Did you know that Sun Bears (Helarctos malayanus), the smallest bear in the world was actually first discovered in Malaysia? I didn’t either at first, which is why when I received the invitation to go on a Media familiarisation trip to Sandakan, Sabah, I promptly fired up my search engine to read up on Sun Bears. Like many other species of Bears, Sun bears are also facing many dangers including deforestation and poaching, which is why Mr Wong Siew Te founded the Bornean Sun Bear Conversation Centre.
Interestingly enough, the invitation came from 1 Utama, which by the way is the very first Eco-Mall in Malaysia that has embraced social sustainability since its early beginning. Here’s the thing: 1 Utama has been running their Go Green campaigns since 2004, one of them is called “Feed-The-Fish” Charity Campaign.
The mall has a few unique features, including its award winning Rainforest, that’s right; an actual rainforest build right in the middle of the shopping centre. There are over 3000 koi fish in the ponds, and 1 Utama sponsors and packages fish food for sale daily, and shopper can buy the food for RM1 per container to feed the fish. 100% of sales proceeds are then donated to a charitable organization they nominate.
Check out the beautiful koi fish.
Feeding the fish is a popular activity for family.
Previously, they have donated to Malaysian Nature Society to raise funds to protect the Temengor Forest Reserve in Perak, HOPE (Help Our Penyu) for sea turtle conservation, Zoo Negara to adopt Malaysian elephant Teriang, and WWF-Malaysia to help re-establish the fish population in Sabah’s Molleangan Island. To complement Feed-The-Fish at the Rainforest, 1 Utama also started a sister charity campaign called Recycle-A-Bottle in 2009. Giant bins shaped like bottles are constructed and placed around the mall so that shoppers can conveniently drop used plastic water bottles. The bottles are then collected by 1 Utama and sent for recycling.
This year, 1 Utama has nominated NGO Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sabah as its beneficiary. Which is why we were invited to Sandakan to witness the handling of the donation as well as to learn more about Sun Bears.
One can easily see the passion Mr Wong has for Sun Bears; he initially flew to Sandakan to learn more about Sun bears and ended up staying there setting up the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in 2008. Currently, the BSBCC houses more than 30 (capacity about 40) rescued sun bears in 2 bear houses and a quarantine facility. These bears are either orphaned because their mothers have been killed for body parts (claws and gallbladders mainly), or have been captured to be kept as pet (because they are uber cute when younger) but gotten too wild and out-of-control. Keeping the bears for pets is illegal, by the way. The centre works to rebuild natural skills of the sun bears, enabling them to return to the wild in the near future.
Sun Bears grows to about 1.3m and each of them have their own unique chest mark that’s either cream or orange colour with spots. Their claws are quite long, which enables them to grip on trees, dig/rip apart wood to reach termites, ants and beetle grubs (for food). They are essentially omnivores so fruits and honey are part of their diet.
The official part of our visit included the cheque presentation ceremony. 1 Utama’s A&P General Manager Patrick So did the honour, handling the cheque to BSBCC’s CEO and Founder Wong Siew Te, total of RM12000.
“The funds will go towards purchasing essentials and medicine for the bears’ annual health check. The contribution from 1 Utama and its shoppers is a big help in covering these expenses to meet the costs of rehabilitation and better the lives of our bears” said Wong.
“Sun bears are in danger from threats of habitat loss through deforestation and poaching. There is an urgent need to conserve this protected species and 1 Utama is delighted to play our part. We have developed educational posters and videos of this project so that more of our shoppers are aware of their plight” commented So. “Since 1 Utama’s Rainforest was conceptualised to spread awareness on nature and to preserve the beauty of the rainforest, it is especially meaningful for 1 Utama to partner with BSBCC as an integral part of the mall’s ‘Go Green’ community projects. It is so heartening to see that our shoppers are still very supportive of Feed-The-Fish for the past 11 years.”
Here’s a video from The Star Online about the BSBCC, and you can get a closer look at the adorable bears.
After visiting the BSBCC, we also were brought to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre to watch the feeding of Orangutan. This is another great place to visit if you love to be near the nature and the orangutans here also go through stages of rehabiliation with the goal of returning to the wild.
Of course, another huge bonus for me as a foodie during this trip is all the amazing food we got to enjoy. I swear I gained 2 kgs just in 2 days. The seafood in Sandakan is out of this world and needless to say, I’m returning just to do a food trail soon.
Thank you 1 Utama for an unforgettable experience and I can honestly say that this is one of the most meaningful trip I’ve done. Of course, I was really glad to be near the nature and the wildlife. I hope to visit both centres again in the near future. Also big shout out to our fabulous tour guide Mr Johnny Lim, who’s extremely knowledgeable, passionate and not to mention humorous, keeping us thoroughly entertained. Everyone who’s visiting Sandakan should look him up!
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For more details on 1 Utama’s Feed-The-Fish and Recycle-A-Bottle Charity Campaigns, contact the Customer Service Centre at Tel: 03-7710 8118 or Concierge Tel: 03-77255788
Websites: www.1utama.com.my | www.onecard.com.my Social Media: facebook.com/1Utama | instagram.com/1utama/ | twitter.com