Monday, May 27

Sun Bear Run never marketed as charity event – organisers

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KOTA KINABALU: Organisers of the Sun Bear Run said that the run was never marketed as a charity run from which proceeds would go to any sun bear conservation, and merely serves as a platform for awareness.

Wildlife Alliance Sdn Bhd and Valiant Event Management, the two companies responsible for organising the run, said yesterday that Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre’s (BSBCC) claim that neither the centre nor the sun bears will benefit from the run, was unfounded for.

The run has never been marketed as a charity event, and we also did not market it under the BSBCC nor have we mentioned any funds will go to them.

We have clearly stated in all mediums, especially our official website, www.wildborneo.org that this is a self-funded running event from which fee collections will go to fund the events operations and marketing, including but not limited to our awareness campaigns for each run, said June Gerald Austin of Wildlife Alliance in a press conference yesterday.

BSBCC founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Wong Siew Te said in a statement on Thursday that they had spoken to the organisers (of the run) and were convinced that the 9km run scheduled to be held on February 28 at Tanjung Aru here will not be channeling any contribution to the centre nor the sun bears.

We regret to learn that this run is not a charity run where the profit will help works to conserve sun bears in Sabah. We wish to advise the public to be clear about the nature of similar events so that they do not end up paying to take part thinking that they are helping wildlife, said Wong.

He further said that BSBCC had nothing to do with the run, and that they condemned any parties who used the name of endangered species and exploit them for their own benefit.

June rebutted, saying that the organisers had never spoken on behalf of any non-governmental organisations (NGOs) but have always invited them to participate in their events.

She also said that the organisers had approached BSBCC in early December last year to offer them a platform via the event for the centre to carry out their own campaign or fund-raising effort during the event, and the centre replied negatively a few months later.

The organisers, added June, had also proposed a few ideas to the centre, including to support the adoption of at least 10 sun bears at the centre, but was dismissed by Wong, following which they went with an alternative plan to adopt two sun bears in Cambodia via their Free the Bears initiative.

Wong should know that the term sun bear is not copyrighted or exclusive to BSBCC, nor to any organization for that matter, she said.

The organisers had also lodged a police report against Wong for defamation.

We strongly refute any claims made by Wong and BSBCC through his attempt to tarnish our event, company credentials and effort, when we had kindly approached him first to extend an invitation to BSBCC.

The Sun Bear Run is part of the bigger Heal the World Run series, consisting of 12 runs which kicked off in August last year with the Borneo Elephant Run, followed by the Wild Run in October, and the Rhino X-Run last December, before the series proceeds with the Sun Bear Run this month, and to be followed by eight more runs before it concludes with the Mountain Run on December 11 this year.

Melissa Angus of Valiant Event Management who co-organises the runs under the series, said that 70 per cent of the fees collected from the runs goes to funding the events itself.

We go for what the runners want; high quality t-shirts, quality medals, etc. Quality t-shirts cost about RM16 to RM18 a pair and a good quality medal costs at least RM15, both of which we need to make for about 2,800 runners.

And dont forget money also goes to prizes for the winners, manpower, venue, facilities, equipment, etc. Organising a run can be very costly and those claims against us were made without taking this into consideration, said Melissa.

She added that while it may not be much, the Heal the World Run series aim is to have at least some kind of impact on the public awareness on the environment and wildlife, apart from promoting a healthy lifestyle.

The runs we organise are not designed to collect huge amounts of money enough to channel them to NGOs or conservations efforts. However, we do our part by organising talks, drawing competitions, education trips, added Melissa.

Admitting that most runners take part in the runs merely for the medals and t-shirts, the organisers believe that the over 2,000 participants will be a good platform to spread awareness on their campaigns and efforts.

Weve also reached out to Borneo Conservation Trust and the Kota Kinabalu City Hall for a new awareness campaign idea, which is to establish the citys own Green Gallery for visitors to view the conservation and awareness efforts made for the State, said June.