Text and photos by Siew Te Wong
Today's blog is simple.
I do not need to write many words.
Because a photo worth a thousand words.... hehe..
Let the pictures tell the story..
You can see sun bears like these photo ONLY in Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.
Sun bear holds many world's records.
Sun bear is the world's smallest bear species. However, they have the longest tongue, longest claws, and largest canines relatively to their size if compares to other bear species.
They are the world's most arboreal bear species. Yet, sun bear is the world's least known bears. They are the least studied bear species. I often refer them as the forgotten species.
Sun bears are nothing but amazing and fascinating! I knew it from years of studying them and working closely with them. It is ashamed that very few people in the world know much about them. For such an little known species, what sun bear need is an army of media coverage, range from the smallest smart phones, tiny news papers columns, articles in magazines, books, internet websites, youtube videos, TV programs and documentaries, and all the way to big screen feature-length films in cinema. Yes, feature-length films like movies!
As sun bear biologist, I am frustrated all these years by having difficulties to reach people, many people indeed, to share the stories and the plights of the sun bears. That frustration however, was slowly disappeared when Chris Morgan first contacted me about a proposed full length feature film call the BEARTREK in 2005. BEARTREK is a wildlife film produce by Wildlife Media Inc. features Brown bears in Alaska, Sun Bears in Borneo, Andean Bears in Peru, and Polar Bears in Canada. Wildlife Media is making a difference for bears and other wildlife through direct project funding and awareness-building.
"Film can change the world"
For BEARTREK, it will change the fate, the future, and conservation of sun bear. The numbers of people BEARTREK will reach and the amount of influence BEARTREK on sun bear is beyond anyone's imagination. It will be huge, be vast, be significant. Many people across the world will see sun bear, learn about sun bear, and know how special sun bears are for the first time in their life from BEARTREK. All of this knowledge is important for us to save sun bear from extinction as well as their habitat from deforestation. It has been 5 years now I anticipate the project to be completed. At the beginning of each year I pray that the movie will be completed in that year because we need the world to know about the plight of sun bear and their conservation issues urgently. Sun bears and their tropical rainforest habitat need immediate attention and have no time to wait.
"What is good for bears is good for people" is what Chris Morgan always said. "Protect bear habitat and you will protect fresh water, healthy forests, and clean air. No other species captures the human imagination like bears. They amaze us with their power, appearance, intelligence, and adaptability; attributes that have led to human admiration and respect for millennia."
Like all film productions, BEARTREK is no exception of in need funding to achieve its goals. I am urging you to support Wildlife Media and the production of BEARTREK. I am thankful to those of you who have supported BEARTREK. I also thank Chris, Joe and this team to put this movie together.
You can learn more about BEARTREK and Chris Morgan's works at:
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Photos: BEFF, Cede Prudente
With Thanks from BEFF 2011
How cool was it to have a rare King Cobra, about 12 foot long, attempting to participate in the BEFF 2011 at the Rainforest Discovery Centre! And how appropriate that Cedde Prudente was talking about the “Wild Wonders of Sabah”. We know his photographs are amazing and beautiful but we didn’t know he has a following from wild creatures, too!
We were half wondering whether the sun bears will also be in attendance during Wong Siew Te talk on “The holistic approaches to Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) to conserve sun bears in Sabah”.
You can go to BSBCC website for further information about BSBCC work and Bornean sun bears. Watch the BEARTREK demo reel here, one of the film screened in the BEFF 2011. Not many people are aware of the plight of the Bornean sun bears. BEFF 2011 is pleased to have been able to at least provide some sort of avenue for creating awareness on the great work of BSBCC and the plight of Bornean sun bears. It is amazing to see and be in the presence of someone so passionate about his work in protecting the sun bears. It was indeed a privilege to have Wong be a part of BEFF 2011. Save sun bears!!
Nikon Malaysia gave an interesting presentation on “Movie-Making with a Nikon DSLR”, and some goodies giveaway for those who can name international and local film directors. Nikon Malaysia also sponsored the prizes for the lucky draw during BEFF 2011. Thank you Nikon Malaysia!
These three talks launched the BEFF 2011 on Friday 29th July. Then it was a mad dash to Nak Hotel for the film screenings which began at 7pm. The screenings were held at Balin Rooftop Restaurant and Bar, an open air area on the roof top of Nak Hotel. And what a view!! The sunset, the sea, the shop buildings and there was a huge navy ship docked at the bay about 200 meters from the BEFF venue.
Husband and wife team Anton and Linn (BEFF main organizers) did a wonderful job of setting up the venue and providing the space for BEFF 2011 film screenings.
BEFF 2011 saw the screening of 15 thought provoking films by Abdul Hamid Abdullah, Arry & Fizzah, Joe Pontecorvo & Chris Morgan, JICA & Scubazoo, BorneoColours, Mai Iskandar, Ikhwan Rivai, Cassia Mary Itamoto & Celina Kurihara, Audrie Yeo, Patrick Rouxel, BBC & Roger Munns, WWF & Harun Rahman, Dario Novellino & ALDAW Networks, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity Conservation, and Thorfinnur Gudnason and Andri Snaer Magnason. The screening was made extra special by the presence of some of the filmmakers in BEFF 2011 to answer questions about their films. Now that is what we call "access"! The questions posed were equally thought provoking and we are sure many who were there at BEFF 2011 left with greater awareness about our environment and how we can all contribute towards the protection and preservation of our natural habitat.
The film screenings were made even more special with the presence of talented and award winning musicians Christopher Aban; Amir Yussof and friend; Roger Wang; Angelina Perete; Hezekiah Asim and wife Kalina who performed a Borneo Orang Ulu dance. Strong wind, dark clouds and lightning did not stop the audience from clapping their hands in rhythm with the music elegantly sang by Angelina accompanied by the masterful sound of Roger Wang on the guitar, and what looks like a wooden-vase-cum-drums (Udu Vase?) played by multi-talented Hezekiah who also played the Sompoton (Bornean flute), Hulusi (Chinese flute made using bamboo and gourd), as well as the Sape (a traditional lute of Bornean Orang Ulu). Amir Yusof performed his excellent and meaningful song "Calling on you". Here's a clip of Amir singing the song (clip taken from Youtube):
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The final day was a closed session, the SUARA Workshop: Community Filmmaking, which was facilitated by Ulu Papar Community Researchers, Inanc Tekguc, Artiso Mandawa and Global Diversity Foundation, and filmmakers Chris Chong Chan Fui and Ikhwan Rivai. This year's community is HUTAN, a non-profit organisation working to develop and implement innovative solutions to conserve the orang-utan in Sabah, Malaysia.
Overall, about 300 people, from Malaysia, U.S.A., Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, England and others, the Minister of Youth and Sports Sabah, Sandakan Municipal Council President, and representatives from organisations such Sabah Society, Kota Kinabalu International Film Festival attended BEFF 2011 from 29th to 31st July 2011. On average about 35 participants attended each sessions on film and documentary making by Harun Rahman of Novista, Chris Chong Chan Fui of Tanjung Aru Pictures, Ikhwan Rivai of Wildman Pictures, and Roger Munns of Scubazoo. Each one of the esteemed speakers generously shared with the participants their knowledge, acquired through years of experience, on film making. These include pre-production and post-productions matters, equipments, writing proposals, research, difference between a subject and story, the importance of using good tripods, how to ensure the sound recording for your film is good, story arc, where to start, how to get your film out there, plots and characters, character arc, importance of good storytelling, funding, pitching, legal matters and many more, about documentaries that make audience ask questions, about telling your own story your way, and as Chris puts it "why not?". Roger's talk on underwater filmmaking left the audience sitting on the edge of their seats as Roger shared the thrills, tribulations and fun of underwater filmmaking.
