22 contractors attended a site visit to BSBCC on 3rd June to decide whether to tender for phase II works. Phase I was completed in March 2010 giving us a new bear house and 1ha of electric fenced forest enclosure with capacity for 20 bears. The second phase due to start in September 2011 will give us an observation platform and allow the centre to open to the public in March 2012.
“how to carry materials in, ah?” they complained.
“can build road, ah?” they pleaded.
“cannot, oh!” they were told firmly by Puan Jum Rafiah, the Sabah Wildlife Dept. officer in charge of the BSBCC construction
“angkat tangan, lah” (carry by hand) we suggested helfpully.
The grumbling continued, while some were quite and one lauded our decision to use a steel structure. Easier to carry steel than concrete he observed. A bear made an appearance on cue and we ajourned to the sepilok cafeteria for teh tarik.
Subsequently a healthy number of contractors tendered and the tender report is due in two weeks’ time. We’ll annouce the winner at the end of July.
By Marianne Sim
It was a great privilege to work as a volunteer for the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) at Sepilok for four weeks (Feb/Mar 2011). I was greeted on arrival at Sandakan airport by the forever smiling Wai Pak Ng, BSBCC Project Manager.
My first day commenced with an induction by the Sun Bear keepers David and Daniel. I was introduced to all 19 Sun Bears, safety procedures were explained and the keepers demonstrated how to perform the work required. I assisted David and Daniel by preparing food, cleaning pens and providing enrichment for the bears. The keepers were a pleasure to work with and my enrichment ideas were welcomed.
As a volunteer you really get to know and recognise the bears individually. They all have different pale orange-yellow markings on their chest and all have their own personality. The youngest bear is around 6 months old and the oldest bear around 16 years old.
I was very impressed with the design of the new bear house. It has a lot of natural light, is well ventilated, easy to clean, and has a well designed feeding/watering system. The outdoor enclosure is a large primary forest area with many tall trees. This allows the bears to exhibit natural bear behaviour e.g. climbing trees, digging, breaking apart rotten logs searching for insects.
The Sun Bear is a 'vulnerable' species and could become endangered unless the circumstances threatening its survival improve. Sun Bears are threatened by habitat destruction, conflict with humans, poaching for bear body parts and bear bile used in Chinese medicine and the pet trade. The Sun Bears natural habitat has been destroyed as the land is taken over by palm oil plantations. Palm oil is found in a variety of products on our supermarket shelves including margarine, chocolate, biscuits and soap to name a few. It is important that we all take responsibility for the products we put in our supermarket trolleys and we keep the pressure on governments, manufacturers and supermarkets to improve product labelling so we can make informed choices about the products we purchase. There are many medicinal alternatives to using bear body parts and bear bile in Chinese medicine. Please use these alternatives and end the bears suffering. Sun Bears make very bad pets. Although they appear cute as babies they have long claws, sharp teeth and are very strong. They soon grow up, become difficult to control and end up depressed in confined cages. Their home is the forest and they should never be kept as pets for human entertainment.
I particularly enjoyed observing the bears in their forest enclosure and during their enrichment activities. The youngest bear Natalie, approximately 6 months old, is a joy to observe
Natalie has endless energy, is constantly playing and exhibits natural bear instincts. Natalie has the right qualities to be released back into the wild but in order to do this funds are required to start the rehabilitation process. Staff are required to care and monitor her until she can confidently display all the skills needed to survive in the forest on her own. With your donation (http://www.leapspiral.org/content/support_leap.php) or merchandise purchase (http://www.zazzle.co.uk/gifts?ch=theborneansunbear) the BSBCC will be one step closer to this happening. Funds are also required to build a Sun Bear visitors centre at Sepilok. This will be an important educational facility and gives visitors the opportunity to learn about this charismatic bear species.
While working as a volunteer I observed first hand the hard work, long hours and dedication of Siew Te Wong (CEO and Founder of BSBCC) and Wai Pak (BSBCC Project Manager). They are great ambassadors for the Sun Bear. They are men of integrity and are extremely committed to helping the Sun Bear. I am 100% confident that any donation you make will be wisely utilised and benefit the Sun Bears greatly.
Thank you Wong and Wai Pak for an unforgettable volunteer experience. I feel extremely privileged to have worked with such dedicated people and remarkable animals. I will miss the people and the bears but look forward to coming back and seeing how the bears have developed and progressed to their final destination, their true home, THE FOREST.
