Text & Photos by Seng Yen Wah
The Sun Bear is the smallest bear species in the world. They are listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This means that it is illegal to trade them on all international commercial trades in bear parts and products. However, illegal wildlife trade is still one of the biggest threats to all the wildlife species. So, what is wildlife? Wildlife is the animals that grow or live wild and independently in a natural condition.
Some people still believe that bear bile and gall bladder are very good traditional medicine. Poachers also poached the bears for the meats, the claws, and canines as a souvenir. Consequently, more wild sun bears are killed for it. They do not deserve being treated like this!
In Malaysia, the administrate regions are divided into three semi-autonomous ones: Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak, and Sabah. Sabah and Sarawak can make separated laws on matters in the ‘State List’ and the ‘Concurrent List’ of the Constitution, which include the wildlife law. As a result, there is not a unified wildlife enforcement law but three wildlife laws in Malaysia.
Sun bears are a totally protected species under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 in Sabah and Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716) in Peninsular Malaysia. However, Sun bears are only listed as a protected status under Sarawak’s Wildlife Protection Ordinance.
When technology is getting advanced, social media become a MUST in our life. However, exotic animals and wildlife are endangered due to advanced technology. How so? Selling them has become easy and it creates a market demand. A simple click then the purchase is done. Cuteness is a curse for wildlife. They are cute but it does not mean that they deserve to be kept as house pets. Take the sun bear as an example, the cubs stay together with the mother bear for two to three years. So, where is the mother bear when a bear cub is found alone? Have you ever wondered why the mother bear abandoned her own cub? The answer is that a mother bear will never abandon her cub unless she was killed by the hunters! What about the bear cub? It ends up being a pet for them! No reasons can be acceptable and tolerated for their deeds, what the poachers have done is unforgivable!
Sun bears are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The population of sun bears are decreasing. The forest is the wildlife’s home - a natural habitat. However, development of the country scarifies the forest to increase the country’s economic growth. And, wildlife has no chance to say No for what happened to them. They are losing their home and their friends. Extinction of species will cause ecosystem imbalance. Every species is playing their role in the forest, just like the sun bear.
Sun bears are the forest planter. Sun bears are opportunistic omnivores. They consume a variety of forest fruit. As they travel, they disperse the seed in the forest. When the seed furthers away from the mother tree, the seed will have a higher survival rate. Besides, sun bears are excellent climbers. Sharp claws are served as important tools for them to climb. One of the reasons they climb trees is to harvest honey from beehives. Sun bear loves honey and this is why they also are known as a honey bear! When the sun bears want to get honey from a tree, they use their claws and strong canine to tear the tree trunks and get the honey inside. After that, it creates a cavity in the tree that can be used as a nesting site or a resting place for other animals, such as flying squirrels and hornbills.
Termites feed on live and dead trees. They build their colonies in the host tree, which makes the tree unhealthy and hasten the decaying and rotting process of a tree. Sun bears love to eat termites. Termites are one of the important protein sources of sun bears. They will dig into termite nests and consume them. Sun bears spend time on digging. Further than termites, they also dig for invertebrates such as pill millipedes, beetle grubs, and ants. Digging contributes to enhancing the nutrient cycle in the forest and consume the termites can help to keep the forest healthy. Every species in the forest helps to maintain the ecosystem balance but the balance is slowly destroyed by human disturbance. The out of control human activities are threatening the lives of wildlife.
The sun bear is the forgotten bear species. But, they need your attention! Spread the word and let’s save the Sun Bears together!
Video by Chiew Lin May
Be the Voice Sun Bears Need!
The threats that are driving the smallest bears – Sun Bear closer to extinction all stem from us... Although listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Their populations are decline by at least 30% in the last three decades. The main threats to the survival of the sun bears are poaching, illegal wildlife trade, and habitat loss. They are hunted for their gall bladders and other body parts for medicinal benefits.
Raise your voice for change! Their stories need to be heard. Please help to raise awareness and voice our concerns about the future of sun bears and their rainforest home.
