Yesterday, while playful Suria was chewing on a stick or two, the BSBCC crew was busy re-cementing the floor of the larger enclosure. Although, she doesn't know it yet, Suria will soon be moved back into the large activity area where she will have quadruple the space to roam and play. The problem began when the bears started to dig up the cement flooring, which injured the padding on their paws. Suria had to be quarantined briefly to prevent further injury while the floor was repaired. Now, we are all excited to see her moved back in!
Further excitement is also spreading with the steady progress of the new bear centre roof. The construction workers have been diligently preparing for this task and are now busy realizing the completion of the new ceiling. Also being laid, currently, are the first bricks of the new centre. Great work everyone!
KOTA KINABALU: American animal expert Jack Hanna, popularly known as “Jungle Jack” is in Malaysia for a television shoot of the wild.
The 62-year-old is in Sabah to film orang utans, sunbears, proboscis monkeys and pygmy elephants in the wilds of Borneo for his entertainment and educational television show “Jack Hanna’s Into The Wild.”
Hanna and his crew will also be heading towards Sarawak and peninsular Malaysia during his two-week trip to Malaysia and Singapore for at least four 30-minute television series.
Invited by Tourism Malaysia, Hanna told reporters here that the great apes and elephants had always fascinated him and that it was the first time he was doing a show on orang utan and the Borneo pygmy elephants.
‘’I have always wanted to come to Malaysia but my tight schedules around the world delayed me. I am really excited to be here in Borneo,” said Hanna who has been hosting educational animal shows for the last 43 years. In Sabah, he will focus on the Sandakan Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, Sunbear Conservation, Guamuntong caves, Kinabatangan and Labuk Bay before leaving for Kuching where he will focus on the Sarawak Cultural Village and Bakun National Park.
He will briefly visit Singapore before heading to Batu Caves and Kuala Gandar Elephant Sanctuary in the peninsula.
“Our show is about people, culture and animals,” said Hanna whose shows reach 98% of the audience in the United States.
He is a regular guest in Good Morning America, Larry King Live, The Late Show with David Letterman and Fox News Programmes.
Hanna, who stresses on respecting animals in their habitats, the theme of his series were to educate people on the various animals as it was a foundation towards conservation efforts. “When I say respect animals, I mean you should just leave them to do what they are doing in their habitat and not disturb or provoke them,” he added. Hanna said that his company allowed the host country to get rights to use his films for their respective promotions.
Text: by Billy Dunn Photos: by Billy Dunn and Ian Hall
The construction of the biogas digester at the new Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sepilok took a bit of time to get running and underway but after ten days of hard building, pumping, lifting, grafting, sweating, itching, bleeding, plastering, twisting, bending and cutting, it was an impressive achievement thanks to the volunteers from Camps International.
When complete the biogas digester will turn bear dung into methane gas that can be used to cook the bears’ daily meal of rice. After arriving in Sepilok the initial tasks facing the group were not too exciting or enjoyable but hard labour and exhausting work! We started by moving 1500 bricks from outside to inside the site, which involved a lot of timber planks, deep clay resembling a battlefield full of water and wheelbarrows with punctured wheels…not a good combination for moving bricks!
To follow, the excavated location on site for the digester was full of water. After trying to convince the girls that bailing the water out with buckets all day was the only solution, the contractors, having seen their faces, gladly lent us their pump and the water was gone soon enough. Once the site was clean and dry, the concrete platform was revealed beneath the water and leaves. We then moved a third of the bricks down our own hand made steps, carved out from the clay, and into the centre of the circle, only to realise that the centre of the circle was actually required to draw and mark out the circular footprint for the bricks! After a brief re-location, to the girl’s delight of course, we laid out the first course. With a quick lesson in the art of bricklaying by leader Howard, we quickly learnt that bricklaying was indeed an art and not as easy as maybe expected previously!
