Text by Pradeep Gunasegaran
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah

The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) has been responsible for the care of 4 bears that were received between 2017 and 2018. These four bears are Soo (5 years old), BJ (4 years old), Kina (4 years old), and Sika (3 years old). All four of them were ‘raised’ by people as cubs before they were handed over to BSBCC through Sabah Wildlife Department or personally by the owner. Soo was bought at Sook Keningau Market, BJ was bought for RM 300 in Pitas and Sika was kept as in a pet in Pensiangan in a chicken mesh cage by her owner while Kina was claimed by her caretaker to have been abandoned by her mother by the roadside at Kota Marudu. They grew up without the care of their mothers as their mothers were probably killed by poachers but BSBCC do see potential in them to behave like wild bears due to their age and with the proper rehabilitation process in the next few years. In order to proceed with their rehabilitation process, they would need to be transferred to the Bear House. Due to the high stocking density at BSBCC, three older bears; Phin, Wan Wan and Mamatai would need to be brought to the quarantine while another two older bears; Om and Ronnie would need to be rotated in the Bear House.
​The transfer process was done through three phases in order for the bears to not get too stress. During the first phase BJ and Kina were transferred into translocation boxes at Quarantine while Phin was darted. Once the 3 bears were ready for transfer, Phin was brought to Quarantine while BJ and Kina was brought to Bear House 2. The second phase was involving the darting of Mamatai and Wan Wan and then bringing them to Quarantine. By the end of Phase 2, Om and Ronnie were transferred to a different section of Bear House 2 using the sky bridge structure. The last phase was then completed with the darting and transfer of Soo and Sika from Quarantine to Bear House 2. The entire transfer process of all nine sun bears followed through really smoothly without any undesirable incidences. 
Honey being drizzled onto the banana slices in the translocation box to coax BJ and Kina
BJ slowly entering the translocation box
Kina being transferred out of Quarantine
Dr. Yeoh Boon Nie, our resident veterinarian preparing the necessary drugs for the operation
Kina being loaded up into Bear House 2
BJ being released into pen at Bear House 2
Ronnie entering the sky bridge and sniffing the banana placed as bait
Sika being examined by the Bear Care unit once she was anesthetized
In order to make the bear feel more comfortable in their new environment, each pen was prepared with a thick layer of dried leaves and also a couple of gunny sacks. The purpose of the dried leaves is to reduce any injuries that could be inflicted on their foot pad due to pacing in a new environment while the gunny sacks are for them to play with. BJ and Kina had no issues with their new environment. As soon as they were in the pens in Bear House 2, they were exploring the entire new space. Both were climbing the structures that were present such as hammock and the vertical log. BJ really seem to like the hammock while Kina liked using the vertical log. Whereas for Sika and Soo, after they woke up from anesthesia, Sika was also as curious as BJ and Kina in her own pen while Soo was alert with the new arrangement; just like how she was in Quarantine. At Quarantine, Phin, Wan Wan and Mamatai was calm after waking up. However, Phin was not used to having dried leaves underneath his feet. He was walking around the pen, taking food that was provided for him but his gait was a little peculiar. Wan Wan was preoccupied sniffing the scent of another bear named Diana at Quarantine. Mamatai on the other hand was enjoying herself with the gunny sacks that were given to her.

