The Better Along and Simone

Date: May 29th 2016

Text by Seng Yen Wah
Photos by Chiew Lin May

Along, a 6 year old male bear and Simone, an 8 year old female bear, are the newest arrivals at BSBCC. Both of them were kept in a Mini Zoo and Hot Springs in Tawau. In the January of 2016, they were surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department and were quarantined at Lok Kawi Zoo, Kota Kinabalu.

I’m Along.

Hi, My name is Simone.

Along and Simone arrived on the same day. Along the journey, the hot weather and long hours meant they had gone through a lot in a same day. When Along first arrived at BSBCC, he was pacing aggressively inside the cage and kept barking at people, especially when they went close to him. Compared to Along, Simone was much calmer. Bear keepers used a lot of effort to move them to our cages. Now BSBCC is their new home.

I love my new home!!

In the very first week, the bear house was still a very new and strange place for them. Most of the time they stayed on the basket. They were very alert, especially Along. When people got close to Along, he would give them a warning bark and showed aggressiveness. Simone adapted faster than Along in this new environment. She likes to explore the enrichment. Before they were here, bear keepers prepared enrichment for them such as dry leaves and decayed wood. Simone shows a lot of curiosity and interest in the enrichment.

I love the smell of dried leaves.

My enrichment, dead wood.

All this enrichment is mine. Thanks Bear Keeper.

Besides that, they had no appetite in the beginning. This may be because we serve foods which are different than what they usually have and they were still very alert with the environment. Hence, we started to introduce different foods to them like nicely cut papaya, watermelon and so on. Lastly, we found out that both of them like to drink oats with milk. When we brought them the tray, they climbed down from the basket and waited for you and it’s their favourite food as well. Besides that, Simone loves honey. Conversely, Along likes coconut. Along likes to spend his time opening the coconut. When he swapped cage with Simone, he ate Simone’s coconut too. Simone did not mind her coconut being eaten by Along.

Oh, my coconut is here. I got a little bit busy with my coconut.

Now they have a good appetite. Along appears less aggressive. He spends more time exploring the environment through staying on the ground with dry leaves and dead woods. Simone spends most of her time on the enrichment. Besides this, she enjoys resting on the basket or sitting on the water container too. Now they are better, Along and Simone are staying happily in BSBCC.

Bamboo leaves smells good!

Oh Oh, why all my bamboo leaves gone?

Never Give Up for Little Wawa

Date: May 26th 2016

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

Do you remember the story of the motherless bear cub which was found by a ranger in Forest Management Unit (FMU) 16, Pinangah, Telupid District? Our little Wawa is not so little anymore. Sun bear cubs grow very fast, especially when they are 4 to 10 months old. She is now 6 months old and her body weighs 11.90 kg. She has started to learn to eat solid food. Her favourite foods are soft fruits like papaya, banana and milk!

It is one month until little Wawa finishes her quarantine period. She should be brought out to the forest to learn all the survival forest skills that she needs. Due to the emotional trauma that resulted from being kept as a pet or the suffering from losing her mother, Wawa does not want to step out from quarantine into the nearby forest and becomes more scared if we let her paws on the forest floor. She becomes grumpy and starts growling! She still feels safer and prefers to stay in quarantine compared to out in the forest. This is the problem when you keep a sun bear as a pet for long periods in captivity. We will never know exactly what happened to her. Her history was told that she was found lifeless and alone without her mother.

This is a challenge for us and our bear care keepers to encourage the cub to forage and climb trees like a wild bear. The love and care of a mother bear can never be replaced but BSBCC bear care keepers provide as much love and support as they can to the sun bear orphans. In order for little Wawa to gain trust and confidence, bear cub keepers provided many natural enrichments to stimulate and prepare her for life back in the wild. She will practice her “wild bear skills”. We let Wawa have a larger exercise den. During the day she is in a larger den with a nice view over the playground. At the den she will be able to view the forest. The den equipped facility features natural habitat enrichment, places to hide away, play objects such as termite mounds, bird nests, logs, dead wood, branches, twigs, dry leaves, and fresh plants to encourage natural behavior such as searching for food, foraging skills, climbing, etc. She is relishing the opportunity to explore the larger den. Wawa is being encouraged to climb and explore around. These are the skills essential for survival in the wild. She is particularly fond of treats and any form of enrichment. She is good at exploring and investigating the enrichment. She has explored, played, climbed, and rested in the big exercise pen. We hope Wawa has her days filled with fun and not fear!

