KOTA KINABALU 12 July 2021: Wildlife biologist Dr Wong Siew Te’s love for sun bears knows no bounds as he shifts towards running virtual tours to promote awareness and conservation works at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC).

Since receiving physical visitors seemed impossible at this point in time, BSBCC has offered virtual tours since May 2020 to encourage audiences across the world to visit the centre from the comfort of their homes.

“It is a one-hour virtual experience visiting BSBCC and viewing the bears up close and personal. I am the host and will show the audience around the centre. I will talk about the sun bears’ biology, ecology, and conservation issues.

“The audience can ask me questions during the entire virtual tour. The cost is MYR40, and those interested can visit our website at www.bsbcc.org.my to learn more,” said Wong.

Despite losing physical visitors due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Wong said they continue to persevere by seeking public donations to keep operating ever since the pandemic started early last year.

The centre has also been asking potential funding agencies to donate funds and encourage the general public to take part in its sun bears adoption programme.

“A virtual tour is a new approach, but it is not as popular as I expected. Nonetheless, we are doing our best to encourage the public to support this initiative,” said Wong, adding the centre is also promoting the selling of merchandise on its website, Shopee, and Lazada.

At the moment, Wong said BSBCC is doing well with all rescued bears being well taken care of by staff on duty.

Last year, the centre brought in three rescued cubs nicknamed Betung, Itam, and Kipaku. They were cared for by local residents in Ranau (Bentung), Nabawan (Itam), and Tambunan (Kipaku), respectively, prior to being rescued by the Sabah Wildlife Department and handed over to BSBCC.

“This year, we have not rescued any bears yet, and we hope all the wild bears are safe in our forest. The bear rescue operation during the non-pandemic and pandemic time was conducted by the Wildlife Rescue Unit.

“The operation is still ongoing during the pandemic time without any delay. The rescue mission is considered an essential operation by the wildlife department, so there is no limitation on manpower or movement,” Wong noted.

BSBCC is the world’s only sun bear conservation centre. Located next to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan, BSBCC is currently caring for 44 rescued bears, including a newborn female cub nicknamed Luna.

The Sabah Tourism Board in a series of ‘Enchanting Sabah Live’ will be featuring various tourism attractions around Sabah and webinar sessions every Tuesday via their social media platforms @sabahtourism. These live sessions will be conducted by local industry experts. The first feature will be the live session on-site at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre starting at 1000, 13 July.

“Live sessions have been trending since last year, and some industry members are cooperating with Sabah Tourism to promote the webinars. However, as lockdown approached, our efforts stopped as tourism was not allowed to operate, and in the short periods when tourism resumed, the industry was engaged in responding to the surge in demand from local travellers. Nevertheless, the return of the live sessions are well-timed based on our anticipation that domestic travel will reopen by the last quarter of the year,” commented Sabah Tourism Board general manager Noredah Othman.