International Lifestyle Magazine Jan 2013 - Page 45

Media  Release     Balikpapan,  East  Kalimantan,  Indonesia:  Why  planned  relocation  of   the  Sun  Bears  at  Balikpapan’s  Environmental  Tourism  and  Education   Centre  by  the  City  government  is  a  bad  idea.       In   2002,   the   Sun   Bear   was   proposed   as   the   mascot   of   Balikpapan.   Since   2004,   the   City   Government   has   collaborated   with   private   donors   and   wildlife   experts   to   develop   a   non-­‐ profit   Environmental   Tourism   and   Education   Centre   (known   as   the   “KWPLH”),  the  centerpiece  of  which  is  a   1.3ha   natural   enclosure   housing   6   sun   bears   that   can   never   be   released   into   the   wild.   This   is   enclosure   is   widely   recognized  as  one   of   the   best   of   its   kind   in   Asia,   and   increasing   numbers   of   tourists  (70,000  in  2012),  domestic  and   foreign,   can   see   the   mascot   of   Balikpapan  in  a  natural  environment.     In   2009,   a   Sun   Bear   information   exhibit,   the  largest  and  most  comprehensive  of   its   kind   in   Asia,   was   opened   at   the   Centre.  Plans  are  under  way  to  develop  further  exhibits  with  environmental  themes,  such  as   endemic  species  of  Borneo  (currently  under  development),  forest  functions,  and  forest  fires.   The  Centre  has  also  developed  a  rescue  facility  for  stray  and  abandoned  cats  and  dogs,  also   providing   the   public   with   information   on   pet   care.   In   addition,   over   the   years,   attractive   gardens   and   outward   bound   facilities   have   been   developed,   and   visitor   numbers   have   increased  steadily.  The  majority  of  visitors  are  local  schoolchildren,  community  groups  and   families  wanting  to  escape  the  hustle  and  bustle  of  the  city  for  a  few  hours.   To  date  the  site  developments   have   largely   been   funded   through   donations,   while   the   basic   running   costs   have   been   funded   by   the   city   government.  The  site  currently   employs   41   staff,   80%   of   whom   are   from   local   communities.   Perversely,  at  the  end  of  2012,   the   City   legislature   refused   to   approve   the   2013   operating   costs   (about   US$160,000)   for   the   center   in   the   budget   proposed   by   the   City   Government.   This   was   not   because   of   shortage   of   funds:   in   2012   the   City   budget   was   underspent  by  many  millions  of  dollars.  The  City  legislature  is  headed  by  Andi  Burhanuddin   Solong,   who   has   been   widely   reported   as   saying   wanting   to   change   the   City   mascot   because   bears  are  “lazy”.   So  the  City  Government  has  now  announced  plans  to  close  the  KWPLH  and  convert  it  into  a   camping   ground,   and   relocate   the   Sun   Bears,   possibly   to   an   Inhutani   site   at   km   10.   At   the