See the beauty of the forest!

Wawa will be given time to become adjusted to her new surroundings. She will slowly gain strength, confidence and develop her independence to survive in the forests of Borneo. She is now learning to enjoy her life again after suffering the pain from the loss of her mother. For sun bear cubs, it means that she will now get her second chance to live in the wild as she was born to do.


My Volunteering Experience

Date: May 24th 2016

Text and Photos by Viktoria Forstén

My name is Viktoria Forstén, I´m a 19 year old animal lover from Sweden. I got the amazing opportunity to volunteer at the BSBCC through a scholarship from my school. For that I am forever grateful. I travelled across the globe together with my three friends Emelie, Evelina and Kim, and it was the greatest experience of my life.

First of all I want to say how amazing everyone at the center is. That goes for Mr Wong, the bear keepers and everyone working in the office. I feel so blessed to have gotten to meet you all and working alongside you guys.

Unfortunately we live in a world full of destruction, made by us. If we shorten the earths’ lifespan into 24 hours then that means we’ve been here for one day. If we keep looking at it in that perspective, do you know how long it has taken for us to destroy forests and made so many animals go extinct? Three seconds. In three seconds we have done all this, and yet we keep doing it. This isn’t supposed to be a depressing text but it’s true. When I first saw how much rainforest that has been burnt to the ground and been replaced with palm tree plantations it broke my heart. We call ourselves Homo sapiens, which means wise man. But if we are so wise then how could we let this happen? How could we destroy our home that has done nothing but give us life? This earth that we call ours is so beautiful and brings us so much joy. We have the pleasure to explore the deepest of oceans, climb the highest mountains and watch how life begins and how it ends (naturally). We share this earth with amazing creatures and can even create strong bonds with some of them. We have the nerve to claim this earth and everything that comes with it, ours… But we are only guests here. Now you’re probably confused as to how this has anything to do with volunteering at the BSBCC. The point I’m trying to get across is that we have, and are currently ruining not only the sun bears’ home but all the other animals’ home too. By volunteering you are trying to help make a difference to save this species, but how can we save them if their home is being taken away from them in such a raging pace.

In all this chaos there is still a few good people out there, people like the BSBCC crew, who I would call heroes. We need more people like that, to clean up the mess we’ve created. I’m happy centers like this one exist but at the same time I’m sad that we’ve done so much damage that we now need to put a massive amount of money and energy into something the nature once had under control.

What the center does for these bears deserves an award, honestly. Personally I didn’t mind the hard work because I thought it was a lot of fun. My favorite task was getting dead logs from the forest and giving to the bears as enrichment. Since all of the bears can’t go outside due to their traumatic past, enrichment is very important. We used lots of natural materials like logs, leaves, bamboo etc. to give the bears. It was usually made to hide food inside of it, for example we made little nest like balls made out of leaves and grass that we stuffed with fruit and honey. Even fire hoses were greatly appreciated; those were used to put peanut butter inside of them so that the bears got to utilize one of their natural behaviors, which are using their long tongues to get food.

This is what I call “the rope log”, an enrichment made for the bear Amaco.

When you volunteer you get to see a totally different side of the bears that you don’t see as a visitor. It is great being on the platform watching them foraging for food, climbing trees and behaving like a bear should behave. Although once in the bear house you get a feel of each and everyone’s different personalities. My favorite bear was Chin because of her playful ways; I could sit and watch her play with her logs all day long, if that was possible.

If you’re coming from a colder country like me, the climate change is going to have an impact on you. I remember how red and sweaty I would get from cleaning the cages in the morning. The key is to drink lots of water. Even walking the daily feeding route made me look like a tomato. Being pale and not being used to the heat made me look all kinds of crazy, the staff probably thought I was going to pass out several times but I was fine, haha! It was fun and that’s all that matters.

Let’s talk about our accommodation! The volunteers live in a big house kind of, with numerous rooms, an outdoors kitchen with an amazing view and a few toilets and showers. It is simple living but I guess that won’t be a problem for anyone coming to Borneo to volunteer. I loved it anyhow! The place is called Paganakan Dii and there’s even a café that belongs to the accommodation that serves drinks and food. An advice from me is to not cook your own dinners. It is way cheaper, faster and easier eating at the café.

The kitchen view

The gorgeous view over the house!

This is what the accommodation looks like, the rooms and kitchen at the top floor and toilets + showers behind the white doors downstairs.

