Thursday, 16 February 2012

Looking for the bear necessities with Alpha 4

A blog from Cecile in Alpha 4 (pictured front row first on the left).
Most of the venturers in Alpha 4 didn’t know much about the sun bear, the smallest species of bear in the world found primarily in the tropical rainforests of South East Asia, until they watched a short but emotive video and then they knew all they needed to know. They were about to embark on a really important project to help the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). Here is the actual video that brought tears to the eyes of Alpha 4.
Watch BSBCC Sun Bear mini video

The smallest bear in the world is indeed a victim of its small size. It has become commonplace for a sun bear to become an exotic family pet in South East Asia because when they are young they are so small and cute. they grow older they grow bigger and bigger and become aggressive, just as you would expect a bear to.  The owners then keep the bears in very small cages, in which they can’t even move.  The sanctuary had one of these cages kept after the rescue of one of the sun bears and Alpha 4 members tested out the cage. Left, Joost inside a cage used by people who kept a sun bear as a pet.
The second threat to the sun bear is that it is hunted for use in Chinese medicine, most commonly for its bile. For now there is little awareness about those issues in the world especially in Malaysia. But after seeing the presentation and video, we all felt extremely sad and concerned, and even more willing to help.
We then met Wong, one of the founders of the sun bear centre. He works hard for the rehabilitation of the bears which have been kept in captivity. They are indeed not used to living in the jungle, they don’t know how to scavenge or how to climb trees. Some of them are so disturbed and stressed they daren’t go outside. We have to keep very quiet and still around their enclosures as they are cautious of people.

So what are Alpha 4 doing during phase 1?
We are building a walkway using reclaimed sustainable wood (previously used in a rhino sanctuary) around the forest enclosure, so that the keepers can get access to feed and monitor the bears whilst they are outside. The area is currently very waterlogged and muddy and access is restricted. Here are Alpha 4 doing a site recce and inspecting the wood that they have reclaimed so far.
The centre is yet to open to the public, so the Raleigh venturers  are getting exclusive access to these beautiful creatures. The BSBCC is located next door to the famous Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary which gets lots of tourists and it is hoped these visitors will also be interested in visiting the future Sepilok Sun Bear Centre which would raise awareness and hopefully inspire people to help just like Alpha 4 are!
For the latest pictures from Alpha 4 click here

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Raleigh isn't easy but it's achievable!

says Christina Corder, 21 in Alpha 3

I came to Borneo with my eyes closed but open minded...

Since I have arrived it has been really hard work, thousands of miles away from home and already I have been mentally, emotionally and physically challenged. 

Whether it be falling over and hurting my knee doing a mock 'casevac' (a casualty evacuation), to sleeping in a hammock in the jungle with a fear of spiders and snakes, to no hot showers, 'minging' food and the constant smell of sweat, Raleigh has been hard to cope with! I am sitting here writing this blog, the negatives now feel so far away and the life long memories I am starting to build feel like they will shine forever. Being welcomed to places no other people can imagine - karaoke in the middle of the jungle in a local villagers house for one. Most of all the feeling you get when you know you are making a massive difference to peoples lives.

Raleigh life isn't easy but it's achievable!

In the short time I have been here, I am already certain of the type of person I want to be and I am grateful for the family and friends I have back home.

Most of all, I already feel I have grown up and will live to tell the tale of how my time on this expedition has made me see the world, my feelings and poverty in a whole new light.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Raleigh Expedition Venturers Strike Again! by Yim Kit Yen (Malaysian)

Raleigh Expedition Venturers Strike Again!
This time we are working alongside Asian Forestry Company (AFC) to identify and protect areas of rainforest with high conservation value, which is in our case Coupe 8. Coupe 8 is located in the north of Sabah in the Pitas region, sitting between a small village called Kampong Sonsongsuyad, a huge forestry area and a Palm Oil plantation. Apparently, this whole area except for the plantation is owned by AFC which does sustainable forestry while trying to protect biodiversity rich forest and give land to the local villages. AFC support 54 communities in the area with infrastructure projects such as gravity water feeds and kindergartens. All of which Raleigh is helping with. 

Currently, I am with Alpha Six Phase One team working on a biodiversity survey at Coupe 8 aiming to give evidence that the area is indeed biodiversity rich in hope to secure conservation protection of the area. 

So, here we are, living right at the outskirt of the jungle. We trek into the jungle everyday to check the traps we set to see weather animals are caught so that we can identify the species and do research on the distribution and density of the animals living here.

In fact, there are two trails that the thirteen of us, together with a researcher from AFC, Phillis Errisson, will have to check twice every single day. One is a river trail, ‘Wet and Wild’ and the other is an uphill trail, ‘Special K’ and then there is the night time frog catching by the river session. 

The animals we are aiming to catch are amphibians (mainly frogs),Birds, Bats and mammals such as rats, squirrels, civet cats and porcupines. It may seem like an easy job but I can tell you that trekking for three hours twice a day while setting up  box traps and mist nets and also getting the animals out of traps are indeed challenging and intricate tasks. 

We even have to work on a ‘basher’ construction so that it would one day serve as a place to stay for scientists, researchers and other Raleigh International groups. This will allow them to be as close to nature as possible to study and help protect the flora and fauna in the jungle. This secondary rainforest is even said to be home to the rare Sun Bears as bear marks have been spotted on tree trunks in the forest of Coupe 8. 

Protecting Coupe 8 will protect the migration route for animals from logged areas looking for new habitat.
In conclusion...

We Venturers of Alpha Six Raleigh International Expedition Borneo 12A will do our best to contribute to the conservation and preservation of this unique biodiversity rich rainforest. 

Written by Yim Kit Yen (Alpha 6 Venturer seen below in Green)
Photography by Ed Gregory