The three-footed sun bear reported at The Bornean Post recently is not the first of its kind.
The photo of this three-footed sun bear was captured by camera traps set by WWF Malaysia Team in the forest of Belum-Temengor Forest Reserve, northern West Malaysia. The bear was another victim of snares set to trap wildlife illegally in the forest. All terrestrial animals that roam the forest floor- from pheasants, lizards, pangolins, mouse deer, muntjacs, sambar deer, tigers, leopards, sun bears, tapirs, to elephants, can easily become targets of snares set by poachers in this region.
Snare or “jerat” in local Malay name, is a very common method of catching wildlife in this part of the world. The snares are simple, easy to construct and set, but effective and deadly to any wildlife that comes across its path. Only a piece of wire, cable, nylon rope, or heavy fishing line is needed from the poachers and the rest of the materials are taken from the surrounding to construct a snare: a tree sampling that act as a spring, few twigs as stepping board and triggering device. These snares are set on animal trails, near water wallows, salt licks, and other important wildlife traveling paths to increase successful catch. Sometime the poachers also construct simple but effective “fences” with a few small gaps (doors) where snares are set on these gaps. The fences drive/channel wildlife traveling on the forest floor to the gaps and the deadly snares. These fences often measured hundreds of meters with several dozens to a hundred of snares set on a “snare line” are norm to keen poachers.
Victims of snares typically being killed slowly from injuries at the snare sites, after days of struggling to break free from the snares before the poachers came to check for their captures. Injuries from doing so cause excessive blood loss, broken bones, dehydration, stress, and infection. In some rare cases, other predatory species may prey upon the snared victims for an easy meal. Some animals that were slightly luckier managed to break free from snares by either pulling and twisting the snares with immense force until it was broken (imagine that snares are typically made from steel cable, wire, nylon ropes, and heavy fishing lines, breaking those tough materials are not easy tusk), or, in most cases where the snares failed to break, their caught arm or feet, “broke”. In these cases, the victims deliberately chewed their paws/arm off so that their arm/feet can be freed from the snare and escaped. The escaped victims can either die slowly from these injuries from blood loss and infection, or, their body successfully fought the infection and wounds from the missing feet/arm/leg healed, such as this sun bear featured in this newspaper article.
With more researchers studying wildlife in Southeast Asia recently, we see more and more evidence of sun bears victimized by snares in the forest. This year alone, I have known of five different cases of sun bears being injured by snares. They represent a tip of an iceberg as many of the snared victims were injured and being killed unnoticed.
These sun bears were the survivals of snared victims:
Krau Wildlife Reserve, Pahang, West Malaysia. I was on a field operation to assist a local Malaysia student trapping wild sun bear for a radio-telemetry study on March 2011, we caught this 77 kg male sun bear with a missing front paw. “Beruang kudung” or “the amputated bear” is what the local aborigines called him. The missing paw probably resulted from the bear chewed off his own paw in an attempt to escape from snare. The wound healed. The bear survived! Lucky bear indeed!
Two weeks earlier, the same team caught another male bears with old snared wound on his hind foot, and fresh snared wound on his front foot. This bear was snared at least twice!
Kerinchi National Park, Sumatra. 2011: Sun Bear researcher Wai Ming Wong from Kent University, UK., photographed this three-footed bear from camera trap. The wound on the foot was almost a clean cut like being amputated on a surgical table.
Batang Turu Forest, Sumatra. 2011: Gabriella Frederickson, a well known sun bear biologist, set up camera traps in the forest reserve and took this picture of sun bear with two snare wounds in its right arm. Obviously the bear managed to escape with minor injuries. Will this bear be so lucky the next time when it is snare again?
Belum-Temengor Forest Reserve, Perak, West Malaysia. 2011. WWF-Malaysia team working with tiger photographed this sun bear with missing paw with camera traps.
Danum Valley Conservation Area, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo. On October 2007, three collage students from Germany who visited Danum Valley Field Center, saw a wild adult sun bear sitting on a open sandy ground beside of the Segama River, and concentrated licking on its arm, without noticing the presence of the students. The students watched the bears quietly and took photos and videos of the bear from the middle of the bridge. About 5 minutes later, the bear seems to pick up some sense from the air, sniffing and then limping away slowly. When the bear change its posture, the students can clearly see the bear’s left arm has a rounded open wound and a rope imbedded, and about a foot long rope was dangling at the other end. The left shoulder of the bear seems awkward, a bit out of place. The bear left the place.
After examined the photos and video clips they took, it seem clearly that the bear has a fresh wound from a snare set by poacher. The material of the snare seem to made from thick fishing lines and snapped off when the bear was pulling hard trying to escape. The struggling to escape seem intense as the rope cut through the bear’s skin, wounded the arm, and dislocate the socket on the left arm and thus the limping and awkward shoulder. The bear has a black sleek coat but emaciated with protruding ribs, hip, and leg bones. I strongly believe that the bear will slowly die from unable to feed properly with the injured arm. Read more about this snared sun bear here.
There is no question that poaching is a big threat of the survival of many wildlife in this region including sun bear. Saving wildlife from the hand of poachers is not just the job for law enforcement agencies but a responsibility for all of us at difference levels in the society. In development countries such as all the range countries of sun bears in SE Asia, enforcement of wildlife protection laws is not a high priority because of limited resources and lack of interest from the authorities. This is why the participations by people ranging from local communities to international NGOs and individual is becoming even more important, if we were to combat poachers and save our wildlife from extinction.
Please report any unlawful poaching and wildlife exploitation activities to the local wildlife authorities. If you have more information about poaching, snaring, and other illegal activities on sun bear, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling +60 16 555 1256.
More readings in poaching and snaring activities here: