Malaysia: In the dark over sun bears

Kristy Inus New Straits Times 30 Apr 12;

CONSERVATION CENTRE: Lack of awareness and data on species hampering efforts

KOTA KINABALU: IT has been more than three years but not many know about the existence of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sandakan.

The facility located near the existing Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre (SOURC) is an effort to provide care, rehabilitation and eventual release of orphaned and captive sun bears.

With on-going work to develop the 2.5ha park continuing, the facility hopes to address the lack of knowledge and awareness about this little-known species, said chief executive officer Wong Siew Te.

Wong, 43, who had conducted research on the species of bear at Danum Valley (Lahad Datu) for six years, said despite the knowledge that the bear population in the peninsula and Sabah was declining, there was no data on the exact number of the sun bears remaining in the wild.

According to the website dedicated to the centre at, the Malayan sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) found only in south-east Asia, is the world's smallest bear species.

The Bornean sun bear (Helarctos malayanus euryspilus) is known to be the only sub-species of sun bear, and is distinctly smaller.

"While they are facing extinction due to habitat destruction following deforestation and humans taking their cubs as pets, there is also the issue of lack of exposure and very little study done on these bears.

"There is also the threat of bear-poaching for commercial exploitation. The fact that sun bears have a slow reproductive life -- a female bear which can produce five cubs in her lifetime would be considered very productive -- also contributes towards its low population density," he added.

There are currently 25 bears at the centre, all seized by the Wildlife Department from people who kept them as pets.

As for funding, he said the centre had received RM5 million. He said RM2 million came from the government and the rest from the private sector.

More about the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre