KOTA KINABALU: A conservation centre in Sandakan dedicated to Sabah’s endangered Sun Bear has launched its second observation platform, an aerial walkway and a second forest enclosure.
The new facilities are aimed at accommodating higher number of visitors and increase the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre's educational and awareness programmes for the public.
The construction of the facilities was made possible with the support of the Sime Darby Foundation.
The foundation’s alliance with the centre began in 2012, when the centre sought funding for a sun bear sanctuary and to promote conservation efforts through education, research and rehabilitation.
The initial funding of RM2.1mil for 19 months covered the centre’s operational costs, renovation of an old bear house and construction of a second bear house.
The foundation added an additional RM1.4mil for the purpose in 2014.
Sun bears are kept and killed for consumption following many people’s beliefs that the animals’ body parts, including gall bladder, are “magical cures” for many ailments.
To cater to the lucrative illegal trade, poachers kill sun bears and their orphaned cubs are held captive as pets in deplorable conditions.
Following the uncontrolled hunting and killing of sun bears, their population dwindled to the verge of extinction, and the animal has been classified as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List.
Sime Darby Foundation governing council member Caroline Christine Russell commended the centre’s "unyielding commitment" to rehabilitate rescued sun bears and hold relentless awareness programmes locally and internationally through public talks and lectures.
“We are very proud to be associated with BSBCC, which has done good work to rescue and rehabilitate ex-captive and orphaned sun bears,” she said.
“We hope with the improved infrastructure in place, the centre can cater to more visitors and become self-sustaining while providing comfort for the rescued bears to re-assimilate themselves into their natural environment,” Russell added.
BSBCC chief executive officer Wong Siew Te said the conservation efforts would have been incomplete without the bear houses and facilities for visitors and researchers, who come from all over the world.
“With more visitors to the centre, BSBCC will be self-reliant in the future,” he said.
There are currently 40 bears residing at the centre.