Text by Chantal Jeffrey
Photos by Seng Yen Wah
My name is Chantal Jeffrey and I study a bachelor of animal ecology at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia for which I completed two weeks of volunteer work at the BSBCC. Now, I won’t lie, it was tiring, hot work but let me tell you why it was so fulfilling and worthwhile.
Starting at the centre, I was welcomed by extremely lovely staff whose politeness and contagious happiness instantly struck me. All of the bear keepers, workers and other volunteers were informative, happy to help and answer all questions which benefited my learning experience. They were encouraging, bubbly and always smiling which really made me feel part of the BSBCC family.
I was shown the hard work and skills it takes to be a bear keeper and the immense dedication I witnessed, by all staff, to caring for the sun bears was truly inspirational.
Daily jobs included food preparation and feeding for both indoor enclosures and forest pens, enclosure maintenance and cleaning as well as creating enrichment for the bears. I took part in making several different types of enrichment such as nest balls, stick paradox and ‘proposal day’, which all had the same concept; hiding peanut butter and/or honey within leaves or sticks so the bears needed to rip it open to get to their treat. Other enrichment included placing food around and on top of the enclosures to encourage the bears to climb, providing them with termite nests and placing logs and branches in enclosures for them to rip into. It was rewarding and an absolute joy watching the bears’ reactions and seeing them enjoy their enrichment.
Whilst completing these jobs, I got to know some of the bears. They all have different personalities and characteristics, from the cheeky cubs ‘Nano’ and ‘Noah’ to the quiet ‘Kuamut’. All were beautiful and unique and working so closely with them was unreal.
As well as aiding in the animal welfare side of things, I was also sent to work on the viewing platforms. There, I communicated with tourists, introducing them to bears, educating them about sun bear morphology and ecology and ultimately, promoting awareness of the importance of their conservation. It was very satisfying, knowing that I was helping to spread the word about this incredible and beautiful species.
Working for the sun bears at the BSBCC was absolutely amazing and so rewarding. Despite only being two weeks, it was a truly unforgettable experience that left me with countless memories and I would go back and do it all again without hesitation.