HELP US, SUPPORT US
Love for The Oldies
Text by Anastasia Ting Jia Lei
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
He peeked out of the door which separated the brightness of the greenery outside from the dim concrete walls within. After a few moments of hesitation, Chin made up her mind to leave her friend behind and pass through the door into the daylight, where she could explore around, bask under the sun, climb trees, and just enjoy her life. Amaco stared after her, sniffing curiously. Intrigued yet daunted by the world beyond the concrete walls he was used to, he had no intention to leave his comfort zone.
The guillotine door with rust spots slid down, blocking his view and plunging him back into the gloom he was familiar with. He turned away as loneliness engulfed him. Unsure what to do, he wandered to his usual spot and plopped down clumsily.
Time for a nap.
I watched this scene before me with mixed feelings. Amaco, a 29 years old Bornean Sun Bear, has never set foot in a forest where he belongs, and this is all because of humans' wrongdoings. After 18 years of being caged up in Tamaco Plantation, he has grown accustomed to the comfort within metal bars and dares not venture out into the forest. Pity welled up within me. How I wished I could do something to help him!
Then, an idea popped into my mind. If he wouldn't go into the forest enclosure, why don't I bring the forest to him? With that thought in mind, I strode up to my buddy, David Tahir, and shared my project idea with him.
I was warned, though, that Chin would destroy all the plants I add to Amaco's cage as they often share the same cage. Nonetheless, I was quite stubborn. I researched and asked around for the types of plants suitable for a dim cage like Amaco's. For example, fishtail palms, begonias, mosses, etc. Eventually, I settled on bird's nest ferns as they are easy to find, non-poisonous, low-light tolerant, and moisture-loving.
Mizuno, upon hearing about my plan, said, "Jom!" And just like that, my buddy and I followed him out of the bear house, through the territory of Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center, and down a long stretch of road to reach a plantation where ferns hung abundantly from the palm trees. We harvested several ferns and carried them back to the bear house.
Seeing my indecisiveness regarding how to plant the ferns, Roger guided me and helped me tie the ferns to logs. Two weeks before the end of my internship at BSBCC, I asked for the keepers' help to 'install' the ferns in Amaco's cage.
When we were done, I took out the foul-smelling frog juice (a type of fish bait) and lathered the areas around the ferns with it. As Amaco LOVES that juice, I was hoping that he would associate the ferns with it and grow to like the ferns.
But things went a little differently than expected.
Unable to reach the frog juice on the cage bar, Amaco lost his temper. With an annoyed grunt, he reached out his forelimb, and with a powerful tug, he wrenched the fern away from the wood.
The next day, to my delight, Pradeep shared with me that Amaco cradled the leaves of the fern as he slumbered at night! Then, I thought, why not just provide him with more ferns to keep him entertained and happy?
Again, Mizuno picked up a knife and led us back to the plantation for another fern-hunt. We found a gigantic fern, which Mizuno harvested with some difficulties. When we added the fern to Amaco's cage, he sniffed and clawed at the fern, searching for ants hiding within its roots.
Although planting the ferns in the cage for the long term would be ideal, it is quite an impossible task. Nevertheless, I am glad that this enrichment had given Amaco a good time, however short it lasted.
POV: A BSBCC Intern
Text by Anastasia Ting Jia Lei
Photos by Anastasia Ting Jia Lei & Seng Yen Wah
I was often met with the question, “Why would you apply for an internship at a place where you won’t be paid?” I can only say I have no regrets at all. The experience I gained from BSBCC was invaluable and immeasurable in monetary form. I gained skills such as setting up camp and foraging for termites in the forest; I was able to be up close and personal with the bears during their health checks; I learned more about the zoological behaviors of sun bears; etc. Working with these bears was a dream come true for me. I might not be allowed to interact with these amazing creatures, but just being in their presence fulfilled me. Contributing to wildlife conservation is a greatly meaningful deed, which I am glad to have partaken in.
Some might judge the way this center is run, but there rarely is anyone who can achieve what Dr. Wong and his staff have achieved. It is easy to criticize from an outsider’s viewpoint when no one other than the BSBCC staff truly understands the difficulty the center is facing. A little less judgment, and a little more support, can greatly reduce the worries burdening the center. What BSBCC has done and is doing, is amazing and inspiring, especially in a country where limited attention and resources are allocated to wildlife conservation.
