Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
Due to the limited trees in one of our forest enclosures, we plan to construct a new platform structure to give the bears a cool, shady place during hot summer days. The platform structure will be a favourite for the sun bears, being the site for snoozes, foraging and wrestles. Through this platform structure, the bears will have enough space and the freedom to do as they please.
The team will focus on designing and carrying the iron wood (hardest wood), building the foundation, mixing cement, chiselling, sawing and hammering…plus some digging! It is brilliant and fun for everyone who takes part!
On the 12th January until 16th January 2016, a group of 10 volunteers from The Peninsula Community Project through World Challenge arrived at our Centre and helped to build a mini observation platform outside enclosure A as well as perimeter steps outside the forest enclosure. This benefits BSBCC by reducing fundraising burden by building international support for conservation of wild animals in Borneo.
The team was supervised by Jason Tan Ming Hau from Arkitrek with the help from BSBCC staff. Upon arrival of the team, an introduction talk about sun bears and BSBCC was presented by BSBCC staff. This was followed by a health and safety briefing before the team started working.
On behalf of BSBCC team, we want to thank the Peninsula Community Project for helping us in upgrading our facilities.
Text by Gloria Ganang and photo by Tee Thye Lim
The BSBCC is on its way to construct its second bear house that will be able to occupy 16 bears. This new bear house will be surrounded by a 1.21 ha forest enclosure. However, some parts of the forest enclosure are swampy and have no trees for the bears to climb. How do we make use of the space? With the help of ideas from Arkitrek and hard work by the Raleigh International volunteers, our future enclosure is now equipped with a playground for the bears.
Check out these pictures!
Text and photos by Ade Kurniawan
In the past few weeks, the BSBCC has been quite fortunate to receive two different groups of volunteers (Raleigh and Camp Borneo) to help with several construction projects in the centre (designed and supervised by Arkitrek interns, Adam Leigh-Brown and Maryam Gomary). Not an easy task as both groups had to complete their projects while battling Borneo’s sweltering heat and sudden torrential rains. Not to mention the occasional pig-tail macaque and orang-utan harassment!
Another group arrived on the 22nd July to continue the work done by the previous Alpha 4 group. To recap, the Raleigh volunteers have been focusing on the construction of several large enrichment structures which will be used in the future forest enclosure. Supervised by Adam and Raleigh project leaders, these volunteers spared no time and went straight to work!
For the first time ever Raleigh has been granted behind the scenes access to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. Raleigh have been working here for years but have never been able to photograph or video at the secretive centre.
I filmed for 2 days on an all access pass seeing the bears inside their original cages, inside the amazing new 'Bear House' and even entering one of the bear compounds. Alpha 4 is doing amazing work at the centre and is incredibly privileged to work along side these beautiful bears.
A wonderful experience with a wonderful creature.
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Video by Ed Gregory
Wong's notes: A huge thank you to Ed to help produce this video. It is awesome!
To all the Raleigh volunteers, you are the heroes and heroines who came to build this centre step by step, piece by piece. I will never thank you enough for your hard work!
Text and photos by Joyce Malmo
Our Volunteering Experience at BSBCC – “we can’t wait for the day to come when the first bear gets released into the wild!”
Twelve curious, excited and eager faces were staring at myself (Joyce) and Katy - volunteer Project Managers for Raleigh, on the 8th of July when we finally arrived at Mile 14 in Sepilok. For most of us, it had taken 14.5 hours by airplane and 6 hours by bus to get here.
Where are the sun bears? When will we start working at the BSBCC? The 12 Raleigh volunteer venturers had received a brief on the BSBCC and the volunteer work to be carried out, but the majority had never heard nor seen this special bear species before joining Raleigh.
However, knowing very little about the sun bears did not stop the young Raleigh venturers embracing and committing themselves to the construction work at the BSBCC for the next 2.5 weeks. And the goal: to build the foundations of a boardwalk around the sun bear enclosure to provide easier access for the keepers at BSBCC.
