Happy New Year everyone! I cannot believe the year 2020 has ended and we are ushering in the New Year of 2021!
I am sure everyone agrees with me that 2020 has been the most challenging year for all of us because of the COVID 19 pandemic. The pandemic has affected our daily routines, travel, economy, socialising and livelihood. Worse are those unfortunate to have contracted the virus, fallen ill and worst, lost their precious lives.
The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre too has suffered its’ share of detriment. We’ve been closed since March 17th after Malaysia invariably got “locked down” by different stages of Movement Control Order to control the spread of the SARS-CoV2 virus. Eco tourism, key to sustaining conservation efforts of our centre had been shut down but operational expenses remained the same.
We are ever so grateful to our benefactors from all round the globe. By your donations, adoptions, purchase of merchandise and fundraisers, we have pulled through a harrowing year 2020. I cannot thank you all enough, especially both Hasanah and Sime Darby Foundations. We have still suffered a staggering net loss of more than RM900,000 in 2020.
We hope the Sabah state government can help us financially until tourists return. As Founder and CEO of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, I remain optimistic and tenacious sourcing additional ringgits and cents to run the rehabilitation initiative. Quitting is not an option.
Looking back, 2020 has not been any less successful despite harsh setbacks. I brim with pride and am extremely grateful to the BSBCC family for sticking it out through thick and thin tending to 45 rescued sun bears and keeping the gears of our operations running smoothly. During mid-2020, I was proud being able to say that BSBCC and Sabah Wildlife Department had not rescued any sun bears in Sabah for the preceding one and a half years largely due to the success of conservation awareness programs that BSBCC has been carrying out for the past many years.
We had successfully educated the masses on the legality of rearing and killing sun bears. Unfortunately, good runs are not never ending; in July 2020, the Sabah Wildlife Department rescued three sun bear cubs: Kipaku, Itam, and the severely malnourished Betung.
We ardently endeavoured nursing them round the clock to full recovery; most laboriously with Betung. The new arrivals have made the total number of sun bears sent to BSBCC 65 since inception 12 years ago. Rescue of the trio during the “lock down” especially worried me. It pointed to the possibility of a rise in poaching as locals had lost jobs during the pandemic.
As for sun bear rehabilitation and release, the initial plan was to release four sun bears in 2020. Unfortunately, the pandemic denied us that sweet story. Notwithstanding, on July 10, 2020, we successfully released Montom, an adult male sun bear back to the wild not far from where he had been rescued in central Sabah. We monitored his movement for several months after the release.
Despite movement and travel restrictions, we have kept busy with awareness campaigns and education. I delivered 11 webinars to global audiences and 2 talks in-person at Sabah prior to the pandemic; I appeared on 15 internet, radio and television programs; BSBCC and myself were covered in 45 newspaper articles and interviews on various topics. Easily the biggest achievement was the publication of “Saving Sun Bears - One Man’s Quest to Save a Species”, my biography with a focus on my life-long journey in saving sun bears. It was graciously written by Dr Sarah Pye from Australia. An international book launch organized by Sunshine Coast Municipal Council in Sunshine Coast, Australia took place on June 5th, 2020.
We have delivered on promises made in conjunction with the establishment of BSBCC more than 12 years ago. If not for the pandemic, we could have done much more. So, the challenge for 2021 considering new norms is to keep BSBCC running; so that we can continue rehabilitating rescued sun bears alongside conducting education and research initiatives. In the very near future, we shall release a few more rehabilitated sun bears back into the wild. Construction of our new ticketing and shop building completed in December 2020 and will soon be functioning.
On this New Year’s Day, I pray for world peace, for the pandemic to end soon and for everyone’s life and tourism across the world to adapt to new norms. If the pandemic and wanton culling of wildlife has taught us anything, humanity across the world should now understand the importance of sustainable co-existence with nature. We must respect nature, keep wildlife wild and live harmoniously with nature. If not, we are just setting up for new pandemics that will vengefully devastate humanity.
Once again, I am very thankful to all donors, sun bear adopters, fans and followers who help spread word of conservation and make our work possible. Please keep supporting BSBCC and our work!
I wish you a Happy New Year! May the New Year bring happiness, joy, peace, and safety to all beings on Earth!
Dr (Hon) Wong Siew Te, D.J.N.
C.E.O. and Founder,
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre