In a significant step towards preserving the delicate ecological balance of our planet, The Red Heroes, MBA students from UKM-GSB, proudly hosted the Sun Bear Initiative Program on August 19, 2023, at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sandakan, Sabah. This initiative, undertaken as part of their MBA project, aimed to raise awareness about the urgent need for sun bear conservation.
With the environment facing numerous challenges, the Sun Bear Initiative Program served as a beacon of hope by bringing together a diverse group of individuals who shared a common goal – safeguarding the unique biodiversity of Sabah. A total of 40 volunteers from FELDA, FGV, and UKM-GSB united their efforts in this noble cause, emphasizing the power of collaboration in tackling complex environmental issues.
One of the primary objectives of the program was to create widespread awareness about the plight of sun bears, the smallest bear species and a crucial component of the rainforest ecosystem. The participants engaged in hands-on activities, crafting enrichments in the form of toys made from branches, honey, and peanut butter, enhancing the lives of these magnificent creatures while learning about their significance.
The Sun Bear Initiative Program received a significant boost from its generous sponsors, FELDA and FGV, who collectively contributed RM15,000. This sponsorship is earmarked for supporting vital research and educational activities at the BSBCC. Their support not only underscores the private sector's commitment to environmental conservation but also highlights the growing recognition of the importance of corporate social responsibility in preserving our natural heritage.
Beyond FELDA and FGV, additional sponsorship emerged from diverse quarters, including the Department of Survey and Mapping Malaysia (JUPEM), Koperasi Co-opbank Pertama Malaysia Berhad, and enthusiastic members of the community. The collective generosity: both in monetary and non-monetary terms represents the spirit of shared responsibility that underscores such initiatives.
The Sun Bear Initiative Program aligned its efforts with the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN SDSN) Asia Headquarters hosted by Sunway University and Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment Sabah (KePKAS), amplified the program's reach and impact, symbolizing a unified commitment across various sectors towards sustainable advancement.
Remarkably, FELDA and FGV have demonstrated their unwavering dedication to the cause by pledging to sustain this effort for another several years. This commitment speaks volumes about their dedication to the environment and their belief in the program's potential to effect lasting change. The Sun Bear Initiative Program is not merely a one-time event; it represents an ongoing movement that seeks to inspire others and drive continuous action.
The success of the Sun Bear Initiative Program showcases how grassroots efforts, boosted by the support of stakeholders, can make a tangible impact on conservation. It serves as a reminder that every individual has a role to play in protecting our planet's biodiversity. As we reflect on the accomplishments of the Sun Bear Initiative Program, let us remember that true transformation begins with awareness and action. The Red Heroes, along with their dedicated volunteers, sponsors, and partners, have ignited a spark of change that has the potential to grow into a wildfire of conservation consciousness. The Sun Bear Initiative Program stands as a testament to what can be achieved when passion and purpose converge in the pursuit of a better world.
Muhammad Amiruddin Roselan
The Red Heroes Team
MBA Students @ UKM- Graduate School of Business (UKM-GSB)
Text by Rebecca Heng Si Qi
Photos by Nealbert Robert
I vividly recall my initial sense of unease as I stepped into the bear house on my first day, the bears pacing anxiously, a telltale sign of their stress. Reflecting on my time volunteering with the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), the journey has been profoundly meaningful and etched deeply in my memory. As a volunteer, my responsibilities spanned a range of tasks: preparing food, offering medical care, feeding, cleaning the bear’s cages, performing fence and faecal checks.
Mornings were dedicated to meticulously cleaning the bears' cages, a task that became a steady rhythm of our routine. While not without its challenges, the satisfaction that followed made every effort worthwhile. As I diligently carried out this task, I couldn't help but notice the bears' inquisitive gazes, particularly those of Kipaku and Betung in Bear House 2. Their innocent expressions, often accompanied by their distinctive paw-suckling, revealed their yearning for both attention and comfort. A heartfelt tug at my emotions was a constant companion during these moments. And yes, you could almost guarantee getting drenched during this process!
My duties extended to the kitchen, where I prepared vegetables, fruits, and other foods for the bears. Their robust appetite, requiring four daily meals, was a delightful surprise. I learned that beyond their protein intake, bears relished dog biscuits. Among the highlights was the feeding routine – a satisfying workout of carrying heavy buckets up steep, slippery paths to the forest enclosures. The bears' contentment as they enjoyed their meals made the effort gratifying, although mischievous macaques occasionally tried to snatch a share. Strangely, the bears tolerated these antics without a fuss, leading us to adopt strategic food distribution to prevent the macaques from dominating. Interestingly, bananas were the clear favorites, and the feeding process involved offering starchy items before moving on to fruits.