I’m not going to lie I was a little nervous about meeting the staff for the first time. I’m somewhat of a shy person and the fact that we had to communicate in English was a bit nerve-racking to me. Once I met everyone there was nothing to worry about at all. They were so nice to us and they made me feel really welcome. The language barrier was not a problem; they were really good at explaining everything in English so that we understood. They told me that I was going to cry on my last day, because apparently that is very common among all volunteers. I did not think they were going to be right, but believe me when I say this, you will cry. Saying goodbye to the bears on our last day felt like someone had died. I was crying rivers, it was kind of bad.

Being there for five weeks was truly the best time of my life. The mixture of the warm weather, the cool insects, the amazing people I met and the bears made the experience awesome. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have gotten that opportunity. For everyone reading this, please consider going there to volunteer, I promise you it will be a time worth remembering.

I love leeches; here is my one and only leech I had the pleasure to feed 

Mamatai enjoying the outdoors

A huge thank you to the bear keepers and everyone at the center for making our time there better than ever imagined! I miss you and the bears!
Huge hugs/ Viktoria


Lawa gofundme Campaign

Date: May 3rd 2016

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

Lawa has been thriving since she was rescued. She is eager to show that her world is in the forest! Lawa is an agile and cheerful sun bear.  She is become excellent in foraging, digging for grubs, sniffing out bee hives, climbing trees and building a tree nest on her own. It makes you realize how wild these sun bears are meant be.

With her strong natural instincts and mastered all the survival skills, Lawa will soon be a great candidate to release in the wild. Please help us to make Lawa’s freedom possible and give her a future where she belongs! Your support is vital to us. We cannot do it without you!

Here is the site just specify for Lawa gofundme campaign.


Your donation is much appreciated!

Strong Natured Leader – Wawa

Date: May 1st 2016

Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May

Weighing her, noting down health status, giving her warm milk formula, preparing favorite fruits, providing different types of enrichment, endless loving care of her bear cub keeper and seeing her as affectionately and protectively as her mother could.

Let read story from little Wawa to know more about her rescue and rehabilitation process:

” I was found alone without my mother and appeared weak in the Forest Management Unit 16, Pinangah, Telupid District on the 11th of March, 2016.”

” I was handed to BSBCC on March 18th, 2016 when I was four months old and weighted 4.5kg.”

” I was placed into quarantine.”

” On March 20th 2016, Dr. Laura Benedict, a veterinarian from the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Rescue Unit and the BSBCC team performed a general health check on me.”

” Dr. Laura sedated me, then made a full assessment of my health status. The assessment included a valuation of my overall health, potential sickness (e.g. signs of distress, ill-health, disease, injury etc.), functioning of the internal organs, pulse, respiration and temperature.”

Then an inspection of my claws and teeth. Blood and hair samples were collected also.”

Then an inspection of my claws and teeth. Blood and hair samples were collected also.”

” The blood test results have shown I am healthy.”

 I am has gained weight and grown up so fast over the past few months. Today I weighs 8.60 kg.”

” It is a great joy to report that I finished my quarantine period on April 18th, 2016.”

” I am more bright and alert !!”

” I started to climb, move about and build my confidence each day at BSBCC with a good appetite.”

” My favorites are milk, termites, papaya, banana and honey!”

” My favorites are milk, termites, papaya, banana and honey!”

” My favorites are milk, termites, papaya, banana and honey!”

” My favorites are milk, termites, papaya, banana and honey!”

” My favorites are milk, termites, papaya, banana and honey!”

” My favorites are milk, termites, papaya, banana and honey!”

” I love to explores, enjoying my new journey and recovering from trauma and pain.”

Sun bear cubs often play fight to help develop the defense skills they need in the wild. “This is not an exception for me too. I loves pawing and biting my bear cub keeper. I will show off my small canines and claws while playing.”

” I absolutely loves all and continues to smile – showing off my silly dark snout and small claws.”

” I tends to spend more time digging dead wood, playing and take naps on the small platform.”

” I always alert with surrounding sounds and smells.”

” Then will hides inside the platform !”

” I can be a bit fussy with the things I does not like and will saying “get out of my territory !”

” I absolutely loves all forms of enrichment.”

” I absolutely loves all forms of enrichment.”

Sun bear cubs are dependent on their mother for two to three years in order to know about survival in the forest. Wawa lost her mother and now she has to learn by herself. Wawa will soon be taken for walks in the forest. She will have a second chance to behave like the wild bear that she is. We will be looking forward her rehabilitation process. She has the strong nature of a leader!