Saturday, October 18, 2008




Sabah is hosting a ground-breaking and historic event, aptly named ‘Bear Necessities’, to be held at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa on Nov 14 at 6.3Opm. This first of its kind event brings together heads of Government, NGOs and corporate leaders with some of Malaysia’s best-known musicians, TV and film personalities to raise funds for the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) to be established at SepiLok, Sandakan. Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman will be the Guest of Honour for the night which is being hosted by Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department and the NGO LEAP. Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun will also be attending together with City Mayor Datuk Iliyas Ibrahim and international donors. The goal is to raise RM1 .2 million so construction can begin on the Centre, which will be located adjacent to the world famous Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre near Sandakan. This Centre is needed because as yet there is no facility in Sabah to house the growing number of bears which are confiscated by Sabah Wildlife Department from captivity or rescued as orphans. Sun Bears are a Totally Protected Species under the Sabah Wildlife Enactment and keeping or killing bears or selling bear parts are illegal. In fact many people in Sabah don’t know that Borneo is actually home to the world’s smallest bear, the little-known Malayan Sun Bear. Originally widespread throughout Southeast Asia, Sabah is now one of the few remaining strongholds of this jungle dependent mammal. But its home is fast diminishing, with forest loss and degradation pushing this bear to the brink. Sun bears are also illegally hunted for food and medicines, shot to prevent damage to crops and villages and poached to capture small cubs for the pet trade. This innovative project aims to provide a holistic approach to Sun Bear conservation, combining improved facilities for captive bears with increased public awareness both locally and internationally, and perhaps most importantly, release back into the wild of bears which can be rehabilitated. The confiscated and orphaned bears are currently kept in small cages with no access to outdoor areas. The Centre will provide the bears, of which 11 are presently kept in Sepilok, with an enriched environment, natural forest enclosures and improved welfare, and there will also be much needed interpretation and education facilities for visitors. The cost of the Centre’s construction and operations for year one is approximately RM2 million.
Based on the theme ‘Sun Bears and the Rainforest’, the Bear Necessities evening promises to be an extraordinary one, combining compelling conservation messages with music, comedy, bear stories, art and video footage of Sun Bears in the wild, as well as a Sun Bear-themed live auction of specially commissioned or donated artwork. The overwhelming support from some of Malaysia’s most dynamic, talented and environmentally-aware artistes shows that there is a growing commitment from young Malaysians to conserve and cherish our natural heritage. The hope is that Sun Bears may become another flagship species for Sabah and Malaysia, representing and highlighting the crucial need for wildlife and habitat protection. An MoU on the Centre will be signed by Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department and LEAP on the night, witnessed by the Chief Minister. Tables are priced at RM5O,000 (10 tables); RM3O,000 (10 tables); RM2O,000 (10 tables) and RM1O,000 (20 tables). Buyers of the RM5O,000 tables get one seat at the top table.
The event is co-sponsored by Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa and all proceeds go to the Bornean Sun Bear Trust Fund. Says Cynthia Ong, Executive Director of LEAP and a Director of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, “This has to be a collaborative endeavour - the very survival of our Sun Bear is at stake. Our international partners will also be showing their support at the event and we must take ownership of this issue locally and regionally and meet them on the common ground of global citizenship. “I urge you to support this important and first-of-its-kind event and make a meaningful contribution to safeguarding the future of Sabah’s unrivalled biodiversity. Sun Bears are one of Sabah’s most neglected and yet vulnerable and charismatic species of wildlife. Local support is vital in making this Centre for Sun Bear conservation and rehabilitation happen”. For more information on the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre or the Bear Necessities Event, please contact: Tel: 088 270705 I 012 8281705 and Email:

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The world's bears are under increasing threat of extinction according to a report issued July 27 by World Wide Fund for Nature. Almost all bear species have undergone dramatic population declines in recent decades mainly due to trade of their body parts, habitat destruction and human/animal conflict, according to the group.
According to the conservation organization's first-ever global review of the world's bears, "Wanted Alive! Bears in the Wild," habitat loss and hunting are having devastating effects on Asia's sloth, sun and black bears.
Bear parts are often employed in traditional Chinese medicine. Bile from the bear gall bladder is an ancient and treasured ingredient used to treat a range of illnesses including serious liver diseases, heart disease and hemorrhoids. Paws and other bear parts are eaten as a delicacy and are also thought to have health-giving properties.
It is possible that the sun bear is extinct in India and its presence in Bangladesh is questionable according to the report. As numbers of Asian bears decline, increasing numbers of North and South American bears are being hunted to satisfy worldwide demand for bear parts.
Logging, cattle ranching, and clearance for poppy and coca fields that feed the lucrative drug trade have also seriously affected South and Central American bears. The Mexican grizzly is now extinct while the spectacled bear struggles for survival mainly in the remaining mountainous forest along the spine of Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia and Peru.
In Europe, human and animal conflicts are causing serious problems for bears. Spain and Greece's bears are unlikely to survive unless strict protection programs are put in place. The authors of the report warn that France's few remaining bears are "doomed to extinction" unless "drastic measures" are taken soon.
However, lack of censuses and field studies usually make it very difficult to establish exact numbers of bears in the wild. "We know what is in the market place, but we don't know what is in the forest," said Elizabeth Kemf, species information manager at World Wide Fund for Nature and one of the co-authors of the report. "The markets in Asia are supplied with bear parts, especially in Southeast Asia. While bear numbers in Asia slide downward, bears in the Americas are being increasingly targeted by traders."
Earlier this year, in Virginia, U.S. law enforcement officials seized 300 bear gall bladders, the product of illegal bear kills.
The only bear population that still lives throughout its original range and whose population in some areas has actually doubled is the polar bear. However, it faces new threats in the form of chemicals such as persistent organic pollutants and the effects of global warming on its marine coastal habitat.
"Humans and the impacts of their activities will determine the future of bears," said Dr. Christopher Servheen, co-chair of the IUCN/SSC Bear Specialist Group and co-author of the report. "A successful bear conservation effort must balance the needs of bears with the needs of people."
Nevertheless, the authors of the report emphasize that there is some good news for bears. Reintroduction plans have been successful. They point out that in Austria, a six-year plan of bear reintroduction has resulted in a significant increase in bears. Most remarkable is a major shift in attitude by Austrian farmers and the general public to protect rather than persecute bears.