Archive for the ‘BORNEAN SUN BEAR CONSERVATION CENTRE’ Category

Thankful Poachers Didn’t Get Puntung

Recognition for Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) field staff 

In her late teens when offered an office job by SOS Rhino Borneo, Rajimah Kasran was overjoyed, but within a month, was ready to call it quits. Although from a remote village in eastern Sabah, a Malaysian state in Borneo, Rajimah had never ventured into the forest – and was shocked to learn her “administrative post” required her to join team members in the tropical jungle at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, in the Lahad Datu district.

“I was told that I will work in an office, but I ended up going into the forest. I found it tough, and I wanted to go home. But when I started learning about the Sumatran rhinoceros, I hung on. For most part of the first year, each month I promised myself that I will bear it a little longer … I was starting to get used to the forest, and I wanted to know more about rhinos,” Rajimah said, recollecting her early years in rhino conservation work.

Months have turned into years – eight to be exact. Now 26, Rajimah is part of a team that works closely with the Sabah Wildlife Department to save the critically endangered Sumatran rhino – some estimates point at less than 30 in the wild in Borneo – with all known ranges in Sabah.

From having no awareness of the elusive mammal, Rajimah is now a valuable member of the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) team. BORA, which took over from the role played by SOS Rhino Borneo, is a non-governmental organization with a mission to prevent the extinction of Borneo’s rhino population. It assists the Sabah Wildlife Department in the development of the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary programme – an initiative of the Sabah State Government to increase rhino births through captive breeding.

On 27th January 2012, Rajimah was among 21 BORA field staff who received certificates of appreciation from the Chairman of the BORA Board, Dr Abdul Hamid Ahmad, for their critical work in helping capture wild female rhino Puntung and dedication over the last two years. BORA Executive Director Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne and Board member Ms Cynthia Ong joined Abdul Hamid in commending staff.

Rajimah receiving her certificate

BORA staff with their certificates of appreciation

“Back then, I didn’t even know what a rhino was. I was a coordinator for a homestay programme at my village in Dagat in the Segama area and suddenly I was involved in rhino work. I slowly started learning and today, my life revolves around rhinos. I hardly return home to my village although it is not very far away from Tabin simply because when I am home, I only think of rhinos in captivity, and those in the wild. My biggest fear is that poachers will get the remaining populations,” she said.

The species is today critically endangered following a combination over the past millennium of a loss of most of their prime habitat in Southeast Asia’s lowlands and chronic hunting for their horn, used in Chinese traditional medicine. Today, the species is threatened with extinction because their numbers are extremely low.

Rajimah, one of only two women doing field work under BORA, is enthusiastic about her work and feels honoured that the management team decided to present staff with certificates of appreciation.  “I feel very valued. Our greatest achievement so far is the capture of Puntung in December last year. I am so thankful that she didn’t fall into the hands of poachers,” Rajimah said.

Puntung is currently housed at an interim facility near the proposed Borneo Rhino Sanctuary at Tabin, along with Tam and Gelogob. Estimated to be 10 to 12 years old, Puntung is potentially a mate for Tam who was discovered when he walked out of the forest and into an oil palm estate in 2008.

Puntung - her first attempt into her enclosure

Interim facility

Interim facility

Gelogob in her wallow

To read more about the certificate of appreciation story, the following are news reports of the event:

Borneo Post

Borneo Post

Daily Express

Berita Harian

Berita Harian

New Sabah Times

New Straits Times

To learn more about BORA, visit http://www.borneorhinoalliance.org

Happy Holidays!!

Indigenous people and contemporary crises

Newspaper article written by our staff member June Rubis.

Indigenous people and contemporary crises - looking for solution. Daily Express 14th Nov 2011

Rosli takes a turn for the better

A story on MESCOT/KOPEL’s Rosli Jukrana in national newspaper The Star.  

 

KOTA KINABALU: Leading seven community-based conservation and eco-tourism projects, Rosli Jukrana has come a long way from the days he used to illegally fell timber.

