BSBCC: Updates From The Field
COVID-19 has swept the world since 2020, and the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center has not been spared — visits to the center were halted, affecting most of our revenue.
Despite all the challenges faced, our internal operation remained the same. Taking care of the bears' welfare is the utmost priority; food supplies, medicines, bear dens, enclosures maintenance, etc, all are going as usual. Early in January 2021, BSBCC reintroduced two bears back into the wild: Loki and Sunbearo. It was unfortunate however, Sunbearo’s GPS tracking stopped at a point in the map and remained still for a while; a search party was dispatched and found him dead, most probably due to a fight with resident bears. Loki’s GPS signal on the other hand was never received; it was believed that her GPS collar was faulty.
The year 2021 also saw wonderful news for BSBCC and supporters as we received a surprise from one of our resident bears, Bintang, when she gave birth to a cub on 20 May. Named as Luna after fans voted, she was however forced to be separated from her mother due to a life-threatening condition she faced, and was hand-raised by BSBCC’s staff. Now, she is seven months old and healthily weighs 13.5kg, slowly learning and obtaining the natural skills of a wild sun bear under her caretakers.
BSBCC also received a new rescue bear from Lok Kawi Wildlife Park earlier this year. Kukuton, a seven-year old male bear from Kota Belud, was kept as a pet from 2015 until her rescue in 2019. Her case has been brought to court and the previous owner was sentenced to a fine of RM15,000 (US$3,582). As this article was written, she is currently undergoing a quarantine period at BSBCC.
As of the end of 2021, BSBCC’s 27 full-time staff work seven days a week to ensure the needs of the 44 rescued bears and one captive-born bear are met. Since COVID-19, BSBCC has sustained itself through donations and supporters who adopt the costs of caring for the bears. We also have received funding from Hasanah Foundation and Sime Darby Foundation, giving us more room to breathe during the difficult time.
On the 23rd of October, after one and a half years without visitors, our centreentre finally reopened to visitors. With the completion of the building back in January 2021, the centre can accommodate more visitors. It is and always our highest hope for the COVID-19 pandemic to stop and for life tol be back to normal. When international travelling restrictions are lifted, visitors from all over the world will once again be able to behold the world's smallest bear with their own eyes.
There is a clear message that can be learned from this pandemic; humans need to respect wildlife. The COVID-19 virus is believed to have originated from wild animals and might come to emergence due to the interaction between wildlife and humans, allowing them to ‘escape’ from their natural reservoir.
The experience faced in the past 22-months teaches BSBCC to remain strong and persevere in the hardship caused by this pandemic. Thanks to lots of support from everyone, BSBCC managed to go through the dark time and continue to conserve and take care of our sun bears. In the future, it is hoped that more plans will be materialized thus improving the Centre’s operational capability.