Text by Nur Athirah Binti Asrif
Photos by Nur Athirah Binti Asrif, Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Hi my name is Nur Athirah. I am 21 years old and am currently a final year undergraduate Zoology student from the University Malaysia Sarawak. I was born and raised in the nature city of Sandakan. I have known BSBCC since they started but never had the chance to pay a visit. In the past I have always aspired to be a volunteer to work with the bears but here I am finally, sharing you my own story!
A little heads up; there will be tons of pictures of my days in BSBCC here. Well as the saying goes, A picture is worth a thousand words, so bear with it! :)
As a requirement for my studies, we have to undergo an industrial training for a period of 10 weeks. I have zero hesitation upon applying BSBCC as my internship placement and am totally grateful to be accepted. I admit that I was one of the luckiest to have done my industrial training in this centre. For all the 69 working days, there was not a single day that I didn’t gain a new experience. It was truly a life changing journey which I believe I would not get from any other places. Each day in the centre has always been interesting and I will always look forward to what will come on the upcoming days. It is a place that brings a more positive side of me as I was able to venture myself into more extraordinary and more challenging tasks and that is what makes my journey a memorable one. In a way, it acts like a rehab not only for the sunbears, but also for me.
Sunbears are the smallest bears in the world and are one of the least known. It was devastating for me as a local to see how little do our own people know about these beautiful creatures. As I have the opportunity to get engaged with the public during educational outreach and also at the visitors centre, I realized that most of the locals have very little knowledge about the sunbears let alone the wildlife. But a huge thanks to our papa bear, Dr Wong Siew Te for all his hard work in which more of the sunbears that in danger are saved and more people are educated.
Formerly, BSBCC has four main pillars which include welfare, rehabilitation, education and research. During my days in this centre, I have the opportunity to work with various departments which covers almost all the four pillars.
First off is welfare, which are mainly all the work in the bear house. Our daily routine in the bear house is well organized as we follow the schedule provided. From feeding to husbandry, everything is neatly organized and is well timed. During my first few weeks working, it was a tough ride as it was a whole new experience. I have never cleaned (bear) cages before but during my first day I managed to clean five and I feel rather proud of myself. As days passed, I feel accustomed to the routine and felt less lethargic during work. It was a tough ride but trust me, even with a small, unfit physical state like me, you be able to do things you have never imagined before as you try you’re very best.
As a volunteer, you will be assigned to a bear keeper whom will be guiding you throughout your volunteer period. Here is a picture of me and my buddy keeper, Mr Brandon Khoo Lee Ming cutting fire hoses for our project, the Noah’s Ark. Every volunteer are also encourage making a new form of enrichment for the bears regardless of the materials. For me, I made a small bunk bed which kind of resembles a hammock for the bears to simply relax and play.
During my internship period, I was lucky enough to experience the whole procedure when a bear deceased and when a bear is rescued. I was able to do taxidermy on the deceased bear, Gutuk and also joined the team when the new rescued bear arrived, Soo.
Other than that, in the process of rehabilitation, I was given the opportunity to observe Noah and Nano from their fence training until the moment they are released into the forest enclosure. Observing this lovable duo had been a bittersweet memory. It was a touching moment for me as I was lucky enough to witness the joy of the bears when they are released into the forest enclosure for the first time. Plus, I also wrote two story blogs about Nano and Noah which entitled “Cannot have the sweet without the bitter” and “A castle of wood, A playground for bears”.
This centre enables you to work with every task available. Your tasks vary from sawing bamboos, collecting termite mounts to hand drilling ironwoods. Regardless that you are a small girl, you will get the chance to do all the tough duty. The bear care team will always be there for you and guide you with all the work. I never waste my chance and always ready to learn something new because; where else will you have a chance to improve your craftsmanship?
Also, cheers to my sidekicks, Chee Yong and Batrisyia which are also interns from Zoology,UNIMAS. We are the first intern students from UNIMAS to have done our industrial training in BSBCC and are said to be the best, haha (just kidding)! It was an amazing journey working with these people and I would never have all the fun things without them.
