They're known as Asia's Sun Bears and they're listed as a vulnerable species. A group of Sunshine Coast Uni students who are studying communications have got behind their plight, by designing an adoption program for the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.
They'll travel to the Centre next month, but before then, you'll have an opportunity to find out more about this beautiful creature at a special movie night.
Sarah Pye is a public relations lecturer at the uni and she'll travel with her students to Borneo in early Feburary to see the Centre first-hand. Christina Morris and Nerilyn Vetter are two of the students in her team.
Annie started by asking Sarah how the project first came to her attention.
SANDAKAN: The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) opened its doors to the public in hope raising awareness on the iconic species and encourage research on the world’s smallest bear.
The centre, placed next to the world renowned Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, is equipped with key facilities including an observation platform, boardwalk and visitor centre.
Two bear houses that shelter 28 sun bears in their natural habitat would not be accessible to visitors at the centre that was officially opened on Thursday.
The centre is open daily from 9am to 3.30pm.
Fees are fixed at RM5 for Malaysians above the age of 17 years, and RM2 for citizens between the ages of 12 and 17.
The fee for non-Malaysians is RM30 (above 17 years old) and RM15 (12 to 17 years).
Admission is free for all children under the age of 12.
Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan, Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) executive director and chief executive officer Cynthia Ong and BSBCC founder Wong Siew Te, jointly unveiled the centre’s logo at a soft opening attended by partners and donors.
The BSBCC, the first and only facility of its kind in the world, is a non-governmental organisation set up in 2008 through collaboration of the Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Wildlife Department and LEAP.
Ong described the soft opening as a “landmark moment” acknowledging the support of many people all over the world and those who worked hard behind the scenes including at LEAP, to bring the centre to where it is today.
In his speech, Mannan said he had agreed to the idea of the centre when Ong met him six years ago to address the problem of bears being kept illegally in captivity, and space was then set aside for the purpose.
“I am impressed with what I have seen so far and my message is that we at the department have no monopoly over good ideas or resources.
“We appreciate the point of views that others have, as we do not know everything.
“We must also ensure that the sun bear habitats will be there in perpetuity. Failure to address this is why we have a centre now (to care for sun bears),” Mannan said.
Habitat loss and poaching for parts used in traditional medicine are among key threats that have led to a decline by at least 30% of its population in the last three decades.
Other threats include illegal capture for the pet trade and when they are killed when wrongly perceived as pests.
Found throughout mainland Asia, Sumatra in Indonesia and Borneo, the exact number of sun bears in the wild is unknown.
This makes it even more pressing to reduce pressure on a species that is classified as “vulnerable” on The IUCN Red List and at risk of becoming endangered unless circumstances threatening their survival improve.
Meanwhile, Ambu said the Wildlife Department will endeavour to increase enforcement efforts in clamping down on those who keep the species or trade its parts, stressing that no licences were issued for anyone to own sun bears except for the BSBCC and the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park.
“Our department will also work tirelessly to ensure that sun bears can be released back to the wild, subject to their adaptation to the habitat.
“It is also our hope that this centre will facilitate and catalyse research on sun bears, and conduct outreach programmes to raise awareness on dangers of keeping this species in captivity,” Ambu said.
Sun bears are classified as a Totally Protected Species under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, providing it the same status as the orang utan and sumatran rhinoceros.
Text by Genevie Gikun
Photos by Tee Thye Lim
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) founded by CEO Wong Siew Te has made history today by successfully holding a soft opening. The BSBCC is now officially open to the public. The ceremony was attended by Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan, Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr. Laurentius Ambu, Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) executive director and chief executive officer Cynthia Ong. The ceremony ran for 4 hours and each VIP had a chance to give some of their thoughts through speeches. Datuk Ambu said the centre will help to raise awareness about sun bears among the public and also increase enforcement efforts to ban all poaching activity of the sun bear as well as the illegal pet and body part trade. Meanwhile, Ms. Ong on her speech described the soft opening as a “landmark moment” and thanked all people who worked hard for the opening of the centre. Datuk Mannan on the other hand strongly agreed the opening of the centre is to care for the orphaned and confiscated sun bears. Mr. Wong in his speech stressed the importance of the sun bear and its forest habitat. He also mentioned that the long term focus of the centre would be research and rehabilitation. The centre will open daily from 9am to 3.30pm. Entry fees are fixed at RM2 and RM5 for Malaysians between the ages 12-17 and above the age of 17 respectively. The entry fees for non-Malaysians are RM15 and RM30 between the ages 12-17 and above the age of 17 respectively. Admission is free for all children under the age of 12 and senior citizen above the age of 55. The BSBCC soft opening ran smoothly and we are now looking forward to the grand opening that will be held in May this year.
Inside the visitor centre the public will be mesmerized by one big aquarium tank. The aquarium is called the Educational Nature Aquarium was decorated by Mr. Wong himself. The theme is a Bornean rainforest stream. The message the public will get from the Educational Nature Aquarium is to care for the fresh water ecosystem. The plants, which function to filter the water and make it clear, are collected locally around the centre. Our centre hopes to raise awareness with the Educational Nature Aquarium to give the public an insight on this kind of unique ecosystem.
Text and Photos by Tom Shaw
I’m a little late to the blog party, but the guys here have asked me to write some of my experiences down. I think I’ll start with a bit of background from my first week here. This is my first ever blog so don’t judge.
So far working at BSBCC has been unreal. The people here are really friendly and welcoming and help you out wherever they can. Everyone has great english as well which helps me out.
The work for me has been primarily with the bears. They are set to open the centre on January 16th, so its been pretty full on getting everything set. Thankfully its only the soft opening as there is still so much left to do.
A day in the life of a volunteer begins at 8:30am. I head straight for the bear enclosures and begin with either food prep, or cleaning up after the bears. For such little bears they can produce an amazing amount of crap! Probably something to do with the 4 feedings a day. The amount at each feeding is determined by the bears size, or hopefully for the current bears, weather they are being prepped to step away from prepared meals to go back into the wild. When that happens, the keepers will reduce the porridge until the bears are only eating fruit out in the jungle enclosures.
Breakfast - Porridge. Usually about a kilo on average. The big bears like Amacco get one and a half.
Mid Morning - Fruit. 38.5kg of banana’s and 14kg of 2 other fruits that are changed every few days to keep the bears eating new things. Jackfruit, guava, watermelon, pineapple, coconut, durian, snake fruit, papaya, the list goes on...
Afternoon - Another 14kg! But of veggies this time. Again, changed everyday. So far i’ve seen pumpkin, beans, cucumber, spinach and jungle fern.
4pm - More Porridge!
This amount of food is spread between the 28 bears currently at BSB CC. Some also have some daily vitamins and fish oil, and they also eat an egg three days a week.
The food prep and feedings is the largest part of the day. It takes a while to get around the hectare of enclosure carrying 8-10kg of food in a bucket!
Not to mention the walkway surrounding it is rather narrow for bigger guys and constantly soaked and slippery as hell. But it is really awesome spreading the food throughout the enclosure and watching the bears forage and roam around sniffing out their meals. Its made more special when you consider all of these bears were rescued from cages, some so small they never learnt how to climb or dig.
Today started like most. Clean up duty and then the morning fruit feeding. I’m finding more and more the different personalities of the bears that aren’t yet ready to leave their cage, as you can see them eat up close. Most will simply wait their turn and gather as they please, however a few stick out to me.
I think Bermuda is the funniest. Today he gathered all his food into a pile, eating none of it until it was more or less all gathered. He then sat on his ass with all the food in front of him like some exotic sultan and feasted, looking at me every now and then with what I can only describe as apathy. Damai on the other hand is still very young, and happy to whip around jumping up, down and around to find the food. There is never a dull moment in the bear house!
Later we had the painstaking task of finishing Wong’s nature fish tank.
The tank is intended to represent the forest surrounding BSBCC, and how a freshwater eco system works. Wong and another volunteer Cory went searching for plants in the forest and came back with 4 varieties, along with a natural moss Wong had been growing for some months. With giant metal chopsticks Wong planted each small plant, probably 50 in total, into small aqua-soil pockets we had isolated with rocks into plant beds. The system with the addition of some fish and prawns, will be used to teach visitors how water is purified in the forest, and has some of the cleanest water I have ever seen. We filled the tank 2/3 up and attached the light array to finish one of the most intense and interesting tank’s I have ever seen. Given time, the plant life will grow up and around the lights and metal beam above. That will be an awesome sight!
