Text By Emily Tan Yu En
Photos By BSBCC & APE Malaysia
Hey everyone! I’m Emily Tan Yu En, 17 from Penang, Malaysia and I just graduated from high school. I am waiting for my SPM results and I have 3 months before entering university. I came across this volunteering programme as my parents got to know about it from Mr Wong. Even though I’m a Malaysian, I’ve never been to Sabah before and I was really excited about this programme. I am no stranger to sun bears as I saw one in a mini zoo in Peninsula Malaysia. There are two sun bears in that enclosure and you can tell from their facial expression that they’re not being treated well in the zoo. Their enclosure is really small and they only get contact with each other. That was the first experience with sun bears.
My volunteering programme starts from 5th of January until 18th of January and there are five more volunteers at that time but I’m the only one who has a two week placement. I’ve experience a lot of first experiences throughout the project. For my two weeks in the bear house, I get to clean the cages, work in the kitchen, do enrichments for the bears and also a lot of funny moments like getting stuck in the mud after collecting banana leaves , falling in the drain because of a flood , a piece of wood fell on my foot and a lot more. I also get to build a swing for the cub with my buddy, Brandon and Ieda. The volunteers from Ape Malaysia are really nice and I really had a great time with them. We played card games every night and we laughed a lot.
After finishing the two weeks volunteering time at BSBCC, I went back to Penang and soon returned to Sabah as a volunteer for as I missed it so much! Unlike January, this time there’s no other volunteer and I will be staying at the staff house ( Bjorn Hala ). I get to work in the kitchen for three weeks and also do some enrichment. I think I consider myself lucky because this time I get to work at the platform and also outreach to Lahad Datu. I get to know more about the hard work that all the staff have done for the bears and the efforts by the keepers in the bear house.
I’m really grateful that I get to work with all the staff and I am able to observe the sun bears at close quarters. They’re really cute and I’m still amazed by their size, behaviour and a lot more. I’m also really pleased that I was able to join the health check of Mamatai and Diana. I enjoyed outside feeding the most as I was able to have a closer look at the bears eating the fruit and I also get so lucky one time that I saw two bears climbing the same time.
I realised how important the staff in the centre are to the bears after working with them for 5 weeks. All the keepers treat the bears sincerely and they taught me a lot about sun bears. I appreciate all the efforts given by the staff and also all the knowledge about the bears. I also want to thank my housemates at Bjorn Hala for taking care of me and taking me everywhere around Sandakan. All the lame jokes from the keepers really help and thanks to all the keepers in the bear house for treating the bears so sincerely. I’ll sure miss the time working with all of the bears and the staff.
Text by Susantie Saliman
Photos by Susantie Saliman, Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Henlo! Santie here and you’re about to read about my magical life in BSBCC.
Well, first and foremost, just like any other folks, I had no idea on how my 10 weeks internship at BSBCC would change me into a whole new person when first applying. BSBCC was the one and only agency that I applied for, and it turned out that I had got the placement. Hooray!
So a little bit about myself, I am a 21 year old, 2nd year Zoology student at the Malaysia Sarawak University (UNIMAS) from Kota Belud, Sabah. I am a voluntary animals’ slave, naughty, spoilt, loud and outspoken girl, who was here for my 10 weeks of industrial training. So let’s start off with….
My Buddy Keeper
My internship life here wouldn’t be as fun as I experienced without my Buddy’s guide. His name is Mizuno Merek Men, people call him Awin. He’s the strongest keeper in my point of view. He is muscular – physically and mentally (HAHA). By working alongside him, for 10 weeks, I gradually get stronger as days passed by. He taught me on how to deal with working life, hence matured me in many aspects. He trained me to become tougher. Awin became a very big influence to my new addiction of body fitness. He gave me courage to keep moving on when I was about to give up, as well as always being there when needed. He became a super-protective brother of mine and the only staff member that I cried to a lot. Even though I’ve thanked him multiple times, I still need to thank him again, for providing me the never-ending support, care, comfort, attention, hospitality and all. Without him, I would still be my old weak self.
Working environment and Staffs
From the moment I stepped into the centre until the very last day of working, I received excellent hospitality that I never experienced anywhere before. I couldn’t ask for more. The first day of work even felt like I had been working there for years.