At the end of the day, each filmmakers were unanimous in their message that if you want to be a filmmaker, the best way to start is to just go out there and start filming. Let your imagination run free, be creative, and to just have the mindset that you just have to do it right now and you have what it takes to make things happen. Be the filmmaker that you are right now!
Finally, our sincere gratitude to all who believed in the BEFF 2011 and made it possible! Join us again for the BEFF 2012!
More photos of BEFF can be view here:
A big congratulation to the BEFF organizing committee and BEFF team to make this festival a success in Sandakan! You guys rock!
A big thank you and hugs for your invitation for BSBCC and the sun bear team to be part of this important event. This is by far a good place for us to raise awareness for sun bears and everything we care about- Mother Earth. I am looking forward to be part of BEFF again in the future!
A sms that I received on the evening of the June 28th sent my excitement to the roof. The text message was from Joe Pontecorvo, the Director and Producer of Beartrek, that he was in Kota Kinabalu and he was on his way to Sandakan to visit me and Cerah the sun bear.
For those of you who do not know BEARTREK, please click here or visit http://wildlifemedia.org/the-movie/watch-clips/.
"BEARTREK is Wildlife Media's first feature-length film. It takes you on a global motorcycle quest with insatiable adventurer and biologist Chris Morgan. Chris traverses the wildest places on Earth seeking out the rarest bear species and the dedicated people racing to save them from extinction. Movie profits will fund bear conservation, including projects highlighted in the film. Watch the clips below, explore this website, then support wildlife and wild places"
Joe is not ordinary film director. He is THE director and producer that produced several wildlife documentaries, BEARTREK and also the latest highly acclaimed PBS Nature documentary, "Bears of The Last Frontier." In 2007, Joe together with Chris Morgan and their team from the Wildlife Media visited me in Danum Valley when I was conducting a 3 years field work studying wild sun bears and bearded pigs. We completed the filming for the sun bear section for BEARTREK with Chris, who is the host and the narrator of the movie. After almost 4 years since Joe left Borneo, he was back to this part of the world for a new mission. I am so glad to meet him, to catch up with him, and we discussed potential corroboration works for us in the future.
BEARTREK is not just another wildlife documentary about bears. It will be the first wildlife movie that show case the little known sun bear and the plights of their survival on the island of Borneo. It will for sure create a huge positive force to raise awareness and enlighten millions of audiences across the world about the uniqueness, preciousness, and the beautifulness of sun bears that live in the dense tropical rainforest of Borneo. Over the last four years the promos of Beartrek and a tailor-made video of sun bear from Wildlife Media has instrumental the success of several fund raising events for BSBCC. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Joe, Chris and their team in Wildlife Media to making all of these possible.
Thank you guys!
Please read more about BEARTREK:
By Anna Cocker (Sun Bear Conservation Trust)
After completing the Great North Run on 20th September 2009 to raise money for sun bears, I have collected the last of the sponsor money, raising a total of £136.00. The Great North Run is a half marathon (13.1 miles) which is held annually in the city of Newcastle, England every September. It is the world’s second most popular half marathon road running event consisting of elite athletes, athletes running for fun and people taking part for charity. Despite it being a hot day I kept going and going as I was thinking about the sun bears in Sepilok and I made it to the finish line in 2 hours 10 minutes. It was my first time participating in the Great North Run and I was taken back with the immense volume of 54,000 people taking part as well as being completely overwhelmed by the phenomenal atmosphere and support from the crowds. I’m looking forward to running it again in the near future. Thanks everyone for all your help and support!
Anna Cocker is by far the biggest fan of sun bear. We first met during the 2006 International Conference on Bear Research and Management in Japan. With no training or background on bear research and management, Anna attended the conference simply because she had a very strong interest on bears. Her agenda during the meeting was simple: She would like to meet bear biologists to learn more about bears and also seek opportunities to work them.