The kicker… 24 Ringit!! That’s about $8 AUS, and featured a massive selection of fresh Seafood, prawns, crabs, squid, fish - all local and fresh caught, cooked by yourself at your table. Incase that wasn’t enough, they bought out tray after tray of fresh fried chicken wings, wonton’s and curry. The wings, myself and John (the centres Architect) managed to successfully clean the restaurant out of. Unfortunately not everyone from BSBCC was there, but it was close. Probably a 14 strong crowd, and a finished table that looked like a graveyard. Food coma was the feeling/word of the night, especially upon discovery of two industrial sized containers of chocolate and vanilla peanut butter ice-cream. Lets just say neither survived the 3 hour sitting of restaurant goers. My 4 heaped bowls certainly contributed.
Its fair to say, there was no ‘conservation' that night….
Today I spent the morning in the bear house, and afternoon in the centre. After cleaning the cages I set about perfecting my first enrichment toy. On the first day I was there I took a hessian bag and placed bread with peanut butter in a line, folding it over about 4 or 5 times, with food in each section. I then rolled it up and tied it with rope, the idea being the bear would have to tear through each section to get at each line of bread. I underestimated the bears skill however, and the toy was destroyed within 5 minutes!
The main focus of enrichment activities is to make toys that the bears play with longer then it takes the keeper to make them. These hessian roles take about 5 minutes to make, very simple, but if they only last 5 minutes then its not as great.
Knowing this, I made a slight tweak.
I put 3 holes through the 5 or 6 layers of hessian, at both ends and in the middle, threading the rope used to tie up the roll through each. Using a figure-8 knot I tied it off, so as the bear pulled the rope, it tightened around the bundle. This meant they had to physically tear through each section - no cheating by taking the rope off! I made one for Tokob, and one for Bermuda, both inside bears. Tokob in on the verge. He paces up to the door outside every minute or so, looks outside and then turns back. He is so close, and it hopefully won’t be long before he is outside every day with the rest of his small group. The toy was a huge success. Bermuda was the funniest, taking a full 10 minutes not to tear into the roll, but to lie on his back and rub the small roll over his body and face. I guess peanut butter is awesome to any species. Tokob was not as kind, tearing into it like a fat kid to a cupcake. Both however had difficultly getting in, meaning a full 45 minutes past while they were focussed and playing with it. When the staff and I broke for lunch, a full hour had passed and both were still entertained by the toy. Tokob carried his into his elevated seat and sat there happily gnawing on it. For a 5 minute make time, to get that length of play is crazy good, and I was very psyched to watch them go.
After lunch, the odd jobs continued. I pitched in to get a small fence built around the new quarantine area for incoming bears - keeping out pesky tourists! Then we turned inside and continued the AV equipment set up, so visitors can watch some prepared videos and power points featuring Wong’s research and the centre’s history, before seeing the enclosures. Its going to be an early night after a long day!
Today was a half day for me. They say you should have a couple days break a week, but I’m only here for a short time so I figure a half day is plenty.
On the agenda today, was getting the signs up for the visitor centre entrance. 4 signs, each had to be hung and painted before the printed signs went on. The biggest challenge was the screws. Ordinarily at home I have more equipment then I could ever use, but here the basic things like drill bits are used so much they break. Unfortunately for us this was the case today and we couldn’t find a bit. We used self tapping screws but getting through the metal brackets on the other side was difficult to say the least. Its very challenging finding solutions to problems like this here, but really rewarding when you find an answer and a job comes together.
The next hardest part, painting the back of the boards! The area underneath the entrance walkway is water and swamp and quite low so a stable ladder wasn’t really on the cards. So we hung with one hand on the rail and one hand painting. It was really hot today so when I was done my shirt was a much darker shade of green but we got it finished. Took us all morning but they went up in the end!
Only 2 days till the soft opening now, so I spent my afternoon memorising facts about the centre and surrounding forest. Likely I’ll have to take some visitors around so need to be relatively informed to avoid looking like a dick! Also need to seek out a laundry place as everything I have now is covered in mud/paint/sweat. Goal for tomorrow!