The staff at BSBCC are wonderfully friendly and were always ready to share their stories with me. I adore every one of them. They’re very well experienced and worth more than gems. Some people look down on them because some of them didn’t get the chance to attend higher education, but I never looked at them that way. I treasure these peeps in my treasure box inside my heart.
To be honest, working here can be very tiring. I witnessed some volunteers and interns being so exhausted. This wasn’t the same for me. Maybe I was just too passionate, hence I did everything voluntarily because I know everything done was all for the sake of the bears. The fact that I was working in a joyful environment with all days filled with laughs and fun, made me enjoy this kind of fatigue. Even during the last day of work, I still wanted to work the next day. It was so heart-breaking to leave these big-hearted peeps behind.
This is the best part (and teary). I never imagined how working close to big mammals would feel. But thank God, fate brought me here and I got to experience working close with the adorable, smallest bear species in the world. I got to know them more – anatomically, behaviourally, as well as their personalities, diet, and all.
I loved every single bear including the ones in the quarantine area, even though I never worked close with them. All of them deserve to get loved hence, I have no specific favourite bear. From Amaco, Panda, Chin, Along, Simone, Kudat, Noah, Nano, Wawa, Dodop, Mary, Boboi, Kitud, Tan Tan, Sunbearo, Loki, Ronnie girl, Montom, Susie 2, Kala, Rungus, Ah Lun, Julaini, Fulung, Ah Bui, Bermuda, Ronnie boy, Phin, WanWan, Mamatai, Om, Sigalung, Cerah, Jelita, Susie, Kuamut, Manis, Linggam, Kina, Sika, Soo, Logan, Romolina, and Diana. I love them all.
I wish someday, they’ll all get back to the wild where they belong. The thought of not being able to see them closely, no longer feeding them, breaks my heart. 10 weeks at BSBCC is more than enough for to become strongly attached with the bears. How much I wish they know that I love them and that I want them to live the happy life that they’re supposed to.
Outreach – Education Team
Besides working at the Bear House, I also got involved in outreach programmes on two occasions with the Education Team. I also assisted visitors at the observation platform several times. The hardest part for me here is that, I am really bad at talking and persuading people, especially the locals. It’s a sad fact that foreigners were more interested in the conservation effort of sun bears compared to the locals. On the other hand, through outreach programmes, I got to know many new big-hearted people from conservation sectors and I enjoyed exchanging stories with them.
Last but not least, I stayed at the staffs’ house called Bjorn Hala for a month and a half (6 weeks). By staying here, I learned to live in a moderation and became attached with some of the staff who also live here - Mizuno, Boboi, Becca and an intern from University Science Malaysia (USM), Ummu Atiyyah. These gems had cooked me meals throughout my stay here (because I’m a lazy cooker) hence, results in me being so clingy with them.
To sum up, I had a very wonderful time throughout my internship period here. Working at BSBCC hasn’t only taught me about working life and conservation. It taught me what life is and how to deal with it – strong and maturely. I am beyond grateful for being given the opportunity to work at BSBCC and meeting lots of new people who are gems to me. Even though I am no longer working at the centre, I will never stop spreading awareness to the world. The bears and the people here will always be in my heart. Thank you BSBCC ♥
Text by Amanda Wilson
Photos by Amanda Wilson, Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Heyyo everyone! I’m Amanda Wilson, 22, and I’m here to talk about my experience volunteering at BSBCC. I’ll be entering my final year in University of Malaysia Sarawak under the programme Animal Resource Science and Management or better known as Zoology. For a period of 10 weeks, I experienced more adventures than I ever expected whilst interning at BSBCC. When asked about how I got to know about the centre, I am actually a local from the nature city of Sandakan. I was born in Kota Kinabalu and raised in Sandakan since a very young age. So, I’ve visited more than a couple of times and heard a lot about the wonderful things the people here are doing for the world’s smallest bears. I’ve always wanted to volunteer at the centre and be part of the work they are undergoing. That’s how I decided to volunteer at BSBCC as part of my Industrial Training.
Before I started volunteering, I was way too nervous about working, but from day 1, the staff at BSBCC were nothing but warm, kind, friendly and welcoming. I felt like I had another family here at BSBCC. It was so heart-warming to work with like-minded people, people who have big hearts for animals. I am touched by how much the Bear Care Team are so passionate, loving and caring towards these bears.