If you see suspicious activities, be sure to REPORT any illegal wildlife trade to the authorities for action:
# Jabatan PERHILITAN Semenanjung Malaysia: 1-800-88-5151
# MYCAT Wildlife Crime Hotline: +6019 3564194
# Sarawak Forestry Corporation: +6019 8859996 & +6016 8565564
# Sabah Wildlife Department: 088-254767
Text by Chiew Lin May
The impact of the coronavirus disease, COVID-19, is being felt all over the world. We are all going through a challenging time. We have been closed to the public to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. But, we must continue to provide care and protect our 43 rescued sun bears housed at the BSBCC from this spread which could affect their health and welfare.
Where did the COVID-19 come from? The illegal wildlife trade is a major threat in the world. Sun bears are listed as Vulnerable to Extinction by the IUCN. Illegal poaching activities are clearly a chronic threat to the wildlife.
Sun bears are often killed and their infants are taken to markets to be sold for traditional medicine use, food and the exotic pet trade.
The rising demand for traditional Asian medicine also has put pressure on the sun bear survival.
All threats must be eliminated to protect the endangered sun bear. But when we destroy their forest home, and poach them for wildlife market uses, viruses such as COVID-19 can be turned out.
We are serious need STOPPING illegal trafficking and killing of wildlife. Wildlife play important ecological roles in the forest ecosystem.
You can help prevent the spread of diseases and also stop pushing many endangered species to the brink of extinction!
The road to fighting this COVID-19 may not be easy, but together, we hope you will make a difference to create a brighter future for sun bears and other wildlife, keep them safe in their natural habitat and protect the earth we all share.
Do your part.
Please stay safe!
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
“We always hope this is the last bear taken from the wild and then it happens again; more efforts are needed to STOP this from happening”
A four months old female sun bear cub, Romolina was kept as a pet in a small cage for about three months until a person got knowledge of her and quickly rescued her from a villager by negotiating with them to hand over the bear. The owner claims that he had found the bear cub at forest alone and took her home then kept her as a pet at Kampung Romol, Sapulut, in the interior division of Sabah. Romolina (Rescue No.58) was handed-over to the Sabah Wildlife Department and sent to BSBCC today (7th July 2018).
As it is always with sun bears that young, she has been stolen from her mother as a cub and kept as illegal pet that lived her life locked up in tiny cage. We are not sure exactly what happened to Romolina’s mother, but we know a mother would not abandon her baby alone in the forest. She is now safe in our care and will go through routine quarantine. She will be given a full medical checkup. Thankfully she was rescued, and we are thankful to the responsible person who saved her life.
New Straits Times, 8th June 2018
by Avila Geraldine
KOTA KINABALU: Despite stringent laws in Sabah, many continue to use the social media platforms to trade endangered exotic wildlife as pets across the nation.
Raising the concern, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) has identified Facebook and Instagram accounts offering sun bear cubs, civet cats, leaf monkeys, gibbons, leopard cats, raptors, hornbills and tapir among others.
BSBCC founder and chief executive officer Dr Wong Siew Te said the authorities would know about this and yet there are not enough action taken by them.
“I have reported my findings since last year and sadly it's business as usual for some of the people involved,” he told NSTP.
“If this continues, our wildlife will be gone soon. There are already many wildlife population affected by habitat lost over the past 50 years.
“The remaining wildlife population are barely hanging on to the highly fragmented habitat with a lot of poaching pressure,” Wong said.
Wong, a wildlife biologist, said most of the traders operate using private accounts and some have their contacts clearly stated. “They can be traced and contacted, if the authorities wants to.”
He urged the government to seriously look into this as illegal wildlife traders and buyers appear not to be afraid of the law.
“It’s time for change on how we look at wildlife conservation. The government needs to look at wildlife crime more seriously,” he stressed.
Wong noted that the BSBCC celebrated Sun Bear Day on May 16 to raise public awareness on the protection and conservation of sun bears.
But few days later, close to the end of May, he detected an advertisement that offered a sun bear cub online.
Sun bears are totally protected in Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia. It is also a protected species in Sarawak.
Wong stressed wild animals sold were national treasures, adding they play important roles in the forest ecosystem.
“They are abducted and killed. If we keep quiet and choose to do nothing, soon our forest will become an empty forest,” he added.
