Sun bears belong to the jungle
Published on: Sunday, June 16, 2019
By: Kan Yaw Chong


News of a Sun bear cub being kept as a pet in a concrete jungle – the Desa Pandan condo in Kuala Lumpur – by a 27-year-old Malay singer went viral in social media, recently, followed by swift official action to detain her.

Biologist Wong Siew Te, founder of the popular Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), in Sepilok, Sandakan, said legally speaking Malaysia seems serious about protecting Sun bears but whether law enforcement is serious is a different story. 

“Legally speaking, it is a very serious offence to keep a Sun Bear without permit. In Sabah, the maximum fine on conviction is RM250,000 or 10 years’ jail, or both, while in Peninsular Malaysia the fine is RM500,000 or five years’ jail, or both, under their Wildlife Conservation Act 2010,” Wong noted.

He thinks that even if it goes to court, the judges may take pity and not mete out the maximum punishment.

“That’s the problem in Southeast Asia, people first – animal is food or entertainment. If this attitude does not change, eventually, all wildlife will go extinct… no more. It can happen and, in fact, already happened to the Sumatra rhino,” Wong said. 

“The latest estimate puts the Sun bear population at 500 in Malaysia. One female Sun bear produces only three to four babies in her lifetime while the birth cycle of the orangutan female is eight years, unlike wild boars which can give birth from 10 to 14 piglets per litter,” Wong noted.

“That’s why as biologists, we are very worried because only very few babies are born to the sun bear or the orangutan.

Like the Sumatran rhino, it’s not like putting the male and female together they’ll mate and breed,” Wong noted.

For the reasons above the laws in protection of these animals should be applied with equal fervour.

“The best is don’t touch them, promote them for ecotourism and keep poachers out.”           

 

‘The latest estimate puts the Sun bear population at 500 in Malaysia.’



In the wild, Sun bear cubs follow their mothers closely.

In the KL case, Wong suspects someone had killed the mother and sold the cub which the singer took home as pet.

“This kind of behaviour need to stop not only because it is a very big offence but because it is potentially very dangerous. The cub will grow up and start destroying and biting everything,” he said.      

“Humans need to understand that animals are animals. This is a wild animal, it has certain innate characteristics of which attacking might be one, citing a friend who worked in a Sun bear refuge in Kalimantan who lost a finger in a Sun bear attack. 

There are many stories of people who thought wild pets which grew up them would regard them as friends, citing one father who bought a tiger cub as birthday present for the daughter who ended up being killed by the grown-up tiger eventually.        

Wong also said Sun bear cubs require specialised “carnivore formula” if their mothers are not with them.

This formula must contain high protein and fat levels to replace its mother’s milk.

“While it (the cub) will love anything sweet, such as chocolate, it is not their natural food.

Singer Zarith said she had fed it chocolate.

An adult sun bear would typically gorge on wild fruits, honey or invertebrate such as worms and beetles.

“Like a human baby, all mammal babies are supposed to be given milk and shelter. They require a lot of care.

“The cub (kept by Zarith) was in an alien environment and will be traumatised,” he said. 

 

The antics of Sun bears in the wild. (pic: BSBCC)



He said it would take months to gain the confidence and to bond with cubs that were sent to the conservation centre.

Meanwhile, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (Perhilitan) director-general Datuk Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said they had taken Zarith’s statement.

“Our legal adviser will decide whether there will be a charge. If she is charged, they will have to decide under which section,” he said.

The bear, which was rescued on Friday, has been sent to the National Wildlife Rescue Centre in Sungkai, Perak, for quarantine and treatment purposes

The cub, aged about five to seven months, is said to be in good health as he was not found to have sustained any injuries.

Perhilitan’s analysis estimated that there are only about 300 to 500 living sun bears in Malaysia as of 2018.

Sun bear is a protected species under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.





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