Out of hundreds of bear biologists around the world who attended the conference, Anna found me. At that time, I was conducting a 3- year field study on sun bear in Borneo. This is a golden opportunity to get involve with bear research and conservation work that she has been looking for. After a year of emailing between her and me, Anna finally landed in Borneo and spent the next several months in the tropical rainforest helping me collecting field data, tracking wild sun bears, and taking care captive sun bears in Sepilok (before BSBCC was established), including Cerah, the little sun bear featured in BEARTREK the movie.
Anna learned to radio-track wild colloared sun bears in the rainforest of Borneo.
Anna’s story is a good one to tell. She is SO 100% fall in love with sun bear after spending few months of her life working with the sun bear (actually, who won’t?). Anna never stop thinking and never stop doing for sun bear even after she returned home to UK. She is one of the founding member of the UK Sun Bear Conservation Trust and has been doing a lot to raise fund for sun bear, including running Marathon for two time to raise fund for BSBCC.
Anna plan to come back to Sabah to continue her work with sun bear and study sun bear. BSBCC always welcome energetic and passionate people like Anna to work with us. I am truly blessed to have Anna working with me and helping sun bears over the past few years. I hope her story will inspire more people to care and to work with sun bear in the future.
It was truly a fun evening with a lot of laughter with Chris Morgan, Joe Pontecorvo, John Taylor, and many others from the BEARTREK family and guests that make it to the party on April 23rd to cerebrate the achievement that Wildlife Media accomplished and keep the spirit of Beartrek high.
The evening was joined by over a hundred guests and fans of bear and BEARTREK. It was a fun evening that brought up a lot of the sweet memories and stories during the filming in Bornean rainforest, Cerah the little sun bears, and the blood sucking leeches.
I would like to take this opportunity to specially thank Chris and John over and over again to feature sun bear and pick me to work with in the movie. I really hope BEARTREK will change the faith of sun bear- the least known bear and a forgotten bear species, so that people around the world will know and help a little bear call sun bears!
Below is a thank you letter from Chris Morgan:
April 24, 2009
What an evening!
On behalf of Wildlife Media staff and board, thank you for joining us in celebration last night. It was an evening to remember. Truly, Wildlife Media (WM) couldn't have come this far without your help and support. So it was a real treat to share the presentation and BEARTREK demo reel with you in a place as fun as the Big Picture.
Speaking of treats, we hope you also enjoyed biologists Robyn Appleton and Siew Te Wong who shared their "bear worlds" with us. Their stories from the field remind us of the importance and benefits of working with local communities on conservation. And their stories are only two of many to be told through BEARTREK.
I'd like to recognize just a few of the people behind last night's event. WM co-founder, CEO, and board chair John Taylor was instrumental in making this celebration happen. Plus, photographer Tim Chandonnet donated his time to capture the night in pictures. To see and purchase photos from the evening, visit Tim'swebsite. Fifty percent of photo sales go directly to Wildlife Media.
One last note: We want to keep you up-to-speed on our work to help fund critical wildlife projects around the globe. So beginning with this message, you'll be hearing more from us on how Wildlife Media and BEARTREK are making a real difference. If you'd like to help spread the word to others, sharing the links below is an excellent place to start:
20-min. BEARTREK demo reel
Wildlife Media website
Thank you again, everyone, for a memorable evening!
Executive Director, Producer
Wildlife Media, including BEARTREK the movie and campaign
Scientist and Conservationist
Bellingham ecologist makes bear documentary to save wild places
KIE RELYEA - THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
Bellingham ecologist Chris Morgan is taking his BMW motorcycle on a journey to four continents in search of the world's endangered bears - an epic adventure being made into a feature-length documentary called "Beartrek."
The goal isn't just to show the bears in their habitat, stunning as the wild coast of Katmai, Alaska, and the rainforest canopy of Borneo, Malaysia, may be when shot in high definition.
