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Sun Bear Assistant is a project that targets animal welfare and conservation issues in a sustainable manner. This project is driven by local needs and priorities in accordance with Conservation and Responsible Volunteering guidelines whilst ensuring that the volunteer plays an active part and gains a meaningful experience. It is based out of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre better known as BSBCC, approximately 19km from Sandakan town. It is located next to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and is also linked to existing forest trails and boardwalks. The project will take 14days and you will have 2 days off which give you plenty of time to explore Sandakan and its surrounding areas. The aim of this project is to have you work with the Malaysian bear keepers to improve conditions of the sun bears living at the centre. These sun bears have been rescued from poachers or have been kept illegally as pets. This project will also allow you a chance to learn more about sun bears, their need for enrichment as well as the whole rehabilitation process. At BSBCC, your role is to assist the keepers in their daily jobs of cleaning cages, compounds, feeding the bears and preparing enrichment activities for them. Basically, take care of the animals from husbandry, enrichment, construction and education as a bear keeper assistant would. You will learn about the personalities of the various sun bears and their role in the larger web of life in the wild. Interacting with the Malaysian keepers by working alongside them allows you to understand the conditions they work in, gain insight into the “behind the scenes” of working in a conservation centre and a chance to improve living conditions of sun bears in BSBCC. Moreover while you work alongside the keepers, you will have the opportunity to learn some Malay (and other local dialects) and help improve their English too. Currently, the centre houses more than 40 bears in night dens and forest enclosures spanning 1.14 hectares of natural forest surrounding the centre. Bears roam the forest enclosures during the day (and night) displaying lots of natural behaviours such as climbing, hiding and digging. In order to maintain a sustainable system for the sun bears a lot of effort has been done by the staff and also the volunteers. This project will give you an amazing experience in the same time you gained more knowledge about Sun Bears and it’s ecology.

Skills & Experience Acquired

No items found.

Time Commitment

0800 hours - 1700 hours each day for 12 working days

Active Periods

Every month of the year. Project starts on the 5th and ends 14 days later.


Work and Activities Description

This involves cleaning cages and feeding. You will rotate working with different sun bears depending on the needs of the bears, keepers or the centre. Cleaning is vital to BSBCC as better hygiene helps to prevent disease. Daily maintenance work: checks on facilities and general maintenance of electric fence voltage, maintenance and tree planting in the forest enclosure, weeding to avoid short circuit, painting etc. may be included. Enrichment: The idea of enrichment is to stimulate the animals and improve their living conditions as much as possible to mimic their natural habitat. Construction: You may be asked to design and work on small construction projects to improve the night dens or enclosures. This may include assisting in building new exhibits and extensions to improve the facilities, or improving existing exhibits by adding furniture or painting. Education: You may be asked to talk to school children and visitors at the visitor centre about sun bears. You may also be asked to prepare displays and information on them.

Typical Day

Work starts at 0800 with cleaning, preparing food and checking on facilities. There will be an hour break at 1230 for lunch and rest. In the afternoon, volunteers will help in designing or making enrichment for the sun bears. The activities for the day vary based on the schedule prepared by the BSBCC team.

Free Time Activities



Accommodation Options

Twin-share room

Accommodation Description

All volunteers will stay in a longhouse styled accommodation. Twin-share room with bunk bed and fan. Shared toilets and bathrooms. There is a common sitting area and an equipped kitchen with a few basic items including fridge and gas stove where you may prepare your meals.


Sharing toilet and bathrooms, equipped kitchen, washing machine, cafe

Facilities Description

The longhouse styled accommodation is part of Paganakan Dii, a tropical retreat designed as a contemporary interpretation of traditional stilts houses with innovative use of natural and recycled materials, the entire compound offers the most surprising of details in its construction and breathtaking views from every angle. There is a cafe on site as well as a kitchen should you wish to cook your own meals. Volunteers are required to maintain good hygiene at all times. No alcohol is allowed at the accommodation area. Beers can be consumed at the lodge cafe off working hours only. Please do not bring them back to your rooms or the kitchen area.


Volunteers will be handled by an English-speaking coordinator throughout the project.


There is a lock on each door of the accommodation.

Food & Drink

You will be given a meal allowance on orientation day. You will have the choice of cooking together with your fellow participants as a self-catering option. Meals at the canteen and accommodation in Sepilok are cheap and you can have a full meal for RM6 – RM15. You are recommended to bring your own refillable bottle. There are water dispensers available for you to fill your bottle at the accommodation and at the centre.

Internet Access

Free wifi is available at the cafe of the accommodation and at the working site (office building).

Phone Signal

The quality of the mobile phone coverage on site is dependent on what service provider you are using. We recommend Celcom, Digi, Maxis, or Tunetalk.

Nearest Facilities

Mini market (5 min from working site), Clinic (15 min from accommodation)

Airport Pickup

Pick up and drop off is included in the project


Language Requirements


Document Requirements

Valid passport, comprehensive insurance cover

Nationality Requirements

Qualification Requirements

Medical Requirements

Every volunteer is required to show a doctor’s letter stating that the volunteer is free from Tuberculosis (results have to be dated less than 6 months from project date), Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B & Tetanus.

Other Requirements

Recommended Gear

Included Services

Before Journey Services / Support

A manual will be provided to help prepare for the project

On-Site Support

Project facilitator will be assisting you throughout the project


Pricing Breakdown

MYR 4,971 per person This price includes conservation contribution to the project, meet & greet at Sandakan Airport (SDK), accommodation with basic cooking facilities, arrival transfer from Sandakan Airport to project accommodation, welcome dinner on arrival day at Sepilok, induction & orientation at BSBCC, meal allowance, daily transfers to centre, all activities, materials, tools & equipment, work T-shirts and a dedicated project coordinator throughout the programme.

Not Included in Price

Travel between Sandakan and city of origin (flight tickets, bus fares etc), travel insurance, personal travel on days off and personal incidentals etc

Reviews & Ratings







I have learnt much more than I ever would have expected. I have learnt about animal behaviour, welfare and rehabilitation. I have learnt about the challenges of conservation, and most of all I have learnt about the commitment of the people who have dedicated their lives to facing these challenges. It is the passion of the people I have worked with that has made the deepest impression on me. I will never forget my time spent working alongside you all

Review by:

Rica Marcus







Each individual matters. If you wish to contribute a bit of goodness to wildlife and want to know more about sun bears, here’s definitely the place for it

Review by:

Mandy Lee-Swart

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Sun Bear Assistant (4 week)

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