The centre stands on 4 main goals which are Education, Welfare, Rehabilitation and Research. Throughout my volunteer days, I am grateful to have been able to balance time working within the Bear House and also with the Education Team. On a daily basis, our work comprises mainly of husbandry works, from cleaning cages to feeding the bears, fence checks, pool cleaning and maintanence works. The fun part would be going jungle trekking into the forest to look for termite nests, collecting banana leaves and making various enrichments for the bears. From food-based enrichments, making dry cages, sensory and also structural enrichments. It didn’t take me long to adapt to the tasks at the Bear House as everything was properly managed and scheduled on time.
I also love feeding the bears in the outdoor enclosures as I love seeing them enjoy their time in the forest. That would be another attraction at the centre as visitors could see the bears in their natural environment. When the staff challenged us volunteers to recognize all the bears, I thought it was impossible but now I could say I can almost successfully tell them all apart from each other. Since working at the bear house, I learnt a lot about the sun bear’s behaviours and the different traits as well as personalities each bear has. I personally think sun bears are such precious creatures and wish more people would learn about these forgotten bears.
I feel so lucky to have been able to care for them, work so closely with them and even looking at them, as it made me so happy, especially when they’re enjoying the life that the people here at BSBCC is working so passionately to provide for these precious bears. The work that these people are doing here is incredible. No matter how tough the work is, they do it all so wholeheartedly.
To be honest, the work here is very physical. Nevertheless, I have never felt discouraged as a girl but more encouraged by the staff around me, who are always there to urge me on and guide me through. From sawing ironwood, working with hand drills to carrying sacks full of coconut husks, I’ve done everything with ease. Thanks to the time I’ve spent here, I got the chance to build my stamina and train my strength. Not only did I learn to work with hardware tools, I surprised myself everyday by my own capabilities. I’ve learnt underestimated myself too much before this, working here has made me braver and eager to look forward to new task everyday. Although the work here is heavy duty, I never felt drained as the Bear House is always filled with happiness and laughter thanks to the people around me.
As a local, I feel disappointed and devastated that not many of our local people know of the existence of the world’s smallest bears. Though I am hopeful that the efforts done through all the outreach programmes will someday be fruitful. During my time at the centre, I got to participate in 3 various outreach programmes and events. I was lucky to be able to participate in events held in Sandakan and also go for outreach programmes held at schools outside of the district.
As volunteers, each of us were assigned to a buddy keeper. Here’s a shoutout to the best big brother and my partner in crime, Mizuno Merek Men and Susantie Saliman (UNIMAS coursemate). Theres nothing my buddy keeper couldn’t do and I am ever so thankful for he has always been so caring and motivating towards us. He pushed us to be better and put his trust in us to carry out bigger tasks which gave us confidence.
Also to all the staffs especially the ones in the Bear Care Team, without them, my days would be dull. I saw the sincerity and passion they have for these bears. I felt the love and joy they have for what they are doing. I am happy to begin venturing into conservation work through volunteering here at BSBCC. Working with the Bear Care Team will always be one of my most cherished moments in life. They showed me passion, determination, professionalism, dedication, hardwork and team work. Conservation work is not always easy but with the right team, no matter how small, no task will ever be big enough.
Big thanks to Dr Wong Siew Te, for always making time for our weekly volunteer meeting session despite his busy schedule. I’ve learnt a lot through sharing his own experiences and knowledge not only about sun bears and the centre, but practically about everything we could talk about. Also to the Education Team, thank you for guiding me and encouraging me throughout my participation in various outreach programmes. Talking to visitors on the platform has also helped me overcome my fear of talking to people. It was amazing to be able to engage with the public and educate not only other people but my ownself about sun bears, wildlife conservation and just nature in general.
Thank you so much ! You all are beyond amazing <3
I will cherish every memories and will surely come back in future. Cheerio!
On the 7th March 2018, a session with kids at Vision School, Sandakan was conducted by BSBCC's education team where the kids learnt about sun bear's anatomy. They get to learn about special features of sun bears and create their own chestmark patterns. The kids also get to share with their friends their special features if they were a sun bear. It was a fun session and the BSBCC team will be visiting the school again in April. Looking forward to meet these kids again!
One of the BSBCC core values is to increase public awareness and activism on the high standard of animal welfare, as it is such a big part and will hugely impacted on our wildlife, as well as enhancing these important messages and increasing awareness about these crucial battles to protect our special little sun bear (as the numbers are speedily decreasing), forest and our children's future. We were delightfully be invited by HUTAN-KOCP to carried out this outreach educational program from Kampung Sangau, Kinabatangan district from February 26th to 28th, 2018.