This centre had taught me a lot not only about the sunbears but about passion, determination, hardwork, teamwork, skills and so forth. Huge thanks to Dr Wong Siew Te for all the knowledge and the time he spends just to have a meeting session with his volunteers. A round of applause to the bear care team who make my days in BSBCC as one of the best moment of my life. Every day at work is filled with laughter and fun. The bear care team had taught me a lot and have gave me so many insight especially in teamwork. Every day the team do noble jobs wholeheartedly and it is what I aspire to do in the near future. It took a one whole amazing team to make a globally known conservation centre.
Not to forget the educational team, for giving me a chance to visit three various schools around Sandakan. It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to educate our own people about the sunbears and the wildlife.
Thank you so much for everything. I promise I’ll come back in the near future. Till then,
Love, Barks and Big Bear Hugs!
Text by Alex O’Keefe
Photos by Seng Yen Wah
My volunteer experience at the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Center (BSBCC) had been phenomenal to say the least. There were a multitude of activities and jobs I was assigned to do at the BSBCC to benefit the sun bears wellness and spread awareness on their behalf. In total, I was able to intern there for six weeks.
One of the project as an intern I participated in was to make a dog house for a pregnant mother dog. While this wasn’t necessarily geared toward the sun bears, the BSBCC does its part to help a variety of animals. Over the course of two weeks we gathered recycled wood, cut it and screwed it together. We built a frame using the selected wood, then acquired a few roles of old rubber hose. (At the BSBCC, they try and use recycled materials as much as possible implementing sustainable methods of action daily). Following the completion of the frame we tightly wrapped each individual hose piece around the wood frame.
Upon delivery, Momo (the mother) was scared and apprehensive at the new structure we placed next to her. However, she quickly took a liking to her new home! She was originally sleeping on a piece of cardboard so naturally this new structure would give Momo and her puppies more protection and a sense of security.
Simultaneously along with the doghouse, I helped build a large bear platform for outside pen E. We started by finding and cutting four large pillars of wood to an equal length. Then we measured four locations for where the wood posts would stand. Once the locations were decided, we imbedded the posts into the holes through careful and meticulous work. This was done using a combinations of gravel, dirt and water which would solidify around the posts and make cement; thus bolstering the posts in an upright position. More wooden planks were cut and nailed to the original four beams. Screwing the nails into the Belian wood (the wood the structure was composed of) was hard work. Unbeknownst to me at the beginning of the project, Belian is the densest tropical wood in the world! Regardless of using an electric drill, getting in just one nail was hard work. The nail drill would often smoke terrifically billowing out large puffs of smoke due to our inability to impact the wood’s thickness. However, over time progress was made. Some finishing touches like adding varnish to the wood were completed and through a team effort our final structure was completed.
My favorite project I was able to work on was to get a sun bear named Sigalung into Pen G (an outside enclosure). As easy at this may sound, just getting Sigalung into the training pen (which was an enclosure connected to his inside area) took well over a year! Through various days of coaxing Sigalung out with food and above all honey, he eventually took his first steps into Pen G. (I have written a more detailed account of Sigalung’s journey in a blog posted on the BSBCC website if you are interested. It’s called “One Small Step for the Sun Bear Center, One Giant Leap for Sigalung!”).
Amongst the projects I helped with were the daily activities to provide enrichments for the bears. Enrichments are toys or objects made to increase the bear’s mental and physical prowess while allowing the bears to practice habits and utilizes physical features they would normally use in the wild. Most enrichments will have bits of honey or food to entice the bears into using them. Materials are often pulled from the forest and or are recycled equipment. Some enrichments include but are not excluded to nest balls (plants tightly wrapped together containing food), ice blocks, dog toys, termite mounds and bamboo pieced that hang from the enclosure.
Here are some old rubber hoses cut up and wrapped around each other. They are held down using screws and placed in the center are smidges of honey and banana. The bears will use their long claws to pry the tightly wrapped ball open then extract the food using their elongated tongue. Fun Fact: The entirety of a sun bear’s tongue can grow up to 25-30 cm!
