By Margaret Maccoll
The advice from Malaysian ecologist Dr Wong Siew Te to “do what you do best” led Sunshine Coast’s Sarah Pye to a life-changing career that has benefitted both their lives.
In 2012 Sarah met Dr Wong Siew Te at his Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre and was moved by the fascinating, quirky bears and the dedication of Dr Wong who was working to save them from extinction.
Dr Wong had designed and built his refuge in the rainforest where Sun Bears rescued from poachers or the illegal pet trade are rehabilitated and if possible released deep into a national park.
“He’s a very charismatic man,” she said. “Wong is one of the most dedicated people I have ever met. He taught me that one person can make a difference.”
When Sarah asked Dr Wong what she could do to help he told her to “do what you do best”.
The visit led her to the University of Sunshine Coast to continue studies in Creative Arts and forge research connections between the university and Dr Wong.
In 2014 she returned to the Sun Bear Conservation Centre with four public relations students from USC to design a sun bear adoption program, which was subsequently launched at Australia Zoo.
In 2016 Dr Wong was awarded a USC Honorary Doctorate for his conservation work.
In 2018 Sarah visited the centre again where she was involved in the release of two sun bears into the wild.
A year later actor Dame Judi Dench assisted in the release of three sun bears at the centre as part of a documentary, Judi Dench’s Wild Borneo Adventure.
On World Environment Day on Friday 5 June Sarah launched her book about Dr Wong’s life, Saving Sun Bears, as part of the university’s virtual environment festival and written as part of Sarah’s Creative Arts doctorate
Dame Judi Dench has endorsed Sarah’s book and provided a quote for its back cover.
Published by Asia-Pacific company Signal 8 Press, the book is available via Amazon.com.au as a paperback and an ebook.
Sarah is now planning to write a series of children’s books on the topic of sun bears.