Text by Sara Boberg
Photos by Sumira Muis
My name is Sara, I am 19 years old and from Stockholm, Sweden. I am in my final year studying animal care and I got the opportunity to come to Borneo and volunteer at BSBCC through my school as an internship/scholarship for five weeks. It is definitely a decision I don’t regret! This experience has been one of the most challenging things I have ever done, but also one of the best. The warm weather and humidity is not easy to handle for a Swede and combined with the work is sometimes hard. But knowing that I get to help the bears and take care of them makes it all worth it and after a while, you get used to constantly being sweaty and red in the face.
The work every day is usually very similar due to the set daily routines. We either work in the bear house or in the kitchen, which means cleaning cages or preparing food for the bears. Other than that, we feed the bears inside and outside, make enrichments for them or other activities such as collecting banana leaves for the bears. The enrichments consist of hiding fruit in leaves or fire hose with peanut butter or honey. This is good for the bears because they have to use their nose and try to find the food, encouraging their natural behaviour. This will help them learn to find food in the wild. We usually make enrichment every day in order to stimulate the bears and keep them entertained.
It is so much fun to watch the bears play with their enrichment and you can tell they appreciate it, which makes the work really rewarding. I have fallen in love with sun bears, even though I didn’t even know they existed before I came here. They are such incredible animals, they’re so playful, intelligent, and adorable. Have you ever seen a sun bear eat a coconut? It is the cutest thing you will ever see in your life. After a few weeks, I had learned their names and their different personalities and I feel like I have really gotten to know the bears. It is so tragic that the reason why there aren’t a lot of sun bears left in the wild is because of us humans.
I am really impressed with the staff working at BSBCC, their dedication and everything that they do to help the sun bears. They really want what’s best for the bears and do everything they can to rehabilitate them and take care of them in the best way possible. Everyone is extremely friendly and helpful and they make work so much more fun. Right from the start we were welcomed into their team and it has been great getting to know everyone. They were always considerate when we weren’t used to the heat and needed breaks sometimes and they taught us everything we needed to know about the bear house and the bears, which was really nice. The staff and the bears are definitely what I will miss the most about Borneo, and I will be so sad to leave everyone.
Even though it has been tough from time to time, with the heat, the hard work and when I had the flu for a week, it has been the most amazing time and it was so worth it. The ups and downs and all I have experienced here have made me grow as a person and I know that I can handle more than I think. During my five weeks here, I have learned so much about animal rehabilition, this country with its culture and people and the importance of hard work. I am super grateful to my school for sending me here and to BSBCC for doing an amazing job for the sun bears!
I will miss everyone so incredibly much and I hope I can come back and visit soon! :)