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 Most specialists close to the situation now believe that habitat loss and poaching no longer represent the major threats to the survival of this rhino.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


Statementvsent to the press todayp>

BSBCC LATEST NEWS – October 2011


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.


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.


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


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!


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.


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.


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.

Forever Sabah Workshop Gathers Over 50 Stakeholders

Forever Sabah – a concept that is in the process of development to transition Sabah towards a diversified green economy – was deliberated on at a day long workshop on 14thOctober, 2011. The workshop initiated and facilitated by Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), was held at the Sabah Forestry Department headquarters in Sandakan.

Some points for Open Space Technology

Using Open Space Technology (OST), participants made up of diverse backgrounds – leaders from indigenous community groups from all corners of Sabah, heads and officers of key government organisations, business and industry players, researchers and civil society  – raised issues that later became discussion points. Eight key topics that participants focused their thoughts on were community involvement, natural resource management, green economy, land rights, synergy, the proposed Sabah Environmental Policy, enforcement and converging Forever Sabah with the national Economic Transformation Programme (ETP).

Sabah Forestry Department deputy director (Forest Sector Planning)

Attendance by diverse group of people / organisations / companies

Earlier, in kicking off the workshop, Sabah Forestry Department deputy director (Forest Sector Planning) Mr Fred Kugan, shared that the Department was supportive of initiatives like Forever Sabah, given the fact that half of the State is still under some form of forest cover. His remarks were followed by LEAP executive director Cynthia Ong sharing with participants the idea behind Forever Sabah, citing examples from several nations including Costa Rica, Bhutan, British Columbia and Mexico. She also presented the vision behind Forever Sabah as stated in a draft concept paper that was prepared by Borneo Rhino Alliance executive director Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne following a brainstorming workshop with several stakeholders in June. LEAP manager for Communications and Public Relations, Jaswinder Kler, briefed participants about the national Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), highlighting some key projects for Sabah. As the economic driver that will transform Malaysia into a high-income nation by 2020, it is crucial to understand the direction that the nation is taking with the ETP, and to recognise both opportunities and constraints that come with the initiative.

Topics for discussions

Group discussion

More photos can be found on our LEAP Facebook page :

Giving Back Through Trees

Last year in August, we flew half way across the world from Borneo to the United States last year for an all-important strategic plan meeting to set the pace for LEAP’s ever expanding work. We came back from New York all fired up and ready to move on to the next phase – but then it hit us. Our air travel had cost the environment, and we had to give back. After several rounds of calculations on our carbon footprint, we decided to plant 70 trees at a watershed in Pitas, close to Kampung Liu where we are supporting the Project Women Empowerment Trees (PWET) programme.

Cynthia, Sue, Sylvia, Neville, Jacquie and Ben were joined by friends from PWET in planting the indigenous tree species, donated by the Sabah Forestry Department. We truly enjoyed the experience and we are proud to report that almost a year later, the trees we planted are doing well. It is LEAP’s hope that other organisations do the same to offset carbon emissions from their travels!


Resident Rhinos…

The critical job of caring for and monitoring the health of the two captive rhinos presently in Tabin – male Tam and female Gelogob, continues, headed by BORA’s Field Manager Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin. Work to promote reproductive fitness of both Tam and Gelogob, including regular monitoring of blood and semen samples is ongoing. This work is done in conjunction with Sabah Wildlife Department and Leibniz Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research, Germany. A third attempt to stimulate follicle production through hormone treatment of Gelogob will be made later in 2011.

BORA staff Alvin Erut giving Gelogob’s skin a good brush, an experience she appears to enjoy


Zainal in the temporary office cum laboratory set up in Tabin


Search for a mate for Tam continues…

To date, traps set to catch a wild female rhino as a potential mate for Tam have not yielded any results; in January 2011 two new traps were set in different locations and it is hoped these will be more successful. Lack of trapping success has been due mainly to the exceptionally wet weather; there have been no dry periods for many months and the wild female rhino (known as Puntung) stays in the hills during rainy weather. A drier period is still awaited.

Heavy rain led to flooding of the road to Tabin HQ during April


Rhino Quarantine Facility…

Funding has been approved by Sime Darby Foundation for the construction of a new rhino quarantine facility to be established some 300m from the existing night stalls of Tam and Gelogob, to enable Gelogob to be separated from Tam and so hopefully enhance conditions for Tam’s sperm count production which has been found to be low, possibly because of constant proximity to Gelogob.  Construction of the facility commenced in May 2011 and was finished in July. Water and electricity supplies now have to be installed.

The new quarantine facility would also enable any new rhinos caught at a later stage to be kept apart from the resident rhinos, for initial monitoring and observation.

Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin, BORA’s Field Manager at Tabin, overseeing the construction of the new Rhino Quarantine Facility in June 2011


Monitoring and Security of Wild Rhinos at Tabin…

Monitoring and patrolling of Tabin Wildlife Reserve continues, with the Rhino Protection Units (RPUs) recording signs of rhinos and poachers and removing any snares found in the forest.


Strengthening Collaboration…

Director of Sabah Wildlife Department, Dr Laurentius Ambu, was appointed in February 2011 as the chairman of the Global Sumatran Rhinoceros Management and Propagation Board (GSRMPB) for the next two years, a post previously held by Indonesia. The Board aims to promote collaboration between Malaysia and Indonesia (the only two countries where Sumatran Rhinos are now found), along with Sumatran rhino experts in USA, Germany and other countries, and to share experience in the captive breeding of rhinos.

Meeting between BORA and the Indonesian rhino authorities in the Ministry of Forestry, Jakarta, May 2011


Spreading the Message…

To get the word out further to the global scientific and conservation communities about the desperate plight of Sumatran rhinos, a paper entitled:”Now or never: what will it take to save the Sumatran rhinoceros from extinction” by A W A Zafir et al. was published in the April 2011 edition of the renowned international journal Oryx (45(2):225-233. With authorship involving WWF Malaysia, Sabah Wildlife Department, BORA and others, the paper highlights the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary programme.

In the meantime, several articles have come out in the Sabah press over the last few months highlighting Sabah’s commitment to saving its rhinos and featuring the appointment and role of the Director of Sabah Wildlife Department, Dr Laurentius Ambu as the chairman of the Global Sumatran Rhinoceros Management and Propagation Board and the input of the Leibniz Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research, Germany, in the captive breeding of rhinos in Sabah.

Full page article in Sabah’s Daily Express, 13th February 2011


BSBCC latest news July 2011


Two more new bears arrived at BSBCC on 22nd April 2011. Named Mamatai and Wan Wan, both are adult females and were transferred to BSBCC from Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Kota Kinabalu by Sabah Wildlife Department.

Mamatai and Wan Wan in their temporary pen in the old bear house at BSBCC. (Photo: Paul Clenton)



Several local contractors have submitted tenders for the BSBCC observation platform and access boardwalk construction and we hope that work will start in August this year. Meanwhile the search is still ongoing for funding for the construction of the remainder of the proposed buildings, ie. the new bear house and its forest enclosures and the visitor reception and new bear holding areas.



In June, Wong and Wai Pak attended the Asia for Animals 2011 conference in Chengdu, China, hosted by Animals Asia Foundation. Later on in June, they also took part in the Borneo Carnivores Symposium, held in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, which brought together leading carnivore researchers working in Borneo.

Wong delivering his talk on ’The Holistic Approach of BSBCC to conserve sun bears in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo’ in Chengdu


Wai Pak on a field trip to the centre for rescued moon bears near Chengdu



An innovative event held by volunteers and supporters of BSBCC on Facebook raised an amazing USD4,152 through just two days of donations and a special on-line prize draw of donated sun bear items like paintings, artwork, soft toys and bags, from June 11-12, 2011. Many thanks to everyone involved!



None other than the man deemed the ‘Greenest Person on the Planet’ in 2008 by 3rd Whale in Canada, Matthias Gelber, visited BSBCC on 3rd June to learn more about sun bears. BSBCC also collaborated with the Sabah Forestry Department Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) to present a talk by Matthias to RDC Junior Rangers, local teachers and headmasters, parents and some visitors, at the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre AV room during the visit.

Matthias and friends at BSBCC’s new bear house


Caroline Gabel, long-time supporter of Wong’s research and BSBCC, paid a visit on 17th June 2011 with Wong to see for herself the good work being carried out at the Centre. Caroline is the CEO and Founder of the US-based Shared Earth Foundation, and a passionate advocate of wildlife conservation.

Caroline and Wong in the new bear house


BSBCC was also happy to welcome sun bear researcher Gabriella Fredriksson from the Sun Bear Environmental Education and Research Centre near Balikpapan in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Gabriella stayed from 25th-30th June, exchanging ideas and expertise with Wong and Wai Pak and discussing future collaboration with BSBCC.


On 29th July BSBCC was very excited to receive a visit from Joe Pontecorvo, the Producer and Director of the film series Bear Trek and also Bears of the Last Frontier. Joe was part of the team that previously filmed Wong carrying out his research in 2007.

Joe Pontecorvo photographing Keningau who obligingly put in an appearance near the enclosure fencing



Introduction of the bears to the forest enclosures is progressing well and now four more of the females are entering the enclosures daily.  Linggham, whom we reported on in the last update, is now confidently roaming through his forest pen, but as with all the adult males is yet to venture up a tree!

Adult female Jelita honing her tree climbing skills in the forest enclosure


Susie concentrating on breaking open a coconut and Keningau contemplating climbing a small tree!