After the successful fund raising event “Bear Necessities” on Nov 14 two weeks ago, we can finally move forward to start building our first phase of the construction: A brand new bear house with 24 bear dens and 4 forest enclosures where the captive sun bears can spend all day playing, climbing, and resting in a natural surrounding.
At the moment, our designer cum one of our architect in the project is finalizing the design and gets the final paper works for the construction. We hope the construction can start early next year and the construction will take up to six months to complete. At the same time, we will keep fund raise for Phase 2 and Phase 3. And, hopefully, yes hopefully-lots of hope and hard words, we can manage to raise the entire fund we needed to set up the BSBCC.
Below is an article from Ian Hall, our designer, architect, and a good friend, on BSBCC which he wrote few months ago. It gives you the idea of what our plan is and hopes for the sun bears.
Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Above is a concept design image for a sun bear conservation centre proposed adjacent to the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary at Sandakan in Sabah.
Juvenile sun bears are undeniably cute and the adults are very handsome. Fully grown they would be a little above my knee in height, although rearing on hind legs they can be much more intimidating. Regrettably I have only seen them behind bars. The closest I have come to a wild sun bear was when I heard one raiding the kitchen during the night at Agathis Camp in Maliau Basin.
Sun bears are adaptable animals but unfortunately their habit of diversifying into convenience food often brings them into conflict with humans. Humans are also known to trap bears without provocation on the spurious grounds that bear body parts have medicinal properties. Also the fact that young bears are cute makes them popular in the illegal pet trade.
The sun bear’s main handicap to their conservation however, is their ecological position as an apex predator. The effect of this is that they live at very low densities. In the rainforest of Sabah, my friend Siew Te Wong estimates that they occur at the rate of approximately one bear to ten square kilometers. You do not have to chop down a lot of rainforest to make a big relative dent on the sun bear population.
Wong estimates that there may be 10,000 sun bears in their home range across Southeast Asia. To put this in perspective the estimated orang-utan population is approximately 50,000 with 41,000 of these in Borneo. Most people are familiar with orang utans, but the sun bear remains the least known of the eight species of bear and certainly attracts much less attention than their anthropomorphic red hairy neighbours.
The Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) will be the first of it’s kind in Malaysia and is being set up in partnership with the Sabah State Wildlife and State Forestry Departments. It’s long term goal is to raise the profile and support for sun bear conservation. The first and most pressing objective however is to provide better welfare for sun bears currently being held in captivity in Sabah.
There are 9 bears in Sepilok at the moment and several more distributed across Sabah. Most of these animals have either been confiscated by or been deposited with the Wildlife Department. They are held in small cages with no access to outside spaces.
The brief of BSBCC is to provide individual night time denning for 36 bears in two phases. There will be additional cages for quarantine, treatment and birthing. A vital facility to the well being of the bears is to provide every animal with controlled access to primary forest during daytime. The total area of forest pens will be about 2 hectares and bears will be prevented from escaping using fences and hot-wires. The Forestry Department has approved a part of the Sepilok Forest Reserve to be used for this purpose and the Wildlife Department has given the go ahead to adapt an enclosure formerly designed to contain Sumatran Rhinoceros.
The final component of the brief is to provide staff facilities plus a shop and visitor centre. Tired of stuffy ‘nature interpretation galleries’, the Arkitrek concept is interpretive information presented as a walk from the built environment into the forest. The walk is designed to be accessible to everyone and culminates in an observation gallery which is part seminar space, part interpretive display and part pavilion in the forest from where sun bears can be observed in their natural environment.
Special thanks to Life in Borneo for this report on our fundraising event last Friday:
BSBCC ‘Bear Necessities’ Fundraiser Event
Posted by Xander on November 20th, 2008 in Events, Wildlife
Friday, November 14th 2008 marks a historical and monumental day in which the first major collaboration between conservationists, several corporate companies and the government took place. The BSBCC (Borneo Sun Bears Conservation Center) Fundraiser Event was held at the Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa at 6.30 pm and it was attended by the Chief Minister of Sabah, Yang Amat Berhormat Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Masidi Manjun and Kota Kinabalu Mayor Datuk Iliyas Ibrahim.
