Eastbourne woman fights for caged sunbear | Stuff.co.nz

Eastbourne woman fights for caged sunbear | Stuff.co.nz

Small steps: Carol Gorham of Lowry Bay hopes Lower Hutt schools and residents will get behind her campaign to help build a new enclosure for Jonny the sun bear.

A Lower Hutt woman was so moved by the plight of an Indonesian sun bear she's started a fundraising campaign to build it a new enclosure.

Carol Gorham has never seen Jonny the bear in person, but conservationist friends emailed her about his plight, and sent her photos from his home in Seblat near Bengkulu city on Indonesia's Sumatran island.

''His cage is two metres by one, which is really tiny for him. He can barely stand up in it, and he's out in the hot sun as well, which is awful,'' Mrs Gorham says. Sun bears can reach five foot when standing.

Unfortunately Sumatran jungles, which still house some of the world's biggest wild animals like tigers, bears and elephants, are seen as easy targets for poachers.

Mrs Gorham's friends are on the island working to rescue elephants and say the bear was formerly an illegal pet that was confiscated.

He is now being cared for by a veterinarian who works at the Elephant Conservation Centre in Seblat, but with no facilities and no finances to buy proper feed, Jonny's not being kept in ideal conditions.

''When I read about it it's really upsetting, and I thought I can try and do something for this one,'' she says.

''It annoys me when people say it's only one bear, that's not the point.''

Jonny is not a wild bear, so Mrs Gorham's first thought was that a zoo would be the best place for him. Unfortunately, after making extensive enquiries, all the zoos she called in Indonesia are not able to take him.

''They are very poor, and have poor conditions, and just can't take another one, so I'm trying to find funding.''

Mrs Gorham says she hopes to raise an initial $3,000 to take care of basic costs for Jonny, like food and medical care and to draw up plans for a suitable enclosure to be built for him. In the long term she would like to raise a total of $10,000 to build the enclosure.

She hopes Lower Hutt schools might take up the cause by learning about Jonny and holding fundraising events.

She is also selling a range of skincare products each week at the Eastbourne market and on TradeMe, with all the profits going to Jonny's cause.

While Ms Gorham says she's in this for the long haul and recognises the project may take a couple of years, she says one day there's the potential for the rescue centre Jonny is living at to be turned into a popular ecotourism attraction, and hopes a new cage for Jonny might help.

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The same vet that is caring for Jonny is also looking after a rare Sumatran tiger that was found caught in a trap in the jungle, and had to have both front paws amputated, she says. ''That needs help too, but you've got to start somewhere.''

Carol Gorham's can also be contacted about the fundraising project for Jonny on 589 9050 or carol.gorham@xtra.co.nz

- Hutt News

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