Harian Metro, 8th June 2018
by Avila Geraldine
DI sebalik ketegasan undang-undang hidupan liar, masih ramai individu tidak bertanggungjawab yang dikesan aktif menggunakan platform media sosial untuk menjual haiwan eksotik terancam sebagai binatang peliharaan di seluruh negara.
Lebih membimbangkan, Pusat Konversasi Beruang Madu Borneo (BSBCC) turut mengenalpasti beberapa akaun Facebook dan Instagram yang dikenalpasti aktif menawarkan beruang madu, kucing civet, lotong, siamang, harimau dahan, burung pemangsa, burung enggang dan tapir.
Pengasas BSBCC yang juga Ketua Pegawai Eksekutifnya, Dr Wong Siew Te berkata, pihak berkuasa berkaitan sedar berhubung perkara itu, namun seolah-olah tidak mengambil tindakan yang secukupnya.
Katanya, perkara itu sudah dilaporkan kepada pihak berkuasa sejak tahun lalu, namun apa yang menyedihkan transaksi perniagaan membabitkan haiwan terancam itu masih berjalan seperti biasa.
"Jika ini berterusan, hidupan liar kita akan hilang tidak lama lagi. Terdapat banyak lagi populasi hidupan liar yang terkesan disebabkan kehilangan habitat sejak 50 tahun lalu.
"Baki populasi hidupan liar lain turut terancam akibat aktiviti pemburuan haram," katanya kepada NSTP.
Menurut ahli biologi itu, walaupun kebanyakan peniaga beroperasi menggunakan akaun peribadi secara tertutup, tetapi ada juga yang meletakkan identiti mereka dengan jelas dan akan memudahkan mereka dikesan dan dihubungi oleh pihak berkuasa.
Katanya, pihak berkuasa digesa memperketatkan usaha pemuliharaan hidupan liar itu memandangkan penjual dan pembeli hidupan liar haram kelihatan seperti tidak takut kepada undang-undang.
"Sudah tiba masanya untuk memperkukuhkan lagi usaha pemuliharaan hidupan liar. Urusniaga ini (hidupan liar) tidak boleh diteruskan seperti biasa. Kerajaan perlu melihat jenayah hidupan liar ini dengan lebih serius," katanya.
Sementara itu, Siew Te berkata, BSBCC menyambut Hari Beruang Madu, setiap 16 Mei untuk meningkatkan kesedaran orang ramai terhadap perlindungan dan pemuliharaan haiwan itu.
Bagaimanapun katanya, penghujung Mei pula, beliau mengesan masih ada iklan yang menawarkan anak beruang madu dalam talian.
Beruang madu dilindungi sepenuhnya di Sabah dan Semenanjung. Ia juga spesies yang dilindungi di Sarawak.
Tegasnya hidupan liar memainkan peranan penting dalam ekosistem hutan.
"Jika aktiviti sedemikian dibiarkan, hutan kita akan menjadi kosong tidak lama lagi," tambah beliau.
Berita Harian Online, 8th June 2018
by Avila Geraldine
KOTA KINABALU: Di sebalik ketegasan undang-undang hidupan liar, masih ramai individu tidak bertanggungjawab yang dikesan menggunakan media sosial untuk menjual haiwan eksotik terancam sebagai binatang peliharaan di seluruh negara.
Lebih membimbangkan, Pusat Konservasi Beruang Madu Borneo (BSBCC) turut mengenalpasti beberapa akaun Facebook dan Instagram yang dikenal pasti giat menawarkan beruang madu, musang, kucing batu, lotong, siamang, harimau dahan, burung pemangsa, burung enggang dan tapir.
Pengasas BSBCC yang juga Ketua Pegawai Eksekutifnya, Dr Wong Siew Te, berkata pihak berkuasa berkaitan menyedari perkara itu, namun tidak mengambil tindakan yang secukupnya.
Apa yang lebih menyedihkan, katanya, perkara itu sudah dilaporkan kepada pihak berkuasa sejak tahun lalu, namun transaksi perniagaan membabitkan haiwan terancam itu masih berjalan seperti biasa.
"Jika ini berterusan, hidupan liar kita akan hilang tidak lama lagi, terdapat banyak lagi hidupan liar yang terkesan disebabkan kehilangan habitat sejak 50 tahun lalu.
