Text by Katie King, LEAP Project Manager
Friday July 17th, 2009 saw the ground breaking for the long anticipated Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), which will be adjacent to the famous Sepilok Orangutan Centre, 14 miles outside of Sandakan, Sabah. The event marked the commencement of construction of the first phase of BSBCC, which aims to provide rehabilitation and care for captive Sun Bears, and will be the first of its kind in Sabah.
The guest of honour, YB Datuk Masidi Manjun Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, was accompanied by partners of the project, Laurentius Ambu, Director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, Fred Kugan, Deputy Director of the Sabah Forestry Department and Cynthia Ong, executive director of LEAP. The event was attended by an international array of Scottish and Malaysian Scouts, Raleigh International volunteers, Rainforest Discovery Centre Junior Rangers and members of the private sector, all of whom came to show support for BSBCC and celebrate the start of this pioneering project.
The ceremony itself was as innovative as the concept of BSBCC promises to be. After two heartfelt speeches from YB Datuk Masidi Manjun and Cynthia Ong, four Bobohizans (traditional Kadazan Dusun healers/high priestesses) entered the center of a human circle to perform a ritual for the spirits to cleanse the area of past activities and prepare it for new life, protection and hope for the Sun Bears and the Centre.
Once the symbolic ritual had been completed, Datuk Masidi Manjun, Laurentius Ambu, Fred Kugan and Cynthia Ong gathered to officially break ground under the auspices of the Bobohizans. This was followed by Malaysian singer-songwriter Amir Yussof performing Calling on You, a song that he wrote about the Sun Bears’ plight for the fundraising event in November 2008 that enabled the first phase of BSBCC to be built. During the song, Malaysian Junior Rangers provided interesting facts and information about Sun Bears for the crowd. The inclusion of old tradition and knowledge coupled with young environmental leaders, highlighted the need for connection and cohesion between old and new when addressing conservation issues. The ceremony ended with the guests being serenaded by Scottish Scouts playing the bagpipes. This final touch paid tribute to the interconnectivity of the people represented at the event and brought into focus the international and regional significance and responsibility of stewardship of land and animals.
The first video clip from BSBCC was finally created and posted on youtube 2 hours ago. I really hope youtube would be another tool to help us promote sun bear conservation and our work to help sun bears.
Our channel is: http://www.youtube.com/user/BSBCC
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/0r8LnupGSfI" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Please feel free to help us spread the words and the share the video clips.
Special thanks to Shayna Zaid for allowing me to use her song, Room for Love.
Photos by Sue Chong-Hartley, Text by Ian Hall
Original posted at http://arkitrek.com:80/http:/arkitrek.com/sunbears-and-vegetarians/
“We need an ayam jantan bertaji, don’t forget the taji. Taji is important!” Sue instructed me. At first she had asked Wai Pak to help find the cockerel but as a conscientious Buddhist he didn’t want to be complicit in killing an animal.
Normally the supply of sacrificial cockerels is not one of my professional services but I liked the idea of the story that I could tell afterward.
The Taji is the heel spur or claw that you only find on cockerels; they are an important weapon in cock fights and as such can cause controversy when unscrupulous owners apply poison to the taji of their prized fighters.
In this case the taji was important for the power it bestowed to a traditional Kadazan ritual for cleansing the ground for a new building, in this case our new sun bear conservation centre. The Mongimpi is performed by Kadazan priestesses known as bobohizan in their own language.
The three elderly female bobohizan and their young male apprentice who performed the groundbreaking ceremony are the last of their kind in Sabah. It is not just sun bears that are endangered.
Perhaps if there was more work for bobohizans it might tempt young people into the career and help conserve the culture?
Perhaps one reason that young people are not becoming bobohizan is the increasing distance between urban culture and nature?
Many in the audience at the Mongimpi would not be applying for the job and they expressed distress and distaste at the sight of a healthy cockerel having its throat slit.
This was the first time I had witnessed a sacrifice and I did not find the event as violent as I had imagined. Throughout the preamble the cockerel was quiescent in the hands of the bobohizan. When it’s time came the knife was almost gentle and there was not a squawk, although there was an awkward moment a minute or two later when it tried to come back to life again. ‘Headless chickens’ and all that.
