Malaysian scientist, Siew Te Wong, has become an unlikely object of the TV world’s affection after being profiled as a CNN Hero of the Week for his work as a wildlife biologist in Sabah.
In fact, the global news source went on to describe Wong as a “Malaysian Clark Kent” in wire-rimmed glasses, and gentle manner.
It’s his continued work with the world’s smallest bear species, the sun bear, native to Borneo, that piqued the attention of CNN. Having studied them for over 20 years, he was one of the first to focus on the animal, saying that “most people do not know that they even exist.”
His studies led to initiatives in conservation and protection, after realizing the threats that the tiny bears faced from deforestation, and poaching. The bear population suffered a 30% fall in the last 30 years.
“Papa Bear,” as he is affectionately known, now runs the world’s only sun bear sanctuary the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center. He’s cared for 55 rescued bears since 2008, with 44 currently living there at this time. All have been orphaned by poachers, or rescued from captivity. The center, near Sandakan, has become a tourist attraction where visitors can learn and gush over the lil bears.
Cute as they are, Wong has one word of warning: they are not pets. In fact, many of the bears in his care can never be released into the wild as they were domesticated, and cannot climb trees.
No worries Papa Bear. You just tell us how to help.
For more info check out Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center.