Linggam’s first step- Day 1, 2, and 3 – Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Linggam’s first step- Day 1, 2, and 3 – Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

By Shauna Tay

Day 1, 12th April, was the beginning of Linggam’s adventure. After a year of being in the indoor enclosure with BSBCC, for training purposes, and who knows how many years before that in a small cage, he is finally ready to be introduced to the outdoor enclosure. The outdoor enclosure is a large patch of the forest that is fenced up for these newly introduced bears, making sure they don’t run off without us knowing that they have the ability to survive on their own. Many would expect that once the gate is opened for Linggam to enter the huge forest area he’d run at the first chance he could get. However, that’s not the case for many of these bears. They’ve been captive animals for most of their lives – all they know is their cage or pen. They don’t know yet that they belong out in the wild.

We placed various fruits all over the forest area, as well as on his ramp to encourage him to come down from his pen. He took several minutes to even take the nerve to sniff the ramp. I reckon he was just shocked by the sudden gush of nature’s smells that entered his pen. He would take a step out, take a deep – yet quick – sniff, then jump backwards further into his pen. This would continue for a while until at one point he actually kept walking down the ramp eating fruits, extremely cautious of course, and took his first step on the soil. It took 5 seconds until he went into mad panic. He started running back and forth underneath the gate, too frightened he didn’t find his way back up the ramp, and jumped 3 feet through his gate and safely back into his pen. After that heart-breaking incident, he didn’t try come back out. It’s clear there is some room for improvement!



Day 2, 13th April, was the second attempt. We set everything up just like before. He repeated what he’d done the day earlier, as he would take a few steps then reverse back in over and over again. Eventually, he made it to the bottom of the ramp and touched the soil again. It’s extremely sad to know that this may be the first time he’s ever stepped on soil. After a few minutes of eating the nearest fruits he fled back into his pen, overwhelmed with all his five senses working harder than ever before. He still has very far to go, but this is without a doubt his first step to an even better quality of life.


Day 3, 15th April, Linggam made great progress as he stayed out of his pen longer than he had the previous days. He was still extremely cautious and aware of everything around him, but he wasn’t as hesitant to step onto the ground this time. However, you could see the pattern – the more food around him, the longer he’d be out; the less food around him, the less time he’d be out. There was a gradual decline in minutes with each time he came out of his pen. Our next step: place a food puzzle outside. It’ll be a motivation and challenge for him to stay in the outdoors. Let’s hope the next few days he’ll find it easier to take a few more steps. After all, each step is one more step to overcoming his fear.



Stay tune for more…

Emma loves sun bears! – Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Emma loves sun bears! – Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Remember two weeks ago British actress Emma Thompson met me for the first time and championed the “most beautiful little creature” in Kota Kinabalu? After the last meeting, Emma together with her husband Greg Wise and daughter Gaia have been visited almost all ecotourism hot spots in Sabah-Danum Valley, Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Kinabatangan River, Sipadan, etc. Yesterday was their last stop in Sabah, visiting the sun bears at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.



The family stayed at the centre all day long to learn everything and anything about this little known bears. This was the first time Emma and her family encountered with the Bornean sun bears and realized how little they were compared to the giant Alaskan brown bears! Their up-close-and personal experience with the bears, and learned all about the sun bears from me, was most memorable. Gaia especially, fell in love with the sun bears and promised to come back in 7 years when she is old enough to become a volunteer at the age of 18! Beside our long discussions on the plights of sun bears and casual conversation, the family also watched the newly produced documentary “Big Dream Little Bears” -the story about the new life of our rescue sun bears in BSBCC filmed a year ago.

Emma Thompson and her family were extremely sincere and humble. She is so kind to autograph several T-shirts and bags with her personal message to the world- save the sun bears! These t-shirts and bags were to be auctioned at fund raising events for BSBCC at facebook on June 11-12, and another fund raising event in Sandakan on July. Thank you Emma!



The sun bears for sure have a new friend since yesterday! Besides gaining additional world famous friend, the bears also gain a spokeswoman who would speak on their behalf. Even better, at the end of the day, Emma became the patron for both BSBCC and the UK Charity Sun Bear Conservation Trust. The connection between Emma Thompson and the sun bears has established.

Emma will be back for the sun bears!