Honestly, the first time Dr. Wong called me into his office for a talk session, I was extremely shocked. I had initially thought of him as a busy and distant person, being the CEO of a wildlife conservation center. On the contrary, he is surprisingly friendly and engaging. He welcomes anyone with a passion for wildlife conservation and helps to nurture their love for wildlife. He provided me with the opportunity to learn from him and encouraged me to pursue my passion in the conservation field, despite my limited experience in this field. For that, I am immensely grateful.
As someone socially awkward, I cannot be more grateful to Adneen and Roger for brightening up my days at BSBCC, although I might be a pain in the neck at times. I greatly appreciate Dr. Boon’s, Seng Yen Wah’s, and Pradeep’s patient replies to my incessant questions, even though some of my inquiries might have been ill-thought-out. I would also like to extend my gratitude to David, and Mizuno, who gave me guidance throughout my internship. And thank you, Ivan, Oliver, Jude, and other BSBCC staff for assisting me whenever I needed help.
Amid my upcoming graduation and job search, my future is full of uncertainties. But one thing’s for sure ── I will be back to volunteer.
10 Weeks of Memorable Moments
Text by Poon Siau Hui
Photos by Mizuno Merek Men, Mohd Salffazryean Suban Abdullah & Seng Yen Wah
Greetings to everyone, my name is Poon Siau Hui or most of the time they call me Ashley and I am from Sandakan. Straight after my internship, I am entering my final year studying Animal Resource Science and Management better known as Zoology at University Malaysia Sarawak. My application for an intern placement at the BSBCC was in my plan during my first year of study. I am glad that I did my internship during the Covid-19 pandemic period.
I was assigned to a buddy to guide me throughout my 10 weeks internship, Julamih, a junior bear keeper. Although he was still quite new at the BSBCC, he taught me as much as he knew. Both of us learnt from each other. But during the last few weeks of my placement, he was transferred to Quarantine,which I could not join. So, for this period I was guided by different keepers daily.
As the centre is still not open to the public, most of my work is animal husbandry. The bear care unit members are split into different groups to complete morning routine. These are cleaning the dens in Bear House 1, Bear House 2 and Quarantine, working in the Kitchen, Fence Check, Medic, Faecal Check and feeding. A weekly roster was prepared which rotated into these different departments. Bear in mind, volunteering at the BSBCC requires physical preparation. All jobs require a high amount of energy such as cleaning the dens, hiking during fence checking, carrying bowls which contain at least 2kg of fruits to feed in the outside enclosures. I am getting stronger day by day.
.There are many unforgettable moments that I went through during these days. Making various types of enrichment for all the bears (sambil membawang HAHAHA), going out to collect banana leaves, going into forest to search for termite’s nests, observing Romolina, Logan and Joe for their integration with others adult bears, doing some maintenance in the bear house,I had the opportunity to learn on how to use water jet and so on.
From only knowing Amaco at first, now I can recognize all the bears. I feel a little proud of myself. Whenever I was free, I went to observe the bears while they were eating, enjoying enrichment that I made and smiling towards them as I felt so grateful that I had a chance to observe them closely. I was able to join Lingam, a male sun bears’ health check too! That was an exciting yet nervous moment!
At last, I would like to give a huge thank you and big bear hug to all the bear care unit members: Yen Wah, Julamih, Mizuno, Dr. Boon, Roger, Adneen, Danny, Pradeep, and David. Thank you for welcoming me during my first day. I did not feel awkward but filled with warmth! Thank you for all the jokes that made my day full of laughter and fun. Thank you for sharing all your experience in this field and teaching me to do something new which I have never done before. Roger and Adneen, who never underestimated me and were willing to help me as their temporary buddy. Not to forget our papa Bear, Dr. Wong who advised me on my future and shared his precious pathway working with sun bears from zero to now. I truly appreciate all the knowledge and skills that I gained throughout these 10 weeks. I’m going to miss you all and the bears, looking forward to my next visit to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Funternship in BSBCC
Text by Mohammad Naqiuddin bin Alipudin
Photos by Adrian Damsha Sufri & Seng Yen Wah
Hello everyone! My name is Mohammad Naqiuddin Ali and people call me Nick. I am 20 years old and for the past 2 months, I have been doing my internship here in the BSBCC.
I would say I am very lucky to be given the opportunity to be doing my internship here.
Initially I was so nervous as I have zero experience in working together with so many people, let alone working with sun bears. I’ve never imagined myself assisting in sun bear’s rehabilitation and to look at them really close and getting to know them more. I came here with a lot of expectations and doubts but, as each day went by, I was always showered with words of encouragement by all the staff.
