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A ground breaking to be remembered!

Friday July 17th, 2009 saw the ground breaking for the long anticipated Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), which will be adjacent to the famous Sepilok Orangutan Centre, 14 miles outside of Sandakan, Sabah. The event marked the commencement of construction of the first phase of BSBCC, which aims to provide rehabilitation and care for captive Sun Bears, and will be the first of its kind in Sabah.

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The guest of honour, YB Datuk Masidi Manjun Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, was accompanied by partners of the project, Laurentius Ambu, Director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, Fred Kugan, Deputy Director of the Sabah Forestry Department and Cynthia Ong, executive director of LEAP. The event was attended by an international array of Scottish and Malaysian Scouts, Raleigh International volunteers, Rainforest Discovery Centre Junior Rangers and members of the private sector, all of whom came to show support for BSBCC and celebrate the start of this pioneering project.

The ceremony itself was as innovative as the concept of BSBCC promises to be. After two heartfelt speeches from YB Datuk Masidi Manjun and Cynthia Ong, four Bobohizans (traditional Kadazan Dusun healers/high priestesses) entered the center of a human circle to perform a ritual for the spirits to cleanse the area of past activities and prepare it for new life, protection and hope for the Sun Bears and the Centre.

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Once the symbolic ritual had been completed, Datuk Masidi Manjun, Laurentius Ambu, Fred Kugan and Cynthia Ong gathered to officially break ground under the auspices of the Bobohizans. This was followed by Malaysian singer-songwriter Amir Yussof performing Calling on You, a song that he wrote about the Sun Bears’ plight for the fundraising event in November 2008 that enabled the first phase of BSBCC to be built. During the song, Malaysian Junior Rangers provided interesting facts and information about Sun Bears for the crowd. The inclusion of old tradition and knowledge coupled with young environmental leaders, highlighted the need for connection and cohesion between old and new when addressing conservation issues. The ceremony ended with the guests being serenaded by Scottish Scouts playing the bagpipes. This final touch paid tribute to the interconnectivity of the people represented at the event and brought into focus the international and regional significance and responsibility of stewardship of land and animals.

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The ground breaking ceremony was especially significant to us, all the BSBCC and LEAP staff, who felt proud and moved to see the culmination of a year and a half of hard work celebrated by our partners and friends.

Katie King

Project Manager

(LEAP)

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GROUND-BREAKING CEREMONY on Friday, 17th July, 2009 at 9:00 am

GROUND-BREAKING CEREMONY on Friday, 17th July, 2009 at 9:00 am

P R E S S R E L E A S E

The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) ground-breaking ceremony on 17th July2009, at BSBCC Phase I site adjacent to Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre near Sandakanrepresents the beginning of construction of this three-phased project. The project is a partnershipbetween the Sabah Wildlife Department, the Sabah Forestry Department and the NGO LEAP. TheGuest of Honour for the event is YB Datuk Masidi Manjun, Minister of Tourism, Culture andEnvironment, and the programme will include the ceremony at the site of the new bear house andforested enclosures as well as a chance to view some of the Sun Bears currently at the Centre.This ground-breaking signifies the start of Phase I of construction of the Centre and marks asignificant step in the establishment of a new home for captive Sun Bears in Sabah, where theywill have daily access to the forest and an enriched environment, as well as improved, custombuiltnight quarters. Phase I, which is expected to be completed in six months from the date ofground-breaking, involves the construction of a new bear house with capacity for 27 bears (eachin individual cages) and an adjacent one-hectare forest enclosure within the Kabili-Sepilok VirginJungle Reserve. Please see Phase I site plan for layout. The finished centre will have capacity for43 bears, two-hectare forest enclosures, a visitor centre, an observation gallery and a nature trail.Please see Phase I, II & III site plan for layout. The larger vision is for the bears to be in anenvironment which will prepare suitable ones for eventual release into appropriate wild habitat.RM1.3 million was raised at the Bear Necessities fundraising dinner in Kota Kinabalu in Novemberlast year, with RM650,000 from the private sector and a government match of one-to-one. Thesefunds will go directly to the funding of Phase I. Efforts are now underway to raise funds for bothPhase II (RM600,000) and Phase III (RM900,000), and the hope is that these phases will followupon the completion of Phase I.                                                                         

The event will be a gathering of BSBCC partners – Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah ForestryDepartment and LEAP, private sector donors and supporters from the Bear Necessities event,building contractor and consultants, and BATs – Bear Action Teams volunteer partners frominternational organisations such as Raleigh International. The programme will comprise welcome speech by BSBCC Director Cynthia Ong, audio messagefrom BSBBC CEO Wong Siew Te (currently completing his PhD in Montana, U.S.A.), speech byGuest of Honour YB Datuk Masidi Manjun, song dedications by Malaysian singers Shayna Zaid andAmir Yussof, and a “Mongimpi” cleansing and blessing ritual by Bobohizans of the Kadazan tradition.

 For more information, please contact [email protected] or 088-270705.

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