Before the 12 enthusiastic venturers and impatient Katy and I could deploy on the work site, a few things had to be organized first. On the top of our list was to settle into our new home: JUNGLE CAMP, located in the beautiful Bornean rain forest approx. 3 km from the BSBCC. It welcomes you with an open longhouse with 15 comfortable bashers, a small community area, and three outdoor showers and a long drop. Most importantly, it is surrounded by wildlife and you wake up to the sounds of the jungle. People still find it strange that we would live in the jungle whilst there are plenty of resorts in Sepilok, however there is no place like jungle camp.
We were welcomed by Wai Pak at the BSBCC on the 9th of July for a presentation. He gave us an introduction about the sun bears, which none of us will easily forget. With a greater understanding about the threats these special bears are facing and being shocked by the captivity and treatment some of these sun bears have experienced in their lives, we couldn’t wait to go on a tour to the sun bear house. For most of us, it would be the first time we had ever seen a sun bear. It was amazing to step into the newly opened sun bear house. Some of the bears were playing around while others were having an early afternoon nap. We were very impressed with the new sun bear house. It has high ceilings, is very spacious and plenty of day light can enter into the house.
Do they really bark? Are they social animals or do they live alone? How often do they reproduce and how many cubs can a female carry? The questions were vast and the day ended with a group of very motivated venturers and 2 Project Managers eager to start work on the 10th of July.
The first week at BSBCC consisted of clearing and sorting out wood around the enclosure. Our lunch breaks on the jetty next to the Orang-utan nursery became one of the main highlights of the day. On days when the amazing “man of the forest” appeared just across the jetty to climb into the trees, big gazing eyes and a sudden silence would appear among us. We sometimes felt that we were in a “BBC open air documentary”. All that was missing was the voice of David Attenborough.
We could also hear the barking sound from the sun bears from time to time. Though, the bears have the opportunity to go outside every day, there was only a few days while we were there that a sun bear took a step outside of their newly opened sun bear house. Embracing the opportunity to be in the wild, where they belong, seemed like taking a big step into the unknown for them. This again shows how important the BSBCC is and we can’t wait for the day to come when the first sun bear is to be released into the wild.
The second week at BSBCC consisted of sweat and tears. We had started drilling and bolting together the foundation for the boardwalk. Unfortunately, the drill pieces we had were a bit worn out and it took us hours to drill just a couple of holes through the tough iron wood. If we continued like this, it would take us several weeks to complete the boardwalk. Time we didn’t have. Luckily, Bob Hartley and Wai Pak came to our rescue and helped us getting some new sharp pieces from the local hardware store. We were back on track again!
Our last week at BSBCC flew by so smoothly. We had managed to lay most of the foundations for the boardwalk, but we were all curious to see what the completed boardwalk would look like once the next Raleigh group had finished it. So, we decided to make a prototype boardwalk and on Wednesday the 21st of July, we had our prototype boardwalk ceremony!
It was sad to leave BSBCC on the 27th of July, but what an amazing time we have had at BSBCC. We have learned so much about the sun bears and again we can’t wait for the day to arrive when the first BSBCC sun bear will be released into the wild. We would like to thank Wai Pak and Bob Hartley for your support during our first phase.
By: Vicki, Brony, Charlie, Emma, jack, Ali.
Raleigh, formally known as Raleigh international, is a youth and education charity which gives people a chance to explore the world and by doing so discover their potential as leaders and members of a team working together to make a difference. Raleigh first began working in Malaysia in 1987 and since 2003 has been in Sabah, North Borneo.
This year has seen various projects developing across Sabah, with the help of Raleigh volunteers, including community-based projects, such as the installation of gravity water feed systems and the building of kindergartens. Raleigh also however, aims at enabling young people to get involved with environmental projects and as of this year this has included the development of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, which Raleigh believes is the most exciting new conservation initiative in Borneo. This is a truly unique project and us volunteers on Raleigh’s third and final phase are excited about getting stuck into the work here.