For me what was more upsetting was the condition that I found chickens being kept in when I was looking for the cockerel. The beautiful animal that was sacrificed was provided by a friend of a friend and came direct from a free-range life in a village, happily calling in each day and feeding on whatever distasteful waste was chucked out the back doors.
The animals that I saw lived in cramped squalor, feathers were missing, water and food was mouldy, sun shading inadequate and dead birds were strewn on the floor. Apart from the glaring animal welfare issue, it gave me nightmares about what my food looked like before I eat it.
For the first time in my life I have found myself choosing vegetarian dishes on grounds of principle rather than taste or social obligation. Not that I will be giving up the bacon butties any time soon but I’ll remember the cockerel.
Other people around the Mongimpi circle may believe that the ritual death of an animal is unnecessary. I think it was worthwhile even if only to remind us to treat nature with respect.
Furthermore, I am delighted to hear that the bobohizan reported that the ceremony had been a success and that the offering had been accepted and understood.
July 17, 2009 20:17 PM
Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre To Be Built In Sepilok
SANDAKAN, July 17 (Bernama) - A Borneo sun bear conservation centre will be set up in Sepilok here in an effort to prevent the endangered animal from becoming extinct.
It will be next to the Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok, and the ground-breaking ceremony for the project was officiated by state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, here, Friday.
Director of the sun bear conservation centre, Cynthia Ong, said the centre, to be built in three phases, would have facilities including a home that could accommodate 43 sun bears, a visitors' area, a gallery for exhibits and a natural walkway.
She said two hectares of the centre were located in the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve area, hence allowing the bears to live in a natural environment.
The first phase of the project involves building a home that can take in 27 sun bears and is expected to be ready in six months from now.
Ong said the RM1.3 million needed for the first phase came from the private sector and government agencies.
"We are now trying to raise RM600,000 needed for the second phase and RM900,000 for the third phase of the project," she added in her speech at the ground-breaking ceremony.
She also said that the setting up of the centre involved the cooperation of the Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department and LEAP (Land Empowerment Animals People), a non-governmental organisation.
Thank you Columbus Zoo! Mission accomplished!
Thank you Columbus Zoo to host my talk at the zoo today. Special thanks to Rebecca Rose, the Field Conservation Coordinator , for the warm hostility to make our stay comfortable and unforgettable one. About 50 zoo staffs attended today’s talk after having a burger dinner. Everyone enjoyed the talk very much. I hope beside enjoying me talking, they also will learn the message and help us promote sin bear conservation and raise awareness for sun bears.
Columbus Zoo has been an important contributor and supporter for my doctorate study in 2005 and 2006. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Columbus Zoo and Aquarium over and over again for their believe and help sun bears. I hope you all could continue supporting sun bears and our works in many ways.
Columbus is the last stop of our trip. With mission accomplished, tomorrow my family and will head home- how far? 2000 miles.
Thank you Columbus Zoo!
The fund raising event on July 9th hosted by Nancy Abraham and Alexander Abraham Foundation was a big success! I want to specially thank Nancy, Brienne, and Eleonore for their great help to set this event up in such a short notice. About 35 guests attended the lovely evening start with light refreshment and snacks, and then followed with the showing of BEARTREK video clip and my ppt presentation on the plights of the sun bears. Thank you all of you for taking the time to join us that evening!
Beside we managed to raise some fund for BSBCC during the event, the other important message from the evening is to raise awareness about sun bears. Most of the guests do not have a clue what are a sun bear, let alone the problem face by this little bears. There are so many things that all of us can do beside giving donation.
Here is a message by Brienne, Eleanor and Nancy to the guest and for all the people who care and love to sun bears and all beings:
We at the Alexander Abraham want to thank you for attending the sun bear fundraiser last Thursday. It was so generous of you to donate your time, money, and support to the sun bear cause.
As you learned from Wong on Thursday night, the lack of awareness and funding for the sun bears is truly alarming. If nothing is done within the next few years, the sun bears will most certainly go extinct, and the world will be significantly poorer because of the loss.