A surprised visit by Sigourney Weaver – Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

A surprised visit by Sigourney Weaver – Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is located on the premise of Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC), Sandakan, Sabah. Each year, about 100,000 visitors visiting the centre to see and to learn more about the orangutans. These visitors come from all over the world and all levels in the society, including many VIPs and the world famous celebrities.

On the rainy morning of last Saturday, I have a surprised visit from Sci-Fi Queen Sigourney Weaver. Yes, you hear me right, Ms Sigourney Weaver, or Ellen Ripley in the Alien film series (like many of you, I grow up with the Alien series and a big fan of Ripley!!!),


or Dr Grace Augustine in recent Sci-Fi blockbuster Avatar!


Like most of the people in the world, she did not know there is a bear call sun bear. She first heard about “sun bear” a day before when she was on her way to Sandakan to see the orangutan at SORC. Sitting behind her in the flight was Datuk Sam Mannan, the Director of the Sabah Forestry Department. After a brief chit-chat and learned that Sigourney was on her way to see the orangutan, Datuk Sam highly recommended her to come visit the sun bears as well. She immediately gets interested on sun bear, thanks to the recommendation and nice words from Datuk Sam, who is also the big supporter of BSBCC and a key person to make our project successful.


Sigourney was very nice and soft-spoken. She is aware of many wildlife conservation issues, especially on gorillas’ conservation. She appeared in one of her most memorable and critically acclaimed performances in 1988 as mountain gorillas’ biologist Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist. She is also the honorary Chairman of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.


During our conversation with pouring tropical rain on the back ground, we covered many issues on sun bears conservation, research, threats, and the mission of BSBCC to save sun bears. Beside showing her our sun bears in their indoor dens and sun bears playing in their forest enclosure under heavy rain, I also introduced her to Natalie and Natalie’s story- too cute to begin but too sad to end (if she did not end up at BSBCC)- life in small metal cage, so to speak.



After the visit, Sigourney was extremely impressed with our works to help sun bears. Now that she knew more about the plights of sun bears, she pledged to help sun bears and BSBCC in many ways in the future. When people asked me what can they do to help, I always replied: “Do what you do best to help sun bears!” With no exception to a big Hollywood movie start, I sincerely hope that one day Sigourney Weaver can do what she does best to help us.


Thank you Sigourney for visiting us and listening to me talking about my works and sun bears. It was a truly pleasure to meet you in person! I hope your visit was educational and hope more people across the world will know more about the sun bear through you!


Actress to champion 'most beautiful little creature'

Actress to champion 'most beautiful little creature'
Emma Thompson says she hopes to get support for the Bornean Sunbear Conservation Centre
Emma Thompson says she hopes to get support for the Bornean Sunbear Conservation Centre

KOTA KINABALU: Sunbear conservation in Sabah is getting a boost from its latest champion -- the Academy Award winner British actress and screenwriter, Emma Thompson.

The 51-year-old Thompson took time off from her holiday here to pitch in and help promote sunbear conservation by showing up at a "Power to the People" street party. "I want to take the message about the sunbear back to the West and tell people about them because no one there knows about the sunbear.

"I hope to persuade someone from Discovery Channel to do a programme about the sunbears because all the other bears -- the polar bear, the grizzly bear, the panda -- everyone knows about them and there are many efforts to save them.

"But no one told me about the sunbear. No one even knows about the sunbear. And indeed, I didn't know about it until I came here and I found out about sunbears when I was reading some material." She said that she hoped to get support for the Bornean Sunbear Conservation Centre and that she had spoken with its founder Wong Siew Te, whom she said "is single-handedly trying to save the sunbear".

"I was impressed with his work. He is an expert. Most species are saved because one person thinks and starts doing something about it." She pledged to help Wong and the species by publicising the effort. She described the sunbear as "the most beautiful little creature on the planet" but very little is known about it. "You look at them and you go 'Oh my God, why didn't I know about them?'".

She said she would visit the sanctuary later this month with her family as part of their holiday here. "Eventually, I hope to do a programme about the sunbear." When asked whether she would consider doing a feature film in Sabah, she said she was here only as a visitor for now. "I have no intrinsic knowledge of Sabah. However, if there is a chance to do it, I will jump at it," she said, adding that she was in Sabah on a break after writing the sequel for Nanny McPhee for six months. She has been here for a week, learning to dive with actor husband Greg Wise and 12-year-old daughter, Gaia Romilly. -- By Julia Chan