I thought it appropriate to finish off this reading with a picture of many of the people I worked with over the duration of my stay in Borneo (I’m the one with the sun bear head on). Words cannot describe how lucky I was to meet all of them. Not only is working hard for the bears a gratifying experience but it’s also simply fun!
For those reading this, if you are interested in contributing to the conservation of sun bears check out the BSBCC website. There are lots of way to help sun bears even if you can’t travel all the way to Borneo!
It’s amazing what a small group of people in Malaysia, Borneo are doing to save sun bears.Though I played a meager role in the grand scheme of their endeavors to conserve these amazing creatures, I at least feel I have played a small but important part.
CNN.com, 28th July 2017
By Kathleen Toner, CNN
Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia (CNN): With his wire-rimmed glasses and mild manner, Siew Te Wong could be described as a Malaysian Clark Kent.
This wildlife biologist is a Superman of sorts -- a tireless defender of the world's smallest bear species: the sun bear.
"I often call the sun bear a forgotten species," Wong said. "When I first started, 20 years ago, no one has ever studied sun bears. Most people do not know that they even exist."
As he studied the animal and realized the threats it faced from deforestation and hunting/poaching, he knew the bears were in serious trouble.
"The more I learn about them, the more I care. The more I care, the more I worry," he said. "I have to help them."
oday, Wong's nonprofit, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, is the only sun bear sanctuary in the world.
Wong -- known as "Papa Bear" -- and his team have rehabilitated and cared for 55 rescued sun bears since 2008. The group now also educates the public about these animals.
Sun bears are found in the rainforests of south Asia, and the small bears play a big role in keeping these woodlands healthy. Many plants and animals depend on them to spread seeds, create nesting sites and control the termite population -- functions that keep the ecosystems in balance. Healthy rainforests provide clean air and water to the entire world.
But the sun bear population has decreased by 30% during the last three decades. In 2007, the bear was officially classified as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Currently, 44 sun bears live at Wong's center -- all of them were orphaned by poachers or rescued from captivity. The center has also become one of the leading tourist destinations in the area, helping to raise awareness about the sun bear's plight.
"They can see how special the sun bear is and learn about how their survival (is) important to ours," Wong said, "so they can take some action when they go back to home."
For Wong, this work is simply his responsibility.
"Sun bears became part of my family. When they're endangered, I care for them. When they are in trouble, I speak for them," he said. "I want to be the voice for the sun bear, to fight for the sun bear, to ensure the survival of the sun bear."
"But my ultimate goal is to save the entire forest ecosystem ... that is so important to the survival of mankind."
CNN spoke with Wong about his work. Below is an edited version of the conversation.
CNN: How did you get involved with the sun bear?
Siew Te Wong: I grew up keeping different pets and rescuing birds that fell from nests. I always wanted to be an animal expert or a veterinarian. After high school, I went to Taiwan to study veterinary science, and that's where I got involved with studying wildlife. In 1994, I came to the University of Montana to study wildlife biology and I met a professor, Christopher Servheen. He was looking for a Malaysian student to do a study on sun bears. I said, "I'm your man!"
CNN: Tell me more about the threats these animals face.
Wong: Over the last 50 years, many of the tropical forests in this region have been cleared, and with deforestation, sun bears have lost their habitat. And even though sun bears are a protected species, they are hunted for their meat and their body parts, which are used in traditional Asian medicines. This is literally wiping out local populations.
Their babies are also kept as illegal pets. Their cubs are really cute, but people don't realize that this baby bear will turn into a destructive beast. In the end, they will either kill the bears or lock (them) in small cages. We are doing lots of educational awareness to make sure that people don't keep bears anymore.
CNN: How do the animals spend their time at the center?
Wong: Every day after breakfast, we release the bears into the forest enclosure. This is where they learn to forage, climb trees, build nests and socialize. All of those activities help them get ready to be released and survive in the forest.
At 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., we give the bears different fruits, and at 4pm, the bears come back and have dinner in the bear house. We keep them inside at night because this level of bear density in the forest is not natural. We also want to monitor their well-being. However, there are a few bears left out for the night, which is good. One day, they will live there all the time.
CNN: How many bears have you been able to release?