We soon developed an effective production line of sand/cement mixing, water collecting, concrete mixing, bucket filling and distributing down the steps to the site. This was all being done in sticky wet clay, hot, humid conditions and with every contractor working in Sepilok staring at our every move. Well I say “our” every move, as lovely as Matt and I are, I’m pretty sure it had something to do with all the girls working on site! Their entertainment eventually turned to frustration with our bricklaying skills and they soon joined us down in the pit. A solid afternoon’s work with the contractors got us back on track and we were soon motoring on with the construction.
The arrival of the remainder of the group brought an injection of enthusiasm, plus the skills of their leaders Mann and Zul. Our initial attempts to build the dome for the digester were not as successful as we maybe first thought. Despite it being our first experience bending metal bars into circles and arcs, we were relatively happy and satisfied with our efforts. That is until Mann took one look at it and worked his magic! His construction experience was clear to see as he took our “dome” apart and began amending our “arches” into curved things of beauty! When re-attached and covered with steel mesh, the finished dome was an impressive sight.
The moment of truth came when the dome was placed onto the brick structure to find out how well it would fit. It sat perfectly and the steel circular rings were attached using the vertical metal rods bedded in between the double skin of bricks. A hard mornings work then began when the inside face of the dome was plastered, a very messy and tiring job but one that was achieved successfully in one go. To complete the group’s work, the outside face was then plastered in the afternoon and covered with damp blankets. Without the efforts and hard grafting by the volunteers, the biofuel digester would still be a large pond on site. The group made great progress in the ten days and should be proud of the efforts! On behalf of B.S.B.C.C., I would like to thank Camps International for their contribution, as their work here will always be seen and felt by the centre for years to come.
Over here at the centre the bear crew can’t help but take a keen liking to a trio of young sun bears who may have actually been acrobats in a past life. While one is hanging upside down from the ceiling with its head arched back and legs flailing in the air, another will be swinging though the air in a tire, whilst the other is usually balancing stealthily in the corner, arms straight up, or perhaps tearing open a coconut. They’re a regular riot to observe with their overflowing abundance of character and youthful antics! Deemed the ‘three amigos’ by a troupe of loyal volunteers from New Zealand, these three bears, Jelita, Lawa and Cerah, truly delight in each other’s company. “The reason they get along so well,” explains Wai Pak, the onsite Educational Officer, “is because they are so young. At their age they need playmates. They all happen to be the same age, as well, and they have grown up in captivity, so they are particularly fond of each other!”
It’s a truly enjoyable sight to behold when a group of young wild, animals with a rather unfortunate past can be helped to live in such contentment. And, why not? These bears are blessed with more love and attention than most creatures could dream of having. Although their living space in not quite adequate yet, these bears are still receiving the utmost care. Through the hard work and dedication of the small BSBCC staff, along with the fresh, motivated energy of the volunteer groups, these bears receive healthy nourishment, instinctual stimulation, and well-cared for environments. All the bears have to worry about is how they’ll break open their next coconut and even that doesn’t seem to challenge them for too long.
Labors of Love - our friendly bear caretaker, David, is bringing sugar cane, fruit and other yummy treats for the bears.
Wai Pak is happily raking dry leaves to put into the bear cages, which helps to create a more natural surface for them to walk on.
This is a new article that I wrote for Society & Environment-A monthly magazine published by Zayed International Prize for the Environment (www.zayedprize.org.ae) what base in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It was published in the July 2009 issue. Special thanks to Ms Seema Sangra, the Editor and the Art Director of the magazine for publishing this sun bear article.
As my plane landed on that grassy runway, I looked out the windows to see banana trees surrounding rustic village huts and noted quite emphatically to myself,
"I am in Borneo!"
