Alarms Go Off As ‘Totally Protected’ Maliau Basin Breached By Poachers

Even Maliau Basin, a totally protected area is no haven for the critically endangered Sun Bear. This bear was found with a snare wound which though deep, did not cause any of its bones to break. – Photo credit Sabah Wildlife Department Wildlife Rescue Unit 

KOTA KINABALU: No place in Sabah now seems to be safe from wildlife poaching; even Sabah’s internationally-acclaimed “lost world” – the Maliau Basin was not spared from such heinous activity as happened recently.

A critically-endangered Sun Bear with an infected snare trap wound was rescued by the Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) in the ‘Totally Protected Area’ last week (March 25) in the nick of time.

The next step after the Sun Bear was located and darted, the WRU and Maliau Basin teams brought it outside the forest so that immediate treatment could be administered to the wounds.
The Sun Bear was first spotted by Maliau Basin staff who then alerted the WRU.

It was found wondering around the Maliau Basin Studies Centre walking with a heavy limp – and most likely foraging for food.

Dr Diana Ramirez, WRU acting manager and wildlife veterinarian in confirming a social media account of the injured Sun Bear said they managed to locate and rescue the following day (Sunday) despite the heavy rain.

The reclusive Sun Bear, smallest member of the bear family, had a severely infected injury on its back, most probably caused by a sharp pointed object (bujak) and a very deep snare-trap wound with the nylon rope still strangulating his right forelimb.

The good news is that the Sun Bear can be released back to the wild once the wounds have healed, as it was initially feared that the bones could have been broken.

WRU and Maliau Basin join shoulders to do what is necessary to treat the Sun Bear.

“The rescued sun bear has been brought to Lok Kawi Wildlife Park so we may continue treating him for his serious injuries,” said Dr Ramirez, adding once he is fully recovered he would be release back into the wild.

“My biggest worry was that the snare trap wound on his right forelimb as it looked very serious at that time. But x-ray tests revealed nothing broken saying the bear was spared an amputated limb.

WRU Ranger, Ijam Ruslan showing the snare rope that was removed from the bear.

Word of the injured Sun Bear was received from the management of Maliau and once the WRU was mobilised, a rescue operation was initiated.

Maliau Basin’s Conservation and Research Officer, Grace Poungin and team showed WRU the areas where they observed the bear before, mentioning also this bear usually comes out late night once the electricity supply has been switched off.

Wildlife Rescue Unit’s quick response team together with the Maliau Basin rangers searched the whole night and managed to tranquilize the injured Sun bear.

The Sun Bear was brought back to Lok Kawi Wildlife Centre where an x-ray showed that it only suffered deep wounds and no broken bones.

“Despite the heavy rain that night, we managed to successfully locate and dart the bear and the rangers worked very hard to track the injured Sun bear in the dark,” added Dr Ramirez.

Dr Sen Nathan, SWD assistant director was fuming over the report, saying “we still have to join forces to increase the enforcement throughout Sabah’s forests to reduce poaching and these kinds of incidents in protected areas.”

This deep wound will take some time to be fully healed.

He said the Sun Bear, being a fully protected species under the State’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, it is a priority for the WRU to immediately go out to attend these kind of cases.

Sen thanked the management of Maliau Basin for reporting the Sun Bear, adding that under good hands it is under treatment and should recover in a matter of time.