The idea is to raise money for conservation efforts by selling audiences on why wild bears in wild places should matter to people, to spin an entertaining tale that will do for conservation what Al Gore did for climate change in "An Inconvenient Truth."
"They represent these wild places that we all need. Where you've got bears, you've got fresh water, you've got clean air, you've got intact forest and ecosystems," Morgan said one day over coffee. "They need those things, and so do we."
"Beartrek," which is still being shot, follows Morgan and his motorcycle to seven locations in Canada, Alaska, Peru, India, Borneo and Mongolia. In addition to Morgan, who also narrates the film, the featured stars will be giant brown bears in Alaska, polar bear cubs in Canada and Alaska, sloth bears in India, sun bears in Borneo, elusive Andean bears in Peru, and brown bears in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia.
INSPIRED BY SCIENCE
Morgan grew up in England and had plans, early on, to become a graphic designer.When he was 18, the outdoors lover came to New Hampshire to teach kids at a summer camp how to fish. And that was where a bear biologist's presentation sent his life in a new direction."I was transfixed. I had no idea you could do that kind of thing in life," he said.
Morgan would go on to become an ecologist specializing in bears and, over the years, he would work on each of the four continents where bears existed.
"Everywhere I went, I could see biologists who were struggling to do this important work with limited funds and limited exposure," Morgan said. Locally, he's known for the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project, which he started some six years ago to educate the public about the dwindling number of grizzly bears in the North Cascades.
Morgan said there are probably about 10 grizzlies remaining within 10,000 square miles in the Cascades. Those square miles were designated as a grizzly bear recovery zone in 1991.
"So they're practically the walking dead," he said. "They are highly endangered, one of the rarest populations of mammals in North America."
As Morgan continued his own work, he mulled over the idea of supporting the other scientists he'd met as well as using his particular talent for making people "hyped and inspired by our wild places." Morgan landed on the idea of doing that through bears, iconic creatures who are in peril. Five out of the world's eight species are at risk.
"Bears capture people's imagination like no other creatures," he said. "People love them or loathe them, but they're seldom indifferent about them."
SAVING BEARS BY ENTERTAINING PEOPLE
Morgan hatched the idea for "Beartrek" over a beer with Joe Pontecorvo, a Seattle-based wildlife filmmaker and producer. They met in Alaska while Morgan was guiding a group of people to see brown bears, also known as grizzlies, and Pontecorvo was filming bears for PBS.
Pontecorvo said he needed to do more for conservation, and while nature films were good for "spectacle," not enough was being done to protect the planet.
He and Morgan also wanted to tell the good news about existing efforts.
"I always say we all know the sky is falling when it comes to the environment, but there are also some really good ways to prop up the sky," Morgan explained.
"We can change the course of events." And do it in a way that draws gearheads and environmentalists into theaters, "not just the already converted," Pontecorvo said.
That's where Morgan's motorcycle comes in. He and Pontecorvo figured that a story about a guy riding his BMW through the back roads into the wild would appeal to adventurers out there, even if they're not green.
"Beartrek" also is a wildlife documentary meant to entertain along the lines of "March of the Penguins" and "Winged Migration." And like those films, Morgan and other conservationists who started the venture hope to release "Beartrek" in theaters as well as DVD, TV, the Internet, and any medium that will spread the message.
Pontecorvo also sees "Beartrek" as a new model for conservation in that its profits will be sunk into bear conservation. Existing conservation efforts and the scientists behind them already are getting help, even though the documentary isn't finished. "They couldn't wait," Pontecorvo said.
Some $25,000 to $30,000 worth of materials and aid, including cash, already have gone to biologists working to save bears. "It doesn't have to be an awful lot of money. It goes so far in the places where they need it most," Morgan said.
The overall project is being handled by Wildlife Media, a nonprofit started in September 2007 to manage "Beartrek" and the goal of raising $2 million, with half of that going directly to bear projects around the world, including those featured in the film.
