Back in 2004, I conducted a nationwide survey of sun bear status in Malaysia and visited many zoos, private menageries, mini zoos, crocodile farms, etc., including Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) in Sandakan, to better understand the situation of the captive sun bears in Malaysia. It is here at SORC that the Sabah Wildlife Department housed all of the confiscated sun bears in separate cells. These cells are “cell”, cages with nothing in it. Like all of the captive sun bears which I called “caged sun bears”, they looked sad, stress and nervous. The only activity that these bears did all day was pacing. Regardless of the sizes of the cages, they paced from one end of the cage to the other end of the cage. For those even more unfortunate bears with tiny cages to a point where pacing is not possible, they jiggled their head in circle, sometime so fast that I cannot keep track of the movement.
It may not mean anything to an ordinary local folk who treated an animal as an animal. But to me, I can tell from years of loving and care for animals that these bears were suffering, in severe stress and pain under this kind of unacceptable living environment. If this were to happen to a human, he or she would have physiological breakdown or turn crazy in days. However, because they are bears, one of very tough animal in the Kingdom Animalia (Animal), they will stay alive until they die of old age in this kind of living condition for years, as long as they are being fed with any kind of food. I mean, “any kind,” as long as it is food!
It was here I first met Ann, a SORC’s volunteer from UK probably at her 60s. Her face full of wrinkles but she has a strong heart full of love for animals, especially the orangutans. She grasped my hand with her strong arm when I first told her who I was (co-chair of the newly formed Sin Bear Expert Team, under the IUCN Bear Specialist Group), “YOU MUST HELP THESE BEARS! YOU MUST!!” she said with shaking voice. “I WILL help these bears, Ann. I will help you all bears” I reassured her and the bears again and again before I left.
I have high hope that many can be achieve this year with a lot of helps from across the world. The next challenge for BSBCC is to raise additional UD$400,000 in order to complete the Phase 2 and 3. It is only when we completed the Phase 2 of the construction (the visitor gallery and viewing facility), we could then open our facility to the public and visitor who wish to learn more about sun bear and see our sun bear in natural enclosures. We can also generate revenue from the visitors to pay for our expenses and our education, conservation and research programs. In other word, we will be self sustained after the completion of Phase 2.
I sincerely thank all of you over and over again for your immense helps over the past many years in many ways to help us grow and help sun bears. It is your helps, contribution, and supports that make us come this far. However, we still need your help to bring a better future for sun bears and all of the wildlife and nature that we care and love so much. Please help us spread the words of our work and the plight of the sun bear during your free time. You can easily tell your friends about it, post our news in your facebook and other social networking tool online. Even better, help us raise fund, contribute your time working with us, study sun bears, and many other things that you do best.
I can do all the works to study the sun bears in the rainforest of Borneo and live there for 6 years; I can do all the works of founding BSBCC; I can do all the emailing and bloging to send the message out to you in every corner of the world as long as there are internet connection. However, I simply cannot do a lot more that needed to be done without your help for saving all of the sun bears and protecting their habitat and other wildlife and wild place.
The year 2010 is the year of sun bear and we have high hope for more helps is coming during this year. Together we could make a difference and a better world for the bears and for ourselves.