Wong: We have released two bears so far, and this year we plan to release four more. There are many bears that we cannot release because they were in captivity for a long time. They lost their instinct to find food, they're habituated to people, and many that were rescued as adults cannot climb trees. There are also bears who (were) malnourished or who had their claws chopped off. They don't have the skills to survive in the forest, so they have to stay here for the rest of their lives.
Hopefully in the future, there'll be more bears ready to be released. I want bears to live in the forest and not in captivity. (That) is where they belong. It is their home.
Want to get involved? Check out the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre website and see how to help.
To donate to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, click the CrowdRise widget below.
Donations are accepted through LEAP (or their full name, Land Empowerment Animals People), a U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
Text by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
Photos by Tee Thye Lim & Chiew Lin May
One day in May 2008, a one year old female sun bear cub came from Lok Kawi Wildlife Zoo named Lawa to Sepilok. She had a beautiful face which would catch your eye. But, how does such a gorgeous bear end up at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre? Normally, cubs stay with their mothers until they are two to three years old. However, in Lawa's case, she was separated cruelly by killing the mother in order to get a cute sun bear cub, kept illegal as pet or sold on the illegal wildlife pet trade. Sun bear populations are estimated to have declined over 30% in the last three decades, leading for those bears being in danger of imminent extinction in the wild very real. Now, sun bears have been stated as totally protected species under Sabah Wildlife Enactment in 1997. People who keep them illegally and hunting them, will be fined up to RM50,000 and can be send to jail for 5 years, or both.
Lawa lost her mother when she was still a cub. She had no chance to learn the natural survival skills from her mother. The BSBCC provided her with a second chance, reintroducing her to natural forest enclosures. Lawa has grown into a smart, agile and independent bear. She is now nine years old, weighs 40.5kg. She has spend most of her days eagerly exploring up in the trees. She can make beautiful tree nests by using liana and tree branches. Nest building is one of the important but rare survival skills of a wild bear. After six years going through rehabilitation at the BSBCC there is now a happy ending for Lawa as she has acquired many vital survival skills and she is ready to return to her real forest home.
Release candidates are chosen based on their age and survival skills. They have to be fit in four conditions, they need to know how to forage, climb, nest building and lastly, the most important condition is they need to not attach to human and know how to avoid humans, in order to be at low risk of being killed by poachers or turn into a nuisance bear.
On 24th July 2016, the BSBCC is preparing the final stage for the release of Lawa to a core area of Tabin Wildlife Reserve. Located in the Lahad Datu, Sabah encompasses 120500 hectares of pristine rainforest. Before the big day, the bear team again needed to find Lawa in Pen G at 4 pm. Dr. Rosa Sipangkui, a veterinarian from the Sabah Wildlife Department, sedated Lawa. Once sedated, Lawa was moved from Pen G to bear house in order to undergo a full medical examination to ensure she is in good health before her release. Besides that, Wong Siew Te, BSBCC Founder and CEO made sure that Lawa’s satellite collar is functioning and well fitted on her. Finally, Lawa was moved into the translocation cage. She was then placed at the bear house area for a night. Our bear care keepers spent the night monitoring Lawa. She might not have known it, but after today her life will be totally different!
It is time to go! On 25th July 2016, when it was still dark, the bear release team was getting ready to depart from Sandakan to Tabin Wildlife Reserves on two trucks, taking Lawa to her second chance in the wild. The release team started in full force for the release of second sun bear back into the wild.
The team arrived at Tabin Wildlife Reserve Headquarter at 8.15 am. The morning sun and clear sky reminded us to start moving.
This year our release team will be using helicopter model Sabah Air Aviation Sdn Bhd (Bell 206 B3) Jetranger Underslung to reach our final destination.
We made the final release preparation and inspections to ensure the safety. The operation was split into two difference trips. The first trips, the team entered the mud volcano of Tabin forest to evaluate and identify the suitable release site.
They checked the wrapping net thoroughly. After final checks on Lawa by Dr. Rosa and Wong Siew Te, the team took the transportation cage and loaded it into the wrapping net. The process went smooth.