As the executive manager of Koperasi Pelancongan Mukim Batu Putih (Kopel) Berhad, Rosli is today busy overseeing lake and forest restoration projects and running an eco-camp and homestays at four villages in the Lower Kinabatangan region, on Sabah’s east coast.

Kopel Berhad runs the Model Ecologically Sustainable Community Conservation and Tourism (Mescot) project that is working to restore a lowland rainforest and has successfully constructed a zero waste and near-zero emissions eco camp, in addition to award winning homestay, cultural and wildlife tourism programmes.

Honoured: Zainie presenting the award to Rosli (right). Looking on is Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu president Lawrence Thien (left).

 

Recently, the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu presented Rosli an award in recognition of his leadership which now sees him extending knowledge and experience in conservation and sustainable tourism to other communities in the state.

Rotary International District Governor Zainie Abdul Aucasa presented RM1,000, a plaque and a certificate to Rosli, 43, at a dinner where Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu president Lawrence Thien.

Rosli who was accompanied by wife Maria Isa and daughter Siti Dzulaika, said he was humbled by the club’s decision to present him with the award and viewed it as an honour for Mescot andKopel.

“I dedicate this award to the Mescot team and Kopel co-operative members who have shown strong support for conservation and tourism projects in Batu Putih for the last 14 years.

“This award is recognition of the hard work that everyone has put in making both Mescot and Kopel a success. I dedicate this award to the four villages in the Batu Putih area and I am confident that this will motivate us to do work harder in conservation efforts and develop sustainable eco-tourism as a source of income,” he said.

Rosli said there was a time when he was forced to fell timber illegally as that was the only source of income in order for him to support his family.

“Things have changed for us with the introduction of conservation and eco-tourism products which now allow me and fellow villagers to earn a sustainable income,” the father of four said.

Going green: Rosli conducting a survey for a forest restoration project in the Kinabatangan area of Sabah’s east coast.

Rising through the ranks to become executive manager, Rosli is central to the development of Kopel as one of the top 17 co-operatives in Malaysia, and the only one in Sabah.

Reacting to the award, Malaysia Co-operative Commission Sabah director Saiful Bahri Omar said he was pleased that the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu had recognised the leader of a community based co-operative.

“We are very happy to learn of this award. Kopel continues to adhere to rules and regulations, and has become a model for other co-operatives in the nation.

“Co-operatives increase the socio-economic status of members who get income via homestays and other services,” Saiful said, adding that there were 803 co-operatives in Sabah.

Meanwhile, Land Empowerment Animals People (Leap) which has partnered with the community since 2005, described Rosli as a dedicated and committed leader.

Leap executive director Cynthia Ong said Rosli and his team report illegal logging to the Sabah Forestry Department, and that the area has seen a decline in such activities due to presence of a community that truly cares about conservation.

“Collectively, Mescot programmes have turned the tide of ecologically destructive practices and economic disempowerment among villagers, and put them on a track of both ecological and economic self-sufficiency, paving the way for other rural communities in Sabah and the region,” Ong said.

Rotary Club Leadership award

All the hard work eventually paid off ….  Congratulations Rosli Jukrana (MESCOT/KOPEL)!

 

Rosli in New Sabah Times

 

Rosli in Daily Express

Extinction of Vietnam rhinoceros and implications for Malaysia

Statement by six organisations on the extinction of the Vietnam rhino and implications for Malaysia for immediate release to the press.

The recent news of the extinction of the Javan rhinoceros on mainland Asia, with the death by poaching of the last remaining female in Vietnam in 2010, prompts us to draw attention to two implications for Malaysia. Firstly, this same kind of rhino went extinct in Malaysia in the 1930s. Thus, what seems at first to be only a local loss from Peninsular Malaysia has transformed into a global extinction of a unique population of Javan rhinoceros. It is now up to Indonesia to save the last remaining population of the species, on the island of Java. Secondly, there is another species of Asian rhinoceros of concern nearer to home. This is also an extremely endangered species, commonly known as the Sumatran rhinoceros, previously widespread in Asia but now confirmed to occur only in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Despite dedicated efforts to protect this species from poaching over the past few decades, within protected areas in Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah, numbers have continued to decline. Most specialists close to the situation now believe that habitat loss and poaching no longer represent the major threats to the survival of this rhino. Instead, numbers are so very low that factors associated with low numbers, including inability to find a fertile mate, pathology of the reproductive organs in females resulting in no pregnancies, inbreeding and skewed sex ratio, mean that for many years, rhino death rate has been exceeding birth rate. If this is so, then protection of the remaining wild rhinos and their habitat are necessary but insufficient measures to prevent the species extinction.

