Save The Malaysian Sun Bear

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Malaysian Sun Bears – We have to act NOW!

​A lot of people go to Borneo well aware of the plight of the Indonesian Orangutan. What most people don't realise is that the Sun Bears are facing a similar outcome if things don't change, and change quickly.

Visiting the Sun Beach Centre is a must do while visiting Malaysian Borneo. While the Sun Bear is very much the poor cousin to the Orangutans as far as publicity is concerned, their plight is real and just as important.

A visit to the Sun Bear centre leaves you bitterly disappointed in the human race. The orangutans are very human like, and while they are a wild animal if they are taken into captivity early enough, they can be trained and re-released into the wild over the space of a few years.

Not so with Sun Bears. They aren't cute and cuddly like the Orangutans – well actually that's not true – they are delightful, but those claws and teeth mean that the idiots who keep them make sure they are kept in cages when not performing. Even when they are out of the cages, they are collared and handled with violence. Electric shock is a common form of punishment for any action that isn't deemed “cute”.

Apart from being kept as pets or trained for performing, they are also captured and kept alive while having their bile harvested. I'm in tears writing this and it's been weeks since I visited the park.

Sun Bear Rehab Centre in Sepilok, Borneo

The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) is a rescue and rehabilitation facility in Sabah, in Malaysian Borneo. These Sun Bears only found in south east Asia are the smallest bears in the world which sadly makes them quite the target for poaching, bear parts and also for their cubs, which are stolen and sold as pets!

Once of the largest risks to the Sun Bear is deforestation for Palm Oil plantations. Large swathes of their habitat is routinely buldozed with little care for the Sun Bears or any other native animals.

The park is equiped to handle 40 bears and they have 37 at present. 28 they are considered juveniles and 9 adult bears. Their system is very well thought out and their handlers are clearly very knowledgeable and amazingly committed, however of the 37 bears they have, they expect to release 3 back into the wild this year.


That's three bears back into an environment that is decreasing by the day. Palm plantations are overtaking forest. Dodgy “sustainably grown” certificates are bought off the authorities and more plantations go ahead. The punishments for being caught keeping or harming the bears can be overcome with bribes and clearly the Government while in principle is working toward animal conservation, is still people, and people can be bought, especially in a society where that is the norm in how to get things done.

​The handlers are amazing but you can tell extremely frustrated. They have a series of pens which house the bears. The juveniles are kept in one and the adult bears in another. I say pens because they are fenced but they are acres in size. The bears go through a system that involves less and less human contact and less and less nutritional support. Eventually they go to the “back paddock” so to speak which at present has 4 bears. They are watched closely and if after six months they are fending for themselves and need no further help, they are slotted for release.

Even the release is planned to a T. Its done in secret, no-one but one handler knows where the bear is being released and they don't track them at all. Once they are gone they just hope never to see that bear again. So sad that the risk to these bears is so great that they can't even monitor them for fear that information will be used to find and recapture the bear.

What can you do?

Very sadly some of these bears will never leave. You see people come and see the bears and you see them leave with not a further thought about them. While the centre needs the entry fees to help in their costs, it would be great if everyone that visited donated something little extra.

It wouldn't have to be much, but anything on top of the entry fee is pure cop and so much can be done with that money.

You can see some visitors don't even really care about the bears fate. They treat it like a zoo. Pay / See / Take Photo / Leave. Tick – off the list.

Please consider donating just a few dollars as every little bit helps. Money talks in this part of the world and the Sun Bears need all the help they can get.

An Interesting Fact

The Sun Bear's golden necklace is different from one bear to the next. It is never identical to another bear and while they look the same to us, the handlers get so familiar with the bears that they can instantly recognise them from their necklace.

​We all need to maintain a much higher level of awareness in how our day to day lives affects things way beyond those things that we see. Knowing that the shampoo you use is decmating an endangered species habitat should be enough, but we have to know. We have to act and we have to act now.

This bear on the bottom left above will never leave the refuge. He is just too trained. You see everyone so excited when he sits up and stares at you but he's not doing that naturally, he does it because it was beaten badly if he didn't. Every single person that comes close – he performs for. At least he is safe now and hopefully over time will loose the need to perform. Hopefully…

Share this please. If just one person for each of you rethinks their use of Palm Oil or dontates $20 to the cause, it will help. Animals are at our mercy. We are the only ones that can change their lives. I think its important that we do just that.

Donate – There are quite a few Adoption programs that are great and very needed, however what most of the programs need is cash donations to help claw back forested areas. After talking to rangers at both the Orangutan and Sun Bear Centres, my advice would be do donate cash. If they can stop the destruction of their habitat and maintain their local education program for farmers in the area's they can save these animals in the wild which is the ultimate goal.

Jenny Marsden - Charge The Globe
About the author

Meet Jenny, a passionate Australian travel blogger who has explored 103 countries to date. With over 30 years of travel experience, Jenny has a wealth of knowledge to share with her readers about the cultures, landscapes, and people she has encountered on her journeys. She's always battling unfashionably frizzy hair and you will never catch Jenny in anything but comfortable shoes. Learn more about Jenny and her travels.

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