Wong Siew Te was recently invited to give a lecture to 300 people at the Lahad Datu Middle School. The town is situated near the Danum Valley Conservation Area, where besides sun bears, a wide variety of important species may be seedn, including: orang utans, gibbons, and other primates, including the tarsier, as well as deer, wild cats, the rare Bornean Pygmy Elephant and the even rarer Sumatran rhinoceros.
Poaching is still a significant threat to wildlife in the region and many poachers continue to get away with their crimes. It was therefore a great opportunity to be able to reach out to so many young people and show them the importance of the wildlife they have on their doorstep.
Below is a posting of Wong’s account of the experience. As you will read, the sun bear is still the world’s least-known bear and this is amazingly still the case even within regions where it lives in the wild. However, you will also read how the BSBCC is doing a great job in raising awareness in the community and therefore why they so justly deserve all the support they can get.
Sun bear’s voice heard in Lahad Datu Middle School
By: Siew Te Wong
Last Wednesday I made my 14th presentations in 2011 at Lahad Datu Middle School. Wai Pak, Li (our volunteer from West Malaysia) and me left BSBCC around 9 am and arrived Lahad Datu almost at noon to deliver the 2 hours lecture on sun bears.
Lahad Datu is a small township with a population of about 180,000. I used to call this town a cowboy town because of the abundant 4×4 pickup trucks running around the town. This is the town that I am most familiar within Sabah because it is the gateway town to Danum Valley Conservation Area, the place where I spent many years studying wild sun bears and other wildlife and forest ecology in the tropical rainforest.
The entire school of Lahad Datu Middle School attended the talk on sun bear ecology and conservation.
The principal of Lahad Datu Middle School, Mr Chee Ah Lek called me two weeks ago asking me if I can deliver a talk on sun bear at their school. Without a second thought, I said yes. The talk was well received and attended by more than 300 students and teachers from the entire school. The title of the talk was “Sun Bear, status, ecology, and conservation in a changing landscape in Malaysia”. This talk was the second talk I delivered in Chinese this year. I always have a lot of fun talking to local school students. At the beginning of the talk I asked the students to raise their hand if they have seen a live sun bear in zoos or other circumstances. Out of more than 300 audiences, I saw about five hands. I asked them again if they have heard about sun bears. I saw about 10 hands. I am not surprise if majority of the audience have not heard about sun bear. However, I was quite concerned by knowing only 3% of the audience, especially high school students, knew about sun bear which is the only bear species and a large carnivore in this country. In the Malaysian education system, topics on our own wildlife species, forest, and other natural resources are rarely incorporate in the school curriculum. Take me as an example, I never heard the word “Dipterocarp” until I was 25 year old when I worked with Malaysian Nature Society, a local conservation NGO, in 1994. “Dipterocarp” or “Dipterocarp forest” is the proper name of our forest in Malaysia where the dominant tree species in this forest are from the tree family Dipterocarpaceae. We still have a long way to go to educate our younger generation on our wildlife and forest resources.
I tried my best to deliver an interesting and attractive talk on the topic to the students. Actually it was not a difficult task for me to do so during this talk. There were a lot of “Waa” “Yee” “Ooh” and giggles throughout the talk every time I showed photos of sun bears: sun bear with long tongue, sun bear on top of a tall tree, cute sun bear baby, or a decapitated sun bear. At the very end of the talk I showed a video clip that I made few weeks ago “Big tree, little bear, and tiny termites” and explain the relationship among them. Tiny termites feed on trees, trees provide food and shelters for the sun bears, and in return sun bears feed on termites and keep the termite colonies in healthy level. The second video I showed was the promo video of Beartrek. Filmed on 2007, Beartrek featured several bear stories across the world including my story with sun bear in the forest. At that time I was still on a lonely crusade to study sun bear and to help conserving them.
Pricipal Chee presented me a momento for the lecture in his school. Thank you Mr Principal!
I am grateful to Principal Chee to give me this opportunity to talk about sun bear to the students. I am sure the students learn a lot and have a lot of good time during this talk. One thing that I learned from this talk is that we need to do more similar talks on sun bear and other education outreach programs to other schools. These education programs aim to raise awareness among the younger generations in this country to value our sun bear, other wildlife and forest resources. They need to know the fact that “what is good for bears is good for us too!”
If you would like to get involved in spreading the sun bear conservation message in the UK or represent a group which would like to learn more about sun bears then please get in touch.