears is the session that I love the most. Enrichments can make those bears happier, exciting and reduce their stress. I did lot of enrichments including making Christmas present for them!
I was also assigned to observe some bears during their integrations. The most unforgettable moments was when Linggam, Susie and Kuamut love to play with each other. They keep pawing and hugging each other to show their love and kindness. I even got to join Ronnie Boy’s release attempt into Pen G in Day 10. I am happy with that because I saw improvement and hard work pays off.
I also was invited and join Dr. Boon Dental Health Check for the sun bears. BJ who is a male sun bear in the centre weighs 38kg. I helped to get its temperature every 5 minutes during the health check and helped it to clean his teeth. I gained new knowledge about sun bear’s teeth and it was fun to learn about their health. We also had a discussion session with Dr.Wong Siew Te who is the founder and CEO of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. He shared with us his own story and how he met sun bears. He spends his whole life time taking care those wildlife animals. So the name “Sun bears PaPa” really matches him a lot!
One of the tasks that I really enjoyed it was having a communication session with the visitors who come over BSBCC. They ask a lot about the sun bear living style and environment. I have enjoyed this and could tell them what I actually learned here. I also shared with them the experiences of being a volunteer for two weeks’ time in the centre.
Every lunch time, I went to the nearest cafeteria to have lunch. The cafeteria was clean and the boss was friendly. Dinner is usually at the resort Paganakan Dii. The most favourite meal I love here is the lamb chop that cooked in the traditional Paganakan flavour. Yummy Yummy Yummy!
I am a person who is used to live and stay in city areas. So in these two weeks, I learned a lot about nature and got step closer to the nature. I was very happy here because all staff in the working area is so nice and friendly. I promise myself that if I get chance to come to Sandakan again, I will be back to BSBCC to serve as volunteer again. I felt peace of mind when I saw all the sun bears in a peaceful environment. Thanks again to Dr. Wong Siew Te and staffs for teaching me such valuable lessons about wildlife in the 2 weeks’ time.
It all started with a young boy from Bukit Mertajam with a deep interest in the wildlife surrounding him.
Fast forward a few decades, to where he is currently a proud CEO and founder of a sun bear conservation
centre in Sabah, the only centre in the world which focuses on the welfare of the Bornean Sun Bears. And
he is still willing to travel around to spread awareness, doing what he does best: to share his stories and
experiences in sun bear conservation.
The last two months of 2019 have been a hectic journey, with talks given to live and television audiences in and out of the country: Awareness talk at The North Borneo Rainforest Festival (Kota Kinabalu, Sabah), “熊爸雨林” talk at the National Museum of Natural Science Taiwan (Taichung, Taiwan), “The Soul of the Rainforest - Sun Bears” 雨林中的靈魂- 馬來熊 talk at Dong Xing Elementary School 新竹縣竹北市東興國民小學 (Hsinchu, Taiwan), “Biodiversity of Sabah, Borneo” talk for Wild Bird Association of Taiwan 台灣野鳥協會(Taichung, Taiwan), the making of wildlife documentary “黑熊來了” “Black Bears coming” TV show (China TV CTV studio, Taiwan), and Awareness talk for Pelangi Publishing Group’s 40 cents charity carnival (Bangi, Selangor).
Keep the inspiration juice flowing, Dr Wong!
Video by Chiew Lin May
"Time is running out! The next ten years will be crucial. If we fail, a lot of species will become extinct." - Dr. Wong Siew Te (Founder & CEO BSBCC)
The sun bears is the world's smallest bear species. They can be found in the tropical rainforest of Southeast Asia. Major threats from poaching, illegal pet trade and deforestation are pushing sun bears to extinction. If no action is taken, the remaining population will be wiped out soon.
Please keep the fight to save the species against the threat of extinction!
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!
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!
Finally a ray HOPE for sun bear!!
The 2nd International Symposium on Sun Bear Conservation & Management is held from 25th to 26th September 2019 that saw over 80 delegates from different range countries consisted of government, NGOs, industry representatives,conservation managers and field researchers joining together in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
The symposium was hosted by Sabah Wildlife Department, Danau Girang Field Centre and Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. Thank you to everyone who presented, attended and helped out to make this symposium a resounding success with the ultimate goal to implement Global Status Review and Sun Bear Conservation Action Plan 2019-2029 and ensure that sun bears would be protected against extinction.
By BORNEOTODAY REPORTERS
KOTA KINABALU: International and local scientists, government officers as well as NGO players convened for the past two days at a local hotel here to identify major recommendations for the conservation of the Malayan sun bear in Sabah.
These will be included in a State Action Plan, just a few months after three other plans, for the proboscis monkey, the Sunda clouded leopard and the Bornean banteng, were approved by the State Cabinet.
For the next two days, Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) are jointly organizing the 2nd International Symposium on Sun Bear Conservation and Management.
Experts from the region will present updates on sun bear population status in the different species range countries such as Cambodia, India, Indonesia (Sumatra and Kalimantan), Lao, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam and West Malaysia, said Dr Wong Siew Te, CEO of BSBCC.
“Several open forums will present the opportunity to discuss some critical issues on sun bear conservation such as poaching and trade; sun bear release, translocation and monitoring; sun bear captive breeding; implementation of Global Status Review and Sun Bear Conservation Action Plan; and ex-situ research prioritization,”he said.
“On the second day of the symposium, we will present to the different stakeholders the several recommendations we plan to include in a Sun Bear Action Plan for Sabah.”
ProfessorBenoit Goossens, DGFC director said they hoped to come up with a long-term vision for the future of the sun bears in the wild in Sabah.
“Uncontrolled hunting of sun bears for Traditional Chinese Medicine, pet trade and habitat loss and fragmentation are considered to be the major threats to the survival of the sun bear in Sabah,” added Professor Goossens.
“It is therefore critical to increase effectiveness of enforcement on the ground, improve the intelligence of the different government departments, and establish connectivity between sun bear populations in the state.”
For the past year, the Sabah Wildlife Department has worked with its partners to produce conservation action plans for most of the Schedule 1’s (Totally Protected) terrestrial species.
Last May, the State Cabinet adopted the proboscis monkey, Sunda clouded leopard and Bornean banteng action plans 2019-2028.
The Elephant Action Plan and Orangutan Action Plan 2020-2029 are being finalized, and focus is now on producing the Sun Bear Action Plan 2020-2029.
“It is crucial that those three new plans are adopted and implemented by the Sabah state government as they are backed by scientific research and expert opinions as well as input from industry leaders and several government departments,” added Professor Goossens.
The Technical Working Group Meeting on the Sun Bear Action Plan and the 2nd International Symposium on Sun Bear Conservation and Management were funded by BSBCC and DGFC.
The organizations that contributed to the two-day technical working group meeting on the sun bear action plan were Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Foundation, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, Danau Girang Field Centre, WWF Malaysia, TRAFFIC, Animals Asia, Free the Bears and Sunway University.
Sabah Sun Bear Action Plan Technical Working Group Meeting is happening now!
The sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) is the smallest bear species in the world and is threatened by hunting, pet trade and habitat loss.
Sun bear is currently classified at “Vulnerable” on IUCN’s Red List and listed as a Totally Protected species in Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.
This meeting is to discuss and develop a 10 years action plan to ensure the long term survival of the sun bears. Lets working together to save sun bears!
Stay tuned for more updates!