Text by Darren Sia Hwei Hung
Photos by Darren Sia Hwei Hung & Seng Yen Wah
To anyone that is reading this 😊
Hi! My name is Darren Sia, a 21-year-old majoring in Environmental Science at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. In 2017, I’ve decided that I want to step out of my comfort zone and go for a small expedition. I was first introduced to BSBCC by Dr. Wong himself when he came over to Kuala Lumpur for a talk. His splendid presentation about his centre and the bears sparked an interest in me about animal conservation, and soon after that, I sent an application to BSBCC as a volunteer in hopes of getting the opportunity to work with these amazing animals.
This being my first time going on a journey alone, it was understandable that I was immensely afraid before leaving for Sabah. Now that I’ve finished my volunteering, I can say boldly say that the one month I’ve spent there has been one of the best time in my life.
If you don’t already know much about BSBCC’s operations, the 4 pillars that they are founded upon are Education, Rehabilitation, Welfare, and Research. As a volunteer, we have been given a lot of opportunities to work closely with the bears. One of the most important aspects of running a conservation centre is animal husbandry, which is taking care of the bears. Considering there are 43 individuals of rescued sun bears located in the centre, it is no easy feat.
Most of my volunteering period was spent here. As soon as I started work, I was introduced to a “buddy”, which is a staff who is permanently attached to the volunteer, who guides the volunteers through everything in the centre. My buddy was a cool guy called Roger. He was really friendly, and would always point out the different wildlife in the forest when we’re out feeding the bears.
Working in the bear house was not as easy as I initially thought. Our responsibilities include cleaning bear cages, preparing food, feeding the bears and bear enrichment. All the tasks were very physically challenging, and I would always end up exhausted at the end of the day after work. All of this was worth it, knowing that you’re making a big difference for the bears. Let’s talk about the bears, shall we?
Sun bears really are such a blast to work with. Every single bear behaves differently! Recognizing each and every single individual bear, learning their behaviours and patterns was one of the parts of the job. And how can I tell my story without introducing my favourite bear?
There she is. This lovely bear goes by the name of Simone. Simone can always be seen sitting on her water bowl, and her adorable look instantly made me fall in love with her.
I am also blessed to have the opportunity to be able to work with the education team on the visitor’s platform. It truly is a magical experience being on the platform, meeting people from all around the world, sharing my information and educating them on the various threats faced by the sun bear. The tourists can easily see these otherwise elusive animals in their natural habitat foraging for food and climbing trees. Knowing that they’ve learned something new and thoroughly enjoyed their visit at the centre is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world.
What made my experience truly amazing was the people there. I was extremely nervous as I had to meet new people and make friends (I’m bad at making friends), but everyone I met was extremely helpful and friendly. I felt like I was instantly added to their sun bear family. Special thanks to all the members of Bjorn Hala. Yen Wah, Andy, Mizuno and Rebecca, you guys made me feel like I belong there, and I love all of you <3 And how can I forget Li Shuen, my good ol’ pal. I am so happy that you were able to accompany me for this volunteering trip. And thank you so much for always being my chef :P
And last but not least, how can I forget Dr. Wong himself. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t even have this experience in the first place. I cannot express how grateful I am, and what a privilege it was working for you. You always manage to find time to interact with your volunteers, even though you’re always having a busy schedule. I really appreciated all the Q&A sessions that you organized, the insights and experience that you shared with us will always be remembered.
I learned a whole lot during my volunteering period. Being here made me realize how much threat the sun bears are facing in this current day and age, but it is not easy to try and revert that. You will not only need a visionary leader, but also a team of passionate people to make everything work. Luckily, BSBCC is currently blessed with both 😊
If you’re reading this and thinking about volunteering, what are you waiting for?! Drop BSBCC an email right now! I can assure you that you would get an experience of a lifetime doing so. I think this is where I shall end my story. If you’re still here, thank you so much for reading. This is Darren signing out.