By Olivia Miwil | email@example.com
KOTA KINABALU: Five Malayan sun bears were relocated to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sandakan recently, bringing the total of the protected species to 32 currently at the conservation centre. The five bears --four adults and a six-month-old cub-- were previously sheltered at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park after they were previously rescued by forest rangers or were handed in to the authorities by the public.
A full medical examination was conducted to ensure the bears were fit for the eight-hour transfer journey to the centre.
The centre’s chief executive officer, Wong Siew Te said it took his team three hours to unload and settle the bears at their new ‘home’.
"These bears are not part of those for public viewing, but we will continue to monitor and update the public on their progress, here," he added.
The centre is able to receive more bears now after the recent completion of a second bear house.
It will become a home to 34 bears, which include the recent batch and another two coming in by the end of the month.
Wong urged the public to surrender the animal to authority as it was an offense to keep Sun Bears in captivity or as pets.
"They are forest-dependent species and play important roles in the forest ecosystem as seed dispersers in the forest. Their roles are akin to engineers, doctors and farmers in the forest’s ecosystem. They keep our forests healthy, for the benefit of humans and all life forms,".
Meanwhile, Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said those found to be keeping the sun bear any of its body parts could be jailed up to five years or be fined a maximum of RM50,000, if convicted.
"Habitat loss and poaching for parts used in traditional medicine are among key threats that have led to a severe decline of the sun bear population in the last three decades in Sabah.
"Sabah is now at a crossroad, and failure to protect remaining forest reserves would be a deathblow not only for our beautiful sun bears but also many other protected wildlife species such as clouded leopards and Orang utans," he said.
The sun bears is classified as "vulnerable" on the IUCN red list and is at risk of becoming endangered in future.