Text by Alicia Paula
Photos by Chiew Lin May
This is my third time in a row for the past 3 years of volunteering in BSBCC, things are ever-changing, and I am experiencing a lot of new things. One of the new things is the new Platform 2. In 2018, heavy rain and strong wind blew down few big trees and Platform 2 was severely damaged by the fallen trees. When I came back this year and went to BSBCC for the safety induction, I instantly went up to the new Platform 2 to check it out, and it looked pretty good! The other new thing that I noticed, are the number of new staffs that have joined the BSBCC family. Having more bear-keepers certainly helps especially in Bear House 1, outside feeding and kitchen tasks. Talking about tasks, the new bear diet and the list of food distribution among 15 pens, definitely made me take a few steps back…LITERALLY! The ‘Food Quantity’ table is huge, with four feedings in total. Their diets are categorized into fruits, leafy vegetables, starchy vegetables and others (dog biscuit). The food distribution now is more detailed and more complex than before, all differently accommodating to the bear’s nutritional needs. Amaco and Wan-Wan have their own tray of soft foods, only a handful of bears gets porridge and some of them gets cooked chicken, while the rest of the bears get fruits, veggies, and sprouted mung bean. The task to distribute the fruits into 15 buckets is quite confusing at first, but with the help of my buddy, Mizuno, I managed to get a hang of it in just a couple of days. Making and distributing enrichments such as ice block, roll-treat, and egg carton are always a getaway to have a chit-chat with the staffs and volunteers together.
Me and my buddy Mizuno, also made an enrichment for Panda and Chin to play with. We made an enrichment called ‘Rolling Log’, by propping up two inverted ‘V’s and shoving a long metal bar through the log. Placing the log with the metal bar onto the inverted ‘V’, to make it turn when it is clawed and rolled by the bears. Me and Mizuno smeared some peanut butter onto the log, so the bears could use their strong long claws to roll the log. Surprisingly, both bears completely demolished the log off the metal bar in less than 3 days. I figured it’s because the trunk of the log was wet through and could easily fall apart.
Other than duties in the bear house, I was given the chance to participate in bear health checks along with Dr. Boon, Lin May, and Pradeep. It was my first time assisting in the health check, so I took my time to observe the procedures to carry out the health check. I was first assigned with taking and writing down the temperature of the bear every five minutes and was told to notify them when the temperature has any drastic changes. Lin May wanted me to learn how to use the stethoscope to count the bear’s heartbeat. It was really hard to find the heartbeat’s rhythm, and I gave up after some time. Pradeep and Lin May assured me that it is challenging to pinpoint the bear’s heartbeat, in a room filled with beeping sounds and the sounds of the small polishing machine on the bear’s tooth. After that, I returned the stethoscope to Pradeep, and continued to take temperature from the bear.
I also got the chance to join Dr. Boon, to assist her in neutering some cats and dogs in SPCA Sandakan. I joined her twice, first time is with Dr. Boon and Andy, second time was with Nithisha. We mainly helped her with passing the tools and preparing medications, while she did the neutering surgery on the cats and dogs. Observing the procedure was definitely not for the weak stomach. After injecting the anaesthetics, some of the cats threw up. The neutering also involved stitching, and being very generous with the alcohol solution as a disinfectant.
Another thing that I noticed, is when all the BSBCC staffs brought their own food container to eat for lunch. On my first day of volunteering, I had to go and grab lunch at the cafeteria because I did not prepare any food for lunch to be kept in my container. On the next day, I slowly started to make a commitment to cook for lunch, its either I cook the night before or wake up early the next day to prepare it early in the morning. Me not being a morning person, I prepared my lunch the night before. Another method of packing lunch is when eating out for dinner. Every time Thye Lim and Lin May went out for dinner together with the Bjorn Hala family, they would always bring a basket with their food containers inside. When ordering, they would also order food for lunch to be eaten the next day, and they would also ask the hawker to pack the food into the container, instead of using plastic or styrofoam container. Other staffs also brought their own container to pack their lunch, whenever they feel a little lazy to cook it. After seeing that, I got inspired of how they are contributing their efforts to reducing plastic waste in everyday doings. The next dinner that we had together, I brought my own container as well. Knowing that my lunch from the restaurant is not plastic or styrofoam packaged, made me feel really good. Even though my actions are small, it is better than no contribution at all.
~ Self-reflection ~
Coming back to BSBCC to volunteer for the third time, allows me to comeback to myself after a year of continuing my studies. I am a person that really loves outdoor adventures and always having craving to enjoy what the Earth provides. Having my hands and eyes on my laptop and my phone for most of the time, is really straining to the eyes and not really a good way to replace free time with electronics.