During my time as an intern, I learnt so many things but the greatest lesson I’ve learned is empathy. Hearing how each and every sun bear has it’s own story with humans, some are so traumatised they have permanent complications and develop stereotype behavior which is just so sad. These sun bears were kept illegally as a pet, locked in the smallest cage, fed with improper diet, so when they came to BSBCC they had medical issues like malnutrition and dental problems. These stories made me feel more than just motivated into lending a hand here, as hard as I could, to provide these poor sun bears a better environment for a better life.
Things that I always look forward to everyday would be feeding the bears and making their enrichments. When I first assisted during feeding time, I could see how some of the sun bears are picky over their food and also not really open for sharing. It was funny and cute and I realized how despite having a very frightening bark, long claws, sharp canines, sun bears also have their own adorable side. But, as cute as they can be, they are definitely not a pet and their real home is out there, in the forest, not in our concrete building.
As for their enrichments, I think the sun bears aren’t the only one excited for it because I did too! I’ve always looked forward to enrichment activities every day and I love every second of being together with the staff, making enrichments, getting to know each other and just having fun. I made a lot of enrichments for these sun bears such as the egg tray burger, ginger leaves, stick paradox, nest ball, paper roll and more. I love seeing how these sun bears are so into it when they’re given the enrichments. It is just so amazing seeing these sun bears climbing up the dens to grab those food enrichments or when some of them would play with coconuts or the Aussie dog balls.
I am proud of the structural enrichments that I made; Boat Hammock and Confetti Bomb. I made the Boat Hammock for Simone and the making of it was mostly helped by Roger, Adneen and Marshah. I named it as ‘The Black Pearl’ and I couldn’t have done it alone without their help. Just happy to see Simone climbing up to her boat, being a sailor ready to sail. Although, it was no surprise that The Black Pearl was ‘wrecked’ by Sigalung, Simone’s neighbor, where he bit the rope attached to the hammock just after 3 days of installation. We then moved the hammock to another den where Wawa is staying. She seems to like it too! Every morning when I go to the bear house, I always see her chilling on the boat, sleeping. She even took her food up there.
I made Confetti Bomb for Amaco as I was thinking that he may be feeling bored in his den because he doesn’t want to go out to the forest enclosure. Confetti Bomb is made of a hanging gunny sack filled with dried leaves, honey, dog biscuits and banana. Amaco has to tear the gunny sack to get all these foods, and I think this enrichment is important to him as it encourages exploratory, sensory and foraging behavior. I feel satisfied seeing him eating all of the stuff after his hard work.
At first, it was a bit difficult for me to remember and differentiate every sun bear but as the days went by, I realized that all of them have their own unique chest mark and face shape and it is easier to tell them apart. Witnessing all this made me fall in love with sun bears even more because just like every other animal, they have different behavior, different preferences and each and every one of them is cute in their own way. If I could at least talk to them and they could understand me, I’d tell them to always live well, be strong and I am gonna miss them! I am gonna miss every second of feeding, cleaning the dens, watching their behavior and their cute belly when they lay down.
Lastly, I wanna give a big bunch of thanks and gratitude towards my buddy Roger, who has always been so understanding and considerate in my limitation of doing tough work, my supervisor, Yen Wah who guided me on my first day and made me feel welcome, and not to forget David, the experienced keeper who would always tell me stories of each and every sun bear, Adneen and Marshah; who never fail to make funny remarks that lightens up our mood, Mizuno; who greeted me on my first day and welcomed me, Pradeep; who educated me on so many things and introduced me to all of the sun bears, Julamih, Adrian, Dr. Boon and many others. Personally, I found that I was being so awkward on my early days but these people were very welcoming and provided so much comfort and I couldn’t ask for a healthier working environment.
These amazing people have been guiding me since day 1 and not a single day goes by without new knowledge, fun activities, laughs, sweats and most important, experiences. They are the best. This whole adventure has been nothing but inspiring for me to always try something new, even if it’s a thing that I’ve never done before. I came here with zero knowledge and left with a luggage full of memories. I hope more people would come to volunteer in the future to actually know how it feels to be helping these cute Bornean sun bears. Oh, and I lost a few kg off my weight too, so thanks BSBCC!