School that benefited by this program are SK. Sangau, SK Suan Lamba and SMK Bukit Garam. There were representatives from Sabah Wildlife Department who were also invited to be participated in this program along with us. In this program, there were a lot of activities, including talks, a video show and exhibition booths. We would liked to give a big thanks to our partners HUTAN-KOCP for inviting BSBCC to give and share the information regarding to the foreseeable dangers which sun bears are facing. We aim to develop the idea and provide the knowledge that meets the needs, to recover healthy, diverse, productive jungle for all of us, protecting and repopulate the remaining rare species now and for our future generation. We would liked to use this opportunity to give thanks for everyone’s limitless support.
BSBCC was invited to do an awareness programme on sun bears in Sandakan Vision School on the February 7th, 2018. Approximately 80 students, aged between seven to nine years old were invited to be involved in this programme and they were all very excited and eager to learn more about sun bears. The programme began with an introduction session by Ms. Gloria, our Environmental Education Executive followed by Mrs. Sharon’s introduction to our sun bear mascot. Our sun bear mascot, Sunny, was present to help the students understand better about physical characteristics of a sun bear. After that Ms. Melynda conducted a "Who Am I?" wildlife guessing game before Mrs. Risnayati played a short video about sun bears. We also set up a display booth at the school. All of the students enjoyed their time in learning about the environment and wildlife species through exhibitions. We hope that they will gain more knowledge on the importance of protecting the environment and our precious wildlife species. Thanks for inviting us!
The sun bear may be the smallest bear species found around the world, but they are not short of protectors, thanks to the Sahabat Beruang Madu (Friends of the Sun Bear) communities now set up in five regions around Malaysia. Part of the Sun Bear Conservation Programme funded by Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV), and partnered by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (PERHILITAN) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), the Sahabat network has been set up to foster a community sympathetic to issues surrounding conservation of the sun bear and Malaysia‘s other threatened wildlife species. This Program was held on December 12-13th, 2017, with the main objective being to raise public awareness about conservation, for sun bears in particular and other wildlife species in general. MNS collaborates with BSBCC and is tasked with furthering awareness and education within the community in Felda Sahabat Estate, which is one of biggest estates in Malaysia.
This community program also invited Sabah Wildlife Department, who delivered a presentation about protected wildlife species in Sabah and how to handle critical situations when facing wild animals (Human Wildlife Conflict). Another presenter was from Sabah Forestry Department, discussing the importance of forests and why we need to protect and preserve them. Knowledge from information offered in this program will heighten awareness when staff is back within their plantations and forests, and will afford them the advantage of preventing human-wildlife conflicts before they can occur. During this program, a lot of activities were held such as talks, video show, sun bear mascot activity and exhibition booths. Huge thanks to Felda Sahabat management (Sahabat Beruang Madu Wilayah Sahabat) and MNS (Malaysian Nature Society) for inviting us to this program. Hopefully this programme will continue every year. Many thanks for continuous support! Humans are protectors of these defenseless animals, and we hope Friends of the Sun Bear will act as the first line of defense when it comes to wildlife conservation.
Text by Woo Chee Yoong
Photos by Woo Chee Yoong, Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
Everyone is familiar with the phrase, “time flies”, especially in the happy moments which make us wish we could stay a bit longer. However, reality always stands in the way. It is time for me to bid farewell to The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC).
I am an undergraduate student, studying the Animal Resource Science and Management Programme, at the University Malaysia Sarawak, UNIMAS. I came to the BSBCC for industry training for a period of 10 weeks. I found out about the BSBCC when I searched for an institution or research centre that focuses on large mammals in Malaysia. When I found out about the existence of sun bears, my interest in such charismatic mammal grew stronger. Moreover, the sun bear is the smallest bear species in the world, and Malaysia provides these bears with an important home. So, I decided to apply for my industry training placement with the BSBCC. I first flew to Sandakan to meet Dr(Hon) Wong Siew Te, the founder of the BSBCC, to seek advice and guidance about my wish to continue my career as a biologist working closely with animals. I was truly impressed with Dr(Hon) Wong’s achievements, but it was his commitment and dedication, despite all the hardship he has encountered in saving sun bears, that inspired me to continue with what I was pursuing.