At 10.15 am, Wong Siew Te (BSBCC CEO & Founder) and Lawa was finally lifted up into the blue sky, heading to Tabin mud volcano. At 10.35 am, Bell 206 Jetranger that carrying Lawa landed safely on the Tabin mud volcano.
The arrival of Lawa was greeted by the sound of birds in Tabin Widlife Reserve. The sights, sounds and smells of Tabin Wildlife Reserve will be very new for Lawa. Immediately Lawa was taken to the release side by BSBCC team. Lawa looked well rested, happy and ready. She realized there were so many higher trees in pristine rainforest around her. She will soon free and ready to live a new life as a true wild sun bear!
After everything was set up, the moment to open the door and let Lawa take a deep breath with the sense of freedom arrived. Once the translocation cage was opened at 11.10 am , Lawa run out of the cage quickly. She was very fast, directly heading into the deep forest! We hope the best for her now! She will be starting to explore, forage and adjust to her new habitat. It was an emotional moment for all of us watching her walk away from the transportation cage and – off course - us. One moment we could still see her and at the blink of an eye, she disappeared into the tall trees. She finally home, in the forest. Enjoy your freedom Lawa! May you have a long and happy life there! Our bear care team will carefully monitor her progress via her satellite collar.
Sun bears are forest animals. They are playing important roles in the forest. They are forest gardeners. After they consume fruits, they travel along and disperse the seeds in the forest. They carry the seeds away from the mother tree, so that the seed has a higher survival rate. Next, they are forest engineers. Sun bears are excellent climber. One of the reasons that they climb up a tree is because they want to harvest the honey from bee hives. They will use their strong canine and sharp claws to tear off the tree trunk and get the honey inside. After that, it will create a cavity that provides a resting place to other animals like hornbills and flying squirrel. Besides that, they also are forest doctors. Termites are small insects which eventually cause a tree to get sick or die. This is because some termite species will build their nest inside the trees. But, sun bears eat termites. So, sun bears can help to control the population of termites and keep the forest healthy. Last but not least, they are forest farmers, because they are good diggers. They do a lot of digging which can actually help to mix up poor soil and rich soil to enhance the nutrient cycle in the forest. And, that is why we call them “the keystone species”. Lawa is now been released in the forest. She is carrying out a very important task. This is what she needs, the forest and the freedom.
We would like to take this opportunity to say a huge Thank Yous to the most amazing partner, the Sabah Wildlife Department, Dr.Rosa Sipangkui, the Sabah Forestry Department, LEAP, the Tabin Rangers, the BSBCC team, our volunteers and Brad Josephs who help fundraise and Kynite Filming Crews who helped and supported us generously with Lawa’s release. Thanks to the years of hard work spent rehabilitating Lawa, she will have the opportunity to roam free in the wild, back where she belongs. Reintroduction programs for sun bears are very costly. We need your support to protect this magnificent species from extinction. Help us release more sun bear back to wild by donating at www.bsbcc.org.my. You can make a difference in the future survival of sun bears!
Text By BSBCC
Photos By BSBCC & Scuba Zoo
Finally able to breathe true freedom in the wild…
Just before Christmas 2010 baby cub Natalie was rescued from illegal pet trade and sent to Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) on December 23rd. It was claimed that she was found alone and abandoned by her mother. However, we suspected that her mother was killed by poachers and she was captured and illegally kept as a pet.
A 5 year old adult female beautiful Natalie built up her survival skills, independence and learned to behave like a wild sun bear. Her improvement in her survival skills in the forest enclosure has been excellent. She became an exceptional climber and tree nest maker. After learning in BSBCC for five years Natalie is ready to be released back to where she belongs – the forest. The ultimate goal of BSBCC is to return rehabilitated sun bears back to the wild and on Sunday May 17th, 2015 it was time to follow this goal; BSBCC started the journey to release Natalie back to the protected forest. Previous to her journey she was fitted with a satellite collar to keep track of her even after her release. In order to transport the sun bear to the forest as far as possible we choose to use a helicopter. After a long discussion, Wong decided that the helicopter model Layang-Layang Aerospace Sdn Bhd (BO105) was the suitable for our purposes because it could fit transportation cage.