Volunteering in BSBCC does not only gets me distracted from my phone, but also helped me to build some muscle strength and stay in shape. I could carry a bag of sweet potato in each hand, carrying it up from outside the bear house and walking all the way up to the kitchen, without dropping or dragging the bag on the floor. Volunteering in BSBCC also teaches me about not being afraid with our common invertebrate visitors, such as the Pill-millipede and the Tractor-millipede. With some help, I managed to gain confidence to let these cute and harmless invertebrates to crawl onto my hand. It definitely tickles at first, but soon got used to it.
Along with the friendly and easy-going staffs of BSBCC, really made the experience more worthwhile. Random laughing moments everywhere I go, even at the simplest things. The day never goes by without something to talk or to laugh about. For some examples, Kala is still being sensitive and does not want to return into her night den, one of the staff found a blood python near Quarantine area, young macaques managed to come into the bear house and stole a lot of dog biscuits, a free-roaming Orangutan chilling on top of the training pens of Bear House 2, and many more. What is there to regret when gaining volunteering experience in BSBCC, nothing!
Video by Chiew Lin May
Music I am Happy by AShamaluevMusic
The best things in life are FREEDOM
Smile, Hug, Friends and Love
Text by Nithisha Nair
Photos by Nithisha Nair & Chiew Lin May
After only a week after my internship, I decided it wouldn’t be the last time I’ll be in BSBCC, I got my money saved and bought my tickets almost immediately, and once finals were over, thus began my two weeks volunteering in BSBCC.
I’m Nithisha, a 20-year-old from Selangor, and I am obsessed with this place.
I’m not exaggerating when I say this environment feels a lot like ‘home away from home’, I’ve missed all the familiar faces, whether it be the staff, the bears or even the dogs back in Bjorn Hala. Even more so now with the addition of new friendly faces like Bithrenley and Danny.
As an intern, the schedules and procedures- especially for feeding, were systematically always changing over the period of my internship. So, coming back after over 4 months, there were plenty of obvious changes for me to catch up to.
It’s always interesting coming to understand why the diet is shaped a certain way or why they do certain things around here. This time around, the bear house team even got the chance to sit through a dental lecture with Dr. Boon to understand the dental checks that she carries out on the bears, and hopefully will be able to carry out on the bears annually. It was really fun understanding and counting up the canines and the molars of the bears.
My favourite part of our bear house duties has always been feeding, I love seeing every bear’s different ways of foraging and eating.
Not to mention all of the enrichments we make on the daily to occupy and keep our bears happy, new enrichments that I got to make this time included the happy sack and a ‘frozen salad’ ice block
I even got to assist in making a divider between two training pens to allow two male bears to be able to venture out at the same time without engaging in a growling match. Making the divider involved cutting zinc into perfectly sized measurements, painting them and attaching them in between two training pens.
During my volunteering, I received the pleasure of getting Boboi (Jeniur Justin) as my buddy, he’s a pleasure to be around and will never leave you in any state but happy. Thank you for guiding me and letting me tag along these two weeks boboi, your efforts goes a long way of imprinting itself in my memories.
To summarize my two weeks volunteering, it was wonderful. I even got to know Alicia and Amanda who were both also return volunteer/ interns just like me! Every single staff played a huge role in making my stay special and memorable, I don’t always admit it but they are who I’ll miss the most leaving this place. A million thank you’s and a million more wouldn’t be enough to describe how thankful I have to have gotten a chance to do my internship here and now volunteer here.
When the time and place is right, I truly hope to be able to come back and volunteer again someday, till then,
Video by Chiew Lin May
Logan is getting very curious about the wild world around him. He found an Asian box turtle carcass and took great joy in ripping open it. He loving every minute of it!
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by BSBCC & Chiew Lin May
I was still an infant when I arrived at the local mini zoo in 2008. I was found in Tawau district of Sabah and was later sent to Kudat district, in the northern part of Sabah.
My friend and I were displayed in a mini zoo as panda bears, but instead we are Bornean Sun Bears.
The reason behind this was to attract visitors or inexperienced animal managers, who apparently did not have the knowledge or skills to care for the animals that they received, which could be why we were mistaken as species we are not.
We were fed with chicken daily which led us to have bigger body sizes compared to other sun bears our age.
My suffering ended when I was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on the 6th of July 2010, and was brought to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) on the 10th of July, 2010.
During the arrival, no external wounds were found on me, except my friend, Kudat showed his fur coat had multiple alopecic patches. We were both placed into Quarantine.
