By BORNEOTODAY REPORTERS
KUCHING: A grisly sight awaited early morning shoppers at the Lubok Antu ‘pasar tamu’, at the Sri Aman Division, Sunday morning.
A loveable ‘protected’ Sun Bear had been butchered into pieces for sale to those who –sickeningly – still enjoy exotic meat, much to the chagrin of animal lovers and conservationists who were disgusted to see the offering.
While many shoppers seemed unconcerned, one of them was riled up enough to take a photo and send it on to Wong Siew Te, the founder and CEO of Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sandakan.
Obviously devastated by the senseless butcher of the Sun Bear for a quick buck, Wong had this advice for the authorities in Sarawak:
“If this killing continues, soon the Sun Bear will be following in the footsteps of the Sumatran rhino (there are only two known left in Sabah).
“Already in most parts of Sarawak, the Sun Bear has become locally extinct due to large scale deforestation and uncontrolled poaching,” he told BorneoToday Sunday.
A BorneoToday reader in Sarawak, when contacted, agreed with Wong that bush meat is easily available in most parts of Sarawak, especially the rural and far flung areas where enforcement is virtually nil.
“Perhaps the authorities are not concerned with this issue,” he said, seeking anonymity. “If one bothers to search, it is relatively easy to get bush meat because the natives who catch them just want some money.
“To them they do not realise the true value of these protected species when kept alive. They know that there are (educated) people who will be ever ready to snap up such meat. The authorities must educate the natives and come down hard on those who consume such meat.”
The Sun Bear is the smallest species of bear in the world and it is also one of the most unique, being the only member of its family that has not only adapted to living in the jungle but also leads an exclusively tree-dwelling life.
Also known as the Malaysian Sun Bear and the Honey Bear, the Sun Bear has a number of distinctive features most notably the orange U-shaped marking on its chest from which it gets its name.
Sun Bears have been hunted mainly for the use of certain of their body parts, particularly their gall-bladders, in local Asian medicine markets (which has also been the main reason for the drastic declines in nearly all other bear species too).
Due to their small size and generally docile nature, Sun Bears have also been captured to be sold into the exotic pet trade around the world.
However, the biggest problem for the Sun Bear today is the fact that it has lost vast areas of its once extensive natural habitat to deforestation for logging and land clearance for agriculture.
Wong spends his time looking after rescued and orphaned Sun Bears at his conservation centre, and any death of this species, is one too many.
“Obviously this is illegal (of the selling of Sun Bear meat at Lubok Antu); sadly the Sun Bear is just a “protected species” (in Sarawak) and not a totally protected species,” he said.
“The penalty for killing, selling, keeping etc a Sun Bear and other protected (only) species is RM10,000 or 1 year imprisonment. It is not deterrent enough.”
According to Wong this penalty is the same as killing a Rajah Brooke’s birdwing butterfly.
“This is literally unfair if a Sun Bear is being protected as a butterfly. A female Sun Bear can only produce four to five cubs in her entire lifetime; their population cannot withstand any type of hunting pressure,” he said.
Apart from large scale deforestation and uncontrolled poaching, Wong pointed out that the remaining ‘protected areas’ are either too small or heavily poached for the “remaining” wildlife that still thriving for their (Sun Bear) survival.
“This kind of poaching should be stopped, if we are to have our endangered wildlife such as the Sun Bear, Orangutan, clouded leopard, pangolin and many other more.
“The public is urged not to buy and consume protected wildlife like the Sun Bear. They are also urged to report any wrong doing if they encounter any illegal activities such as poaching, selling, consuming, and keeping protected species.
Wong also urged the Sarawak State government to upgrade the protected status of the Sun Bear from “protected” to “totally protected” where the penalty is a lot higher; and seriously enforce the wildlife protected laws as the authority enforce human civil laws.