This is the FIRST time that a captive sun bear got reintroduced to its natural habitat in Sabah using a helicopter and is monitored post release with the help of a satellite collar. Natalie is ready to live a new life as a truly wild sun bear in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The experience she has gathered throughout her 5 years at the rehabilitation centre will help her explore her true home in the core area of Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The core area encompasses 120500 hectares and is a pristine rainforest with no human disturbances but lots of big trees, fig trees and a variety of wildlife.
It was a challenging day. All hopes and prayers were solely for this release activity to go as smoothly as planned. The release team’s preparations already started at 3pm on May 16th, 2015 at the bear house of BSBCC when Sabah Wildlife Department vet, Dr. Laura Benedict started the sedation process. A full physical health examination showed that Natalie was completely healthy at 45kg of weight. Dr. Laura Benedict inserted a microchip into Natalie’s body.
Natalie was then moved to her translocation cage. Natalie’s journey started on a WRU truck to Wildlife Department Quarter Lahad Datu in the east of Sabah, two hours from BSBCC. Natalie was kept in the translocation cage overnight close to the veterinarians, the WRU team and the team of BSBCC. She was under constant observation and fed with water, honey and banana. Natalie seemed to be stressed in the translocation cage, but freedom was just around the corner.
The team woke up early in the morning on May 17th 2015, and got ready at Tabin Headquarter at 6.30 am. After a full assessment, the weather was considered safe for the helicopter to land at Tabin Headquarter. Once the helicopter arrived, the operation was split into three different trips. With the first two trips the team entered the mud volcano of Tabin to evaluate and identify the most suitable release site.
At 10.17 am, it was Natalie’s turn to be flown to Tabin mud volcano
Once Natalie arrived, the team set up the translocation cage in the correct direction for release. Dr. Laura Benedict conducted a final check, to ensure that Natalie was ready to enter her new home!
A 20 m rope was tied to the sliding gate of the cage. The team stood 15 m away from the translocation cage.
As soon as the door of her cage was opened, Natalie straight headed into the forest. She explored everything, sniffed the air of Tabin and assessed her new environment before disappearing into the tall tree canopy of the forest. Tabin Wildlife Reserve has welcomed her into a new protected home. The emotions running through the forest while watching Natalie enjoying her newfound freedom are un-describable. A heart-warming moment filled with tears of joy.
Wildlife Rescue Unit team, Tabin Rangers, BSBCC team and Scuba Zoo Filming Crews in Tabin Headquarter. Thanks for all your support in helping sun bear and release work.
Natalie! Stay healthy, happy and keep growing gracefully!
You will always be in our hearts!
Have you ever wondered what you want to do to spice up your boring life? Have you ever thought about going off the grid and want to try something different? Why wait? I encourage you to seize the day. Be a leader, not a follower.
Hai, my name is Chooi Ying Sim but everyone just calls me Sim. I am a chemist and also a certified nurse assistant from Montana, USA but mostly I'm just an ordinary Malaysian Chinese girl who's trying to find her place in the world.
I first met the founder and CEO of BSBCC, Siew Te Wong, back in 2008. He was pursuing his PhD in Wildlife at the University of Montana and I my Bachelor's Degree in Chemistry. I visited Brother Wong in the summer of 2012 and discovered an amazing opportunity to be involved, first hand, in the rescue of the Sun Bear. Well, long story short, here I am and this is my story.
Just a quick side note. I've never been a great writer or possessed a good memory, so I always have my Canon S95 with me to capture all the beautiful moments.
8th of June 2014, my first day as a volunteer. I was greeted by a skinny guy named Thye Lim, 27 years old , and he explained all the rules and regulations I was required to follow. There was one key rule he emphasized the most though, no unauthorized feeding of the bears, as safety is extremely important. Next, he got me my nametag and gumboots and I was put to work right away with a lovely lady from Holland named Jaike.
Below are some pictures I took showing how much food we prepare in one day, as well as the cleaning of the bear cage and drain. While it didn't require a lot of brain cells to complete these tasks it definitely took a lot of muscle! So be prepared to be sore head to toe for the first couple days. I recommend soaking your feet in hot water at night and massaging them. This will help with your tired and swollen feet and give you a good night's rest.
