About Dr Sarah Pye

And Dr Wong Siew Te.

Dr Sarah Pye

Sarah may be a writer, speaker and teacher, but that hasn’t always been the case. Sarah was born on a tiny British outpost jutting into the Mediterranean called Gibraltar and spent the summers of her first decade plying the waters of the Norfolk broads aboard a classic clinker-built wooden boat. When she was 13, Sarah’s teacher parents moved their family onto a 30ft ketch. Sarah was boat-schooled by the world around her — holding night watches, grocery shopping in foreign ports, and hunkering down in ranging storms.

At 17, Sarah left her floating home for college in the United States. Then, with a hospitality management degree under her arm, continued her westward migration to Hawaii, and on to Australia’s Whitsunday Islands. Sarah’s business, Ocean Rafting was awarded the Queensland Tourism Award for Best Adventure Product in 2001.

As a single parent, Sarah completed her Master of Communication degree at the University of the Sunshine Coast and published a guidebook called Kids Welcome to Queensland in 2009. The resulting travel business led to Sarah being named Sunshine Coast Small Business Woman of the Year in 2010.

A trip to Borneo with her daughter changed the trajectory of Sarah’s life when she met Wong Siew Te. She commenced her Doctor of Creative Arts Degree in 2016, exploring how narratives can be used to engage non-scientists in conservation. In 2018, She took a break from the books to walk 800km across Spain, and in 2020, Wong’s biography, Saving Sun Bears was published.

Sarah hopes there are many more adventures to come. Next, she plans to kayak down the Murray River, following in the wake of her inspirational parents who completed something similar a quarter of a century ago.

Dr Wong Siew Te

Dr Wong Siew Te is the hero of Saving Sun Bears and the Wildlife Wong series. Wong was born near Penang is Malaysia. He left home to study animal husbandry in Taiwan, then continued on to Montana to learn about bear biology.

One day, guest lecturer, Professor Chris Servheen, mentioned he was looking for a Malaysian student to research the ‘least known bear in the world’. Wong made sure he was first in line. When he started studying sun bears in the jungle of Borneo over 20 years ago, there were only two other sun bear researchers in the world.

During his studies, Wong was sponsored to conduct a survey of captive sun bears across Malaysia and what he found was so disturbing that he made a promise to make changes. Wong designed and created a unique rainforest centre called the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) which is located in Sepilok near Sandakan.

It is now home to around 40 Malayan sun bears rescued from habitat destruction, poaching and the illegal pet trade. BSBCC focuses on animal welfare, rehabilitation, research and education. In 2017, The University of the Sunshine Coast awarded Wong an honorary doctorate for his tireless work and commitment to save a species. The same year, Wong was named a CNN World Wildlife Hero.

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