It was a night equivalent of the Grammys night where all the distinguished guests and the socialites from all over Malaysia graced the event with their presence. The stage was set in an extravagant and picturesque manner identical to the forests of Borneo and the ambiance imbued throughout the grand ballroom was unlike any other.
An event as opulent as this would not be complete without the participation of celebrities, musicians and artistes. The hosts for the evening was television personality Daphne Iking, and actor/playwright/comedian Jit Murad. Also hosting was talented actresses Ida Nerina, Joanna Bessey, and Lina Teoh (Miss Malaysia World 1998 Winner, Miss World 1998 2nd Runner Up). Seeing these glamorous and talented people gracing the stage that night was indescribable and they made the whole event inordinate and ostentatious as it already were.
The show would not be complete without the talented and multifarious assortment of musicians that came on stage on that night. They started the evening with a performance by Amir Yussof, Rafique Rashid and Badar. They sang a song titled “Calling On You” which was specially written by Amir, a song beautifully composed for the Sun Bears. Rafique and Badar was also joined later by Albert Sirimal to perform a wonderful song called “House in Pooh’s Corner”.
The night didn’t end with there, more performances ensued the whole night including musicians like Roger Wang which did an acoustic piece of the song “Imagine” by John Lennon. One song which took the crowd into a very jovial mood was a ”re-write” version of the famous tune ‘Bear Necessities’ which was performed by Rafique Rashid and Roger Wang. All of the musicians that night was simply ingenious, exquisite and exceptional to say the least.
Also included as the highlights of the night, special auctions was held for the guests. Items included art pieces from exceptional and prominent local artists such as Mariana Musa, Wong Siew Lee, Wolf Sungmanitu Peters, Cede Prudente, Tony Gonzales, and Sarah Lim. Most art pieces such as the sculpture named ‘Obama’ from Wolf Sungmanitu Peters started the bids at MYR 1500 onwards. The highest bid made that night was Sarah Lim’s painting titled “Wake Up Call” which was around at MYR 40,000+.
All the proceeds that night including the auctions would go to the construction and maintenance of the BSBCC which will be situated at Sepilok. An infrastructure dedicated to keeping and studying the endangered Sun Bears, in which Borneo is its last hope for survival due to the fact that all over the region of South East Asia, their numbers are in fast decline.
Wong Siew Te, which is also known by some as the ‘Sun Bear Man’ took the stage and told tales of Cerah, a Sun Bear which is one of the bears under his care. Cerah means ‘bright’ in the Malaysian language. Executive Director of LEAP, Cynthia Ong also came on stage to show a planned infrastructure for the sun bears which is located near the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center.
The MoU on BSBCC was signed by Laurentius Ambu of the Sabah Wildlife Department, Datuk Sam Mannan of Sabah Forestry Department and LEAP by Cynthia Ong and was witnessed by YAB Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman. In his speech, he also announced a government match of one to one on total donations.
It is a milestone event in conservation history for it is the first time such a major collaboration ever took place in Malaysia. An estimate of MYR 1.3 million was raised that night towards this project and it shows that cooperation between the conservationists, large corporate companies and the government is not only possible but also can be very overwhelmingly successful.
A night of elegance, cheers and jovial ambiance within a spectacular event all for a very important cause - the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center. With such a monumental event, it was also gracefully ended as all the artistes and musicians took center stage and sang, ‘Conviction of the Heart’.
Posted by Xander on November 13th, 2008 in Wildlife
Upon reaching LEAP office, I was warmly greeted by Wong Siew Te who heads the conservation efforts with the Sun Bears. As I walked in, the place was full of energy where there were a handful of people working hard to make this event a momentous occasion. I was also greeted by Cynthia Ong, which is the Executive Director and founder of LEAP.
Lifeinborneo.com was given this enormous opportunity to meet up with these individuals whom are energetic, passionate, enthusiastic and fervent people that have put their whole hearts into the efforts with the Sun Bears also known as Helarctos malayanus.
