Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre - Rehabilitation Center to protect sun bears

The BSBCC, founded in 2008, is located in eastern Sabah. It is located only about 20 kilometres from Sandakan in Sepilok. It is a facility for the protection of sun bears, which are also called Malayan bears. Due to the destruction of its natural habitat and hunting and poaching, it is considered endangered.

The centre cares for about 45 bears released from captivity. It includes large enclosures that incorporate the directly adjacent forest. This provides a natural environment for the excellent climbers and is an important requirement to prepare the animals for rehabilitation. The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre has been open to the public for several years. Visitors can observe the sun bears and get an insight into the daily work at the centre.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Visiting BSBCC

Since sun bears are hard to spot in the wild, visiting the centre is highly recommended. It is a great experience to watch the released animals in their natural environment. You can watch them playing with each other or using their climbing or foraging skills. Cubs have also seen the light of day at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. You may catch a glimpse of the very young if you’re lucky.

The sun bear conservation facility is small but very lovely and well-maintained. On an elevated path, you stroll through the forest. Thereby you can observe the animals in their enclosures. During the day, the sun bears stay outside while they spend the nights in the bear house for protection.

Two observation platforms for visitors offer a great view of the bears while often climbing around or playing with each other. There are telescopes at various points to observe the more distant animals. The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre guides help discover the sun bears in the forest.

Sunbear on tree in the BSBCC
Sun bear climbing

Animals are provided with the best possible living environment, so the enclosures are pretty spacious. There is no guarantee that you will see a sun bear. But if you have a little patience, you have a good chance. Feeding times are auspicious, as the animals are closer to the facility.

There are informative boards in several places. On these, the species and the project are presented in detail. A film about the project is also shown regularly in the building. We recommend you also take the time to watch it. The BSBCC staff is always available to answer questions and provide insight into the work with the animals. The project’s founder is also often in the visitors‘ area, explaining his mission and vision.

Sun bears at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Three sun bears at play
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre - Helarctos Malayanus
Sun bear at BSBCC

Goals of the rehabilitation facility

The centre’s primary goal is the species-appropriate care and rehabilitation of captive animals. For this, it was first of all essential to providing a facility and the necessary capacities. Only then is it possible to free Malayan bears from captivity and transfer them to a suitable program.

It is the desire that the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is only a stopover for the bears on their way back to freedom. A multi-stage rehabilitation program should prepare the sun bears as best as possible for this. However, some animals cannot be trained for life in the wild for various reasons and thus cannot be released. These Malayan bears remain permanently at the facility, where they can expect a better living. They receive medical care, are fed, and the forest enclosures provide the animals with as natural an environment as possible.

Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Another goal of the BSBCC is to promote research on sun bears. The team wants to know more about the animals in general and their behavior in freedom and captivity in particular. The better the species is researched, the more promising it will be to reintroduce them to the wild after a period in captivity.

In addition, the team raises awareness of the sun bear and its endangerment among the population.

The steps toward the release


Arrival at the rehabilitation centre

First, all newly arriving animals undergo a thorough health check. This is followed by a 30-day quarantine period to prevent new arrivals from infecting other animals with diseases.


Integration into the new environment

During the integration phase, the bears are introduced to their new environment. In addition, the typical loners are also accustomed to each other.


Promotion of typical behaviour

Afterwards, attempts are made to encourage the species-typical behaviour of the sun bears. This includes, in particular, foraging, climbing, building a nest, and self-defence.


Identification of suitable bears for release

Further intensive work is done to refine the necessary skills if a bear is suitable for release. Afterwards, hopefully, the release can take place at some point.

Unfortunately, most animals in their care are too accustomed to humans to be rehabilitated. The sun bears were used to being fed by humans. As a result, they have lost their fear of humans. This is too much of a threat to them in the wild. The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre provides a permanent home for these bears.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre - Sun bear on branch
Sun bear on branch
Sleeping sun bear in Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Sleeping sun bear

How to get to the BSBCC

Bus number 14 goes directly from Sandakan to the nearby Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (terminus). Departures from Sandakan are at 09 am, 11:30 am, 2 pm, and 5 pm. Return trips are offered at 06:30 am, 10:30 am, 12:30 am, and 4 pm. The fare is MYR 5 per person. The travel time is approximately 45-60 minutes. It is only a few minute’s walk from the orangutan facility to the sun bear facility.

Alternatively, you can take a cab from Sandakan directly to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. It costs about 35-45 MYR, and the driver will drive you to the entrance.

If you want to travel by bus from Kota Kinabalu, you must take the bus to Sandakan. Tell the bus driver that you want to get off at Sepilok. He will let you off at a traffic circle about 1.5-2 kilometres away. For the last meters, you must walk or be picked up from your accommodation. The trip by bus takes about 5 hours.

Visitor platform at BSBCC
Visitor platform at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Accommodation near Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Sepilok is an optimal place to visit the highlights around Sandakan. Sun bears and orangutans can be found right on the edge of the village, and a proboscis monkey facility is also not far away. The trips to the Kinabatangan areas often also pass Sepilok.

There are a few smaller accommodations in Sepilok. They range from homestays to bungalows in upscale resorts. Sandakan is also not far away. You can stay there as well and start the tours from there. In Sandakan, the choice of accommodations is much wider. And the prices are usually a little cheaper.

Our recommendation

The work of the BSBCC is of considerable value for the protection of the sun bear. We recommend a visit to the centre in any case. You will get great insights into the team’s work and the program’s motivation. It is also an excellent opportunity to observe the world’s smallest bear in its natural environment. Remember that it is extremely rare to see these animals in the wild.

If possible, you should bring your binoculars. Telescopes are available, but you are much more flexible with your own.

It is important to note that the centre will charge a fee of 1,000 MYR if you bring a camera with a lens of at least 500 mm. Such long focal lengths are just right because of the extensive enclosures. It’s up to you to decide if this is worth around 200 USD.

The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is only a step away from the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, an orangutan sanctuary. You can easily combine the two and visit them in just one day.

Donations for Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Donations for the Sun Bear Centre

Donations heavily fund the project. Thus, you can donate via PayPal on the official website. The appeal is directed to both private individuals and companies. You can choose between general donations or a sponsorship for a sun bear. More info is available on the BSBCC homepage.

Check this out

The region around the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre has much more to experience. Have a look at the following highlights.