Science & Medicine:Natural Sciences
The WildLife: Sun Bears, Siew Te Wong
Siew Te Wong, a Malaysian wildlife biologist and sun bear expert, divulges some interesting characteristics of this rare Southeast Asian bear and how they fit into the ecosystem. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how he became one of the first to study sun bears, which are the smallest of the bear species and also the least known. Did you know that sun bears consider beetle larvae one of their tastiest treats? When they eat them, the animals close their eyes and savor the experience, similar to humans relishing the yummiest of chocolates. Siew Te Wong also talks about his adventures researching the species, threats to these rare bears, his rescue efforts, and what people can do to help. For the last 13 years, Wong has been studying and working on the ecological conservation of the sun bear. He is one of the few Malaysian wildlife biologists trained in a western country. He did both his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science at the University of Montana in Missoula, and is continuing for his doctorate degree there. His pioneering studies of sun bear ecology in the Borneo rainforest revealed the elusive life history of the sun bear in the dense jungle. Wong's research has taken him to the most threatened wildlife habitat on Earth, where field work is exceedingly difficult. While rapid habitat destruction from unsustainable logging practices, the conversion of the sun bear's habitat into palm oil plantations and uncontrolled poaching activities paint a bleak picture for the future of the sun bear, Wong is determined to help the present situation of sun bears in Southeast Asia. Wong is the CEO of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, which he founded in 2008. He was also a fellow of the Flying Elephants Foundation, which awards individuals from a broad range of disciplines in the arts and sciences who have demonstrated singular creativity, passion, integrity and leadership and whose work inspires a reverence for the natural world. Wong is also the former co-chair of the Sun Bear Expert Team, under the IUCN/Species Survival Commission’s Bear Specialist Group and a current member of three IUCN/SSC Specialist Groups. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on May 17, 2010.
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