Compassionate Conservation: The holistic approaches of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre to conserve sun bears
Last week Wai Pak and I attended the Asia for Animal 2011 Conference in Chengdu, China. Representing Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, we are the only participants from Sabah, and one of the few animal welfare, care, and rescue organizations from Malaysia to attend the biggest event and gathering of the year for animal lovers all over Asian countries. The conference was hosted by Jill Robinson and her team at Animal Asia Foundation. During the conference, I am honored to deliver a talk during the "Compassionate Conservation" session and my talk entitled "The holistic approaches of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre to conserve sun bears in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo." I am grateful to the organizer of the conference to provide the travel expenses for me to share our experiences working with sun bears with the audience.
The abstract of the talk is as following:
The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) is being developed in Sabah Malaysian Borneo as rescue, rehabilitation, education, and research centre for the sun bear. In Sabah, these bears continue to be threatened by forest degradation and habitat loss, illegal hunting for bear parts and to protect crops, and poaching to obtain young cubs for the pet trade. As a result of these threats, many young sun bears are living in unnatural and solitary captive conditions throughout Sabah, with no access to outdoor areas. The goal of the new BSBCC is to promote Malayan sun bear conservation by (1) creating the capacity to confiscate, rehabilitate and release suitable orphaned and ex-captive bears back into the wild; (2) providing an improved long-term living environment for captive bears welfare that cannot be released; and (3) educating the public and raising awareness about this little known species through visitor and education outreach programs, and (4) conduct research on both captives and wild sun bears. The BSBCC was established as a non-profit organization in Sabah in 2008. It is a joint project among sun bear researcher Siew Te Wong, Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD). Funding for the project is acquired through various grants from funding agencies, individual donations, government supports, and special events. Bear Action Teams (BATs) volunteering program provide the opportunity for locals and international volunteer groups to get involve on husbandry and construction of the facilities. We develop BSBCC from a holistic approach involving multiple levels of people that work toward compassionate conservation where animal welfare, education, research and conservation the species all meet on the same ground. This approach is particular important to conserve threaten species like the sun bears so that maximum conservation outputs can be achieved without wasting the already limited conservation resources in this region.
Beside attending the conference and meeting and networking with everyone. We also visited the AAF's Chengdu Moon Bear Rescue Centre. It was truly an eye-opening experience for us to see and to learn the day-to-day operations and husbandry of the centre which currently is home to more than 160 moon bears and few brown bears. We are grateful to the centre for letting Wai Pak stay for few more days after the conference to learn more about the day-to-day husbandry and veterinary care of these rescued moon bears. All of the knowledge is crucial to help BSBCC do a better job on caring and managing our rescued sun bears.
Finally I also visited the Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu to see the third species of bears beside the moon and the brown bears - the black and white bear- Giant Panda! They, of course, is the complete opposite of the little known sun bear because giant panda is THE super star, super celebrity, super worship, super popular and by far THE most well known bear species in the world!
After months of preparation, the BSBCC Facebook fundraiser 2011 finally starts NOW and will end at 6 pm Central Standard Time in USA.
Please come and join us for this event that we all have been waiting for.
I am really sorry that I cannot join you all in facebook because Wai Pak (the project manager of BSBCC) and I are now in ChengDu, China, attending the Asia for Animals Conference 2011. I have no access to facebook because it is banned in China (don't ask me why :)). I will be giving an oral presentation entitled "The holistic approaches of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre to conserve sun bears in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo" on Monday. I hope the presentation will let more animal lovers in Asia know about our works to conserve sun bears and networking with other animal welfare/conservation NGOs in Asia.
Two days ago Wai Pak and I visited the Animal Asia Foundation's Moon Bear Rescue Centre. The rescue centre is home to 162 moon bears rescued from bear farms across China. I pay my highest respects to Jill Robinson and her team working tirelessly to rescue and to stop bear farming practice in China. It was an eye opening experience for us to see the amount of efforts AAF's team put in to help these poor moon bears.
Thank you everyone for making this fundraiser possible. As I write this blog, we have raised over US$1800 on this fundraiser event. Thank you all volunteers who organize this events, the donors and supporters to help us and sun bears. Our work would not be possible without your helps and kind support!
