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Photo and text by Dr. Arthur Chung
Despite the wet weather, some 25 people participated in the year-end gathering of the Sabah Society, Sandakan Branch at Sepilok. The event started off with the visit to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). Its founder, Wong Siew Te and his assistant, Ng Wai Pak briefed us on the rehabilitation programme of BSBCC. The centre was established jointly with the support of the Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Wildlife Department and LEAP (Land Empowerment Animals People). Currently, there are 23 sun bears undergoing the rehabilitation programme. Many were brought to the centre due to human-bear conflict where some were kept illegally in captivity, in cramped cages with no access to outdoors and no hope for future. Sun Bear is the world’s smallest bear species and is found in Southeast Asia, feeding on insects, fruits and honey. According to Wong, not many people know about sun bear, hence it is important to raise awareness for this little known bear and its disappearing habitat. We also had the chance to see the feeding session of the bears. They were given rice and sugarcane, and they seemed to be enjoying themselves very much. We were told that they are fed four times a day.
Next, we proceeded to the Keruing Café at the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC), Sepilok for our feeding time – high tea. The café is located within the Sepilok forest, overseeing part of the canopy walkway and the forest itself. The singing orchestra of the cicadas and crickets evoked the rainforest atmosphere in our midst (more so after the rain). During high tea, a member suggested a cap to be passed around for freewill donation for the sun bear conservation programme and a generous contribution of more than RM400 was collected. While leisurely chit-chatting after a hearty high tea, we spotted a giant rusty-red Flying Squirrel gliding from one tree to another. Flying Squirrel is one of the iconic features of RDC. Visitors are often mesmerized with its spectacular gliding performance, mostly at dusk. Thrilled with the squirrel’s acrobatic show, and with our stomach stuffed, we ended our fellowship just before the rain was about to pour again. Anthea Phillipps worded her article on RDC in the Sunday Daily Express dated 18th December, 2011 in a similar expression, “Watching the Flying Squirrel in action was a wonderful way to end a wonderful day.”