Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
HQ: Sandakan, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) is the only sun bear conservation centre in the world. It was founded in Sabah, Malaysia in 2008 with two aims: to provide care and rehabilitation to rescued sun bears, and to increase awareness of sun bears internationally. These aims work to ensure the absolute right of every bear to live in the forest.
Project Goals: $25,000
To achieve our aims in sun bear conservation, BSBCC’s work relies on four fundamental pillars: welfare, rehabilitation, education and research.
- Welfare - BSBCC is currently home to 44 rescued sun bears. Sun bears in the wild face threats from deforestation, commercial hunting and the pet trade. All bears at our centre are orphaned and/or ex-captive bears. We provide rescued sun bears with a better life.
- Rehabilitation - We reintroduce bears into their natural habitat, providing the largest forest enclosures in the industry. We work with the bears to develop the skills necessary for survival in the wild and identify potential release candidates.
- Education - We believe education locally and internationally is crucial to preserving sun bears and their habitat for generations to come. We provide education resources at our centre in Sepilok, through our outreach programmes in Bornean schools and plantations, and online.
- Research - Sun bears are the least researched bear species in the world. We believe on-going research is key to increasing this species protection.
The mission of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is to promote sun bear conservation in Borneo through animal welfare, conservation, rehabilitation, education and research - giving captured sun bears a better home and restoring their right to live in the wild, by:
- Creating the capacity to confiscate, rehabilitate and release suitable orphaned and ex-captive bears back into the wild.
- Providing an improved long-term living environment for captive bears that cannot be released.
- Educating the public and raising awareness about this species.
- Achieving increased protection for sun bears and their habitat through ongoing research, increased knowledge and awareness, and further protection of habitat.
Within the larger goals outlined above, we want to fulfill the following specific objectives:
- Serve as a half-way house for confiscated/orphaned bears before release back into the wild; provide rehabilitation and training/survival skills for individual release.
- Serve as a permanent home for confiscated/orphaned bears that cannot be put back into the wild.
- Provide a humane, comfortable, and stimulating environment for captive sun bears over both the short- and long-term.
- Provide a much-needed location for the care and housing of newly confiscated/rescued bears.
- Assist the government in enforcement efforts by providing a place for confiscated animals and a program for successful reintroduction.
- Present captive bears as wildlife ambassadors for Borneo and for conservation of wild sun bears and their habitat.
- Provide a memorable visitor experience to promote awareness of sun bears and threats to their survival.
- Promote tourism around Sepilok as well as wild areas in Borneo by raising awareness of a charismatic flagship species.
- Promote further research on sun bears, including sun bear breeding patterns, social interactions, use of the forest, health and genetic status, behavior, captive breeding, rehabilitation and enrichment.
- Provide capacity building for further research and conservation of sun bears in the wild.
▸ WHY SUN BEARS
Their natural behavior helps ensure the health of the forest. They help disperse seeds and keep termite populations down, helping tropical tree species. They dig for invertebrates in the soil, which enhances the forest’s nutrient cycle through the mixing of rich and poor soil. And they create nesting sites for animals such as hornbills and flying squirrels, by tearing open tree trunks to reach the honey inside.
The total sun bear population has declined by at least 30% in the last 30 years, contributing to sun bears being classified as 'vulnerable' in 2007 - meaning they are at high risk of extinction in the wild (IUCN 2007). Sun bears face three main threats:
- Habitat loss - Like many species, deforestation and degradation of habitat has dramatically decreased their numbers. The main causes in Borneo are plantation development, unsustainable or illegal logging and human-caused fires. In Sumatra and Borneo, large-scale conversion of forest to oil palm or other cash crops is proceeding at a rate of 1,000s of km² per year (Holmes 2002).
- Commercial hunting - Sun bears are primarily hunted for their gall bladders (for use in Chinese folk medicine) and bear paws (as an expensive delicacy). In China and Vietnam, bile is milked from bears while they are still alive. Bears are routinely restocked as they do not live long. Killing sun bears is illegal in all of their native counties but is largely uncontrolled.
- Pet trade - Sun bears are the smallest bear in the world. As such, their cubs are considered incredibly cute and there is a high demand for them as pets. The mother is killed and the orphaned cub is removed from the wild and commonly kept in small cages with inadequate care.