Today was the day before the soft opening so it was full on! I left Azzry and David to handle the bears today after food prep and pitched in with everyone getting the main centre ready. The printed boards went up, which wasn’t the best as it pissed down every time we started putting the glue on. But now they’re on, the entrance looks legit!
The majority of the afternoon was spent moving a large pile of scrap wood that was near the entrance to the centre. We had to load the ute 5 or 6 times with big and small pieces of timber which were covered in mud, nests of ants and a king scorpion. Pretty sketchy each time you moved a piece but thankfully no one got bitten!
General cleaning and preparation was the rest of the day so nothing intense to report but a good day of getting things ready for the VIP and media tomorrow!
Today was the day! The media arrived at 10 and everything went according to plan. There was speeches from Wong firstly, and then some of the other directors, fundraisers and the head of Sabah forestry.
The Centre also had its first public visitors when the Centre opened in the afternoon when the VIP’s had left. I told Wong he needed to keep the first Ringgit he made but I don’t think he did in the end.
Otherwise the rest of the day was spent talking to visitors about the bears and heading back to the bear house for the 2 afternoon feedings!
Hessian Bag Rope - platted strips into rope, bread and honey used. 10 minutes to make
Damai - 10-15 mins of activity. Hung from the basket. Would be more successful if hung lower so couldn’t sit and chew, but had to stand and claw. Used later without food as a chew toy multiple times.
Hessian Bag Roll - food folded 4 times into sections in bag and rolled. Bread, peanut butter and honey. 5 minutes to make.
Amaco - 10-15 mins of activity. Once through the binding rope and made a hole in the bag, was into all sections. Reduced time spent getting into food. Improvement made: Holes put in both sides and middle. Binding rope passed through all 4 sections and then bound.
Bermuda - spent the first 10 minutes lying on his back rubbing the toy on his head! After that the figure 8 knot used meant as he pulled the rope it tightened around the bundle. Meant he was still getting into the final sections a full hour later! Huge success
Tokob - straight into ripping at it. Took 25 minutes to get to all the food. The honey drizzled over the whole thing meant he was still interested in it an hour later. Carried it into his elevated basket and was still chewing on it an hour later.
Tyre Swing - Three tyres in a chain, bound by rope, hung from roof.
Mary Group - Used swing immediately, without food incentive.
RAISING AWARENESS: It's the world's only NGO-run facility
SANDAKAN: After six years of toying with the idea, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) is now accessible to the public who want to get close to the world's smallest bear.
The opening of the centre is expected to raise awareness and encourage research on the endangered species.
It is learnt that the conservation centre, housing 28 sun bears is the only facility of its kind in the world run by a non-governmental organisation.
It was set up in 2008 through the collaboration of the Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Wildlife Department and Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP).
Located next to the world renowned Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, its key facilities include an observation platform, boardwalk and a visitors' centre.
However, the two houses, which provide a natural habitat for the sun bears, are not accessible to visitors.
BSBCC founder Wong Siew Te said in its effort to raise awareness, the centre had moved forward to let the people get a better view and understanding of sun bears.
"Now, we can educate the public on the importance of sun bears and the forest.
"Research and rehabilitation will come next as this is a long-term project, and here to stay."
Sun bears are classified as a totally protected species under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, providing it the same status as the orang-utan and Sumatran rhinoceros.
Found throughout mainland Asia, Sumatra in Indonesia and Borneo, the exact number of sun bears in the wild is unknown.
This makes it even more pressing to reduce pressure on a species classified as "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List and at risk of becoming endangered.
Habitat loss and poaching for its parts for use in traditional medicine are among key threats that have led to a decline of by at least 30 per cent of its population in the last three decades.
Other threats include illegal capture for the pet trade and killed when wrongly perceived as pests.
Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said the department would endeavour to increase enforcement efforts in clamping down on those who keep the species as pets or trade its parts.
He stressed that no licence had been issued for anyone to own sun bears, except to the BSBCC and the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park.
"Our department will also work tirelessly to ensure that sun bears can be released back into the wild, subject to their adaptation to the habitat.
"It is also our hope that this centre will facilitate research on sun bears and conduct outreach programmes to raise awareness on the dangers of keeping this species in captivity."
The centre is open daily from 9am to 3.30pm. Fees are RM5 for Malaysians above 17 and RM2 for citizens between 12 and 17.
