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New Sabah Times
18th October 2008
18th October, 2008 KOTA KINABALU: Wildlife conservation in Sabah gets a boost with the setting up of Asia’s first Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre. Construction work begins early next year at Sepilok in Sandakan and according to the centre director, Cynthia Ong, if all goes according to plan, it will be completed by the end of 2009.
However, it will require some RM1.2 million to realise the mission and the centre is therefore organising a fundraising dinner event on November 14 to be held at the Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort. Dubbed “Bear Necessities” it will bring together heads of government, non-government organisations and corporate leaders with some of Malaysia’s best-known personalities to provide the entertainment.
The celebrities include Daphne Iking, Jit Murad, Lina Teoh, Rafique Rashid, Roger Wang, Elaine Daly, Amir Yussof, Albert Sirimal and Badar. Cynthia said the centre is crucial for the survival of the bears as there is no facility in Sabah to shelter the growing number of bears rescued by the Sabah Wildlife Department from captivity or after they have been left orphaned.
“In fact, many people in Sabah don’t know that Borneo is actually home to the world’s smallest bear, the little known Malayan Sun Bear,” she said.
She added that the distribution of the Malayan Sun Bear was originally widespread throughout Southeast Asia, but now Sabah remained as one of the few places in the world where it can still be found.
Sadly, deforestation is pushing this bear to the brink of extinction. At the same time, the bears are also under threat from illegal hunters either for food or medicinal purposes, at times shot to prevent damage to crops and villages and worse, taken by poachers for the pet trade.
“This innovative project aims to provide a holistic approach to the conservation of the Sun Bear, combining improved facilities for captive bears with increased public awareness both at the local and international levels".
“Perhaps most importantly, they can be released back into the wild after being rehabilitated,” she said. State Wildlife Department director, Laurentius Ambu said that without the centre, the Bornean Sun Bear would probably be extinct in 30 years’ time. He said that the worldwide sun bear population is estimated to be around 10,000 and that it was in danger because of forest fragmentation and loss of habitat. It is also widely sought for its gallbladder thought to have medicinal value and can even be found sold at markets such as the Gaya Street in Kota Kinabalu, he said.
He warned that the Bornean sun bear is a protected species and those found in possession with one could face imprisonment. Meanwhile, tables for the event are priced at RM50,000 (10 tables); RM30,000 (10 tables); RM20,000 (10 tables) and RM10,000 (20 tables).
For more information on the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre or the Bear Necessities Event, please contact: 088-270705 firstname.lastname@example.org via email.