"Baki hidupan liar lain turut terancam akibat kegiatan pemburuan haram," katanya kepada NSTP.
Menurut ahli biologi itu, walaupun kebanyakan peniaga beroperasi menggunakan akaun peribadi secara tertutup, ada juga yang meletakkan identiti mereka dengan jelas dan akan memudahkan mereka dikesan serta dihubungi oleh pihak berkuasa.
Katanya, pihak berkuasa digesa memperketatkan usaha pemuliharaan hidupan liar memandangkan penjual dan pembeli hidupan liar haram kelihatan seperti tidak takut kepada undang-undang.
"Sudah tiba masanya untuk memperkukuhkan lagi usaha pemuliharaan hidupan liar. Urus niaga ini (hidupan liar) tidak boleh diteruskan seperti biasa, kerajaan perlu melihat jenayah hidupan liar ini dengan lebih serius," katanya.
Sementara itu, Siew Te berkata BSBCC menyambut Hari Beruang Madu setiap 16
Mei untuk meningkatkan kesedaran orang ramai terhadap perlindungan dan pemuliharaan haiwan itu.
Bagaimanapun, katanya, penghujung Mei lalu beliau mengesan masih ada iklan yang menawarkan anak beruang madu untuk jualan dalam talian meskipun spesies itu dilindungi sepenuhnya di Sabah, Sarawak dan Semenanjung.
Tegas Siew Te, hidupan liar memainkan peranan penting dalam ekosistem hutan dan jika kegiatan mengeksploitasi hidupan liat terus dibiarkan, hutan negara akan menjadi kosong tidak lama lagi.
The Star Online, 30th May 2018
by Fatimah Zainal
KOTA KINABALU: From sun bear cubs and tapir calfs to slow loris and hornbills, the illegal wildlife trade is booming online and must be stopped, said wildlife biologist Dr Wong Siew Te.
Dr Wong, who found many such businesses brazenly operating on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, said it was sad that such illegal activities were still widespread in Malaysia.
Despite these sales being illegal under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, hundreds of juvenile protected animals are still being killed, captured and sold as pets and for individual profits, said Dr Wong.
Dr Wong, who is known for his studies on the sun bear and for founding the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sandakan, was shocked to discover sun bear cubs being sold online.
One Instagram page had more than 500 posts advertising protected infant animals for sale.
“The protected wildlife species that are sold include the calfs of the highly endangered Malayan tapir, sun bear cubs, infant gibbons, infant leaf monkeys, slow loris, leopard cat kittens, juvenile raptors, hornbills, civets, and more.
“All of these protected wildlife infants possibly had their mothers killed by illegal poachers in order to obtain these infants,” he said.
On the BSBCC Facebook page, Dr Wong on Wednesday (May 30) shared a video he found on the Instagram page which was advertising a sun bear cub for sale.
It showed a man bottle feeding milk to the cub.
“The sun bear is a totally protected species in West Malaysia and Sabah, and protected species in Sarawak.
“No one is allowed to sell, to kill, to keep, and to possess any body parts of sun bears,” Dr Wong wrote in his post accompanying the video.
Since the online business is being conducted in the peninsula, Dr Wong had reported the matter to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) which told him that the matter will be investigated.
He said the discovery of sun bear cubs being sold online comes just two weeks after BSBCC celebrated Sun Bear Day on May 16, which was aimed at raising public awareness on the protection and conservation of sun bears.
“If we keep quiet and choose to do nothing, soon our forests will be empty,” he said.
Text and Photos by Chiew Lin May
Diana was kept in a concrete floor cage and was displayed to the public at View Top Resort, Tawau, on the South East coast of Sabah, for about ten years. She was rescued by Sabah Wildlife Department on the 31st of July 2013, and was then brought to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) on the 10th of March, 2014. Upon arrival, she was in a bad condition with existing open wounds on the right maxillary area and had unhealthy gums due to fighting with another male, adult sun bear as they were both kept together in a cage. We will never know what happened to her mother, but this can illustrate how vulnerable wild sun bears are to threats from poachers. Stolen from life in the forest, Diana will never be taught by her mother how to survive in the wild.