Taking on the role of a medic was an added responsibility. Meticulously blending medications into small banana pieces for specific bears showcased their intelligence as they sometimes separated the medicine from the food. Ensuring the bears ingested their medications presented a bit of a puzzle. For Amaco, the oldest bear, we devised a unique approach involving blending pills with his favorite milk to address this challenge.
In the afternoon, our focus shifted to enrichment. We ventured out to gather banana leaves for the bears. These leaves serve as a natural "toothbrush" for them. Additionally, we engaged in an activity that entailed hiding fruits, honey, peanut butter, and other delectables within a bundle of leaves, skillfully tying them up. Notably, this enrichment exercise played a pivotal role in heightening the bears' sense of smell throughout the process. Every action, big or small, contributes to the well-being of these amazing creatures.
Collectively, all of us volunteers, myself included, engaged our creative minds to devise ways of enriching the bears' lives. Teaming up with my buddy, we embarked on a brainstorming journey to craft a project that would contribute to the bears' experiences. Allow me to introduce you to my enrichment project, the "Loget-loget" (also known as "santai" in Dusun) – a specially designed swing aimed at providing Manis, the grandmother bear, with a comfortable spot to santai (relax). It's been a truly gratifying experience witnessing these projects spring to life and make a tangible impact on the bears' well-being.
In addition to my ongoing responsibilities, I undertook a couple of important tasks: conducting faecal checks and fence checking. In the mornings, the focus shifted to scrutinizing the colour and texture of the faeces, as well as assessing any leftover food. Similarly, the fence check provided a special opportunity – entering the forest enclosures to thoroughly examine the fencing – of course, without the bears present. I still remember one time when a lock was rusty, and we had to climb over the fence to address the situation. It's these little adventures that add to the uniqueness of the experience.
A heartfelt thank you goes out to the keepers, fellow volunteers, and interns, especially my buddy who guided me throughout these two weeks. These individuals have been invaluable companions during this volunteering journey. With hope, our paths will intersect once more in the days ahead. Pounsikou!
Day 1 : An Ecosystem that Provides
This year, BSBCC is participating in the Youth Forum session at the International Conference on Heart of Borneo (HoB): An Ecosystem that Provides. The event takes place at the Sabah International Convention Centre, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, from August 23–24, 2023.
The Youth Forum session provides a platform and aims to inspire more youth to be involved in or support conservation work. It is great that the youth are able to share their stories and passion.
discuss environmental and conservation issues through workshops and suggest ways in which youth can play a role in addressing environmental and conservation issues.
Day 2: A Ecosystem that Provides
The Youth Forum session provides a platform to inspire more youth to be involved in or support conservation work. It is great that the youth are able to share their stories and passion, discuss environmental and conservation issues through workshops and suggest ways in which youth can play a role in addressing environmental and conservation issues.
Thank you to everyone who visited and stopped by our booth during this two-day event. We hope that everyone will take their own role to help us spread awareness about sun bears and their habitat. Save Sun Bear!
A group of students known as ‘The Red Heroes’ from the Graduate School of Business, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM-GSB) fundraised a total of MYR 15,000 for the conservation of sun bears as a part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) program.
The fund raised was handed to BSBCC at today’s ceremony at our Centre here in Sepilok. The ceremony was officiated by a representative from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment Sabah, witnessed by the officials from the funders which are Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA), FGV Holdings Berhad, Department of Survey and Mapping (JUPEM) and Koperasi Co-opbank Pertama Malaysia Berhad.
The program also involved a group of 40 volunteers who joined hands in a 1-day program to prepare the bear's enrichments to improve the bear’s well-being here in our Centre.
We humbly thank all parties involved in making this program a success. This marked another milestone for us in raising awareness of the world smallest’s bear.
Text by Lucie Muddell
Photos by Jacquelyn Jepiuh
I fell in love with the sun bears when I first visited BSBCC in 2019. I’d applied for the volunteer programme during that trip, and within a few weeks had been accepted by Ape Malaysia for the April 2020 project. Unfortunately, Covid got in the way of my plans, and it was only in July 2023, over three years and four rearranged placement dates later, that I could finally get back to Borneo and begin four weeks working with the team at BSBCC.
