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An Interview with sun bear expert Siew Te Wong: Habitat destruction, logging, wildlife trade drive sun bears toward extinction
Industrial logging, large-scale forest conversion for oil palm plantations, and the illegal wildlife trade have left sun bears the rarest species of bear on the planet. Recognizing their dire status, Siew Te Wong, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Montana, is working in Malaysia to save the species from extinction.
Known as "Sun Bear Man" in some circles, Siew Te Wong is setting up the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sabah, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. The project aims to save sun bears, which have largely overlooked by conservationists, through research, education, rehabilitation, and habitat conservation.
"The primary goal of the proposed BSBCC is to promote Malayan sun bear conservation in Sabah by creating the capacity to rehabilitate and release suitable orphaned and ex-captive bears back into the wild, providing an improved long-term living environment for captive bears that cannot be released, and educating the public and raising awareness about this species," he said in an interview with Mongabay.com. "[Sun bears] remain as one of the most neglected bear and large mammal species in Southeast Asia." Siew Te Wong's efforts are partially supported by the Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN), an innovative group that uses a venture capital model to protect some of the world's most endangered species. WCN will be hosting Siew Te Wong at its upcoming Wildlife Conservation Expo in San Francisco, California on October 4th. Expo attendees will be able to meet Siew Te Wong firsthand. The event, which is open to the public and costs $25-50 per person, also features 16 other conservationists working to protect wildlife around the world.
AN INTERVIEW WITH SIEW TE WONG
Mongabay: What is your project?
Siew Te Wong: I have been working on several projects on sun bears over the past 10 years or so. These included research projects on sun bears ecology, studying the impacts of logging on sun bears, looking at the effects of fruit production and climatic patterns on sun bears, surveying the status and distribution of sun bear in Malaysia, improving living condition and helping captive sun bears, and working on the conservation of sun bears. Currently, I am setting up the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre or BSBCC, in Sabah, Malaysia on the island of Borneo. This is a long-term project that focus on four aspects, i.e., education, rehabilitation, conservation, and research, on sun bears. The primary goal of the proposed BSBCC is to promote Malayan sun bear conservation in Sabah by creating the capacity to rehabilitate and release suitable orphaned and ex-captive bears back into the wild, providing an improved long-term living environment for captive bears that cannot be released, and educating the public and raising awareness about this species. You can read more about the project at http://sunbears.wildlifedirect.org/