There are many things that you can do to help us now, in this moment, to raise awareness for the most unknown of the bears. It will only take a few minutes of your time.
To start, please follow-us on Twitter and Facebook. Encourage your friends to do the same. Read the articles that we post, and educate others.
Our name on Twitter is AABRAHAMFOUND.
To become a fan of our cause on Facebook, follow the link: http://apps.facebook.com/causes/312142/6631962?m=6d54c0aa
If you haven't donated already, think about giving a few dollars now. Having an expensive drink at a NY bar won't give you anything but a headache. So take the money, and give it to a cause that desperately needs your help. Even a small donation will help Wong to continue his research. With our support, he can finally find out how many wild sun bears there are left in the world!
To donate now: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=6364478
Most importantly, please spread the word to your friends. And let us know if you have any ideas about how to raise awareness!!
Very kindest regards,
Brienne, Eleonor & Nancy
*As you read this, I already left New York with a sad feeling. Just like the sun bear conservation movement, my journey move on. Now I am at Columbus, Ohio. I will deliver a talk on sun bear at Columbus Zoo on the 16th at 4:30 pm. If you are in Columbus, please come to join us! See ya!
BSBCC has come a long way. For more than one year we have been working really hard to fund raise to set up the center. We are truly blessed with a lot of helps from many people, we are half way there. We are half way there to give the cage sun bear under our care a new and better home; we are half way there to do whatever we plan to do the help sun bears; we are half way there…
This time we have another big help from a group from young people from UK: the South East Scotland Scouts, who traveled half across the world to help sun bears and help us build the centre.
Please visit http://malaysia.sesscouts.org.uk and read the two following blogs about their life and work under the tropical sun of Sabah!
Thank you Scouts! http://malaysia.sesscouts.org.uk/?cat=6
Team 1 makes furry friends.
Posted July 12, 2009 By brian and has no comments yet.
Our first project was working with the fantabulous Sunbears. Oh, dear me . . . They are really cute! The tasks consist of digging tenches two feet deep and one foot wide – that’s a lot of heaving and puffing – all for the foundation of the wall to separate the sunbears from the general public. Dragging and hauling wardrobes, fridges and cabinets down the road to shove into the storage – they have no use anymore. Every twenty minutes of work was then followed by five minutes (or significantly more) standing in front of a fan. OH, the good times! How lazy we are . . . Yesterday, we were visited by a curious orangutan with only three limbs. A clever young chap, he was. He was then lured away by a keeper with food and he stroled away casually down the road mouth wide open waiting for the food. All in all, we’ve been having a great time and are looking forward to the many good times in front of us.
From your very best team.
Edd, Mark, Emma, David, Gavin and Kyle. (Team Awesome-tastic)
One Week Down, Three Weeks to Go
Posted July 13, 2009 By brian and has no comments yet.
Hey guys, we have finally reached our one week milestone! Today, we have been doing our final day at the sun bear sanctuary. We have been working very hard digging trenches; transporting furniture and wood and erecting a fence! The heat would have been unbearable without our trusty friend, the fan! LOL. Dave, our team leader was really sound and allowed us to have lots of breaks, as we really needed them. The Malaysian people were putting us to shame and had to be forced to take a break, whereas we took them voluntarily.
Dave said that we were ‘footloose and fancy-free’, which we tried contextulise and discovered it does not mean taking your shoes off, as Chloe assumed. We were allowed to take 2 hours at lunch time as it is too hot to work in ‘peak -heat’, so we went to the cafe at the near-by orang-utan sanctuary, where we had ‘coke-floats’ and lots of ice cream. Dylan taught the teams the ‘Lynch family favourite: ‘crazy-eights’, which were enjoyed by all, especially Emma McNeill, who was excited at the prospect of playing it at dinner time. Meanwhile, Chloe was getting rather hyper on her cough syrup and found a new accent, much to the annoyance of her team mates. Cameron on the other hand was very into learning Malaysian clap games, and taught them the macarena and the school yard game: ‘double-double’. Andrew, no-where to be seen, screamed across the field to his team mates ‘guys-guys, get over here’, to which they enthusiastically spinted over the jungle, insect fields, in the stifling humidity and blistering heat to witness a mass break-out of incredibly fast, but cute infant orang-utan fleeing their captures. Then we walked home and had tea and went to sleep. Scout’s honour!!!
