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.