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!