Cub Keepers and Luna
Text by Adrian Damsha Sufri & Danny Daniellson Peter & Pradeep A/L Gunasegaran
Photos by Adrian Damsha Sufri, Danny Daniellson Peter & Seng Yen Wah
What is your first reaction when you know Bintang gave birth to a cub? What is the story of that day?
Danny: Saya danny, saya adalah salah satu bear keeper di BSBCC. Pada hari pertama hari kelahiran anak beruang tersebut disedari oleh marshah (Bear Keeper). Anak beruang mengeluarkan satu teriakkan kecil yang membuatkan marshah hairan dengan bunyi tersebut. Apabila Marshah mendekati kadang yang ada bunyi teriakkan kecil itu semakin kuat dan jelas lalu marshah mengambil lampu suluhnya dan menyulukan cahaya lampu suluh itu kearah Bintang dan menyedari ada benda yang bergerak dibahagian tepi kaki Bintang.
Danny: I am Danny, one of the bear keepers at BSBCC. On the first day, Marshah (Bear Keeper) was first to spot the cub. The bear cub made a small cry and alerted Marshah. When Marshah approached the den, the cry became louder and clearer, so Marshah flashed at Bintang using a torchlight and he discovered something that was moving near Bintang's feet.
Danny: Apabila marshah memanggil senior keeper, David untuk kepastian. David mengenal pasti itu adalah anak beruang. Lalu mereka melaporkan tentang anak beruang tersebut kepada DR Boon. Tidak lama kemudian, DR Boon turun dan memeriksa anak beruang tersebut lalu memberitahu perkara tersebut kepada Wawa (officer) dan saya. Kemudian Wawa bersama dengan saya pergi ke bear house untuk memeriksa keadaan anak beruang dan Bintang.
Satu keeper yang memerhati dan mencatat aktiviti anak beruang dan Bintang. Pada masa itu semua staff diarahkan oleh Dr Boon agar tidak membuat bunyi bising atau apa-apa perkara yang boleh membuat Bintang stress kerana itu akan membuat Bintang melakukan perkara yang buat anak beruang cedera.
Danny: After that, Marshah called the senior keeper, David to identify whether there was the cub. As soon as David confirmed that it was a bear cub, they reported to Dr Boon about the cub. Dr Boon came soon after to inspect the bear cub and informed Wawa (Bear Care Officer) and me about it. Then, Wawa and I went to the bear house to check the bear cub and Bintang.
When we reached at bear house, there was a keeper observing and recording the activities of the cub and Bintang. At that moment, Dr Boon instructed everyone to not make noises or do anything that might make Bintang feel stressed because she might hurt the cub.
What happened to the cub that she had to be separated from the mother?
Danny: Bintang hanya dapat bersama dengan anaknya dalam masa 9 hari sahaja. Ini disebabkan oleh kesihatan anak beruang tersebut yang lemah, bahagian belakangnya terdapat kesan luka dan kedua cuping telinganya telah hilang. Dia dipisahkan dari ibunya disebabkan kondisi kesihatannya yang tidak baik.
Kemudian Dr Boon membawa dia ke klinik dan anak beruang tersebut diberikan rawatan. Anak beruang itu dijaga dalam tempoh 24 jam dan diberikan pemerhatian yang sangat teliti kerana keadaannya yang sangat lemah pada waktu itu. Apabila beberapa hari berlalu, kesihatan anak beruang tersebut semakin pulih dan juga menunjukkan pembesaran yang baik.
Danny: Bintang only stayed with her cubs for nine days. Because the cub was in poor health condition, she had wounds on her back, and both outer ears were missing. Due to her poor health condition, she has since been separated from her mother.
After that, Dr Boon took her to the clinic for treatment. Since the cub was weak, the cub has to be taken care for 24 hours and given very close observation. A few days later, the cub’s health improved and growing well.
How do you feel about taking care of a newborn cub?
Adrian: Masa hari pertama saya jaga baby, saya risau dan agak takut sikit sebab baby itu kecil dan nampak lembut. Kali pertama bagi susu kepada baby saya risau, kalausaya tercederakan baby sebab terlalu kuat pegang itu baby. Apa yang akan di buat untuk baby setiap hari ialah, pagi lebih kurang jam 8 akan timbang baby dulu supaya dapat tahu berapa jumlah susu untuk hari tersebut. Selepas bagi susu, akan bagi berak dan kencing dngan cara guna tissue atau gauze yang basah untuk baby bagi respond berak dan kencing. Lepas semua tu, akan check suhu takut suhu badan baby. Suhu badan menurun akan jadi masalah untuk baby. Kalau dia kurang sihat, kami terpaksa bawa baby ke bilik perubatan untuk bagi oxygen. Semua ambil masa yang lama untuk kekalkan cara penjagaan macam itu.