One of the many pen that were prepared with dried leaves and gunny sacks for the sun bears
On the following day after the transfer process, Phin, Wan Wan and Mamatai were doing well at Quarantine. Our main priority was with the four that were at Bear House 2. BJ, Kina and Sika consumed all of the food given to them and they showed sign that they were doing well in Bear House 2. Kina clawed the log that was available to her; Sika was resting like any wild bear on the log structures while BJ was in the basket. Because of their calmness, they were all integrated together to ensure that they continue to benefit out of this social enrichment. Soo was on the only bear which was on high alert to her surroundings. She stayed at the highest point in the pen and only came down when the keepers left Bear House 2. In the evening, a few keepers were selected to sit in front of her and coax her with food. Then reason for this exercise was not to get her to be used to the keepers but to be calmer with the presence of the keepers as the keepers would need to provide her with supplementation, medication and application of topical medication in case of any injuries. By the end of the day, Soo came down and took the food that was given to her by the keepers and she also took her supplementation. She also was no longer at the highest point in the cage as she was exploring the ground and eating the ration of food provided for her. Over the following days, the four of them continue to behave positively. Environmental enrichments such as Aussie Dog balls, Fire Hose Pockets and coconuts were also provided to them and they did not hesitate interacting with the enrichments provided. With all these positive progresses, in the upcoming weeks or months, BJ, Kina, Soo, and Sika will undergo fence training in order for them to continue with the rehabilitation towards becoming like their wild counterparts. We at BSBCC hope that the rehabilitation process will go well and we would rejoice to their release into the natural habitat some day in the future.
Kina sitting on her favourite structure; the vertical log just after coming into Bear House 2
BJ enjoying his view from the basket in Bear House 2
Sika interacting with an environmental enrichment that was provided for her

Soo enjoying her Aussie Dog Ball and Ginger Leaves in a basket
BJ, Kina, Sika, and Soo playing together at Bear House 2
Phin getting out of his anesthesia at Quarantine
Mamatai laying down on her comfortable dry leaves at Quarantine
Wan Wan walking around her pen at Quarantine


A Week of Bears


Text by Eileen Nyeow @ Yau Yee Ling
Photos by Chiew Lin May

Hello… my name is Eileen Nyeow. I am 42 years old and currently residing in Peninsular Malaysia. Participating in Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) Volunteer Programme was part of my mission, during my sabbatical, towards doing my little bit to help save animals.  The main reason I chose BSBCC was because of the Founder, Dr. Wong Siew Te. I have read about his passion and relentless effort towards helping and preserving the Sun Bears; and was inspired to come see and experience for myself what BSBCC is all about. 

This was the first volunteer programme where I had to be interviewed (before being accepted) & to obtain a full health check before flying over. Upon arriving, I went through an induction session where I was briefed with more rules of conduct. I realized and understood the need for that measure after.  BSBCC is situated right smack in the middle of the rain forest in Sepilok; surrounded by other wild animals (i.e. orang utans, elephants, snakes, squirrels).  Health check was necessary so that we do not pass on any diseases to the animals.  Volunteering here involves much physical work so one has to be somewhat prepared. Lastly, the bears within the Centre are all waiting for a second chance in the wild and it is of grave importance that the bears do not get overly habituated with people.

My buddy keeper during my Programme was Bithrenly (a.k.a Bit).  Although fairly new with the Centre, he managed to share many of his experiences and stories about the bears with me. Among the many tasks with him, my daily routine usually revolves around preparing food for the bears (4 feedings in a day), cleaning poop and scrubbing enclosures, checking the perimeters of the enclosure fence, making enrichment projects for the bears to play and sharpen their skills. I also had many valuable instances, such as group Q&A session with the “Bear Man” himself, Dr. Wong, assisting the vet (Dr. Boon) during a routine medical check for Julaini.  I mean there are not many non-field related people who can say they have use a thermometer on a bear. Hahaha! I even learnt and got to inspect bear poop for parasites! 

In summary, I am thankful for this valuable experience and I feel privileged to be there, with everyone.  
Being amazed with efforts of BSBCC in preserving the Sun Bears is one thing, learning hands-on about the smallest bear in the world is another.  On top of it, I was also truly amazed with the dedicated members of BSBCC (office staff and bear keepers). One can feel their enthusiasm and love for the bears emanating from them. 

There are many people to thank for making my journey an unforgettable one.  Instead of naming and possibly missing out names, I would like to just extend a huge shout out of appreciation to the BSBCC FAMILY! I hope to see all of you very soon. 