Wai pak and Billy met me just outside the Sandakan airport gates with warm, friendly smiles and swooped me off to the local market and clinic for a brief health check. The visit to the clinic is quite mandatory, I have discovered, when working in such close proximity to the protected wildlife. Wai Pak is the most qualified member of the SSBCC staff that is currently residing in Sabah. He has a great knowledge of the centre and an admirable fatherly relationship to the bears. Billy is the architect's assistant who is also deeply interested in the welfare of the bears, along with the design and construction of the new bear centre. I have taken the role of not only the onsite conservationist photojournalist, but also the very first official BSBCC volunteer. It's a very exciting time for the BSBCC. Phase 1 of construction for the new centre is in full swing. I feel privileged to be here to witness the great changes that are occurring.
The new centre will provide the ex-captive and orphaned sun bears a more natural environment, in a secure section of the forest reserve, so that they can be safe and outdoors! It's terribly sad to see these amazing, beautiful wild creatures living behind bars. Although it is better for them to be safe here in these cages, than in life-threatening situations elsewhere, it is not suitable for them to be so confined.
Since Siew Te Wong founded BSBCC and took over the care of the confiscated sun bears from Sabah Wildlife Department’s Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in 2007, there have been vast improvements in the current bear facilities. The bears have much better living conditions than before, yet the new centre will be optimal. The new centre, when fully built, will be able to accommodate 43 bears (31more than currently). Thus, there will be space for more confiscated bears that may need to be rescued and rehabilitated. Sadly, with the progression of various threats against the safety of the wild sun bears, including habitat loss, pet trade and poaching, there will most likely be many more bears that are in need of rescue. The BSBCC, with the help of LEAP, has raised enough money to fund the first phase of the building construction; however, to complete the proposed plan quite a bit more funding will be necessary. I am hoping that through my photography I will be able to raise more funding for the construction of the new centre. Unfortunately, the costs of maintaining the facility and sustaining the bears will also increase will the new centre because the small government funding they are currently receiving will cease to exist. This is an even greater incentive to ‘get the ball rolling’ on raising money for the magnificent sun bears and their new home!
Wong's notes: Jocelyn is a photographer and writter. You can learn more about her and her work at http://www.jocelynstokes.com/. We are very thankful that Jocelyn could come to help us at BSBCC to do what she do best: photograph and write about our bears, centre, and the forests. Thank you Jocelyn!
A Sun Bear IS NOT a Panda. A call for wildlife education and awareness in Malaysia
Recently a friend and supporter of BSBCC went to visit the Victory Mini Zoo Farm in Papart, Kudat in the Northern Region of Borneo, and he was shocked by what he found. Apparently the Zoo was advertising that they had a Panda Bear but instead it was 2 Malayan Sun Bears, which are Totally Protected under Sabah’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment. The rationale for incorrectly identifying the bears is unclear—they may be using the name Panda to attract visitors or they could be mistaken about the type of Bear that they are housing. Either way, this error is misleading and embarrassing and unfortunately indicates that the Zoo management know very little about the wildlife that they are responsible for, which is a scary indicator of the level of treatment that the animals are receiving.
This gaffe also highlights the general lack of education that people have about the Malayan Sun Bear, and with this type of misinformation, it is no wonder that most people do not know that Malaysia has a bear species. This example proves that the local Malaysian community lacks coherent and correct information regarding wildlife in the region and would benefit substantially from increased environmental education and awareness. Malaysia is urgently in need of a complete environmental education system that would help promote local appreciation of our natural resources, unique wildlife species and our fragile natural habitat.
Perhaps the first step in addressing this issue would be for the government to implement and enforce strict guidelines on the Mini Zoos in the country, to ensure that they are utilizing best practices in caring for the animals and that the conditions provided for wildlife are appropriate. In conjunction with this, the government also has the opportunity to promote and fund Wildlife Centres that focus on awareness and education of local and international visitors in order to increase the impact that these Centres have. It is the time for the people and government of Malaysia to address the treatment of animals in Zoos and captivity (both legal and illegal) and begin to support a more sustainable and long-term model of animal care and welfare.