The Bornean Sun Bear is the smallest and one of the rarest of the world's eight bear species. This subspecies is unique to the island of Borneo, and is in serious danger of becoming extinct in the wild due to severe habitat loss and poaching. No one can even estimate how many are surviving in the heart of Borneo, but the number is certainly dangerously low. These bears are integral parts of the rainforest ecosystem, as they disperse seeds, aerate the soil, control insect numbers and create nest holes for hornbills and other creatures as they excavate termite nests. They are also a main component of the soul and character of intact Borneo wilderness. We may lose the sun bear before the majority of people on earth even knew they existed.
The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center (BSBCC) near Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, established in 2008, is fighting for the sun bear with very limited funding, but has so far achieved miraculous things. They focus on educating the public on the issue, rescuing orphaned bears, or those confiscated by local authorities from the illegal pet trade, and rehabilitating them through introduction into semi wild enclosures. The final goal of the center is what sets them apart in my opinion from other animal welfare organizations- releasing bears that have regained wild instincts back into the wild to bolster numbers and genetic health of existing wild populations.
BSBCC has already released a bear into the wild named Natalie and she survived, and was tracked by radio collar for 2 months until she slipped the collar. It is thought by most that she is still doing well. The second candidate for release, a female named Lawa, has been ready since last June, but the funds are not there. The new target-date for release has now been pushed to August, but only if the money is raised before then. I cant help but think that every year her release is delayed, it is another year of potential motherhood wasted.
Lawa, which means gorgeous in Malay, is a nine year wild-born female who was found as an orphaned cub. It is thought that her mother was killed by a poacher, but this is not clear. She has taken well to the BSBCC’s strategies of learning her natural instincts, spending all of her time in the forest enclosure, and never returning to her “bear house” like many of the other bears. She is an excellent climber, builds nests in trees to sleep, forages for termites and other insects, and shows a healthy disassociation and avoidance of humans, which is a crucial behavior for released bears. LET’S GET HER OUT THERE!
Why does Lawa need to get back to the forest asap?
1. The center has reached its carrying capacity of 40 bears as of today April 27, 2016. No more bears will enter the program until bears are released, or the center expands.
2. The wild population needs help. We hope Lawa can enrich the gene pool of the population.
3. Lawa deserves to be wild and has proven herself to be ready for release.
4. Each time a bear is released, and its progress is tracked, we learn how to better the chances to rebuild wild populations. Practice makes perfect.
5. Raising funds for her release will show the world that there are supporters who believe wild populations of sun bears are important. Currently, funding conservation of other more charismatic species, such as orangutans and elephants, overshadows the efforts for these very special bears.
Where do the funds go? Releasing a bear into the extremely remote region chosen, Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah, Malaysia, requires hugely expensive helicopter transport, radio tracking with the newest, most specialized equipment, and the cost of sending and housing specialized staff to the remote location. All funds go directly to BSBCC, through my US paypal account transfer.
To read about the BSBCC, visit their website- http://www.bsbcc.org.my/
To read more about Wong Siew Te, the pioneer sun bear biologist and founder of the BSBCC, check out this article “The Sun Bear Hero of Sabah” - http://www.alaskabearsandwolves.com/the-sun-bear-hero-of-sabah/
Thank you wildlife lovers for your time!
- Gerhard Joerres
- Renate Bresser
- Dilys Hunt