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Monday, March 30, 2009

Protecting the world’s least-known bear

Posted by: WPZ Field Conservation staff

Southeast Asia is home to the world’s smallest bear species, the Malayan sun bear. These little bears face big threats throughout their range, especially from forest destruction, illegal hunting, and the capturing of small cubs for pets.

Luckily this unique bear has a champion and protector in Siew Te Wong, a Malaysian researcher and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Montana. Woodland Park Zoo has helped support Wong and his field work in Sabah, Borneo for several years. As one of the very few people studying the sun bear, Wong has uncovered many fascinating aspects of sun bear ecology. Sadly, though, his research also brought him first-hand experience of the inhumane treatment of sun bears kept as pets.

Wong’s deep concern for these animals has inspired a new and ambitious project: the creation of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center, a partnership between the Sabah Wildlife Department, the Sabah Forestry Department and nonprofit LEAP (Land Empowerment Animals People). The center will rehabilitate and release suitable ex-captive bears back into the wild, provide an improved long-term living environment for captive bears that cannot be released, and educate local people about the species. The project is endorsed by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Sun Bear Species Survival Plan.

Read Wong’s field blog to learn more about sun bears in the wild. And you can also visit sun bears at Woodland Park Zoo.

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