Volunteering in the Bear House has been so rewarding and it felt like everything I did had a direct impact on both the bears and the staff – from checking the fence and having the privilege to walk through the forest enclosures (which usually meant being covered in mud, climbing fences or avoiding flooded areas – all part of the fun!), to helping with providing daily supplements, the feeding walks in the lush forest, prepping all the many kilograms of food, making enrichments for the bears, cleaning the cages and being around the wonderful keepers who have helped me learn so much about BSBCC and the bears themselves. I’ve even managed to learn all the bears’ names and have improved some (still very basic) Malay! The team have been so welcoming and I will be forever grateful for the time they have spent helping me learn so much.
My enrichment project was made for a bear called Kudat – my buddy David and I collected wood from the forest and made a swing which David very skillfully attached to the roof of Kudat’s den. Kudat was very clever in swiping the food off the swing to get it all at ground level when he first saw it, but a few days later I saw him resting his front paws and head on the swing with his back legs resting on a branch below. We then used the tactic of throwing his enrichment directly above the swing to help him gain confidence using it and he happily climbed up, laid back on the swing with his back paws holding on to the rope, then leisurely took the enrichment through from the roof. It was really lovely to watch him get his confidence and use his intelligence at the same time.
I have so many highlights from my time at BSBCC but one that will definitely stay with me forever is having the privilege to help out at a health check for Dodop. I held her head during intubation (sun bear heads are very heavy!), held her legs and paws whilst blood was taken, took her temperature and listened to her heartbeat, whilst helping the team move her into various positions. It was very special to be so close to her and to be able to touch her soft, wiry fur. Huge thanks to Dr Boon and Jude for explaining everything that they were doing during her health check.
I would thoroughly recommend coming to volunteer with the sun bears at BSBCC – the past four weeks have flown by so quickly and I’ve loved every second especially getting to know the bears’ distinct personalities, each of which are as unique as their chest marks.
The bears, the staff, my fellow volunteers and the beautiful rainforest have made this the most fulfilling adventure and I’m hopeful that I can come back one day to volunteer again. I think I’ll be experiencing Severe Sun Bear Withdrawal for a long time once I’m back in England!
Text by Jacquelyn Jill Jepiuh
Photos by Jude Ailton George
Hello, sun bear lovers!
We have some exciting news to share with you about Tenom, a sun bear cub who was rescued from being kept as a pet in Sabah, Malaysia. She is now living at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), where she is receiving care and rehabilitation. Tenom has only been with us for almost two months, but she has already shown remarkable progress and potential.
She is an excellent climber, who can scale the trees and hang upside down with ease. She loves playing with termites and dead logs, which provide her with natural enrichment and stimulation. She is full of life and living her best life at the BSBCC.
Sun bears are the smallest bears in the world and are only found in Southeast Asia. They are threatened by forest degradation, illegal hunting for bear parts, and poaching to obtain young cubs for pet trade. It is illegal to possess a sun bear or any part of the animal in Sabah.
Tenom is lucky to have escaped a life of captivity and suffering. She is now living her best life at the BSBCC, where she can grow up healthy and happy. We hope that one day, she can be returned to the forest where she belongs.
Big thanks to Hasanah Foundation and Sime Darby Foundation for their continuous support towards our efforts to conserve the sun bear species. Tenom has a bright future ahead of her!
Text by Lucie Muddell
Photos and videos by Nealbert Robert & Jacquelyn Jepiuh
Last week there were big celebrations for BSBCC’s oldest bear, Amaco, who turned the grand old age of 30 years old!
To honour this great milestone, the BSBCC staff and volunteers brought the forest to Amaco and decorated his den. Amaco enjoys being busy in his den – he loves rolling, digging into dead wood and focusing on working to get treats out of his enrichments, so the team decided to combine his enjoyment of these things and bring them to his den as a special birthday surprise.
During the afternoon before Amaco’s birthday, the team set about finding natural materials around the BSBCC site and with a variety of exciting treasures found, they set to work creating a fun indoor forest enclosure.
Huge amounts of banana leaves were bound together with vines and positioned amongst swathes of ginger leaves, covering the walls to replicate the forest outside. Vines were draped through the top of the den, with dried leaves and twigs gathered together in piles across the floor.
As with all big birthday celebrations some extra gifts were added to Amaco’s forest den; boxes were stuffed with dried leaves, and some of his favourite treats of banana or marshmallow wrapped in ginger leaf were rolled into balls, and the parcels hidden amongst the leaves for him to find. The boxes were then secured with vines and a birthday bow was tied on each box for Amaco to open.