"No worries, you will be a true strong woman." This is what one of the bear keepers, Azzry, told me. He is very funny and I marveled at his dedication to his work. He wasn't kidding either, after a week, I felt stronger and looked fitter. So it's not just chopping fruit, feeding the bear, carrying the fruit, cleaning the cage, collecting leaves, creating enrichment for the bear, etc. It's also a great way to get into shape. But don't worry it's not all work and no play, as you get the routine down, you can start to have more fun and be more creative with the food you prepare.
You would start writing the bear’s name on the food; start to decorate the sweet potatoes with long bean seeds. That was not all yet, you will get to ride on our VIP scooter that could fit up to 5 persons that would take you straight from the office to bear house or you could chose to hike 2km into the jungle and look at the beautiful waterfall.
Speaking of fun, have you ever taken a group picture using a camera trap? I have! We noticed some mud on a tree around Pen B and decided to setup a camera trap to see who it was. We had to test the camera first of course, so, picture time!
And Ladies, you don't have to be afraid to let loose. Don't worry about the messy hair and sweaty shirt. Get into the woods, pick up the dirt and feel the wonder of nature first hand. And since the BSBCC takes care of 33 bears total, trust me, you can just be one of the guys.
In the BSBCC, Sun Bears aren't the only animals we take care of. We also have uninvited guests sometimes, the macaques and orangutans. The leader of the macaques is called Shaman King and he always leads his gang to our outdoor enclosure to steal food from our bears! And then you have the orangutans who always come to the bears house and try to steal the food through the gate. A lot of effort is put into deterring these 'little' rascals with the least amount of harm, because as pesky as they may be we still love them and want them to live pain free.
Sometimes on a hot day we made popsicles for the bears using the fruits we had, usually guava and watermelon. We took the fruit and blended them in water and then froze them. People were not encouraged to eat these popsicles of course!
Your creativity will find a home when you volunteer at the BSBCC. You will learn how to sing with a rake in the street. You will get into a bear cage and pretend to be one of the bears! Sometimes you'll climb into a bear hammock and get poop on your jeans just so you can live like a bear!
What is the best thing about being a volunteer at the BSBCC? It is the connection you get to make with the Sun Bears. The first week you learn how the husbandry works for the bears. Then during the second week you go to the observation platform and learn how to educate the visitors about the Sun Bears. You might encounter some funny questions or may find yourself surrounded by macaques and have to keep calm and make sure the visitors are safe. But don't worry you're not alone, the BSBCC has an amazing group of cheerful and helpful staff members that will be with you every step of the way.
Also, you have the unique opportunity of taking close up shots of the Sun Bears. You can't buy moments this valuable with money.
Or if you want some seafood you can try Sim-Sim and while its not the best it's definitely affordable.
And don't forget to check out the Ba Lin rooftop restaurant for some high end cocktails and pastries.
If you're a meat eater though I would recommend you try a stall that's a 10 min drive from the center, there you can get some wild boar meat. You will love it!
Or if you're lucky enough, Brother Wong, who is the best cook I've ever met, will make you a gourmet dinner. I stayed with him during my stint volunteering here and he made some amazing food. Below is one of his noodle dishes.
Of course food is not all you get. You can meet a lot of new friends especially if you stay in one of the nearby resorts. I met these fun gentlemen who were planning to build new facilities in West Malaysia to protect the Sun Bear.
So my friend, how do you feel now after reading my story? Your first thought is probably, "Wow, she wasn't kidding about the taking lots of pictures thing." :-) I want you to know that before coming to the center I was at low point in my life and I am grateful I got to spend time with such an amazing organization.
I may not have the best wildlife or science knowledge or be the strongest in the center but one thing I'm sure of is I'm not alone and I'm learning everyday. "Knowledge becomes wisdom when it becomes personal experience" That is what I got from the BSBCC, and if you volunteered here too, I'm sure you'd agree with me.
Last but not least though, the biggest gift I gained from this experience, is friendship. I hope you decide to share the new adventures of you life with us. If I can do it I believe you can too.
