Kota Kinabalu: The State Government has pledged RM600,000 to the setting up of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sandakan. Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman made the pledge at a fund-raising dinner at a hotel here on Friday to match the about RM600,000 raised by the organiser, Bornean Sun Bear Trust Fund, during the event. The proceeds came from the sales of tables for the dinner as well as auction sales of five artworks that raised a total of RM151,000.
According to Bornean Sun Bear Trust Fund’s Executive Director, Cynthia Ong, it also managed to raise RM129,600 from international donors and the total raised so far, including the proceeds from the fundraiser, stood at about RM1.3 million.
Ong said RM2.6 million was needed to set up the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, which would carried out in three stages.
Phase One, she said, would involve the setting up of an enclosure to accommodate 27 bears on a one-hectare plot adjacent to the Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre, estimated to cost RM1.1 million.
Phase Two would involve the setting up of a visitors’ centre, observation gallery as well as nature trail, costing about RM600,000, while Phase Three would involve another two hectares of forest enclosure that would be able to accommodate 43 bears, cost RM900,000.
With the setting up of such centre, the bears would not have to be caged and, instead, would have access to natural forest, she said, adding that support from the Government as well as the private sector is crucial as time is running out to save the bears.
Earlier in his speech, the Chief Minister said the new centre has the potential to be developed as an educational and awareness centre, adding it could also lend support to the State’s tourism efforts as it would become another eco-tourism destination for both local and international visitors.
Musa pointed out that Sabah is home to one of eight bear species found in the world and it was time to give the sun bear the same attention given to the other wildlife in Sabah, such as the orang-utan, Bornean pygmy elephant, the proboscis monkey and the Sumatran rhinoceros.
The fundraising dinner was graced by local celebrities such as Daphne Iking, Lina Teoh, Ida Nerina and Joanna Bessey, and was also attended by Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, State Forestry Department Director Datuk Sam Mannan, State Wildlife Department Director Laurentius Ambu as well as corporate figures.