When Amaco saw his special birthday den he immediately got to work exploring his indoor forest. He opened the gift boxes first, wasting no time in finding all of the banana and marshmallow parcels, enjoying the challenge of digging amongst the leaves to discover what treats had been hidden inside. He then slowly wandered amongst the dried leaves and explored every bit of his indoor forest in detail, before lying down to relax and enjoy the rest of his special day.
We would like to give a big thank you to our constant supporters – Hasanah Foundation and Sime Darby Foundation. With their help we are able to give bears like Amaco a better and longer life. Amaco thanks you for all your help and support!
New Straits Times
Friday, 11 August 2023
By Paul Mu
Sabah Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Joniston Bangkuai (centre), Sabah Wildlife Department deputy director Roland Nium (left) and Loob Holding Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Bryan Loo (right) launch the sun bear adoption campaign. -NSTP/PAUL MU
KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is committed in protecting the sun bear as a national heritage, which is is aligned with its conservation-driven tourism vision.
State Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said a newly-launched campaign to adopt sun bears will help the Sabah Wildlife Department establish practical goals for sun bear recovery.
"The population of sun bears in the country is now around 2,500," he said during the launch of the Bask Bear Coffee campaign to encourage Malaysians to adopt sun bears at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sandakan.
He said the BSBCC houses 42 sun bears, which were mostly rescued by the Sabah Wildlife Department from poachers and pet owners.
He said the effort to adopt a sun bear will enable people to support related scientific research and promotes the wellbeing of this totally protected species under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment.
Meanwhile, Sabah Wildlife Department deputy director Roland Nium said the sun bear is among the 12 totally protected species in the state following the extinction of the Sumatran rhinoceros in 2019.
He said strict enforcement has boosted conservation efforts and this can be boosted with increased public awareness, he said. He said sun bears faced major threats in the form of illegal poaching for its paws, gall bladders and bile, which fetch very high prices in the black market.Those caught for illegal poaching can be face up to five years imprisonment and be fined RM250,000, upon conviction.
Meanwhile, Loob Holding Sdn Bhd founder and chief executive officer Bryan Loo said the company adopted a three-month-old sun bear named Tenom. He said the company, which owns Bask Bear Coffee, said its 96 outlets nationwide will engage in efforts to encourage people to know more about sun bears. It is also aiming to raise funds to adopt another sun bear at the BSBCC. He said each adoption costs RM7,200 annually and it involves staff rehabilitating captured bears for their eventual release into the wild.
BSBCC's founder and chief executive officer Dr Wong Siew Te hoped the campaign would raise awareness about sun bears status as protected animals. He urged people to join the 'Adopt a Sun Bear' campaign to support their conservation efforts.
Friday, 11 August 2023
According to Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, Sabah’s wild sun bear population is estimated to be 2,400. – Wikipedia pic, August 11, 2023
KOTA KINABALU – Sabah wants more private companies to take part in the conservation of totally protected wildlife in the state, said the state’s assistant tourism minister.
Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said companies could emulate the effort done by coffee company Bask Bear, which has adopted an orphaned sun bear called Tenom, here today.
“Companies, like the Bask Bear Coffee, stand to gain not only from the positive brand image associated with their commitment to environmental responsibility but also from the satisfaction of making a tangible impact.
“I would like to congratulate Bask Bear Coffee for adopting Tenom and for their ongoing efforts to adopt a second bear. The Sabah government values the contributions of the business sector to the Sabah Wildlife Department’s conservation initiatives.
“Your campaign will enable not just the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre, but also the Sabah Wildlife Department to set realistic actionable goals for sun bear recovery.” he said. Bask Bear Coffee is also raising donations to aid sun bear conservation through an adoption programme offered by the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre based in Sandakan. The centre needs around RM7,200 a year to rehabilitate one bear before they could be released back to the forest.
According to Bangkuai, the wild sun bear population is estimated to be 2,400 and 42 are in the shelter, most of which have been rescued by the state Wildlife Department from poachers and pet owners. The sun bear is classified as one of the 13 totally protected species under Schedule 1 of the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment. Other totally protected wildlife species include the Banteng and pangolins. Sabah has already lost its rhinoceros.
Also present were Loob Holding Sdn Bhd founder and chief executive Bryan Loo, and the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Roland Niun.