Happy 9th Annual World Pangolin Day from KeTAMU KK


We at BSBCC would like to thank Land Empowerment Animal People (LEAP Spiral) for the invitation to their social initiative KeTAMU 4 Pangolins. This event was held in collaboration with the Sabah Art Gallery and the Sabah Wildlife Department over the weekend of World Pangolin Day 2020, on the 15th and 16th of February. The event featured multiple ways to celebrate these amazing wildlife as to secure their future as part of the Sabahan heritage; and by being organized in an open space so everyone and anyone can bring their wares and fares, sharing their creativity and curiosity. It was fun for BSBCC to be a part of this wildlife awareness initiative and thanks to all who said hi at our booth!

Happy Valentine's Day from BSBCC!


Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Wildlife and nature also deserve to be loved, so as the cute and lovable Sun Bears in BSBCC.
How about expressing your love to the world smallest and least known bear? You can purchase a gift, adopt a Sun Bear or make a donation to show your love to the Sun Bears and supporting our conservation work. ❤️❤️

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Wildlife and nature also deserve to be loved, so as the cute and lovable Sun Bears in BSBCC.
How about expressing your love to the world smallest and least known bear? You can purchase a gift, adopt a Sun Bear or make a donation to show your love to the Sun Bears and supporting our conservation work. ❤️❤️

First group visit of 2020!


BSBCC welcomed the first school group visit from Sekolah Menengah Integrasi Tahfuz Darul Hasanah (SMIDAH) to our centre today, on 11th February 2020. The group which consist of 49 students range from 13 to 17 years old with 3 accompanying teachers were given briefing about Sun Bears and the centre before being guided to our observation platforms to see our bears in action. The sudden heavy rain in the afternoon didn't affect the visit as the students and teachers were really enjoying their time surrounded by the forested enclosures. It was a pleasure to have all of you here and thanks for the visit, SM Integrasi Tahfuz Darul Hasanah!

Mamatai's Superb Long Tongue


Video by Chiew Lin May

The smallest bear, the longest tongue!

Bearing Through It All


Text by Grace Cheong Wei Yen
Photos by Grace Cheong Wei Yen & Chiew Lin May

Time flies when you have a good time, and it seems that all too soon, I have reached the end of my three week long volunteering period. It was not always smooth sailing, but the staff were always there to assist me in whatever ways possible whenever I needed any help. From preparing food for the bears while keeping in mind the ever-changing releases to carrying out enrichment or even cleaning the smelly cages, I have learned so much more about these vulnerable and valuable bears. They are a part of our future, no matter how unrelated they may seem. 

Personally, I feel that this experience has opened my eyes to how much work it actually requires to take care of human beings, and how much more these bears need! Coming from an Asian background, the concept of filial piety is constantly reinforced, and now I truly realize how much effort my parents have put into raising me. Besides that, I have been privileged to have a first-hand experience of taking care of the sun bears which are endemic to Borneo only, a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Furthermore, there is no such satisfaction as witnessing a bear finally succeed in doing something that you had a part in!

Of course, one cannot forget about the close bonds formed with the other keepers, volunteers and staff. We have shared so much laughter and many stories, whether it is over a steaming hot local meal or while working. With them, there has never been a dull moment at the bear house. They also provided me with the encouragement to keep on going, no matter how tired I am. Somehow, we all manage to find common threads within our stories even though we originate from different places, making the laughter that is shared and memories that are created even more precious. They have become my “family” throughout this whole time, never failing to ensure that I’m constantly doing well, bringing me out for grocery shopping and sharing tips as well as extra facts about bear care. It doesn’t matter what activity we carry out, whether it is a health check or even enrichment, good teamwork has been proven to make a tiring task into an exciting activity.

