How did Sun Bear Sunscreen start?
About 18 months ago, Luke, his wife and business partner Joy, and their General Manager Jess, were scouting a trip on mountain bikes from Mawlamyine to Yangon in Myanmar, for their adventure travel business. They had just reached the Kyaiktiyo summit, where the Golden Rock sits in a dramatic lean but never falls. Legend says that it's a single strand of Buddha's hair that keeps the rock in place.
After dressing the sacred rock with golden leaf, the team were walking back to the hilltop village when a local darted in front of Luke with a suitcase. He knew the trio weren't his market but needy of a sale he flashed its contents anyway.
In a quick glance, Luke realised they were bear paws and there was no spiritual awakening or lightbulb moment... just a thought that the man, the community and the environment would all be far better of if the bears were alive.
This was the very beginning of Sun Bear Sunscreen. A rational thought in a magical place.
Why does it matter?
The survival of the Sun Bear is bigger than just this one species. Known as a ‘keystone’ species, other animals, plants and the trees in the forest itself rely on the Sun Bear for their survival. Referred to as the ‘rainforest doctor’, they spend their days dispersing seeds and protecting trees from pest. When the Sun Bear tears open tree trunks to reach the honey inside, the create nesting sites for the native hornbills and flying squirrels.
When they dig for invertebrates on the rainforest floor, they aerate and mix rich and poor soil together boosting the nutrient cycle. The forest needs them just as much as they need the forest.
The Sun Bear also has a very low reproduction rate – typically a mother will only ever raise one cub in her lifetime. Given their tiny proportions, the cubs are considered exceptionally cute so they are highly sought after through illegal pet trading.
Each time a cub is stolen, a whole generation is lost.
The survival of the Sun Bear is under exponential threat – habitat lost combined with commercial hunting and pet trade make for a perfect storm.
A crowd-funding success story!
In December 2016, the team launched a campaign on Australia's most successful crowd-funding platform, Pozible, to help raise $45k to make Sun BearSunscreen available for sale online, Australia-wide (and internationally) from summer 2017.
They raised this and more - hitting well over $50k. The proof was in the pudding. People wanted to make a difference and Sun Bear Sunscreen was going to happen. The funds raised through the campaign were used to help cover the first production run of Sun Bear Sunscreen, branding and marketing activities, as well as fulfilment logistics.
Who are we giving the profits to?
Profits from the sale of Sun Bear Sunscreen will go to Dr Wong Siew Te and his team at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. We have been to see Dr Wong has his team on several occasions now and every time have been blown away with how dedicated they are to saving the Sun Bear. But at each visit, it has been clear they are facing an uphill battle and there is so much more that can be done.
Dr Wong and his team will use the funds raised through the sale of Sun Bear Sunscreen for a series of special projects. The focus of these projects will berelease and research activities.
The sanctuary is currently over full and needs to immediately release bears but there are no funds to facilitate
this. To release Sun Bears, a helicopter is needed to fly to a mud volcano in the most remote part of the forest. This will give the bears the best chance for survival. They also require satellite collars and a big team to physically carry the bears further into the forest before their final release.
The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre is also trying to raise funds to create a specialist Sun Bear research base that will be located in the forest where thebears are released.
There is still so little known about this species that this research base is crucial to the bears’ and rainforests survival.
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