The group consists of 11 venturers – Charlie, Emma, Ali, Bryony, Leo, James, Lottie, Vicki, Thijs, Andrew, Jack and 4 project managers – Jessie, Craig, Nicky and Phil. So far we have been cracking on with the “bear-proofing” of existing perimeter fences by installing metal rods into the ground. This process involves hammering 4ft iron rods securely into the ground so that the bears will not be able to dig under the fence as is naturally expected of them. We have also been dividing the enclosure into three separate areas to accommodate for the different behaviours and requirements of each bear. For example, bears of a similar age need to be kept together, more aggressive bears may need to be separated and the gender of the bears also has to be considered. Ultimately, Sun Bears potentially suited for re-release into the wild should be separated from those who would be incapable of surviving in the wild.
So far the project has been hard work, but exciting, as every day brings with it new experiences of all sorts. We’ve had encounters with the resident orang-utans of which there are two. One in particular has proved to be a great fan of relieving venturers of their water bottles and biscuits at break time. We’ve also had dealings with mischievous macaques, terrifying tarantulas and massive monitor lizards!!
There was excitement here at the BSBCC when Suria, a sun bear suffering with an injured paw, was deemed healthy enough to be moved to more comfortable surroundings after 3 months of recovery. The occasion was marked with a mutual sense of hope that the rehabilitation process of such bears will one day prove as successful as their neighbours at the Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre, Sepilok.
Text and Photos by Billy Dunn
When Ian asked me to write a piece for the blog about my first experiences living and working in Sabah, Borneo, I initially thought of the obvious cultural differences; food, drink, climate, wildlife etc. These of course are all very interesting and important…
…but in order to give my own unique view so far on Sabah that would provide something a bit light-hearted to think about, I have decided to write about a topic I experience everyday…builders.
It is interesting to make you aware that this is in fact my first experience of working on a building site. During my working year out from studying Architecture back in the UK I never left the office so my first encounter with working alongside builders has occurred here in Sepilok! Whether this is a good or bad introduction to the daily life of a construction site remains to be seen!
To paint the picture I’m going to compare the general rules and stereotypical habits of builders in the UK to the builders here, who in fact originate from the Philippines.
Text: by Billy Dunn
Photos: by Billy Dunn and Ian Hall
he construction of the biogas digester at the new Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sepilok took a bit of time to get running and underway but after ten days of hard building, pumping, lifting, grafting, sweating, itching, bleeding, plastering, twisting, bending and cutting, it was an impressive achievement thanks to the volunteers from Camps International.
When complete the biogas digester will turn bear dung into methane gas that can be used to cook the bears’ daily meal of rice. After arriving in Sepilok the initial tasks facing the group were not too exciting or enjoyable but hard labour and exhausting work! We started by moving 1500 bricks from outside to inside the site, which involved a lot of timber planks, deep clay resembling a battlefield full of water and wheelbarrows with punctured wheels…not a good combination for moving bricks!
To follow, the excavated location on site for the digester was full of water. After trying to convince the girls that bailing the water out with buckets all day was the only solution, the contractors, having seen their faces, gladly lent us their pump and the water was gone soon enough.
Once the site was clean and dry, the concrete platform was revealed beneath the water and leaves. We then moved a third of the bricks down our own hand made steps, carved out from the clay, and into the centre of the circle, only to realise that the centre of the circle was actually required to draw and mark out the circular footprint for the bricks! After a brief re-location, to the girl’s delight of course, we laid out the first course. With a quick lesson in the art of bricklaying by leader Howard, we quickly learnt that bricklaying was indeed an art and not as easy as maybe expected previously!
Text by Jungle Bob - Bear Action Teams (BATs)
Well, it’s been a few weeks since we had any updates from the Bear House and the BSBCC project in Sepilok. So, let’s get up to speed.
‘Suria’ has a ‘poorly’ paw and is confined to ‘quarters’ whist it repairs itself. Doc Cecillia has been in attendance and prescribed antibiotics.
‘Manis’ is doing well but has decided she doesn’t actually like other bears, she much prefers humans, especially Wai Pak (if anyone out there does understand the workings of the female brain, answers on a post card please). She has been taking some time out to check out her birthing pen and seems to like it. She is under constant surveillance at the moment which smacks of voyeurism but is a necessary evil.