LOTS OF LOVE TEAM 6 -Dylan, Chloe, Emma M, Andrew & Cameron
GROUND-BREAKING CEREMONY on Friday, 17th July, 2009 at 9:00 am
The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) ground-breaking ceremony on 17th July2009, at BSBCC Phase I site adjacent to Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre near Sandakanrepresents the beginning of construction of this three-phased project. The project is a partnership between the Sabah Wildlife Department, the Sabah Forestry Department and the NGO LEAP. The Guest of Honour for the event is YB Datuk Masidi Manjun, Minister of Tourism, Culture andEnvironment, and the programme will include the ceremony at the site of the new bear house andforested enclosures as well as a chance to view some of the Sun Bears currently at the Centre.This ground-breaking signifies the start of Phase I of construction of the Centre and marks asignificant step in the establishment of a new home for captive Sun Bears in Sabah, where theywill have daily access to the forest and an enriched environment, as well as improved, custombuiltnight quarters. Phase I, which is expected to be completed in six months from the date ofground-breaking, involves the construction of a new bear house with capacity for 27 bears (eachin individual cages) and an adjacent one-hectare forest enclosure within the Kabili-Sepilok VirginJungle Reserve. Please see Phase I site plan for layout. The finished centre will have capacity for43 bears, two-hectare forest enclosures, a visitor centre, an observation gallery and a nature trail.Please see Phase I, II & III site plan for layout. The larger vision is for the bears to be in anenvironment which will prepare suitable ones for eventual release into appropriate wild habitat.RM1.3 million was raised at the Bear Necessities fundraising dinner in Kota Kinabalu in Novemberlast year, with RM650,000 from the private sector and a government match of one-to-one. Thesefunds will go directly to the funding of Phase I. Efforts are now underway to raise funds for bothPhase II (RM600,000) and Phase III (RM900,000), and the hope is that these phases will followupon the completion of Phase I.
The event will be a gathering of BSBCC partners – Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah ForestryDepartment and LEAP, private sector donors and supporters from the Bear Necessities event,building contractor and consultants, and BATs – Bear Action Teams volunteer partners frominternational organisations such as Raleigh International. The programme will comprise welcome speech by BSBCC Director Cynthia Ong, audio messagefrom BSBBC CEO Wong Siew Te (currently completing his PhD in Montana, U.S.A.), speech byGuest of Honour YB Datuk Masidi Manjun, song dedications by Malaysian singers Shayna Zaid andAmir Yussof, and a “Mongimpi” cleansing and blessing ritual by Bobohizans of the Kadazan tradition.
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 088-270705.
Text by Ng Wai Pak
A group of master students majoring in Forestry from University Putra Malaysia visited BSBCC on 6th July 2009. Wai Pak gave them an introduction about Malayan sun bear, their conservation issues, and our centre concepts, mission and planning. They also have the chance to see how the bear having their enrichment program in the exercise enclosures.
They agreed that sun bear were not well known by our people. They were glad that BSBCC is not only will involve the rehabilitation work, but alsol emphasis on environment education to raise the public awareness on sun bears and the tropical rainforest.
BSBCC is happy to have more visitors from universities as well as other institutions. Even though we have do not have our facilities properly built, we are trying our best to explain to our visitors about our very unique sun bears, their situation and their threats.
Text by Wai Pak Ng
On July 2, Sylvia Alsisto from Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre came and asked me to present a talk about sun bear and BSBCC. Of course I am more than happy to do that as I had done that to several groups of volunteer. However, it ended up with a three-day talk to three groups of students. The most challenging part was the audience was ranged from 8 – 17 years old school kids! I have to tell you that the first image that bangs into my minds was a group of “monkey” yelling and jumping here and there!
I was only given a night to prepare the presentation. I have to modified and practice my speech so that the kids won’t get bored with all the science facts and terms. I also invited two guests to my talk who were Winnie and Teddy (toys that I borrowed from Cecilia)! With two of them, I started my introduction and I managed to grab the audience attention!