A Swedish couple went cruising along the Kinabatangan River recently and became distressed when they caught sight of the remains of a sun bear.
The husband and wife, Tommy Eriksson and Teuta Hajra, spotted the carcass floating in the river and later shared online the image, captured on Jan 16 at 6pm.
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) chief executive officer Wong Siew Te said today the carcass was the lower part of a sun bear that was cut into half, with both of the hind paws missing and seen floating downstream of Kampung Sukau, close to an agricultural estate.
“Eriksson told me that his wife was the first to spot the floating carcass. When they got closer, they realised that it was actually a sun bear carcass cut into half.”
The discovery made the foreign tourists angry. They believe the protected animal had become a victim of poaching.
“We feel sad witnessing the scale of the deforestation is this area. The act of the killing is really brutal. This country has so much magnificent wildlife. I hope that it will take care of habitats,” said Teuta, who broke into tears when she saw the carcass.
The sun bear carcass was fished out of the river later that night, with the help from Kinabatangan – Corridor of Life Tourism Association (KiTA) members and handed to the Sabah Wildlife Department for investigation.
In a statement, Wong said the bear was killed in cold blood and said such illegal acts must be stopped immediately.
“We believe poachers took parts of the sun bear’s body to meet commercial demand.
“The paws are for a delicacy while its gall bladder is said to have medicinal value. Both items can fetch high prices.
“We condemn such acts, especially since the sun bear population is already seriously threatened from loss of the rainforest to agricultural development, thus affecting their natural habitat.”
Wong noted that the remaining population was very fragile and faced local extinction.
“Sun bears play many important roles in maintaining a healthy forest ecosystem. The loss of this sun bear is not just bad to the environment, but for everyone as a whole.”
He said there are no estimate on the exact number of sun bears in Sabah’s wild, including those found orphaned or caged.