Sir David Attenborough.
Sir David Attenborough. Contributed

Star-struck Coast writer receives best ever rejection letter

SUNSHINE COAST resident Sarah Pye just received a hand written "rejection letter" from world-renowned naturalist and nature show presenter Sir David Attenborough.

It's the best rejection Ms Pye has ever had and "is going straight to the pool room", she says.

The University of the Sunshine Coast staff member and graduate student is working on a biography of Asian sun bear conservationist Wong Siew Te, and had approached Sir Attenborough for an interview.

He had visited the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) that Mr Wong founded in 2014.

But, as Sir Attenborough explained in his hand-written response, his visit was brief and he felt he didn't know enough about it to be interviewed.

The letter arrived at Ms Pye's work address and as soon as she saw the French air mail mark on the envelope, she grinned, she told the Daily.

Biographer Sarah Pye received a letter from David Attenborough, world renowned conservationist/biologist.
Biographer Sarah Pye received a letter from David Attenborough, world renowned conservationist/biologist. John McCutcheon

"I haven't received a Par Avion letter in about 10 years," Ms Pye said.

"There was hand written note saying he was at the (sun bear) centre very briefly and he didn't feel like he knew enough about Wong's research to be able to comment," she said.

But he wished Mr Wong well in his conservation work, she said.

Ms Pye said she was "over the moon" at having received a response.

"I didn't expect to hear back from him let alone get a hand written response. It's extraordinary that David Attenborough knows what I'm doing."

She agreed she was "totally star-struck".

"For me personally, David Attenborough and Jane Goodall are bordering on gods."


Wong Siew Te with a sunbear.
Wong Siew Te with a sunbear.

Ms Pye met Mr Wong and his sun bears on a family holiday to Malaysia.

"I...had the opportunity to meet Wong before the centre was opened, meet the bears and I was just blown away," she said.

"I was so blown away by the bears I came back and introduced Wong to USC."

Now the university and BSBCC have a Memorandum of Understanding, they do collaborative research and USC gave Mr Wong an honorary doctorate in September.

Ms Pye said she was excited about the biography project, which will next month take her to Malaysia to spend time at Mr Wong's centre for six months.

"He's unique in so many ways," she said, speaking of Mr Wong.

"A lot of conservationists come from around the world but are not endemic to that area. But he is.

"He's a Malaysian man and he knows more about sun bears than anyone in the world, in my opinion."

Mr Wong has researched the endangered bear for more than 10 years, including six years in the forest doing field research.

His conservation centre has taken bears out of captivity and created a large forest enclosure at the edge of a forest reserve.

It's "as close as you can get to a wild existence" without being in the wild, and is now home to 50 bears, she said.


Inspiration from Sir David Attenborough:

"It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living."

"Anyone who believes in indefinite growth on a physically finite planet is either mad or an economist."

"The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?"

"I'm no longer sceptical. I no longer have any doubt at all. I think climate change is the major challenge facing the world."

"I just wish the world was twice as big and half of it was still unexplored."

Jane Goodall - top quotes:

"When I look back over my life it's almost as if there was a plan laid out for me - from the little girl who was so passionate about animals who longed to go to Africa and whose family couldn't afford to put her through college. Everyone laughed at my dreams. I was supposed to be a secretary in Bournemouth."

"It's been proven by quite a few studies that plants are good for our psychological development. If you green an area, the rate of crime goes down. Torture victims begin to recover when they spend time outside in a garden with flowers. So we need them, in some deep psychological sense, which I don't suppose anybody really understands yet."

"Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don't believe is right."

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