Text By Seng Yen Wah
Photos By Tee Thye Lim, Chiew Lin May & Seng Yen Wah
On the 18th of September 2018, a human-bear conflict report was made by a village known as Abai, situated at the Kinabatangan River, Sabah, Borneo. The report was about a Wild Sun Bear who entered into a house’s kitchen looking for food. The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) with the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) decided to take action and investigated this case.
In order to protect the humans in the village as well as the bears, a bear trap was set. The bear entered the trap on the same day at 11 pm. The bear was darted and a body check-up was carried out on site by Dr.Nabila, a veterinarian from SWD. The bear is male, who weighed 39.6kg. An open wound was found on his left front leg. Four of his paws were found cracked and roughed. Due to his health condition, he was transferred to Sepilok for further treatment before relocating to another site.
The bear is named as ES because he has been found at the village just 300m away from the ESCOM base camp. He was then renamed as Ace and marked as the 59th bear to have been rescued by BSBCC. Ace was staying in quarantine whilst his health improved and keepers were monitoring him closely. A full body check-up was conducted again after two weeks by Dr. Nabila and Dr.Reza, a veterinarian from Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA). Even though his front leg had healed well, his paws remained cracked and rough, however, we now believe this feature may be due to natural adaptation. After the medical check-up, a satellite collar was installed on him. The satellite collar is used to monitor his movement in the forest.
The last health check is conducted on him and found his wound clean and almost fully closed. Now he weighs 45.25kg with collar. After 46 days of treatment, we are very happy to share the news that Ace, the wild bear, will finally be back to the wild again. Today (6th of November 2018), he is being released back to Kinabatangan by boat, with the help of the team comprised of staff from of SWD, BORA and BSBCC. Ace was transferred to the translocation cage one day before we released him back to the wild. The team is gearing up at 5 am. We load up Ace and started to head to the Jetty that is located in Sandakan town. The day is cloudy and started to rain before we reach our release site. It took some time to find a suitable release site to load down the translocation cage. This is because the cage with Ace in weighs more than 100kg and is difficult to carry on and off the boat. Eventually all is ready and the time came to pull the rope that released Ace from the translocation cage, back into his natural forest home. When the door of the translocation cage opened, Ace climbed up the cage and looked at all the staff, as if he was saying goodbye and thank you for our help. He then quickly ran into the forest and finally, disappeared in front of us all, returning to his natural home. Stay healthy and stay wild, Ace!
This year, we have received a few reports about the human-bear conflict within the different states of Sabah. We believe the conflicts happen due to the loss of the natural habitat allowing for the diminishing of Sun bear food sources. As a result, Sun Bears are increasingly going near the crops and plantations, even housing areas, in order to find food for surviving. Yet, the villagers are maintaining their life through crops and plantation. So here, if you know any human-sun bear conflict or if it is happening to you, please contact SWD or BSBCC and please do not get close to the bear and never injure or kill the bear. First, Sun Bear is a totally Protected Species in Sabah under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment of 1997. Second, the bear might get aggressive and they could attack you when they feel threatened. Just bear in mind!