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Working in Animal Care as a Bear Rehab Volunteer in Borneo is unforgettable!

Bear rehab volunteer in BorneoAs a Bear Rehab Volunteer in Borneo, you will work at the world’s only sanctuary dedicated exclusively to the rescue and rehabilitation of Sun Bears: The Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). Absolutely, you will play a crucial role in caring for these wonderful animals.

Since 2008, the Sun Bear Centre has been easing the plight of these animals and care for and rehabilitate rescued Sun Bears. Once widespread throughout Asia, these bears (Helarctus Malayanus) have dwindled in numbers due to deforestation, the pet trade and commercial hunting.

Helping bears to go back to the wild

First, the team rescued a bear cub called ‘Si Kecil’. By now, the centre is home to about 36 bears. Often they have lived in appalling conditions in captivity, and must be gradually introduced into their natural habitat. You will learn, as a Bear Rehab Volunteer in Borneo, that teaching the bears the necessary skills to survive in the wild is a long process. So, they must be carefully coached and selected before release.

bear rehab volunteer in borneo
volunteer with bears

Learn animal husbandry and enrichment as a Bear Rehab Volunteer in Borneo

Importantly, you will work alongside researchers and biologists to undertake vital conservation work. Activities include animal husbandry to maintain the centre’s health and cleanliness. Plus, get involved in enrichment to stimulate the bears and improve their living conditions. You may also help with constructing new extensions and exhibits.

Tell others about Sun Bear Rehabilitation

Finally, try your hand at teaching volunteers, local schools and visitors about Sun Bears and their conservation.


FROM RM4,690 or  £921 

• MINIMUM AGE: 18 and above
• DURATION:  14 – 28 days (extension by 7 day week: RM 1,030 or £202).
• OPERATION: All year round – starts on 5th of each month, ends on 18th.

Watching the bears eating and enjoying their food made our heart melt.” Michael & Jana

Animal care volunteering is varied, here are some of the activities you’ll get up to:

Animal Husbandry

You will play a vital role in cleaning enclosures and feeding the bears. You must be willing to clean up animal faeces – this can be smelly but is playing a crucial role in preventing disease.

You will also undertake daily maintenance work, where tasks could involve conducting daily checks on the facilities, painting and weeding.

Animal Enrichment

You will have the opportunity to help stimulate the animals and improve their living conditions as to mimic their natural habitat. This could involve:

– Providing leaves in enclosures for nesting and bedding
– Hiding food around enclosures to encourage foraging behaviour
– Buying fruit to ensure a varied diet
– Rope work – making this fun and varied for the bears
– Putting branches in their homes to observe behaviour
– Trekking into the jungle to find termite nests
– Designing, preparing and monitoring the effectiveness of enrichment items
– Clearing away after enrichment activities


Activities may involve designing and working on small construction projects to improve the enclosures or night den. You may be asked to help build new exhibits or extensions to improve the facilities, or improve existing exhibits by painting or adding furniture.


The centre has an education centre and library. Volunteers will have the chance to learn a lot about the sun bears and share this with the local school children, by designing and implementing an education session for them.

You may also be asked to talk about the bears to visitors of the centre, or prepare displays and information on them.

Observe the sun bears behaviour and diet

You will have the chance to gain vital fieldwork experience in the tropical rainforest environment, as well as take responsibility for updating the blog and data entry of the Bear Behaviour Record and the Weekly Record.


You work with dedicated biologists and researchers to help rehabilitate these wonderful animals, in preparation for their release into the wild. You will also learn how wildlife conservation is being carried out on site.


RM 4,690 (£921)* for 14 days

RM 8,750 (£1,720)* for 28 days 

You can extend your stay for RM 1,030 or £202 per 7 day week.

Note: * These prices are + 6% SST.

All prices are in Rm Malaysian Ringgit (MYR) , so please use the currency converter to know the exact price in your own currency.

Exchange Rate

Exchange Rate: MYR


This programme operates all year. Volunteers start on the 5th of each month, with projects ending on the 18th.


18 years and above

Accommodation and Food

Accommodation is included, as well as meals on working days. Food is an important part of Malaysian culture, as you will soon find out! Volunteers are also welcome to venture out to some of the delicious local restaurants to try traditional Malay dishes – sampling the local delicacies is an experience not to be missed!

Also included: a donation to the centre, airport transfers, transport to the centre each day, organisation’s t-shirts and dedicated programme coordinator.

Not included: travel between Sandakan and country of origin (flight tickets, bus fares etc.), travel insurance, visa and permit applications, personal travel on days off and personal incidentals etc.

Compulsory for all volunteers

  • You will need comprehensive insurance coverage and proof of insurance must be provided along with flight details.
  • Vaccinations – Tetanus, Hepatitis A & B, Tuberculosis (doctor’s note to certify clean bill of health).

Further Details

Further details about getting to project base will be given during booking.

Successes to date…

  • Releases: One of the centre’s very first sun bears ever to be reintroduced into the wild was Si Kecil. Her story is sad but typical; her mother was killed by poachers and she was kept as a pet. In 2018, two adult bears were released to a reserve on for reintroduction back to the wild.
  • Providing a safe home: The centre hopes to release more bears into the wild in the future, however for rescued bears that cannot be released (often because they would be unable to survive, due to physical damage caused by their previous owner) the centre provides an improved long term living environment for them. At the end of 2018, the centre had housed a total of 45 bears. With access to outdoor enclosures, these bears can step onto soil ground, climb, dig for grubs, forage and rest in the trees for the very first time.
  • Animal care: The centre rehabilitates rescued bears after many years of trauma from being locked up in small cages as illegal pets. The team has received training in using healing and relaxing techniques to help the bears recover from the physical and psychological trauma they endured.
  • Maintaining health: In 2018, 3 new sun bears were sent to the centre. They had health problems and stunted growth caused by improper diet and being raised in small cages, however, they are now in good health.

Sun bears are listed as Vulnerable in IUCN Redlist and are threatened for many reasons, which the centre has been tackling through educational activities to increase awareness of the need to protect sun bears. In 2018, the centre achieved the following:

  • 70 local school groups visited the centre to learn more about sun bears
  • The centre contributed to twelve educational exhibitions in Sabah
  • The Environmental Education team visited 31 schools to spread awareness.
  • 46 news articles on sun bears and the centre were written.
  • The centre ran a Sun Bear Day event, inviting 80 primary school students and their teachers to participate and celebrate the event.

As the only sun bear conservation centre in the world, the centre has a big task on its hands (it has now cared for over 60 bears), but with the help of volunteers, they will continue to make a difference. This is an animal care volunteering opportunity that will make a real impact!

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