Malaysia: Sun bears Damai and Debbie released back to the wild

muguntan vanar The Star 8 Mar 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Two rescued Malayan sun bears were released back into the wild at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve near Lahad Datu.

The two adult females, named Damai and Debbie, adapted quickly to their new surroundings, said Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) founder and chief executive director Dr Wong Siew Te on Thursday (March 8).

They were once kept as pets by private owners. Damai and Debbie were rehabilitated to life in the forest at BSBCC where they learned important skills like climbing, digging and finding food over the past few years.

"They have learnt so well that they were chosen out of the 44 bears at the centre, as the first releases in 2018," Dr Wong said.

He added that both bears were fitted with GPS satellite collars to help BSBCC monitor their movements.

After a final medical check on Tuesday (March 6), the two bears were transported from BSBCC in Sepilok at about 3am the next day in four vehicles.

They were then taken to a helipad at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve headquarters some 150km away.

A helicopter airlifted the bears to be transported to the chosen release site in the middle of the reserve.

The project was a joint effort between the Sabah Wildlife Department and the Sabah Forestry Department.

"Damai and Debbie may face many challenges to survive but this is the best life we can offer them in the hope they can propagate and maintain a healthy sun bear population in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve," Dr Wong said.

"I am sad to say goodbye, because we have raised them, but they are now where they belong and that makes the team very happy," he added.

Sun bears, which continue to face threat from poachers, is a totally protected species under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.

BSBCC hopes to release two more bears later this year in Sabah.

BSBCC raises money from tourism to care for the bears at Sepilok, but the additional costs of release are very high.

A fundraising campaign opens today. To help sun bears to freedom go to bsbcc.org.my/donate.


Two protected Malayan sun bears released into their natural habitat
AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 8 Mar 18;

SANDAKAN: Two Malayan sun bears have been released into the wild after undergoing about six years of rehabilitation at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) near Sepilok here.

The adult female sun bears nicknamed Debbie and Damai were released into the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu, yesterday.

The protected species were among 44 sun bears currently cared for by BSBCC.

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre founder Dr Wong Siew Te (front right) with his team moving the translocation cage into the forest to release two sun bears.
They were placed at the BSBCC in January and November in 2012 respectively, shortly after being rescued.

Debbie was purchased by a man from Tuaran and was surrendered to the Sabah Wildlife Department while Damai was found wandering in a car park near Kota Kinabalu.

Penang-born wildlife biologist Dr Wong Siew Te, who is also founder of BSBCC, said the bears were fitted with Global Positioning System satellite collars, enabling the centre to monitor their movements on a regular basis.

“On March 6, a final medical check-up was conducted by Dr Nabila Sarkawi. Then the following day at 3am, we left Sepilok in four vehicles and drove to the helipad at Tabin Wildlife Reserve Headquarters.

“The cages (with the bears inside) were transported by cargo net hanging below a helicopter. They travelled high above the treetops to the identified release site at the mud volcano in the middle of the reserve,” he said.

At the release site, the bear cages were moved under the forest canopy where they were opened, giving the two bears their much-awaited freedom, Wong added.

The release was a joint effort between the BSBCC, Sabah Wildlife Department, and Sabah Forestry Department.

“We were very lucky the weather was very favourable and the sun bears were delivered to the release site by helicopter with ease.

“Damai and Debbie may face many challenges to survive but this is the best life we can offer them in the hope that they can propagate and maintain a healthy sun bear population in Tabin Wildlife Reserve,” said Wong.

The sun bear is a totally protected species under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997. Offenders are liable to a fine of not less than RM50,000 but not exceeding RM250,000 and a jail term of not less than one year but not exceeding five years or to both for the possession of a sun bear or any of its parts.

Since 2008, BSBCC has cared for 56 sun bears, nine of which died from various causes, while two others were released into the wild after rehabilitation.

Another wild adult sun bear escaped after 16 hours at BSBCC.

Wong said the centre is expected to release another two sun bears this year, adding that BSBCC raised money from tourism to care for the bears.

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