Text by Leonardo Jainih
Photos by Leonardo Jainih and BSBC
Hey, my name is Leonardo Jainih and I am now 22 years old. I am here as an internship student from University Malaysia Sabah. First and foremost, I am truly grateful as i was accepted to work and gain knowledges at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). This is a life time opportunity where not anyone can just come and work here. I never regretted that I choose BSBCC to finish my three months internship and this centre is highly recomended to all animal lover out there. So, this unforgettable experience start with fetch by my supervisor, Mr. Tee Thye Lim at the airport and slowly introduced to BSBCC’s founder, Mr. Wong Siew Te and other staffs. After I was explained clearly about the rules and regulations of BSBCC, me and other internship students were brought to explore the surrounding areas of BSBCC from visitors centre to outside perimeter of forest enclosure. Finally, the end of day, we arrived at the Center’s volunteer house called Bjorn Hala.
Next day, we started working at 8 o’clock in the morning and we were having our induction with the bear keeper, Mr. Roger about the rules and routines at the bear house. Bear house is divided into two areas which are first and second bear house. Every single bear has their own name and usually they got the name either from their previous owner or where the bear was found. At the same time, bear keeper taught us how to clean their cages.
One of the most interesting and fun thing during cleaning the cages is that you are get the chance to observe yourself in a closer distance their behaviour in the den which is pretty cool. For example, cute little Mary will cling onto the cage waiting patiently for us to feed her, Mamatai the lowered bear struggling to reach her food on top of her cage, Fulung always standing with his two hind leg and Damai whom love to climb her favourite tree whenever she got the chance to be in forest enclosure. On the other hand, you will also continously watched and observed by the bear next to the cage that you were cleaning. They will curiously keep on watching you with the innocent look on their face doing the cleaning but some will just ignored you and continue playing their enrichments.
Working in bear house was never a waste of time as they are so many thing to do other than cleaning cages. For instance, in the morning, preparing food such as plain porridges and fruits for the bear was one of the top prioities as the cleanlinnes in kitchen has to be maintained. Moreover, making enrichments for the bear also ways to minimize stress and abnormal behaviour such as continous pacing. Enrichments includes dried leaves, bamboo feeder, nest balls, wood swing, fire hose hammock and more.
Moreover, I was also assigned to become intepreter at the observation platform where I get to talk and explain to the visitors about our centre and the bears. This assignment given actually helps to improve our communication skills and public speaking too. This is where we get to deliver knowledges that we have learned at Centre confidently and get our facts right to the visitors.
Another routine that I enjoy very much is outdoor feeding where we will usually follow our senior bear keeper, Mr. David to come along with him to feed the bears at the Pen A, B, C, D, F and K with fruits such as papaya, watermelon and banana. Along the way, we scattered the fruits inside the forest enclosures to allow the bears to use their sense of smell to search for the fruits. Here we get to see the bears’s eating behaviour where they will not eat the green part/outer layer of watermelon, didn’t eat the banana peel or the skin on any other fruit. Some are willing to climb all the way down to get their foods as they don’t want to miss their food and stolen by other bears or macaques.
There is one week that we were all so busy as medical check up was conducted to 5 different bears. We were helped by the Wildlife Rescue Unit and an expert veterinarian, Dr. Sandy during the health check. One of them is Linggam, an adult male sun bear which is currently the heaviest bear among all of our rescued bear with 61kg. I was given an opportunity to take part in his health check and went to clinic at Mile 8, Sandakan for his x-ray appointment.
BSBCC was welcomed to set up an education booth display for an event organized by the Sabah State Computer Service Department at the Sabah Hotel, Sandakan. This event was launched by Y.B Tuan Charles Pang Su Pin, ADUN N44 Karamunting. I was asked to join this education booth to educate the participants and spread the word to them more about sun bears the smallest bear in the world.
Last but not least, my warmest regards goes out to all the staff in BSBCC who have been helpful and supportive in many ways. Every single of you has brought many laughter and put a smile on my face everyday which indirectly lessen my burden and hardship as well as standing by me through thick and thin. Every minutes spent together is special and will be cherished.
My hope is that one day they will confidently walked out and be ready for the wild forest but this is not an easy task. It really requires a huge amount of resources if it is to be done successfully. Therefore, it is very important to help them to remember how to be bears again so that they can survived in the wild without our help.