Text by Celeste Kara Lequigan Chalk
Photos by Celeste Kara Lequigan Chalk & Chiew Lin May
Hellllo, my name is Celeste Kara Lequigan Chalk and I was fortunate enough to spend two magical weeks at the BSBCC from the 6th of June to the 17th of June this year, 2019. I consider the title to be a summary of my experience. I signed up for this programme on a whim and without any previous experience with animals, let alone such incredible animals like the sun bears! My time here has been so surprising in the best way- I was prepared for the sun bears and my love for them, but I was not prepared for the love I felt instantly for the BSBCC team. As cheesy as it sounds; it’s not just the sun bears, the staff at the BSBCC and the APE team radiate a warmth and sunshine that reflects the animals they work tirelessly for everyday- it’s contagious!
I made an effort to speak to as many of the staff as I could and I never felt unwelcome or uncomfortable- on the contrary, from the first day I immediately felt an ease about this new environment that I was diving head first into. Without fail, every staff member that I had the pleasure of speaking with- either directly or indirectly- exuded a glowing passion for their work, the bears and the cause. It was truly inspiring- I’m leaving the team and this beautiful place in the world more informed and excited to spread the word! Save the sunbears! Be a thoughtful and selfless person on this planet.
My favourite quote is: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is ever going to get better, it’s not”- and the whole team at BSBCC and APE couldn’t embody this value any better if they tried.
I had the ever patient and curious Brandon for a buddy- his kindness and smile was such a reassuring familiarity to have everyday and I appreciated his guidance and willingness to teach us. Then there were Mark and Sumira- our incredible program coordinators who were there everyday as a friend and support when we needed it, filled with boundless knowledge to share and stories to laugh over. There are FAR too many staff to call out by name as all of them filled my heart with joy! There was an array of tasks that we had the great fortune of carrying out, like; creating enrichment, observing the bears, preparing the food and even cleaning the cages! All of the tasks and every moment was devoted to one sole focus- the sun bears! What a pleasure it was to be surrounded by such like minded people with a common goal and passion for this!
I was fortunate enough to spend these two wonderful weeks with Priya, my knowledgeable roommate who was always so generous with her wisdom of the animals! Together, we got to experience and assist in not one, not two, BUT THREE vet checks! Wow, how lucky are we!? It was an incredible experience and Dr Boon was so patient and willing to explain exactly what we were doing and why- even to a Psychology student like myself! It was amazing watching her teach the other staff and build up their confidence in carrying out those duties with the bears.
I was expecting to be sad writing this but instead I’m only overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude for the experience and memories. I’m leaving with a full heart- and a full stomach. As Winnie the Pooh said (a secret Sunbear according to Thye Lim): “how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”. It’s not geoodbye, it’s jumpa lagi!