The fee for foreigners is RM30 (above 17) and RM15 (between 12 to 17 years). Admission is free for children under 12.
KOTA KINABALU: The Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) situated adjacent to the Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre would be open to visitors from Jan 16.
Sabah Wildlife director Dr Laurentius Ambu said the BSBCC was established to protect and conserve, as well as create awareness among the public on the species that had become endangered as a result of the activities of poachers.
He said the sun bear which is also called honey bear was gazetted as a protected species under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.
The centre located on a 2.5 ha site was set up in 2008 on the initiative of the department with the cooperation of non-governmental organisation, Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP).
“It can accommodate up to 40 sun bears and there are presently 28, aged between one and a half years and 20 years. Seven of them are male,” he told reporters here today.
According to Laurentius, the department was in the process of resettling sun bears that had been surrendered by members of the public who had kept the animals as pets.
Meanwhile, BSBCC founder and CEO Wong Siew Te said the RM6 million centre was expected to be fully completed in May next year.
“Among the main sponsors in its construction were Sime Darby Foundation, Malaysian Tourism and Culture ministry and Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment ministry.
“The estimated annual expenditure to run the centre is RM900,000,” he said.
The Borneo Post, 14th January 2014
KOTA KINABALU: Pusat Pemuliharaan Beruang Madu Borneo (BSBCC) yang terletak bersebelahan Pusat Pemulihan Orang Utan Sepilok di Sandakan akan dibuka kepada pengunjung mulai Khamis ini.
Pengarah Jabatan Hidupan Liar Sabah Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu berkata antara lain orang ramai boleh melihat 28 ekor beruang madu di BSBCC, yang ditubuhkan untuk melindungi, memulihara serta memberi kesedaran dan pengetahuan berhubung hidupan liar itu yang terancam akibat aktiviti pemburu haram.
Katanya Beruang Madu diwartakan sebagai spesies dilindungi di bawah Enakmen Pemuliharaan Hidupan Liar Sabah 1997.
“Pusat ini menempatkan 28 ekor beruang madu, yang diserahkan orang awam, yang kini berumur antara satu tahun setengah hingga 20 tahun. Daripada jumlah itu, tujuh ekor adalah jantan dan bakinya betina,” katanya kepada pemberita di sini, semalam.
BSBCC yang berkeluasan 2.5 hektar, mempunyai beberapa kemudahan termasuk platform untuk memerhati, laluan pejalan kaki, dua rumah beruang, pusat pelawat, pejabat dan pusat informasi beruang madu.
Pada masa ini, BSBCC mampu menampung sehingga 40 ekor beruang dan Jabatan Hidupan Liar Sabah sedang berusaha menempatkan beruang-beruang yang diserahkan orang awam di pusat itu.
BSBCC ditubuhkan pada 2008 hasil kerjasama antara Jabatan Hidupan Liar Sabah, Jabatan Perhutanan Sabah dan pertubuhan bukan kerajaan, Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP).
Program angkat beruang madu dikenakan bayaran RM15,000 seekor setahun untuk sektor korporat dan RM300 seekor sebulan atau RM500 seekor bagi enam bulan untuk sektor awam.
Sementara itu, Pengasas dan Ketua Pegawai Eksekutif BSBCC Wong Siew Te berkata pembinaan pusat itu, yang dijangka siap sepenuhnya pada Mei tahun depan, menelan belanja RM6 juta manakala penyelenggaraannya dianggarkan RM900,000 setahun.
“Antara penyumbang utama bagi pembinaan BSBCC ialah Yayasan Sime Darby, Kementerian Pelancongan dan Kebudayaan Malaysia (MOTAC), Kerajaan Negeri Sabah dan Kementerian Pelancongan, Kebudayaan dan Alam Sekitar Sabah,” katanya.
Menurutnya pusat itu dapat membantu beruang madu yang kian hilang habitatnya dan diancam kepupusan akibat diburu bagi memenuhi permintaan dalam perniagaan perubatan tradisional atau dijadikan haiwan peliharaan.
Aktiviti pemburu haram beruang madu antara punca utama jumlah spesies itu merosot sekurang-kurangnya 30 peratus sejak tiga dekad lepas. — Bernama