Bear and motorcycle enthusiasts don't have to wait until the film is finished to see Morgan and Pontecorvo's beautiful handiwork. A 20-minute demo reel of their venture to Alaska and Borneo already is being used to raise private dollars for the documentary and conservation projects.
"Beartrek" opens with sweeping views of the rugged Katmai coast in Alaska, where giant brown bears, or grizzlies, gather in big numbers each year.
"These bears start life the weight of a squirrel and end life the weight of a car," Morgan narrates, as bears run around a stream and snatch salmon from the water.
These are the largest, most impressive bears in the world, living in one of the most intact ecosystems, Morgan said in a separate interview. They can weigh as much as 1,500 pounds and are capable of consuming 30,000 calories a day.
Contrast that with the second part of the demo, where Morgan travels to Borneo in search of the sun bear - the smallest bear species in the most diverse place in Asia. A big sun bear weighs 100 pounds.
There, Morgan rides his motorcycle into a rainforest being logged - 50 percent has been lost in the past 20 years - make way for palm-oil plantations that stretch for mile after mile. Palm oil is found in many everyday products, from ice cream to cosmetics. It's also a bio fuel, and the world's hunger for it is destroying the habitat for sun bears and other wildlife.
In Borneo, Morgan meets up with Siew Te Wong, a biologist trying to save the bears, including an orphaned sun bear club named "Chera," which means "bright" in Malay.
Pontecorvo recorded Chera, then 10 months old, being released from a cage and playing, first hesitantly then with abandon.
"It was the most amazing thing to watch," the filmmaker said.
Morgan is raising money to go on the next shoot in Peru, home to the most ancient bear species on the planet - the threatened Andean bear, so rarely seen that biologists don't know how many still exist. The Peru shoot will cost about $95,000, and a little over half has been raised. The hoped-for theatrical release date for "Beartrek" is 2010.
"What we want to do is make conservation a social norm," he said. "I know that sounds like a huge goal, and it is."
Reach KIE RELYEA at email@example.com or call 715-2234.
TO LEARN MORE
• Additional information about "Beartrek" and Wildlife Media, including how to make a tax-deductible donation to the making of the feature-length film and bear conservation efforts, is available online at wildlifemedia.org.
• Find Grizzly Bear Outreach Project at bearinfo.org.
• More on Joe Pontecorvo, the wildlife filmmaker who's shooting "Beartrek," at joepontecorvo.com.
Watch a 20-minute short of "Beartrek"
A conservation story wrapped in an adventure
BEARTREK is a feature length documentary that follows renowned bear biologist and naturalist Chris Morgan on a global crusade to understand and conserve the rarest bears on Earth. Join Chris on an epic motorcycle adventure across four continents to the wildest places on Earth -uncover the secretive nature of the world’s most endangered bears, discover the threats facing them in the wild, and meet dedicated individuals racing to saving them from extinction.
Our film is an emotional one. Why? Because the places, people and bears that we will be meeting along the way will move you. The destinations are exotic (among them are Peru, Mongolia, Borneo, Alaska and India). The bears will amaze you (India alone has four species), and the stories will grip you. Imagine tracking sloth bears by elephant back in tiger country, following the emotional release of a captive sun bear in Borneo, or immersing yourself in a tiny Andean town where a soccer league determines the fate of the local bears.
BEARTREK brings the amazing world of bears to the big screen as you have never seen before -a stunning natural history adventure that will change your view of the world, and inspire you to take action.
I am honored to be part of story featured in BEARTREK. In this movie, I will tell you my field work on sun bears in the rainforest of Borneo and show you some of the very rare footages of sun bear. Sun bears receive very little media coverage and publicity until now. I hope BEARTREK will introduce you this little known and little bear species- the sun bear!
Click here to see the latest promo video on BEARTREK
Please learn more about the movie at