In a paper titled “Now or never: what will it take to save the Sumatran rhinoceros Dicerorhinus sumatrensis from extinction?” published in the international conservation journal Oryx earlier in 2011, Ahmad Zafir and his colleagues in WWF-Malaysia, Sabah Wildlife Department and Yayasan Badak Indonesia, wrote the following: “Recent data from governments, NGOs and researchers indicate that the global Sumatran rhino population could be as low as 216, a decline from about 320 estimated in 1995. Based on lessons learnt and expert opinions we call on decision makers involved in Sumatran rhino conservation to focus on a two-pronged approach for conservation of the species: (1) the translocation of wild rhinos from existing small, isolated or threatened forest patches into semi-in situ captive breeding programmes, and (2) a concomitant enhancement of protection and monitoring capacities in priority areas that have established these breeding facilities or have recorded relatively high population estimates and track encounter rates. At least USD 1.2 million is required to implement this two-pronged strategy annually in four priority areas: Bukit Barisan Selatan and Way Kambas National Parks on Sumatra, and Danum Valley Conservation Area and Tabin Wildlife Reserve on Sabah.” The Borneo Rhino Sanctuary programme is already underway in Sabah, based on those two approaches, and implemented by Sabah Wildlife Department with assistance from other agencies including Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Berlin), Yayasan Sime Darby, WWF-Malaysia and Borneo Rhino Alliance, a recently established Malaysian NGO dedicated to saving the rhinos in Sabah. A similar programme has been underway in Indonesia for more than a decade.

The extinction of the Vietnam rhino suggests that leaving rhinos in the wild to be poached or die of old age is no longer an adequate approach. Instead, the Indonesian and Malaysian approach for the Sumatran rhinoceros is most likely now the only way forward to prevent the extinction of this species. Why bother to save the species? The argument is ethical, not economic. Fossils show that something very similar to this form of rhino has existed for about 20 million years, and we may be only a decade or two away from its extinction if no active interventions are made. Now that we know the situation, we ought to try to prevent extinction before that opportunity is lost. Is it worth the money? Ahmad Zafir and colleagues put that question in context, noting in their paper that the annual cost of running the ongoing programmes in Sumatra and Sabah is equivalent to the amount paid at an auction in USA in 2010 for a 1939 edition of a Batman comic book.

We surely do not want Malaysia to have to announce in a couple of decades from now news similar to that from Vietnam last month. Let’s recognise that efforts to promote the survival of the Sumatran rhinoceros ought to be made a national conservation priority.

This statement is signed off by the following organisations:

Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA)

Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP)

Resources Stewardship Consultants Sdn. Bhd. (RESCU)

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS)

TRAFFIC Southeast Asia

WWF-Malaysia

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BSBCC LATEST NEWS – October 2011

STILL THEY COME…

BSBCC has become home to three more bears since July!

On 23rd July BSBCC helped Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) in the rescue of an illegally kept captive sun bear from a palm oil plantation near Lahad Datu, southeast Sabah.  Named Amaco, the 18 year old male was in fairly good health apart from bad teeth and mouth condition, having been fed on a diet consisting almost solely of rice and sweetened condensed milk. Amaco has been given medical treatment and has been temporarily housed in the old bear house and is slowly relaxing and settling in.

Amaco in the barren cage where he had been kept for 18 years.

Dr Diana Ramirez from SWD and Wai Pak checking the anaesthetized bear before transfer to BSBCC.