The Borneon Sun Bear Conservation Centre is a project aimed for the research, habitat conservation, education, and rehabilitation of the sun bears; one of the eight bear species in the world that has been somewhat overlooked by other wildlife biologists and conservationists. According to Wong, the number of sun bears in the wild especially Borneo is still unknown due to the fact that there is still insufficient data collected concerning these species.
“It is estimated to be around 8-12 sun bears per 100 square kilometers in Borneo and this number will only decrease especially with the alarming rate of poaching of these bears. Even the trappings are still rampant among those that lives near the plantations and deep edges of the the jungles just to prevent them from entering their territory. These are only a few of the reasons why this project is so important for them (the Sun Bears) and now is the time to do it.”, as Wong elaborated.
I asked Wong whether there are any sun bears still being exploited today and this is what he pointed out to me, ” Some irresponsible individuals keep certain protected species and use them as a symbol of social status in their homes and these include the Sun Bears. Sadly this ‘trend’ is still unchecked especially in Malaysia and Indonesia. The laws that are supposedly protecting these creatures are in a way still not good enough to ensure that they are taken care of properly. They are kept in ‘private’ zoos in their back yard and are treated poorly by keeping them in small cages. Some people have different views of ‘well taken care of’ in this matter and their lack of knowledge and expertise with these animals are a great concern to us.”
It is well known that corporations in the United States and other foreign countries to give out large contributions to conservation efforts which they usually practice in their respective countries but this would be the first time this sort of collaboration is transpiring in Malaysia.
I asked Cynthia Ong if anyone ever done such an endeavor before, due to the fact that it is quite unheard of in Malaysia. She says, “It’s the first time in Malaysian history that the forestry, logging, palm oil plantations and several large corporations contributing to this conservation effort. These corporations will be collaborating with various NGO’s, Sabah Wildlife Department and working together on this ‘one-of-a-kind’ conservation effort. It is a major breakthrough for the conservationists to have this kind of reception which is very overwhelming.”
Wong explained further, “With the corporate companies utilizing the environment all these years for their interests, they too have the responsibility to do their part in helping with the conservation efforts.”
This event will not only pave the way for other parties which have not taken part in this project but also as a reminder that everyone can have a role in this endeavor which has long since been overlooked.
The contributions towards this occasion is the quintessential reason that this endeavor is taking place here in Sabah and the funds raised would be used to construct and maintain the BSBCC for the next 2 years. It is a center where they could do more in depth cooperation with the people from the plantations, educating them about the dangers of poaching and/or trapping these endangered species.
The BSBCC, which is planned to be constructed at Sepilok would be a place to keep the confiscated bears from the wilds. Wong frequently comes to its temporary facility which is near Sepilok where there are 11 sun bears there at the moment with an enriched environment and natural forest enclosures.
“With the BSBCC, we could educate the people about the Sun Bears and create awareness among them and why it is crucial that they too do their part in helping these animals. With such an infrastructure it will also bring hope for these bears which so many people haven’t even heard of. Did you know that the biggest sun bear I’ve encountered only weighed only 56 kilograms? We have everything in our own backyard to help these bears; perfect climate and environment to further study and learn more about them”, as elaborated by Wong on the importance of such a facility here in Borneo.
With Wong Siew Te and Cynthia Ong at the helm of this monumental effort, along with other various agencies and government departments; it is not enough to help these endangered animals to secure their safe future. Without the help and support of the public it simply cannot be done, therefore; why not be part of this event and do your part in this event which promises to be an event unlike any other ever held in Malaysia. The public support is needed for this event to happen.
Quote from Wong Siew Te, ” We have to work together to make things happen and as long as we don’t lose hope, there are so much that we can achieve. We should not delay any longer and now is the right time we take up this endeavor further and push it forward and realize that it can be done, here in Malaysia. ”
Seats are still available for the Bear Necessities event. The individual seats are priced at MYR 500, MYR 1000, MYR 2000, MYR3000 and MYR 5000.
Many thanks to Cynthia Ong, Executive Director and found of LEAP and Wong Siew Te for giving us the opportunity to learn more of their work and the importance of such an undertaking.