This year we still continue to fight the battle to rescue illegal pet trade victims in Sabah. Due to the dens in our bear houses and quarantine being full, our team has decided to let Diana meet with two lovely young female bears, Sika and Kina, in quarantine.
They immediately enjoyed their new dens which were full of natural habitat enrichments such as dead wood, green leaves, climbing structures, a sleeping platform, and a hammock. These enrichment activities are all designed to stimulate natural behaviour and keep them active.
They all have their own spot for napping.
Our sun bears are rescued and undergo rehabilitation at our centre. They have suffered some physical disabilities or psychological trauma from their time kept in captivity. Through this integration, life is getting better for these bears that have lived with pain and trauma for so long. For Diana, single enrichment and the company of new friends can make her day.
Text by Chiew Lin May
Photos by Seng Yen Wah & Chiew Lin May
On January 10th, 2014 a six month old, male sun bear cub (Rescue No-37), was rescued from a Mini Zoo and Hot Springs in Tawau, South Eastern Sabah. Sunbearo arrived to BSBCC from Lok Kawi Zoo on the 10th of March 2014
Thin and dehydrated. His life at the Tawau Hot Spring was spent in a confinement cage. Like so many other rescued sun bears, his mother had been killed and he had been taken from the forest. Based on his teeth and malnourished appearance, it was likely he was being fed the wrong diet. His weight during the arrival was 11.6kg. Originally he was known as Tan Sri, which was the name of his owner from the Mini Zoo and Hot Spring in Tawau. Sunbearo is a special sun bear cub and has been adopted and re-named by Neways International (Australia) Pty. Huge thanks to the support from Neways International (Australia) Pty, which enables us to protect Sunbearo.
Sunbearo has a beautiful tiny crescent sun in the shape of a “V” on his chest!
He was placed into quarantine before being introduced to the other cubs of his own age.
He seemed very fragile as his muscles were not strong due to his tiny size, and he was nervous when it came to climbing. The bear care team gives him and his friends a chance to play in their dens. He was given new enrichment toys and a healthy diet.
He quickly adapted to his new home where he has become more trusting and relishes every fresh fruit. HONEY is not an exception!!
On the 24th of April 2014, Sunbearo and Loki were integrated for the first time.
He slowly started to build trust with the bears and learnt that bears can be great friends. Loki, Bintang, Montom, Susie2, Damai and Kala are Sunbearo’s bear play friends. They love playing with each other.
He enjoys having friends to share freedom experiences with. Slowly, he has put his past behind him and is learning to be a wild bear again.
A shining start to the day! On the 28th of December 2015, Sunbearo had finally overcome his fear and took his first step out on the forest soil.
It is a great pleasure to see the first glimpses of these rescued sun bears stepping out to forest for their first time! Sunbearo sniffed around the tall trees.
He knew that he deserved a better chance to express his natural behavior and learn how to become a wild bear.
He is now outside foraging, climbing and enjoying himself. He loves the opportunity and uses all his senses to forage in the soil!
Sun bears are the arboreal bear and spend their time in trees. Sunbearo and Montom will immediately climb up and wrestle on top of the trees.
His long, sickle curved claws will help him in climbing trees and scraping off tree barks for termites.
He has a strong, close bond with Loki. Sunbearo and Loki can be found loving hanging out and spending time up in the trees, watching everything going on around them.
After four years of undergoing rehabilitation at our centre, Sunbearo has grown in size, skill and confidence.
He is a fussy eater.
If there are special sweet treats in the enclosure, Sunbearo usually hoovers everything up and licks every last bit of honey without wasting it! Around feeding time at the bear house, he can often be found growling for food. But most of all, he just loves foraging for extra protein.
In regards to nest building, we have not seen any tree nest building behavior from him. He will stay a while in a nest built by Loki or Damai.
Sunbearo is doing better and is enjoying life in a natural forest.
It is amazing to see a sun bear that was literally suffering from pet trade now looking healthy, free from pain and enjoying life as a sun bear. Sun bears are threatened in Southeast Asia by rapid poaching, illegal wildlife trade and habitat destruction. Please help us fight to free the bears from their major threats. The exploitation of the greed towards this little known bear species must end.