Borneo is home to the world’s smallest bear species, the little-known Malayan Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus). This jungle-dependent mammal was once widespread throughout Southeast Asia, but now Borneo is one of its last few remaining strongholds. Even here though its home is fast diminishing, with forest degradation and loss pushing this bear to the brink. Sun bears are also threatened by illegal hunting and poaching for food and medicines, to prevent damage to crops and villages, and to capture cubs for the pet trade. As a result, in Sabah alone, there are several young orphaned bears being illegally kept in captivity, living in small cages and with no access to the outdoors or the forest.
To address these challenges, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) was set up in 2008, as a collaborative project between sun bear researcher Wong Siew Te, Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Wildlife Department and LEAP. The Centre is located at Sepilok near Sandakan on Sabah’s east coast, and aims to carry out sun bear conservation, education, research and rehabilitation and provide an improved long term living environment for confiscated sun bears that cannot be released back into the wild.
LEAP is proud to have supported and been extensively involved with BSBCC since its inception. As well as helping to raise funds, and being represented on BSBCC’s board, LEAP has assisted BSBCC in infrastructure development and opening of facilities, and in management, administration and accounting, legal matters, media and reporting, among many others.
By November 2014 it was clear that BSBCC was able to stand on its own two feet and LEAP scaled back its involvement, confident that BSBCC will carry on its journey and continue to provide holistic solutions to sun bear conservation in Sabah. We continue to assist on specific projects and processes and give input when requested.
Today BSBCC houses around 40 rescued sun bears, and is globally recognized as a successful conservation initiative, as well as becoming a major ecotourism destination in Sandakan. It has achieved financial sustainability and made huge strides in public awareness and environmental education about sun bears.
Let’s hope that conservation challenges such as sun bears in the wild still being illegally killed and cubs being orphaned and kept as pets can be the next piece in the jigsaw to be successfully addressed.
BSBCC maintains a website and a blog to tell the story of sun bears in Southeast Asia as well as to highlight progress at www.bsbcc.org.my. Connect with the Centre via Facebook, or contact BSBCC CEO Wong Siew Te at firstname.lastname@example.org