Malaysian ecologist Dr Wong Siew Te, or ‘papa bear’, has dedicated his life to saving the world’s smallest bear from extinction. This is his story — and theirs. Be prepared to laugh and cry as you explore Wong’s life — from a childhood above a crowded tailor shop in Penang, to trapping muntjacs in Taiwan, tagging grizzlies in Montana, and releasing rescued sun bears in the dense tropical rainforests Borneo.
Australian author Sarah Pye first visited Borneo in 2012, ostensibly to see orangutans in the wild. Sun bears weren’t even on her radar. When she met Dr Wong Siew Te and asked what she could do to help him save a species, he replied “do what you do best”. Those five powerful words sparked a seven-years journey which is weaved through the narrative, a Doctor of Creative Arts project, and an enduring relationship between the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre and the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia.
In the highs and lows of this narrative, Wong comes face to face with angry grizzly bears in Montana, his car is overturned by disgruntled elephants in Borneo and his field assistant tragically drowns in flood waters. He struggles to raise funds to create a unique rescue centre, and he is eventually acknowledged as a CNN world hero — proving one person can make a difference.
Sun bears have been called ‘the world’s forgotten bear’. There are far fewer sun bears than orangutans with whom they share the Bornean rainforest. They are threatened by habitat loss, poaching, the illegal pet trade and climate change. In this heart-warming and confronting tale, meet sun bears Natalie, who learns to survive without her mother; Bongkud, who is struck by lightning; Gutuk, who is too scared to go outside; and Debbie who grabs her chance at freedom.