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.
Text by Koh Jieh Long
Photos by Mohd Nur Adneen Bin Anuar & Seng Yen Wah
I paid for the ticket, passed through the gallery, walked up a flight of stairs, was greeted by a member of staff before I saw the sun bears in their forest enclosure; everything made me feel welcomed on my first visit to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). I took photos of the sun bears eating their “third feeding” of the day, while Max, from the ticketing staff, set up a spotting scope that’s pointed directly at one of the sun bears’ favourite treats in the wild – “sarang kelulut” or stingless bee’s nest. I felt drawn to this place, even before the entrance to the BSBCC – on the wooden walkway leading to the ticket counter/shop, birds were singing, orangutans making nests, Prevost’s squirrels chasing one another… What if I could volunteer here?
I knew BSBCC has a volunteer program; I had been wanting to experience it for a long time. This is an internationally recognised sun bear rehab facility that is established enough to allow tourists to visit; a non-governmental wildlife sanctuary capable of self sustainment without compromising the welfare of their captive animals. On top of that, it has released multiple sun bears to the wilderness of the Tabin Wildlife Reserve which is truly a rare case in Malaysia. Naturally, I am curious of how they make it this far and still standing amidst the Covid pandemic?
I walked through the gallery to knock on the door to the BSBCC office. I asked the person answering the door: “can I talk to someone about your volunteer program?”. I was told to wait and after a few minutes, a familiar face showed up; it’s the same face I have been seeing on social media and online webinars, with the name that I have been hearing from the other wildlife conservationists. Dr.Wong and I chatted for a bit – after I pulled back my hand that was meant for an awkward handshake but got rejected (because Covid).
Not long after, I found myself cleaning cages in the bear house, and preparing meals and enrichments for Julaini, Romolina, Simone, Kudat, Along, Dodop, Ronnie Boy…I soon found out that Dr.Wong is very passionate and will always carve out his time and space to talk to people about nature, about sun bears, wildlife conservation, life…, and not sure if it’s just with me – about whether I have a girlfriend (x 5). I liked talking to him, and I’m sure many young people would agree feeling inspired after a conversation. My respect for Dr.Wong grew after finishing “Saving Sun Bears” – Dr.Wong’s biography authored by Sarah Pye. The book develops the innocent childhood of little Wong who just liked animals, to a rough, thankless journey in wildlife conservation where people like Dr.Wong have to do A LOT of “balancing” in decision making, especially when you are in the position of a CEO or the director of an organisation.
When Dr.Boon designs the sun bears’ daily food intake and dietary supplements, she’s trying to achieve balance between BSBCC’s budget and 45 sun bears’ nutritional needs; when Yen Wah walks baby Luna in the bushes, she’s seeking balance between Luna’s safety and wild instincts; when Pradeep plans feeding time and location, he’s balancing sun bear welfare and visibility for the tourists; and when Mizuno prepares his team to retrieve GPS collars dropped by the released sun bears in the deep forest of Tabin, he makes sure he knows the strengths and weaknesses of his team members.
When Dr.Wong makes decisions though, I can only imagine it must be similar to how the Chinese acrobat balances ten spinning plates at the end of each long stick while someone else does a headstand on top of his head. “Things will never be perfect, and we need to accept that”, I have learnt. We don’t always get our way. I just need to practice being grateful for the things that I have, starting by thanking BSBCC for the opportunity to learn.
In cage 7, Nano is sleeping on a tyre swing that’s about 2/3 his size. Other bears that have played with the tyre swing struggled to keep their balance; they would eventually get off the swing by climbing on to the ceiling mesh where the ropes of the swing are attached. Nano found his balance on that swing, and so he gets to enjoy resting comfortably at some height away from the cement floor of his cage; the same way sun bears find their balance in a tree, where they construct their nests and rest. Trees sway in the wind, balance points shift, how do we keep the balance and rest in comfort?
Now back to my own balance in life.
Koh Jieh Long
Not gonna have a girlfriend.
Day 177: Give Betung the best of everything to speed her recovery.
Wow looks how Little Betung has grown! She had made great progress in the forest and learns the essential skills needed to survive in the wild. To her, freedom means to able to do whatever she want, explore, climbing favourite trees, forage for food and be herself! She loves this adventure.