When I first arrived, I was introduced to my home in Sandakan where the intern students and volunteers are placed, Bjorn Hala. A simple home, but filled with warmth and laughter, with five other members of the BSBCC staff. Furthermore, other colleagues sometimes joined us in the house for special occasions, “Bjorn Hala is a family”. I started my first working day by being introduced to my buddy, Azzry. Here, I must express my gratitude to my buddy. He guided me a lot through the husbandry jobs of a sun bear keeper. He is fun to work with and always tried to entertain us all with his jokes.
Basically, every day, we washed the cages every morning to ensure the bears have a comfortable space to sleep. We prepared porridge with green bean and pumpkin, fruits like banana, papaya, watermelon, honeydew and snakefruit, and vegetables like sweet potato, corn, sugar cane and coconut. We fed the bears inside the cages and outside in forest enclosure, in order to encourage their forest instincts. We created many different kinds of enrichment for the bears, such as collecting banana leaves, dry leaves and termite nests. Examples of food enrichments include the Stick Paradox, Hamburger, Firehose Pocket, Aussie Ball and others. The Olivier Tower, which we built for Chin, was very hard work for me, Azzry, and a bunch of our other teammates. However, the best enrichment of all is another bear. This is why we try to integrate the bears with each other, and so they can learn survival skills from each other. Also, I am glad that the BSBCC gave me the opportunity to be involved with the medical check-up for the bears.
I not only had the chance to work in Bear House, but to also experience the outreach programme. The programme aims to educate communities about sun bears, especially younger communities. Thus, both programmes that I participated in were held at primary schools. We hope the conservation efforts to help the sun bear will inspire the younger generation.
At the BSBCC, the most important thing I learnt was that every bear has its own attitude, just like a human. Some are easy to deal with, but some are not. In fact, this became the most amazing thing I experienced in these 10 weeks. The emotion shared between me and the bear’s was priceless, and words cannot describe this feeling and the relationship. You have to come and experience it yourselves.
Sadly, a lot of people abuse this special relationship and exploit Sun Bear in a horrible way. Hereby, I urge you all, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE - Sun bears deserve a better life and should be treated just like a human. They belong to the forest, not inside a small cage where they are forced to follow their owner’s instruction. They need freedom, just like we do. Spread the word, spread the love. Return the sun bear to the wild and stop poaching.
Nonetheless, I wish to say a huge thank you to the BSBCC for this unforgettable journey. I have wished that the spirit of Bear Care Team will always remain. You have all done a big favour to the sun bears. Stay strong to all the bears. Au revoir.
On November 20th-24th, of 2017, BSBCC was invited by IJM Plantations Berhad to the Environmental Outreach program (Wildlife Awareness) in their two-region area. It took about 4 and a half hours to arrive at the Sugut regions estate by car. The main purpose of this program is to create awareness about our protected species and also share information and knowledge about sun bears. The BSBCC team prepared an exhibition booth to help the audience understand better about the programme. The audience comprise IJM Plantations estate Executives and staff in two regional estates in Sabah - Sugut regions (8 estates) and Labuk regions (3 estates). At the same time, we also held an awareness programme with the Humana Schools (A school for children of foreign plantation workers in IJM estates). A lot of activities were held during the programme, including talks, video show, sun bear mascot activities and a visit to exhibition booths. Besides BSBCC, our partners, the Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU), were also invited to this program. Huge thanks to IJM Plantations Berhad for inviting us as well as for the continuous support given! We were really glad to see people learning more about Mother Nature.
This week, the BSBCC's Education Team head to Lahad Datu district together with our partner from Hutan - Kinabatangan Orang Utan Conservation Programme (KOCP). This Environmental Education outreach programme was organized by Hutan-KOCP and they invited BSBCC and Sabah Wildlife Department to participate in their programme. The first school we visited was SK Sabah Cocoa, Lahad Datu which is a rural school located in the middle of a plantation area. It is a low enrolment school (Sekolah Kurang Murid), only 39 pupils enrolled. The second school visited was SK Binuang, Lahad Datu. This school is about 15-20 minutes drive from Lahad Datu Town. Various activities were held during this programme such as talks, games, video show and colouring activity. Each participating organization also set up educational booth for the students and teachers to visit. Thank you Hutan-KOCP for inviting us to be part of the programme and we look forward to join more programmes with our partners in the future.