Sun Bear Action Plan Proposed For Sabah

Members of the Technical Working Group on Sun Bear Action Plan for Sabah (Copyright: DGFC).

KOTA KINABALU: International and local scientists, government officers as well as NGO players convened for the past two days at a local hotel here to identify major recommendations for the conservation of the Malayan sun bear in Sabah.

These will be included in a State Action Plan, just a few months after three other plans, for the proboscis monkey, the Sunda clouded leopard and the Bornean banteng, were approved by the State Cabinet.

For the next two days, Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) are jointly organizing the 2nd International Symposium on Sun Bear Conservation and Management.

A wild sun bear in a protected area in Sabah (Copyright: DGFC).

Experts from the region will present updates on sun bear population status in the different species range countries such as Cambodia, India, Indonesia (Sumatra and Kalimantan), Lao, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam and West Malaysia, said Dr Wong Siew Te, CEO of BSBCC.

“Several open forums will present the opportunity to discuss some critical issues on sun bear conservation such as poaching and trade; sun bear release, translocation and monitoring; sun bear captive breeding; implementation of Global Status Review and Sun Bear Conservation Action Plan; and ex-situ research prioritization,”he said.

Wild sun bear sustaining injuries to a snare in Danum Valley (Copyright: BSBCC).

“On the second day of the symposium, we will present to the different stakeholders the several recommendations we plan to include in a Sun Bear Action Plan for Sabah.”

ProfessorBenoit Goossens, DGFC director said they hoped to come up with a long-term vision for the future of the sun bears in the wild in Sabah.

“Uncontrolled hunting of sun bears for Traditional Chinese Medicine, pet trade and habitat loss and fragmentation are considered to be the major threats to the survival of the sun bear in Sabah,” added Professor Goossens.

Carcass of a sun bear poached in the Kinabatangan.

“It is therefore critical to increase effectiveness of enforcement on the ground, improve the intelligence of the different government departments, and establish connectivity between sun bear populations in the state.”

For the past year, the Sabah Wildlife Department has worked with its partners to produce conservation action plans for most of the Schedule 1’s (Totally Protected) terrestrial species.

Last May, the State Cabinet adopted the proboscis monkey, Sunda clouded leopard and Bornean banteng action plans 2019-2028.

Sun bear gallbladder sold in Gaya Street, Kota Kinabalu. A sun bear was killed in order to retrieve this gallbladder (Copyright: Wong Siew Te/BSBCC).

The Elephant Action Plan and Orangutan Action Plan 2020-2029 are being finalized, and focus is now on producing the Sun Bear Action Plan 2020-2029.

“It is crucial that those three new plans are adopted and implemented by the Sabah state government as they are backed by scientific research and expert opinions as well as input from industry leaders and several government departments,” added Professor Goossens.

Wild sun bear that was snared in Maliau Basin and venturing at the research centre. The animal was rescued by Wildlife Rescue Centre, treated and released back in Maliau (Copyright: Diana Ramirez/WRU).

The Technical Working Group Meeting on the Sun Bear Action Plan and the 2nd International Symposium on Sun Bear Conservation and Management were funded by BSBCC and DGFC.

The organizations that contributed to the two-day technical working group meeting on the sun bear action plan were Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Foundation, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, Danau Girang Field Centre, WWF Malaysia, TRAFFIC, Animals Asia, Free the Bears and Sunway University.