*Photos by Roy Ajin.
16th November, 2008 KOTA KINABALU: Efforts to raise fund for the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) received overwhelming support from generous donors and the state government on Friday night.
Some RM1.3 million was raised through the auction of four paintings and a sculpture, sales of dinner tickets and a matching grant from the state government during the Bear Necessities Fund Raising Event at a resort here.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman who graced the function announced that the state government would give a matching grant based on the amount of money raised during the event.
According to the Land Empowerment of Animal & People (LEAP) executive director Cynthia Ong, the BSBCC will cost about RM2.1 million.
It will be built next to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan and it will be carried out in three phases with phase one costing RM1.1 million, phase two RM600,000 and RM900,000 is needed for phase three.
Besides that, she said they have also received RM130,000 from international donors.
The fund raising event also saw a memorandum of understanding signed by Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Wildlife Department and LEAP.
Sun bear researcher Wong Siew Te said the kind financial support will help change the life of the sun bear and turn the centre into a tourism hotspot.
According to him, an enclosure will be built for the phase one project which can house 20 sun bears including 11 that were confiscated by the Sabah Wildlife Department.
Even though the sun bears are kept in captivity, they can gain access to the natural forest to enjoy life in the wild once the centre is completed, he said.
The phase two project will have a gallery for visitors to view the sun bears in their natural behaviour. Phase three will have an observatory platform and an exhibition centre, he said.
“The sun bear is a protected species and the plan to build the conservation centre is aimed at helping the bear and providing them a better place to live. The centre will be incorporated with conservation, education and research features,” he said.
The fund raising event was also supported by various artistes such as Ida Nerina, Lina Teoh and Joanna Bessey who assisted the Sabah Wildlife Department director Laurentius Ambu, Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan and Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun to conduct the auction of the sun bear paintings and sculpture.
Daily Express News
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.
I do not know what to say. There are two phrases that I wanted to scream to the world:
Thank you! And Yes! We did it!
Yes, we did it!
In addition of the fund raising, we also signed in the official MOU for the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center by the Director of Forestry Department Datuk Sam Mannan (front left), Director of LEAP Ms. Cynthia Ong (front center), and Director of Sabah Wildlife Department Mr. Laurentius Ambu (front right), witnessed by the Sabah Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun (standing left) and Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman.
Thank you! Thank you! And Thank you!
Thank you all the Bear Crews, especially mama bear- Cynthia Ong, for all the hard works to make this event a success and unforgettable one!
Thank you all the donors, corporate leaders, distinguishe guests, for your generous supports and contribution to help the bears and put them out of misery.
Thank you all the distinguishe guests- Yang Amat Berhormat the Chief Minister of Sabah, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Directors of Sabah Wildlife Department and Forestry Department, Mayor of Kota Kinabalu, and many others for your kind support and believing of what we are doing.
Thank you the co-sponsor of the event- Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa Kota Kinabalu for your kind sponsorship.
Thank you all the performers –Amir Yussof, Daphne Iking, Jit Murad, Roger Wang, Ida Narina, Lina Teoh, Rafique Rashid, Badar, Albert Sirimal, Joanna Bessey, the tribal drummers of Sabah, for all the excellent performances and of course being a wonderful auctioneers!
Thank you all the artists who donated their impressive artworks for this event- Wong Siew Lee (my sister), Mariana Musa, Sarah Lim, Toney Gondolos, Wolf Peters, and Cede Prudente.
Thank you all the ground crews from various conservation projects and government agencies that come a long ways to help us- PACOS, MESCOT, HUTAN, Danau Girang, Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department, the technician teams, the press media, and many others for your really hard works!
Thank you! Thank you! And thank you from the bottom of my heart and from the cage bears. You have changed our life!
Years ago, I looked into the very sad eyes of the cage bears in Sepilok and I told them: “I am going to do my best to help you.. I promise with my life that I am going to help you all out of the cages and bring you all a better life!”
