So who AM I?
Hi, I'm Sophia, a 22 year old BSc Zoology graduate, vegetarian and animal enthusiast. I graduated in July 2014 from Royal Holloway University of London, Surrey. I'm trying to raise £5,100 to pay for a Masters of Research (MRes) with the University of Portsmouth and it would just be bear'illiant if you were able to help support me! The project will focus on the social and foraging behaviours of the little Asiatic bear 'the sun bear' and involve six months of research in Borneo (Malaysia) and six months writing up my findings.
My project is part of a much larger study which may provide evidence to support and change sun bear conservation policies. Research will be carried out at the Bornean Sun bear conservation centre.
These little cuties are so called for the golden crescent on their chests. Sun bears are tiny little bear, no taller than 5ft, the smallest of the 8 bear species. They inhabit the beautiful rainforests of Borneo. A variety of threats are faced by the wild bears such as the logging of native trees; whose fruits comprise the majority of the bears diet. Native trees are cut down in order to clear land for growing palm trees for palm oil. Palm oil is in high demand as it is used in the majority of products from butter and chocolate to cookies and cosmetics! Just check the products you pick up in the supermarket or those already in your home and you will understand the extent of it's use.
Sun bears are also kidnapped from their forests by those who believe in traditional Chinese medicines for their gall bladders. Bears are also taken from their mothers at a very very young age, to be kept as pets and have therefore acquired no skills both social and foraging from their mothers. Some of these bears are lucky and are rescued by organisations such as the Bornean sun bear Conservation Centre in Borneo (BSBCC) but releasing them back into the wild can only be done after they have been taught valuable life skills such as which foods are okay to eat.
Not only do bears face the risk of being kidnapped for pets and their gall bladders they are also captured for 'use' in the Asian 'delicacy' of bear paw soup. I was recently reading an article involving a bear called Mr Hobbs who now lives in a zoo in Sydney, Australia, but nearly suffered this horrific fate. You can read about his story here: Mr Hobbs' story.
BUT WHY DO I NEED YOUR HELP?
As a graduate there are currently no student loans in place for post graduate study and funding is very limited. There are career development loans available, provided by the Co-operative and Barclay's banks but I was recently unsuccessful in my application. I am currently working full time to save up as much as possible but the amount will only be able to cover living expenses and will not be enough for my tuition fees (£5,100). With your support, this project could still happen.
HOW WILL MY RESEARCH HELP THESE LITTLE SUN BEARS OF BORNEO?
At the BSBCC sun bears are rescued having been separated from their mothers at a very young age either for the pet trade of for future use as bear paw soup. In the wild there is an extremely important two year mother-cub association during which the little cub learns all the skills essential for survival in the wild. Skills such as which foods are okay to eat, how to open fruits like hard shelled coconuts, where to find foods and how to recognize a predator. Without this association, bears do not learn these survival skills and therefore would be highly unlikely to survive in the wild straight away. The bears first need to be taught as many skills as possible from either humans or more knowledgeable bears at the conservation center.
By performing research on foraging and social behaviours of sun bears, we may be able to gain more insight into how bears learn from each other enabling a more in-depth understanding of how to effectively teach these rescued sun bears how to be wild. This may offer hope for the successful release of more and more sun bears back into the wild. Not only will this research benefit the sun bears in captivity but also give a more in-depth understanding of the world of the bear.
Recently a little bear named Natalie was released into the wild after being taught vital skills for survival by her human friends, you can read about her story here: Natalie's story.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER TO ME?
From a very young age I have had a keen interest in the natural world, sparked by looking after pets, horse riding, watching wildlife documentaries, visiting wildlife parks and travelling. Little research has been conducted on the sun bear and therefore so little is known about them in comparison to other more 'popular' bear species such as the Polar bear. All too often I read articles on social media about sun bears being rescued at such a young age consequently having been stolen from their mothers by humans. I believe more research focused on the sun bear is essential to the conservation of the sun bear, more information on this species may tighten up policies to increase protection and stop them being stolen for their gall bladders, paws of for the pet trade.
BUT WHY SHOULD THIS MATTER TO YOU?
Perhaps you are a keen animal enthusiast yourself, perhaps not. But the majority of us want to make a change and want to better the world but have commitments or are already up to their ears in other work. Or perhaps you are in the same position as I am, unable to find the funds to support such a study. Whatever your reasons for taking the time to read my campaign firstly I am going to run a marathon (1/2 marathon) in a bear suit, now why wouldn't you want to see that!!! Plus we all like rewards which are explained on the right.
On a more serious not, we all know compassion and that with knowledge comes an understanding,
and understanding that will in this case benefit an entire species, from those
still fortunately living in their wild habitats, to those rescued in wildlife
centers living in captivity. Whatever your choice, be it to help fund
me or not I sincerely thank you for taking the time to read this page and I
do hope you will follow the progress of this campaign!
I will also be writing daily updates on my twitter page throughout my research stay in Borneo with details on the bears daily activity and weekly updates once I am back in the UK and writing up my research.
WHERE WILL THE MONEY YOU RAISE GO?
I'm looking to raise a total of £5,800 with a minimum of £5,100. Raising £5,800 will enable me to:
1. Pay my tuition: £5,100
2. Pay for my flight: £600 - 700 (as the time gets closer this will increase so between these values)
Any additional funds would be able to cover accommodation expenses in Borneo and will be directly donated to the sun bear conservation centre! More information can be found on the BSBCC adoption page.
WHERE CAN I FIND YOU?
You can find me on Twitter where I will be giving regular updates on this fundraising campaign. I will also give daily updates on the activities of the bears that day (and how many mossies happened to eat me that particular day!!!) while in the research field (Borneo) and weekly updates when back in the UK writing up the results. In addition if you would like to check out my academic and voluntary history then feel free to look me up on LinkedIn!
If you have any questions feel free to email me on: firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU CANNOT OR WOULD NOT LIKE TO DONATE YOU CAN STILL HELP!!!
Yes yes yes!!!!! Please spread the word about the threats the sun bear faces and if you can, be aware of the products you purchase which contain palm oil. Also please tell others of the amazing work the BSBCC does in Borneo caring for sick, injured and rescued sun bears and encourage people to support the centre. In addition, if you have a little spare time make your self more aware of the current issues in the conservation world as it takes all of us combined, acting individually, to make a difference on this planet!
Also if you happen to know of others who may be interested in this fundraising campaign and may have the means to help, then please spread the word to them too by sharing this project on Twitter, Facebook, over email, telephone or face to face. The possibilities are endless!
Thank you again,
From Sophia and the little bears of Borneo