The following month, Fulung, a 9 month old male cub was brought to BSBCC by SWD staff, after being surrendered to the SWD Wildlife Rescue Unit by a villager from a remote part of southwest Sabah who had had the cub for several months, after hunting dogs had apparently found it in the forest. Fulung was malnourished on arrival but is now putting on weight and is being kept temporarily in the old bear house under quarantine.  Read more stories about Fulung.

Baby Fulung just after capture by the villagers. Fulung means ‘forest’ in the local language.

Fulung about to begin his long journey from the village after being rescued by SWD.

An impressive sun bear tongue displayed by Fulung at BSBCC!

A third new sun bear, Mary, arrived from Lok Kawi Wildlife Park on 12th September 2011. A female cub, possibly 6-8 months old, Mary had been kept by villagers in central Sabah since July. She shows signs of malnutrition and calcium deficiency but otherwise appears healthy, and has also been placed in quarantine in the old bear house.  Read more about Mary.

Wong with Mary the night she arrived at BSBCC, drinking milk for the first time after 3 months of captivity.

Mary sucking on her right foot - a common behavior in sun bear cubs who have lost their mothers.

Wai Pak feeding Mary a special treat of honey.

CONSTRUCTION STARTS!

A contract has finally been awarded to a local company for the construction of the BSBCC Observation Platform and trails to it, access boardwalk from the car park and upgrading of roads and drainage. Construction commenced at the end of September and should be finished by March 2012. Watch this space!  Read more…

The observation platform trail under construction.


SPREADING THE WORD

Wong  participated in the 20th International Conference on Bear Research and Management in Ottawa, Canada in July 2011, presenting a jointly authored paper on ‘The effects of selective logging on sun bears in lowland dipterocarp rainforest of Borneo’, and on October 1st gave a talk on BSBCC and sun bears at the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. Over 40 people attended and the event was covered by the national press.  Read more…

 

Wong at the MNS talk. Photo by Christopher Leo

KEEPING COOL!

In September, BSBCC was thrilled to receive a donation of GBP500 (RM2,426.05) from International Aid for the Protection and Welfare of Animals, IAPWA, a UK based NGO, to be spent on purchasing  ceiling fans for the new bear house.  Read more… 

Three wall fans and 4 ceiling fans were installed on 16th September 2011; thank you IAPWA!

VOLUNTEERS

Both individual and group volunteers continue to be an essential and much appreciated asset at BSBCC. Here are some of the activities some of the recent individual volunteers have been up to.

Collecting fallen branches to use for enrichment.

Creative arrangement of foliage in Fulung’s pen.

Preparing rice porridge for bears in the new bear house kitchen.

BEAR HEALTH

September was the time for the annual health check for most of the bears – a routine medical assessment of their overall health, potential sicknesses, internal organ function and physical condition. It was also a chance to give vitamins and de-worming injections and take blood samples and even hair samples for future DNA studies.  Read more…

Dr Diana Ramirez, SWD Wildlife Rescue Unit vet, taking blood samples from an anaesthetized bear with help from SWD staff Elis, and Wong.

 

Wong and Wai Pak carrying out the medical check on Susie in the new bear house.

FILMS AND FILM STARS!

The end of July saw the first ever Borneo Eco Film Festival, held in Sandakan, Sabah. Always eager to raise local awareness, Wong gave a presentation on ‘The holistic approaches of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre to conserve sun bears in Sabah’ and there was a showing of the 20 minute promo film “BEAR TREK” by Wildlife Media Inc. featuring Wong carrying out his research at Danum Valley in Sabah. The event was well attended and, hopefully, the first of many highlighting and showcasing Borneo!  Read more…

Wong becoming something of a film star himself!

Actor and avid conservation supporter Jason Scott Lee visited BSBCC on 24th September 2011 as part of an eco-travelogue being filmed throughout Malaysia for National Geographic. Jason spent a whole day filming at the Centre, enthusiastically taking part in cleaning of the bear pens, feeding the bears in the forest enclosures and walking Mary the sun bear cub in the forest.  Read more…

A new sun bear supporter – Hollywood actor Jason Scott Lee!

Jason observing Wong with Mary in the forest.