Time is running out for the world’s smallest bear, the little known Malayan Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus). Originally widespread through southeast Asia, Borneo is now one of the few remaining strongholds of this charismatic jungle-dependent mammal.
But its home is fast diminishing; habitat loss and degradation is pushing this bear to the brink, with only about 10,000 animals remaining. Sun Bears are also illegally hunted for food and medicines, shot to prevent damage to crops and villages and poached to capture small cubs for the pet trade.
If these trends continue, Sun Bears just won’t make it!
Rehabilitation in action
However, in Sabah, an East Malaysian state on the island of Borneo, an innovative project is taking shape which aims to provide a holistic approach to Sun Bear conservation, combining improved facilities for captive bears with increased public awareness both locally and internationally and, perhaps most importantly, release back into the forest of individuals which can be rehabilitated or are still ‘wild’.
Under the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Program, a Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) will be established at Sepilok, home of the world famous Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, near Sandakan. Here, Sun Bears which have been rescued from captivity (usually expets, orphans or victims of human-bear conflicts) will be housed and cared for in natural enclosures before being released, where ever possible, back into the wild.
No such facility currently exists and with increasing numbers of Sun Bears being confiscated or held in captivity it is imperative to provide better welfare, greater awareness of this flagship species and, ultimately, a chance for a life back in the forest.
How you can help
The BSBCC is seeking funding for construction costs and Years One and Two of operations. This will encompass the building of a specially designed bear house and the fencing of spacious natural forest enclosures, an office cum visitor centre and quarantine area and construction of a boardwalk and observation
platform, plus staffing, bear food and veterinary costs.
Sun Bears need all the help they can get . Your support in funding the establishment and operations of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre will go a long way to ensuring a more humane, secure and longterm future for this precious animal.
In our next blog, we will tell you more about how the idea of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre came about.