Mula-mula bagi susu itu memang susah sebab mahu cari cara untuk baby senang minum dan saya senang bagi. Saya perlu control masa baby hisap susu takut laju sangat minum, tidak minum dan hisap udara. Masa ini baby masih tidak minum banyak susu kadang puting susu masih di mulut tapi tidak minum tidur dia, kena bagi pergerakan supaya baby tahu yang dia masih menyusu.
Adrian: On the first day of taking care of the cub, Luna, I was worried and a little scared because the cub was still tiny and looked soft. Our task every day would start off with taking the weight of the cub around eight in the morning. We do this in order for us to know the amount of milk she needed on that day. After each feeding, we would stimulate her to defecate and urinate using a wet tissue or gauze. After that, the temperature were measured and recorded. Temperature that are not within the normal range can be a problem for a cub. If she is unwell, we have to bring the baby to the medical room for oxygen. The kind of care that is given for her takes up plenty of time.
The first time I was feeding the cub, I was worried that I would hold her too tight and hurt her. It wasn't easy to feed Luna because I wanted to find a comfortable position to feed her and make sure she could drink the milk easily. I need to control the amount of milk that is being suckled into her because it will be a problem if she is drinking too much or sucking the air in the milk bottle instead of the milk. In the early days,Luna would not consume a lot of milk. Sometimes the nipple would still be in the mouth but she would fall asleep after drinking half way. So, I have to push the milk bottle a little bit so that she knows that she is still drinking milk.
Adrian: Bila start nampak mata baby ada sikit terbuka memang ada rasa excited sebab tidak sabar tunggu baby boleh jalan dan melihat dunia ini. Dua-dua mata baby sudah buka tapi penglihatan belum sempurna. Tapi baby nampak lagi cute bila sudah buka mata. Walaupun tidak ada cuping telinga. Masa untuk bagi baby berjalan-jalan, guna carpet getah untuk base baby. Bila mula-mula letak baby marah sebab kapet tu ada biji-biji mungkin baby tidak selesa. Lapik dengan tuala dan underpad baru tidak nangis-nangis tapi still ada buat bunyi. Bila lepas susu atau sebelum bagi susu akan biar baby jalan-jalan di atas karpet yang di lapis tuala dan underpad. Biasa baby akan bising, kadang sampai office dengar suara si baby. Masih belum boleh angkat badan lagi, kepala saja yang dapat angkat. Tapi nampak perubahan yg semakin hari semakin cepat. Dia cuba untuk bediri empat kaki tapi masih belajar guna kaki belakang. Tidak sabar tunggu dia boleh berjalan, play fight, bawa untuk berjalan di hutan, dan tengok baby membesar dengan baik.
Adrian: When Luna cries, we will feed her with milk. Sometimes, she would be fast asleep for longer hours without crying. So, I would need to wake her up carefully. Once she wakes up, I would feed her milk. When I saw the cub's eyes opening up a little, I was very excited because I could not wait for the baby to start walking and seeing the world. Luna's eyes are completely open but her vision is not clear yet. With her eyes now wide open, even without the outer ears, she looks cuter. Once it was time for Luna to take a walk, we laid a rubber carpet as a base and placed her on it. When we put her on it for the first time, she was angry because there were small and round bumps on the carpet, which might have made her uncomfortable. After that, we put a towel and underpad on the carpet and she stopped crying but she would still be moaning. Since then, the cub has walking time that is done before or after feeding. Luna would make noise, and sometimes her voice can be heard throughout the office. She still does not know how to stand properly, but she is able lift her head. She seems to be getting better day by day. She tries to stand on all four feet but she is still learning to use her hind legs. I cannot wait she can walk, play fight, take for a forest walk, and watch the cub grow well.
Danny: Luna sangat comel apabila tidur tapi bila waktunya dia bangun untuk mmimun susu, dia akan nangis. Pemberian susu kepada anak beruang tersebut juga dijaga termasuk jumlah susu dan suhu susu ketika diberikan kepada anak beruang tersebut. Suhu susu semasa diberikan kepada anak beruang mesti kadalam keadaan tidak panas dan tidak sejuk, dalam erti lain suam.