Thank you BSBCC and see you again!
God bless you and KCCO~!
KOTA KINABALU: The Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) situated adjacent to the Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre would be open to visitors from Jan 16.
Sabah Wildlife director Dr Laurentius Ambu said the BSBCC was established to protect and conserve, as well as create awareness among the public on the species that had become endangered as a result of the activities of poachers.
He said the sun bear which is also called honey bear was gazetted as a protected species under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.
The centre located on a 2.5 ha site was set up in 2008 on the initiative of the department with the cooperation of non-governmental organisation, Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP).
“It can accommodate up to 40 sun bears and there are presently 28, aged between one and a half years and 20 years. Seven of them are male,” he told reporters here today.
According to Laurentius, the department was in the process of resettling sun bears that had been surrendered by members of the public who had kept the animals as pets.
Meanwhile, BSBCC founder and CEO Wong Siew Te said the RM6 million centre was expected to be fully completed in May next year.
“Among the main sponsors in its construction were Sime Darby Foundation, Malaysian Tourism and Culture ministry and Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment ministry.
“The estimated annual expenditure to run the centre is RM900,000,” he said.
The Borneo Post, 14th January 2014
KOTA KINABALU: Pusat Pemuliharaan Beruang Madu Borneo (BSBCC) yang terletak bersebelahan Pusat Pemulihan Orang Utan Sepilok di Sandakan akan dibuka kepada pengunjung mulai Khamis ini.
Pengarah Jabatan Hidupan Liar Sabah Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu berkata antara lain orang ramai boleh melihat 28 ekor beruang madu di BSBCC, yang ditubuhkan untuk melindungi, memulihara serta memberi kesedaran dan pengetahuan berhubung hidupan liar itu yang terancam akibat aktiviti pemburu haram.
Katanya Beruang Madu diwartakan sebagai spesies dilindungi di bawah Enakmen Pemuliharaan Hidupan Liar Sabah 1997.
“Pusat ini menempatkan 28 ekor beruang madu, yang diserahkan orang awam, yang kini berumur antara satu tahun setengah hingga 20 tahun. Daripada jumlah itu, tujuh ekor adalah jantan dan bakinya betina,” katanya kepada pemberita di sini, semalam.
BSBCC yang berkeluasan 2.5 hektar, mempunyai beberapa kemudahan termasuk platform untuk memerhati, laluan pejalan kaki, dua rumah beruang, pusat pelawat, pejabat dan pusat informasi beruang madu.
Pada masa ini, BSBCC mampu menampung sehingga 40 ekor beruang dan Jabatan Hidupan Liar Sabah sedang berusaha menempatkan beruang-beruang yang diserahkan orang awam di pusat itu.
BSBCC ditubuhkan pada 2008 hasil kerjasama antara Jabatan Hidupan Liar Sabah, Jabatan Perhutanan Sabah dan pertubuhan bukan kerajaan, Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP).
Program angkat beruang madu dikenakan bayaran RM15,000 seekor setahun untuk sektor korporat dan RM300 seekor sebulan atau RM500 seekor bagi enam bulan untuk sektor awam.
Sementara itu, Pengasas dan Ketua Pegawai Eksekutif BSBCC Wong Siew Te berkata pembinaan pusat itu, yang dijangka siap sepenuhnya pada Mei tahun depan, menelan belanja RM6 juta manakala penyelenggaraannya dianggarkan RM900,000 setahun.
“Antara penyumbang utama bagi pembinaan BSBCC ialah Yayasan Sime Darby, Kementerian Pelancongan dan Kebudayaan Malaysia (MOTAC), Kerajaan Negeri Sabah dan Kementerian Pelancongan, Kebudayaan dan Alam Sekitar Sabah,” katanya.
Menurutnya pusat itu dapat membantu beruang madu yang kian hilang habitatnya dan diancam kepupusan akibat diburu bagi memenuhi permintaan dalam perniagaan perubatan tradisional atau dijadikan haiwan peliharaan.
Aktiviti pemburu haram beruang madu antara punca utama jumlah spesies itu merosot sekurang-kurangnya 30 peratus sejak tiga dekad lepas. — Bernama