A Greener Future Through Education
Kawasan Wisata Pendidikan Lingkungan Hidup (KWPLH), which translates to Environmental Education and Recreation facility, or colloquially also known as the Sun Bear Center, is an environmental education facility located 23 km north of Balikpapan in East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo.
In 2002, the Sun Bear was proposed as the mascot of Balikpapan, fuelled by the first research project on wild sun bears carried out in the field in the Sungai Wain Protection Forest located without Balikpapan City boundaries. Since 2004, the City Government has collaborated with private donors and wildlife experts to develop the sun bear education center, the centerpiece of which is a 1.3 ha natural enclosure housing 7 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 2013), domestic and foreign, can see the mascot of Balikpapan in a natural environment.
In 2008, a Sun Bear information exhibit, the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in Asia, was opened at the Centre, followed by an education exhibit focusing on Domestic animal care versus Wildlife not suitable as pets. In 2014 a new exhibit focusing on the rich Endemic Flora and Fauna of Borneo was opened. Plans are under way to develop further exhibits with environmental themes, such as the different ecosystems and their functions from mountains to the sea in Borneo.
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.