Kebiasaannya apabila dia selesai meminum susunya dia selalunya akan dibantu untuk membuang air besar dan membuang air kecil. Cara-cara yang dilakukan adalah berbeza bagi setiap penjaga(staff) anak beruang ini. Cara penjaga membantu anak beruang ini untuk membuang air kecil dan membuang air besar adalah membuat anak beruang tersebut terbaring di tangan penjaga.kemudian saya akan membasahkan sedikit bahagian pada tisu dan menggosokkan pada tepi kemaluannya dengan perlahan sehinggalah dia membuang air besar dan air kecilnya. Semasa dia kencing, dia akan memancutkan kencingnya dengan sekuat tenaganya hingga membuat kencingnya terkena pada penjaga dan ini terjadi pada setiap penjaga dan kadang kala ada juga yang terkena dengan tahi anak beruang tersebut.
Danny: Luna is very cute when she sleeps but when she wakes up to drink milk, she will cry out loud. Feeding cub is exquisite which include the amount of milk and milk temperature when feeding the cub. The temperature of the milk for to the cub must be neither hot nor cold, in other words warm.
Usually, after she drinks her milk, we will stimulate her to defecate and urinate. Each cub keeper uses different methods to help her. I think the easiest way is to let the cub lie on my hand. Then I would wet a small part of the tissue and slowly rub on the edge of her genital until she defecates and urinates. She will start urinate and then defecate but as she urinates, she might spray her urine on me. This happens to every keepers, and sometimes we also come in contact with her faeces too.
How is Luna now?
Adrian: Baby sudah start untuk berdiri 4 kaki, tapi masih belum boleh berjalan macam beruang lain, kadang Nampak macam penyu pun ada. Ada masa di mana baby macam main dengan saya. Bagi baring di tangan dan cuba kacau-kacau dia, baby peluk tangan dan buka mulut macam mahu gigit.
Luna has started to stand on four legs, but still cannot walk well. Sometimes all her legs pushing forward and looks like a turtle. Sometimes she seems like want to play. So I will let her lie on my hands and play with her gently. She will hold my hands and opens her mouth as if she wants to bite me.
Danny: Setiap hari tumbusarannya semakin meningkat dengan baik dan setiap hari semakin kuat. Walaupun kedua cuping telinganya tidak ada, anak beruang tetap terlihat garang dan liar. Kedua mata sudah terbuka, walaupun penglihatan masih tidak jelas. Perasaan tidak sabar sangatlah kuat di dalam diri saya untuk memperlihatkannya keadaan dan suasana hutan. Kerana hutan adalah rumah dan syurga bagi meraka.
Luna is getting better and stronger every day. Although both outer ear are missing, the cub still looks fierce and wild. Her eyes are opened, although the vision is still not clear. However, I cannot wait to show her the forest. Because the forest is a home and paradise for them.
What do you want to say to Luna?
Adrian: Apa pun, saya harap LUNA akan membesar dengan baik dan sihat. Jadi beruang yang liar mampu berdikari, laju makan, senang di jaga, senang bergaul dengan beruang lain, tidak suka moody macam romolina. LUNA the moon of sunbear, bintang daughter, and the baby of BSBCC.
In any case, I hope Luna will grow up well and healthy. She will be a wild sun bear that is able to be independent, good in foraging, good at socialising, and with a good personality. Luna is the moon of sunbear, the daughter of Bintang (Star), and the baby of BSBCC.
Text & Photos by Lee Min Yi
Living in a biodiversity hotspot named Malaysia, do we really know how many things we have taken for granted all this while? Let’s have a quick test: When you come across the word “bear”, what is the first image that appears in your mind? Most probably it is a polar bear, a grizzly bear or teddy bear. Before I heard about this internship experience from my senior, I was not aware that the Bornean sun bear exists in Malaysia, the bear who knows how to climb trees and build nests.
My journey starts with 4 extremely active puppies in Björn Hala, who welcomed me with their utmost excitement and wagging tails. I still remember my first impression of the wooden house,standing alone under a dark sky, looking a tiny bit scary for a newcomer. It turned out to be the place that I missed the most after my internship ended, a room where I can sleep soundly, surrounded by the sound of nature. You will never get bored living in the house, even just walking around the house or looking through the window while washing the dishes, you can meet plenty of new friends :- puppies, cats, chickens and trees! As a person who has lived her whole life in the Peninsular of Malaysia, I have come across lots of new things here, from sunrise to sunset, from food to people, from animals to plants. I still see the same level of authenticity flourish in every single one of them.