It will be a long road to recovery. This illegal pet trade - unable to express natural behaviours, left the bears traumatized and alone. There is always a reason for HOPE. Now she is safe and lives a second chance at a happy life, thanks to people like you!
Sun bears belong in the wild and should never be kept as pets! You can show your care by adopting Little Betung here:
Beautiful transformation, is not it? ❤️
Please share Little Betung's story!
Siesta in life!
May your days be filled with laughter always!
"This is the kind of place we would love to spend most of our time here where we can explore, foraging, climbing favourite trees, resting, and play fight with bear pals! Please help protect our habitat!" - The smiling bear, Fulung!
Day 169: Pill millipede! How yummy does this look?
Did you know – Sun bears are the smallest members of the bear family. Sun bears are opportunistic omnivores which means they eat a variety of fruits, plants, figs, insects, and even honey! Sourcing wild forest food is important so the rescued sun bears can become accustomed to a variety of food sources that they can forage in the forest.
Little Betung is curious and wondered how pill millipede taste like?
“It definitely was a perfectly cozy day for my Tuesday sunbathe time!” ❤️
The warm weather makes Kipaku ready to take a nap in the forest.
There are many who still want to destroy their forest for their own greed.Please take a stand to protect the remaining rainforest!
Follow the link to learn more about sun bears and our work here: https://www.bsbcc.org.my
Day 166: A guardian of this little bear!
She is one of the survivors of the illegal house pet whom lost her mother since in young age. Sun bear cubs remain dependent on their mother for 2 to 3 years. She was weak and vulnerable and in desperate need of our help. After 5 months of the rehabilitation process, Little Betung is fulfilled in the forest home! She enjoys learning the life in the forest - enjoyment of lives with many small pleasures!
Slowly, she realized that nothing bad was going to happen to her anymore. She is now a happy, well-adjusted bear cub.
She requires lifelong care and deserves a future that will be a bright one. To make her dream a reality –buy a special gift (nutritious food, health care, enrichment treats & love). Please be a guardian of this little Betung! You are made a world of difference for her!
To buy a GIFT - https://www.bsbcc.org.my/gifts-with-meaning.html
Dodop was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department in 2nd June 2016, where she was found kept as a house pet in Singgaron villager, Ranau district. Demand from the wildlife trade leads to sun bears being illegally stolen from the wild to become pets, attractions in zoos or used in traditional Asian medicine.
Having been kept long in captivity and habituated to people, she has lost the natural instinct to survive in the wild. Fortunately, with the help and care from our team, Dodop has finally learned what it is like to be a wild sun bear. She loves hanging out on the tree! Please share her story!
End the Illegal Pet Trade!
Illegal trade is one of the biggest threats to the sun bear’s survival. Our rescued sun bears were a victim of the illegal wildlife trade before someone came to their aid. The rehabilitation process helps to restore the sun bears’ natural behaviour and preparing for their lives in the wild can be a long process. After being rescued, they start to re-learn skills with the help of their bear friends. Such as foraging for food, climbing, and avoid strangers which their mother will teach them when they were young.
Keeping sun bear as pets is illegal and it could make the bears lose their instincts for living in the wild. Please return back to where they belong. Each of us must make a difference!
If you see suspicious activity, be sure to REPORT illegal trade in bear parts to:
# Jabatan PERHILITAN Semenanjung Malaysia: 1-800-88-5151
# Sabah Wildlife Department: 088-254767
#Sarawak Forestry Corporation: +60168565564
# Wildlife Crime Hotline | Hotline Hidupan Liar | 野生物罪案热线 : +60 19 356 4194
Morning dip, anyone?
Little Kipaku enjoying a dip on a sunny day. He always will stop by and take a dip in his chilly stream.
"Despite the many important functions that sun bears serve, their long term survival in the wild depends on the continuous existence of natural forests” –Dr Wong Siew Te
Sun bears play a vital role in maintaining the forest ecosystem – fruit seeds dispersal, nutrient cycling, and termite pest control. But their forests are under threat from illegal logging and the expansion of palm oil plantations. We need to act fast before this magnificent wildlife disappears from our planet. Let’s protect our forests so we can save their life and ecosystem.
Adopt Little Kipaku 💚
Find us: Website: https://www.bsbcc.org.my/
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