The sick sun bear, which came to the attention of the public when a video clip of its sighting went viral earlier this year, has been found and handed over to the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC). The creature had previously eluded attempts at rescue but was finally captured by plantation workers under the guidance of SFC in Meradong district on Thursday (2nd April).
The bear was surrendered to SFC’s Swift Wildlife Action Team (SWAT) in Sibu and is expected to arrive at Matang Wildlife Centre here later on Thursday.
“The sun bear will be checked by a vet on arrival and arrangements have been made to nurse it back to health at the centre,” SFC said.
The animal was first spotted on 30th January by 4 Indonesian plantation workers, who were about to finish work at about 1pm in the plantation. At that time, they were shocked by the strange and hairless appearance of the “creature”.
Immediately, word got out that the “strange animal” was found in East Malaysia, with throngs of netizens trying to identify what it was. The news of the find set the interwebs abuzz and even made international headlines (read: AOL, AsiaOne, The Dodo, The Epoch Times)
One of the workers, Herman Tutu said that he quickly grabbed a tree branch for protection when the animal charged at them at one point.
“Initially, we thought it was a dog or monkey. When we got nearer to check, we were shocked because none of us had ever seen such a creature. I poked it using the branch to force it back into the forest when it charged at us. The animal then bit the branch and we could only watch as it ripped the tree branch away,” Herman recalled.
It was later confirmed by the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) that the “strange-looking creature” was identified as a sun bear with skin disease.
Sun bears are the smallest of the world’s eight bear species and are found throughout mainland Asia, Sumatra and Borneo. They classified as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List and are at risk of becoming endangered unless circumstances threatening their survival improve.
In Sarawak, the sun bear is protected under the Wild Life Protection Ordinance 1998.
UPDATE (5th April, 9am):
The sick sun bear found near an oil palm estate in rural Sarawak has arrived at the Matang Wildlife Centre and is under quarantine. Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) deputy general manager Oswald Braken Tisen told The Star that it is very weak, so they’re letting the bear rest.
”It is under quarantine. The only test we have done is on its faeces. Results showed parasites. We’ve adjusted medication and food accordingly,” he explained. Braken said even a blood test might be too much for the animal right now. In a week or so, more examinations would be done. The bear would need to be placed under general anaesthesia for a full check up.
“By the way, the bear is a she. She is very underweight at the moment – only about 20kg. A healthy sun bear should be 30kg to 40kg. We are also not sure of her age. Healthy ones can live up to 40 years in the wild,” Braken added.
On another note, the SFC official said members of the public are welcomed to submit name suggestions for the sick bear.
“If the public are interested, they can suggest names. They can do so via Facebook. We have never given names to bears in the past. They haven’t been as well known as orang utans,” Braken said.