Text by Ng Li Shuen
Photos by Ng Li Shuen and Seng Yen Wah
One month of volunteering at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre has been a valuable and unforgettable experience. I was first introduced to BSBCC by my friend/course mate Darren who encouraged me to apply as a volunteer and as a companion for him during our summer break. We also attended the Wild Wildlife with Kancil and Friends event held by Malaysian Heritage and History Club (MHHC), where we got to meet and talk to Dr. Wong for the first time. Malaysia being one of the megadiverse countries in the world is losing its wildlife and biodiversity, thus learning about conservation and working with wildlife has never been a more crucial and timely task. In the hopes of uncovering how conservation work is done in our country and exploring my potential career path, I applied for BSBCC and anticipated the adventure that awaited me.
It wasn’t long before I was working in the heart of conservation and it was a thrilling experience. Upon arriving at the Bear House, I met my buddy Brandon who briefed me thoroughly on the operations of the Bear House and guided me through all the tasks. Day by day, we worked alongside other bear keepers (collectively known as Bear Care Team) with a daily routine of cleaning cages, kitchen work (E.g. preparing porridge, fruits and vegetables, and other dietary needs), feeding the bears inside the Bear House and in the forest enclosure, fence checking and making enrichment for the bears. I also got to work under the Environmental Education unit where I’m tasked to interact with visitors at the centre’s observation platform, educate and raise awareness on sun bear ecology and the importance of not only their conservation but also of their forest habitat.
But what really made my whole volunteer experience worthwhile was how amazing the people here are. Everyone had been friendly, welcoming and caring since I first arrived. The staffs welcomed any questions we had and did not stinge on sharing their knowledge, experience and stories of the bears. And not forgetting my days in Bjorn Hala! From sweating through multiple power cuts to cooking and showering in the dark, feet chewed by the overly affectionate and adorable Miko, I did not even miss home. I sincerely thank the staffs for being so kind to us and treating us like family. Thank you for making Bjorn Hala such a homely place, I really felt a sense of belonging when I was here. No matter in the Bear House or Bjorn Hala, I will never forget the conversations, the jokes, laughter and stories we shared. Of course, not forgetting Darren who walked this one-month journey with me 😊
The main ingredients of successful conservation work, I’d say? A passionate founder and leader like Dr. Wong, a dedicated crew and a handful of curious and inspired volunteers/interns. Thank you again for opening my eyes to the world of conservation, for exposing me to the Sabahan slang and culture, for generously sharing your stories and experiences, for introducing the knowledge and insights on what it takes to conserve our Malaysian Biodiversity.
Ending my story with a flashback and a quote that is now engraved in my heart.. In one of my last sessions with Dr. Wong, to answer a question asked by one of the volunteers he turned around to his magnificent bookshelf where he stores his treasured sea of knowledge, picked a book- Jane Goodall: 40 Years at Gombe, and recited:
“Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help, shall they be saved.”