On the 8th of August 2010, after I completed my 30 day quarantine period, I was growing well and I was then a ten year old, adult female sun bear.
I have beautiful mauve-coloured eyes. I started to enjoy the delights on offer in this new environment.
Rescued sun bears at BSBCC are given a second chance to live freely in the BSBCC forest - free to explore, forage, climb and play as wild sun bears.
On the 20th of December 2013, I was undergoing fence training, which is one of the BSBCC’s rehabilitation processes that is before the bears can go out to the forest enclosure.
This stage is very important because the BSBCC forest enclosures are surrounded by electric fences that prevent the bears from escaping. However, up until now this fence training had not worked with me due to the fact that I still bared the scars from years of trauma after being locked up in a cage for entertainment purposes.
The bear care staff never gave up on me by trying to introduce me with new bear friends (Natalie, Ah Lun, Julaini and Rungus), to help improve my social and survival skills, and gain trust towards these rehabilitation processes.
It would take time for me to learn to trust the outside forest world.
On May 20th 2014, I had a traumatic injury on the rostral area due to an aggressive bite from a male, adult bear in the neighbouring cage.
Thank you to Veterinarian, Dr. Laura who helped me by reconstructing suture of the tissue on my rostral area. The bear staff kept a close watch on me and took care of my diet. Slowly, my snout improved.
On the 1st of July 2015, I was moved to another cage near Amaco (the oldest bear). I loved having these new dens to explore. I loved splashing in the water and taking lots of baths in the dens.
BSBCC provide the best care for all the rescued sun bears in our Centre, different enrichment activities are given by bear care staff in order to stimulate our natural behaviour and keep us occupied.
I am a big foodie and enjoy the bear’s main diet of fruit, coconut and HONEY!
I am very inquisitive and am always quick to come whenever there are YUMMY treats. There are different types of climbing structures and I take great joy in climbing them. I love the opportunity to play with a number of toys. I will figure out a toy by tapping on them with my superb sharp-curved, long claws and by checking them carefully. We love volunteers designing comfy bed for us!! It brightens our day!
My best friend is Amaco who is a male bear. The integration has really enriched my life.
Most important is that I am the first play pal for him. I am very sweet towards him so we love playing together. We are playing and wrestling non-stop. We share a very close bond and can be seen hanging out together.
However, I am sorry that I do not get along well with Chin, as sometimes she will get feisty if I wrestle with her which will end up in small brawls during play fights.
This year something has changed my life! With the help from our lovely volunteer, Khairunnisa Faisal and keeper, Adrian. Here I started to put my past behind me and recover from my traumatic years in captivity. A huge smile crossed my face as I received the life that I deserve!! I was finally brave enough to take my first step out to the forest after five years of training. I love to explore the grassy forest enclosure, forage for my favourite termites and rest in the hammock. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to try learning as a wild bear!
BSBCC are delighted I have been able to let go of the previous trauma in my life.
I have overcome my fear and feel completely at home! Sun bears are classified as a Totally Protected Species under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment, 1997. Please STOP keeping sun bears as pets! We DO NOT belong inside cages. Years of being kept as illegal pets have left many of us suffering from long term disabilities and physiological trauma. It requires considerable time and expense to restore the wild behaviour to us that have been victims of the illegal wildlife pet trade. If you care about us, you would not want to be left out of the fight for our survival. Please be our voice!
Video by Chiew Lin May
Kala was rescued from the illegal wildlife trade as a cub, she was found emaciated, dehydrated and forget the skills she needs as a wild bear.
After four years undergoes rehabilitation in BSBCC, Kala is now a healthy and sweet-nature bear who loves her freedom in the forest!
Video by Chiew Lin May
The rainy season is slowly starting up in Sepliok, Sabah.
Sun bear Logan and Romolina enjoy a small break in the rain.
Video by Chiew Lin May
"Basking in the sun was all I could think about!"-Mary the sun bear
Photos by APE Malaysia
Curious. Explore. Love. Brighten their day!
Hammock Amok Project in Hanoi Wildlife Rescue Center, Hanoi, Vietnam!
Enrichment improves the quality of life of animals in captivity, by promoting natural behaviours and instincts. There was also great progress made with this Hammock Amok Project. Together with APE Malaysia and Air Asia Foundation, they work tirelessly to provide the most stimulating enrichment for the animal’s well-being and provide the best care. Needless to say, the animals are very thankful for their special treat!
Million thanks to APE Malaysia for giving BSBCC this opportunity to join this Hammock Amok Project. It was a fantastic experience!
Video by Chiew Lin May
What was the highlight of your weekend?
"I think mine was foraging the bird's nest fern!" - Little Romolina