“So hey, how was your first day of work?” Well, the routine of work in the bear house is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and definitely requires a high amount of energy to accomplish the tasks and a clear coordination within the team is essential to get all the tasks done on time. My key takeaway from this routine is to make sure you complete what you have started that day so that you can start the next day smoothly. Although only here for a month, I have tried not to take things in an autopilot mode, but to improve bit by bit on a daily basis, familiarising myself with each process and the purpose of it = for the welfare of the bears. When you focus more on things bigger than yourself, you will find joy and satisfaction from the smallest task you do everyday.
I have also gained the knowledge and understanding towards wildlife conservation, especially the Bornean sun bears in Malaysia, from the job opportunities I can explore, to the challenges of making progress one step at a time. Some of the rescued sun bears in the centre have their own trauma, which in a way has disabled their natural instinct for foraging for food and mating. Despite the bears’ fitness to return to the wild, we are still not confident how long they could survive while poaching is still happening in Malaysia. However, when we take a closer look into what is behind poaching, more social issues such as poverty and quality education are revealed. When everything seems interconnected, people tend to close their eyes and ears as it seems too big to be solved in one day. It is undeniably a long and tough marathon which will not come to an end. That’s what makes all the baby steps matter :- start sharing knowledge with your immediate circle about sun bears. Only when more people have the common awareness of the importance to protect their wildlife can more action be initiated.
Thank you to every single person I have met on this journey:-
Pradeep who has welcomed me on my first day of arrival after a long day of work and your openness in sharing your experience.
Wahwah who has been guiding us the whole time, explaining everything you know about sunbears to us patiently & passionately.
My buddy David who guided me whole-heartedly and shared all the moments you have had throughout your working life.
Lin May & Thye Lim who are always approachable, willing to listen to all my thoughts & to discuss them openly.
Roger & Adneen who care about your learnings and well-being throughout the journey & who never tired of creating annoying moments!!
Dr. Wong who spared his precious time to answer all our questions and to show us around.
Dr. Boon for sharing her knowledge & experience in treating wild animals.
All the housemates in Björn Hala, Mizuno, Becca & Danny who make the house lively with conversations, food, humours and melodies.
My roomie, Jenny who makes my whole journey filled with laughter, adventures and fun.
To anyone who loves nature and animals, come to BSBCC as a volunteer to create your own story.
To all Malaysians, come and visit the BSBCC whenever you can and appreciate what we have in our land.
Video Link: https://youtu.be/9t5OLBKvao
A Big World for A Little Bear
Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Do you still remember the little Betung?
She arrived at the BSBCC on the 26th of August, 2020. Betung was wandering alone and found by a dog in an orchard at Kampung Betung, Ranau. After that, she was kept for five months. Then, her owner surrendered her to the Sabah Wildlife Department. On her arrival, she only weighed 1.4kg. She was tiny and weak. She looked much smaller than she should be. Other than that, she is also suffering pruritus and multiple alopecias on her body. She is the smallest, weakest sun bear that we had ever received.
Now, Betung has settled well in the quarantine. The bear keepers, Adrian and Danny, are taking care of her around the clock. The keepers are her surrogate mothers. They spend their time bonding with her. Betung likes to sit on their laps, resting and of course she loves to play with them too. She is little, but she never gives up during their play fights! She will show her small but sharp canines and paw with her tiny front paws to let you know how she strong she can be!
To improve her health condition, we decided to give Betung a walk in the sun. Having some sun can help her obtain Vitamin D and boost her immune system. During the first walk, she showed curiosity about her surroundings.
Betung tried to climb during the walk. However, she is too weak and unable to climb to any great height. Her muscles and strength need time to build up. To encourage her to climb the keepers will show her a tree and go with her. It took some time, but It’s working! Now she spends more time on a tree, especially when the keeper is on there too. Now, she is more active outdoors.
Every time she goes out, we will get her ready in a box. She loves to stay in the box. She feels safe and finds this fun! After she arrives in the forest, she walks out of the box and begins the day’s adventure. Digging is one of her favourite activities in the woods. Tearing, digging and biting will never make her bored. After exploring, she often keeps her mouth open because the wood debris is in her mouth, and she does not like it. She will keep using her front paw to remove the debris or sometimes she will need help from the keepers.