I thank you again!
A professional speaker, international trainer, and businessman, Matthias Gelber emerged as worldwide champion in the award for Greenest Person on the Planet by 3rd Whale in Canada in 2008. On June 3rd, Matthias Gelber lead a group of friends visited BSBCC to learn more about sun bears and give a "Green talk" at the centre today. Thank you Matthias and friends to visit us.
At the same time, we also organized a visit for the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC)'s Sepilok Junior Rangers to visit us and learn more about the plights of the sun bears. At the end of the day, we all attended Matthias talk on "Going green with the younger generation in Malaysia!"
The 2011 Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre fundraiser is coming soon on facebook. Lots of prizes have been donated to make this fundraiser possible. Please check out our fundraiser page to learn more about our prizes and how you can help sun bears and this fundraiser event!
Thank you for your helps and supports! Together we can make this little known bear well known!
Making a difference for the Malayan Sun Bear
by Traffic Southeast Asia on Monday, June 6, 2011 at 2:10pm
Few people know more about the Malayan Sun Bear than Wong Siew Te, CEO and Founder of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. In conjuction with our 12 in Trouble featured creature, he writes this special piece for TRAFFIC Southeast Asia about his life's work - saving sun bears.
In 1994, I was a first-year undergraduate student in US and I’d just started given the oppurtunity to study the ecology of sun bears in Sabah for my M.Sc project. I scoured book after book looking for information on these bears but often ended up disappointed - there really wasn’t very much written about them.
So whenever I was home in Southeast Asia and had a chance, I visited places where captive sun bears could be found: local zoos, mini zoos, menageries, crocodile farms, private collectors, government facilities, etc. What I saw broke my heart. While a handful of zoos had proper facilities, the vast majority of captive sun bears were kept in very poor conditions, small spaces, and facilities were badly managed.
Sun bears are the smallest among the eight living bear species in the world and baby sun bears are by far the cuties baby mammals (at least I think so!). Their small size and cuteness make them attractive to people who mistakenly think they make suitable pets. And these babies aren’t difficult to obtain, no thanks to habitat destruction and poaching.
Though sun bears are protected under wildlife conservation laws in all countries where the bears are found, the lack of interest in enforcing wildlife laws renders them almost non-existent. As a result, sun bears are among the most common large wild mammal kept in captivity in this region.
Sun bears are equipped with long, strong claws and teeth, powerful arms and jaw muscles. In the wild, these features help them get at bee hives or pry open termite nests, decayed wood and hard woods in search of termites, ants, beetles. In short, they are design to destroy. Pet sun bears are cute and harmless only in the first few months of their life. As they grow, they quickly turn into destructive beasts that are impossible to control.
When too difficult to control, pet bears are locked in small metal cages by their owners for the rest of their life. They develop all kinds of abnormal behavior and psychological problems; their claws were surgically removed and canine teeth are filed down to stumps, to reduce damage and danger to owners.
I’ve been urging conservation NGOs and authorities to help captive sun bears for a long time, but a lack of interest, resources, and capacity in these organizations has meant limited action. Sun bears also compete for attention with other more charismatic species of high global conservation interest such as tigers, orangutans, rhinos, and elephants.
I realized that the only way forward was to set up a centre that focused on the conservation, education, rehabilitation, research and welfare of captive sun bears. And that is how the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) came to fruition in 2008. It was set up in partnership with LEAP, Sabah Wildlife Department, and Sabah Forestry Department, near the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok in Sabah, Malaysia. BSBCC’s primary goal is to promote Malayan Sun Bear conservation by building capacity to rehabilitate and release suitable orphaned and once captive bears into the wild. It also aims to provide an improved long-term living environment for captive bears that cannot be released, and to raise awareness about this species.
The centre now has 21 bears – orphaned and formerly kept as pets - that live in a new bear house with six state-of-the-art forest enclosures within the Sepilok Forest Reserve. It also has an office, visitor briefing area, and bear holding area.
We hope to build an observation platform with a boardwalk for visitors to view sun bears in their natural surroundings. A second bear house with forest enclosures is also being planned for the future to double our rescue efforts. BSBCC is a non-profit organization. The number of bears we can help depends on the funds we can raise. Please visit our blog website to learn more about how you can help us save sun bears.
Don’t let the Sun Bear become the forgotten bear.