So if you are seeking to escape the busy city life or to explore your interest in wildlife, or even carry out an internship as part of your program, then this is the place to be! Never mind all the bugs, this is a rare chance to catch a glimpse of other animal species endemic to Borneo like the sacred kingfisher and rhinoceros hornbill, or even Asian pygmy elephants! If I had the chance or time to come back a second time, I definitely would not hesitate.

A Beary Precious Experience


Text by Angeline Ngu Hong Huong
Photos by Chiew Lin May

Hey everyone! This is Angeline Ngu from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. I am a primary school teacher and also a hardcore bear fan. I am really astonished by the adorable sun bears in the forest enclosure during my first visit to BSBCC. Watching the bear sunbathing on top of the tree through the telescope almost melted my heart. No doubt it was love at first sight. Coincidently, I met Dr. Boon who is a bear doctor in BSBCC and she explains all the stories about the sun bears and the details about the volunteer programme. That’s when I made up my mind to spend my Christmas holiday volunteering in BSBCC.

Despite knowing it would be tough working with wild animals, some more need to trek in the jungle, I actually hestitated a little just before departing. But since I am really looking forward to seeing the sun bears, here I am, about to end my two weeks volunteering with a really heavy heart, especially to say goodbyes to all the sun bears when I have just started to recognize them by their characteristics =( And not forgetting the friendly staffs in BSBCC whom I call the bear family.

For me, it is a bittersweet experience working in BSBCC. Let’s first talk about the sw-eeeeett part. It’s a big bear family here in BSBCC where the keepers are like the parents to all the sun bears. You must witness how worried the keepers are when the bears are not feeling well. They would try everything to make sure the bears take their medication. Throughout the volunteering days I had so much laughters with the keepers and all the friendly staffs in BSBCC as we share everything from our family to the bear stories. Not forgetting the Christmas party in Bjorn Hala, the keepers are capable of doing everything from fixing electric fence to cooking. The food they prepared is finger-lickin good! The sweetest part, the keepers constantly checking us volunteers out to make sure that we can handle our tasks and are always there to help whenever we need. We had so much laughters inside and outside BSBCC. Here comes the bitter part. I would say it is really tough taking care of wild animals as it requires a lot of heavy work. It is a great challenge for me to trek through the muddy and slippery ground in the forest especially during rainy season to check the electric fence. A big thank you to my buddy keeper, Mr. Pradeep who always tolerated me and my snail pace when hiking up and down the hill. Carrying heavy objects like food and wood is inevitable in the bear house but the keepers are always ready to help. Overall, all the hard work is worthwhile as long as the bears are happy and healthy.

Volunteering in BSBCC is truly an eye opener. I am privileged to having been able to join medical checkup session on the oldest bear in BSBCC, Amaco who is currently 27 years old with Dr. Boon and Dr. Reza. I was tremendously nervous before that as everyone is worried that he might not be able to pull through the process due to his age. Fortunately, he did and he was recovering well! During the process, I have learnt how to measure a bear’s heartbeat, respiration and body temperature. All this sounds pretty easy until I was inside the clinic and was really panicing because I could not hear the heartbeat even with a stethoscope. Meanwhile, Dr. Reza patiently taught me to first feel the heartbeat then hearing it would be easier. It works like magic! I was also given the opportunity to help Dr. Boon in recording dental details of Amaco and to trim its nails with a mini saw! That is something new! I enjoyed everything throughout the process as I know I would never have the opportunity to experience all these in my life. Not a single day passed by that I did not learn something new while working with the sun bears. Yeap! That is me trying to complete the entire “mission impossible” and I am proud to say MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! 

​I am incredibly glad that I made the decision to join the volunteer programme in BSBCC. I have gained not only experience, knowledge, skills but also friendship with each and everyone in BSBCC. I would like to especially thank Dr. Wong for this amazing opportunity in contributing to the nature. Together, let’s work together to provide care and rehabilitation to rescued sun bears! We need you! Till we meet again, BSBCC.