In the forest, everything for her is huge! But she keeps walking without any fear. She is courageous. When there is a breeze, she enjoys it! It is delightful to see how much she enjoys the forest!
The rehabilitation of Betung may be long. However, the team at the BSBCC will do their best to give Betung a better life! Please share your love with her; she needs your help. You can help to make her life different!
Two weeks Training Program
Text by Jerome Visperas Esteva
Photos by BSBCC
My name is Jerome Visperas Esteva, and I currently work at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre as a Ticket and Shop assistant.
The reason why I am volunteering at the bear house is to gain more information about the bears. I am curious to learn about their daily routine and I want to experience how to feed them, make their daily enrichment and clean their cages (where the bears sleep at night).
This is actually my first time working in the bear house. I found my first day at the bear house was a bit hard adjusting to a different routine. To be honest it needs a lot of energy to do all the work here. The daily tasks include :- cleaning the bear cages, preparing food for the bears, feeding inside & outside(forest enclosures), completing the check of the electric fences, making enrichment, etc.
My mentor/”buddy” was Mizuno who is one of the senior bear keepers. He taught me a lot about the safety and the bears behaviour. I am extremely grateful for all the information he shared with me.
I have gained so much experience and learnt so much during these two weeks. I want to say THANK YOU to all the staff at the bear house for helping me during my training program.
Rebecca and The Bears
Text by Rebecca Kimlaw
Photos by Mizuno Merek Men & Seng Yen Wah
Hi! I am Rebecca Kimlaw, one of the staff at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. My volunteer program started on the 14th of July and ended on the 27th July. I was fortunate enough to spend my two amazing weeks volunteering with the bears. It gave me a glance to see how the operations are generally carried out in the bear house. It was a good chance to learn more about the bears.
My two-week volunteering here was one of the most precious experiences in my life. There was a lot of work to do in the bear house and required a lot of energy. The tasks I was assigned doing were cleaning the bear dens, preparing a lot of food for the bears, feeding bears inside and outside the bear house area and so on. I started falling in love with the bears. Although they are so adorable, we must all bear in mind that its illegal to keep them as a pet. I hope people have awareness about this, so we can protect these beautiful bears together.
I felt comfortable at the bear house because the bear keepers helped me so much. They taught me a lot about the bears. One of my favourite moments is making an enrichment for the bear. Normally, we use leaves, banana, and other accessible nature resources to make an enrichment for them. I enjoyed feeding the bears inside and outside bear house area. I felt satisfied when I saw the bears enjoying their food.
All the bears are cute. But the one that I like the most is Om. Om is a 15 years old male bear. He is a very energetic bear and enjoys his food. He spends a good deal of his time in the forest. Sometimes he is quite content playing all alone, especially with small pieces of dead wood. So, my buddy (Mizuno) and I made an enrichment for him. We could tell that he liked it.
Special thanks to my buddies Danny, Bithrenley, Mizuno and all the bear keepers at the bear house for giving me information and helping me during my training programme. I sincerely recommend this place to anyone who would like to participate in volunteering programmes. You will not regret it! Hopefully I will have a chance to enrol in this volunteering program again.
Weeks with Bears
Text by Nurul Haslinda binti Abdul Kahar
Photos by Seng Yen Wah
Hi! My name is Nurul Haslinda Binti Abdul Kahar, one of the ticketing staff at BSBCC. All of the ticketing staff was given two weeks to do the task as a bear keeper at the bear house and I am the third staff after Khoirul. These two weeks actually has been a great chance for me to know more about the bears, for instance, what do they eat? which bears don’t get along when they are together? why some of the bears are given a different diet? Most of those questions I used to wonder about have been answered by working at the bear house in those two weeks. I was also able to recognise the bears inside the bear house during my volunteering period. YEAH!
During my two-week training, I did the same work as all the bear keeper staff. No exception. Hahaha…
It took a few days for me to get used to all of the tasks, such as fence check, food preparing for the bears inside the bear house and in the forest enclosure, fecal check with my buddy(Roger), husbandry work and many more. All of the tasks given actually required lot of energy every day! Now I understand how the bear keepers doing their daily routine before releasing the bears into the forest enclosure.
This two-week training has given me so much experience and profound knowledge about the bears. Now, I am able to share them with visitors who visit this centre. Here I want to say thank you to those who helped me during my training at the bear house, especially my buddy, Roger, and all the bear keepers.
I hope in the future I will have this kind of volunteering opportunity again.
Here are some pictures taken during my training program:
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