On menu... sun bear in Phnom Penh restaurant
While doing a random of googling on internet, I come across this sun bear story that worth to read. It’s time for many of us to really help sun bears. Until now, I still do not understand why sun bear has to end up such as sad faith? From my studies of wild bears, they are suffering from lack of food in the forest and have to compete and kill each other to reduce competition. It is taught to be a wild sun bear! Their habitat has been destroyed, big time, by human on the name of development and making ways for agriculture to feed more people on Earth. The super cute babies are kept as pets, and from there they begin their “life in hell”. And finally, sun bears are slaughtered in cold blood in the name of “delicacy.”
Sometime I wonder if sun bears are cursed. Are they?
Brit saves rare bears from being eaten
By Frank Thorne And Susie Boniface, sundaymirror.co.uk 24/02/2008
Bears Srey Ya and Jo-Jo playfully rub noses as they get their first taste of freedom... after being saved from the cooking pot.
The pair were destined for the tables of restaurants in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, where diners are prepared to pay up to £500 a time for a bowl of Bear Paw Soup.
For sale... caged bear at a shop in Cambodia
But instead of ending up in the stomachs of wealthy businessmen - who eat the "delicacy" believing it will make them strong and virile - they were rescued by Briton Todd Dalton, who brought them back to his Rare Species Conservation Trust sanctuary in Sandwich, Kent.
Free... Srey Ya and Jo-Jo at Todd's sanctuary in Kent (Pics: Frank Thorne)
Srey Ya and Jo-Jo are sun - or honey - bears and at just 4ft high are the world's smallest species of bear. The bears are found in Cambodia, Malaysia, China and Borneo, but their numbers have been decimated by poachers. They are now officially classed as "vulnerable" by wildlife experts.
When a customer orders Bear Paw Soup the animal will have a paw chopped off to make it. It will then be kept alive until all of its paws are cut off before finally the carcass is sold as meat. The rear paws are cheaper because the bear walks on them and the meat is tougher.
The front ones are more expensive, with the left paw most prized as the bears tend to lick it when eating honey, which makes the meat more tender.
Srey Ya was just two weeks old when she was captured by poachers who had killed her mother. She was rescued by a bear charity and taken to a local zoo.
Back in England Todd learned of her plight and flew to Phnom Penh. There he also saw 16-month-old Jo-Jo, who had been seized from a cage in a restaurant. The businessman spent thousands of pounds bringing the two bears to Britain to start a breeding programme.
"I was shocked to learn that these cute little bears are on someone's menu," he said. "It's just sickening."
To support the trust or visit the bears see the website at www.rarespeciesconservationcentre.org
New Straits Times
Text by Evangeline Majawat & Julia Chan
3rd November 2015
"THEY are so cute."
These words usually set off alarm bells for wildlife biologist Wong Siew Te. He believes that the greatest enemy of his beloved Malayan sun bear are humans. He has lost count of the number of times these animals were hunted and kept just because people found them "cute"."
It's very easy to like these animals, and yes, they're cute, especially the cubs. The problem starts when people think they can keep them as pets. These are wild animals. They're not meant to be held in captivity."
Captive bears are treated inhumanely and kept in disgraceful conditions.
He added that captive bears also suffered from severe malnutrition due to an unbalanced and unhealthy diet. Cubs suffer the most as they are fed a constant diet of condensed milk.
"These cubs are dependent on their mother's milk. But because they were forcefully taken from their mothers, they lose out on nutrition," said Wong.
These cubs are often scrawny and have sparse fur, which is light in colour. Healthy cubs, on the other hand, have silky black fur.
Wong said people also kept these bears as a status symbol. "In Asian culture, the bear is a strong, brave and fierce animal. Whoever owns a bear is said to possess such qualities."
People's urge to domesticate sun bears is an issue which opens the floodgate to other problems. Hunters, well aware that bear cubs are prized above the adults, often kill the mother bears in their bid to cater to the demand.
Bears are also killed to satiate appetites for xiong zhang, a dish made from bear paw, and for their bile.Widespread deforestation is a major threat, too.
"These bears are jungle-dependent. No jungle, no bears. It's as simple as that," said Wong.