I once saw a bear cub in a crocodile farm in Sarawak. From a distant he looked like a puppy because she was place next to a puppy. But from my distance, she did not look like a puppy because she paced none stopped. Puppy rarely paced, but sun bear pace all the time in captivity. Her condition was a typical bear cub in captivity: malnutrition with very pale color coat, weak, dehydration, stress, and extremely nervous. I immediately put my finger into her month to let her suckle.
Sun bear cub suckle to seek comfort. It is the same reason as babies like to suck pacifier. If their mother is around, they of course nurse from their mother’s nipples, even until they reach adulthood. I once saw an adult sun bear in Singapore Zoo do that even when he was an adult.
Solitary captive bears suck on pretty much any body part that they can get hold of: hand, feet, even their own penis, vulva, or other bears’ ears, if they have a companion to stay with. They will admit a series of “ummmmmmm..” sound with their eyes half closed when suckle. This is pretty much the first thing I do when I approached a nervous captive bear cubs, let them suckle, they then will calm down quickly and slowly trusting me.
Like other animals, infant sun bears are very fragile creatures that need lots of care, attention, and nutrition. In captivity under human care, they usually receive very little of these essential elements, not to mention TLC that their mother use to give them. Unknown number of cubs died due to improper care, simply because of these so call bear owners do not have a clue how to take care and what to feed to baby bears. Many of them were given sweet condense milk, high fruity diet like lots of papaya and banana because they are cheap. Because of imbalance diet, many sun bear babies in captivities show signs of malnutrition and unhealthy. They did not have sleek black coat, but in stead, their hairs are sparse, dull, and pale color. Many of the cubs that looks like this will not live long.
In Indonesia or Thailand, high government officials often keep bears or other wildlife to simply show off their power and status. In other region, rich people buy those cubs to amuse them. However, bears are carnivores, no matter how cute and how tame they are when young, they will eventually turn into a dangerous beast no matter what given a year or two. They are well equipped with the tools to harm their owner or anyone who are less lucky. Sometime these casualties maybe not be an intentional attack or predatory behavior, they are simply the beasts that can cause serious injuries to human during bear play fights. This is what they are after all!
(Notes: it was uneasy for me when I posted this piece after searching through my old photo files of these sun bears cubs. Looking at the photos and video clips of these babies were absolutely heart broken! They brought me to the actual scene when I found these babies.)