Malaysian Bear Suspected of Dying of Poisoned Fruit Had Rowdy Youth


February 22, 2013, 7:54 PM

By Celine FernandezThe bear suspected of dying this week after eating poisoned fruit at a zoo in southwest Malaysia had been caught about a dozen years ago after disturbing crops and farmers.


Malacca Zoo and Night Safari
Police suspect that Lala, a sun bear living in a Malaysian zoo, died after eating poisoned fruit.New details emerged late this week about “Lala,” a sun bear who is believed to have been about 14-to-16 years old at her death. When workers at the Malacca Zoo and Night Safari saw her foaming at the mouth and in convulsions, her mate, Kiki, was hovering over her.
Police have a suspect in the case – an unidentified former owner of another zoo. Police say the man – who is also accused of poisoning a retired race horse at the zoo Sunday – was pursuing a vendetta because he was angry that his zoo had been shut down due to alleged animal negligence and had its animals taken away. Neither Lala nor the race horse – which was being housed at the zoo by a private owner – had been at the other zoo, according to authorities.
Tests are being conducted on samples taken from Lala and the horse to aid in the investigation.
“The sun bear was caught and placed in [the zoo] because it damaged crops and was a threat to the safety of farmers,” Zaaba Zainol Abidin, a deputy director at the Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks, told The Wall Street Journal.

The suspected poisonings happened only a month after worldwide attention focused on the suspected poisoning deaths of 14 pygmy elephants – an endangered species – at a Malaysian forest reserve.

The sun bear – known for a tan “necklace” on its chest – has rapidly declined in population as its habitat has been taken away by developers. But that is where its similarity ends with the pygmy elephant, which can never be legally hunted.
Three wildlife protection laws apply to the sun bear, according to Wong Siew Te, the CEO and founder of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. In West Malaysia and Sabah, the sun bear is a “totally protected” species under the Wildlife Conservation Act of 2010, which applies to all of Malaysia, and the Wildlife Conservation Enactment of 1997, which is enforced only in Sabah. In Sarawak, the sun bear is a “protected” species under the Sarawak Wild Life Protection Ordinance of 1998, but hunters can kill them with a license issued by the Sarawak Forestry Department.

Mr. Wong argues that Lala should be treated as a “totally protected” sun bear due to her death in West Malaysia.

“The penalty should be significant [to anyone found guilty of her suspected poisoning] to deter future offenders,” Mr. Wong told The Wall Street Journal in an email reply to questions.

The penalty can be up to five years imprisonment and a fine.
Meanwhile, in the suspected elephant poisonings, Raymond Alfred, the head of research at the Borneo Conservation Trust, a state-mandated non-governmental organization in Sabah, is calling for a ban on the use of chemical-based pesticides and herbicides near protected forests.

“We suspect the source of the poison could be due to the pesticide or herbicides, which is based on our knowledge of the elephants ranging, sources of food, etcetera,” Mr. Alfred said.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Martin Lugu, who is leading an investigation into the deaths of the elephants, said investigators “hope to wrap it up soon.”

Two rare Malayan sun bears found in abandoned Cambodian garment factory

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, February 22, 2013 9:15 EST


Topics: Malayan sun bear ? Malayan sun bears ? Wildlife Alliance
 Two rare Malayan sun bears have been rescued in Cambodia after being discovered in an abandoned garment factory, a zoo official said Friday.
The male and female bears were rescued by officials from the Phnom Tamao Zoo and the Wildlife Alliance, who found them in the factory in southern Kandal province last week, according to zoo director Nhek Rattanak Pich.
“The bears were left with no food and no one to care for them after the factory owner fled the country,” the Wildlife Alliance said on its website.

The group said local authorities had called them after the bears were found in purpose-built cages at the factory, which closed without notice in December.
The bears are now being cared for at the zoo, its director said, adding that he did not know why they had been kept at the factory.
The Malayan sun bear is found primarily in Southeast Asia and is classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Bears are among many species that have been decimated by wildlife trafficking in Asia, which is fuelled in large part by China’s massive appetite for exotic meats and animal parts for traditional medicine.

A dip for the bears


Monday February 25, 2013

ARMED with nothing more than a spunky heart and a genuine concern for animal welfare, two friends braved the icy waters at an annual dip event to raise funds for Bornean sun bears.
Katie McDonald and Anna Marie Zarb, who both hail from England, participated in the New Year’s Day Loony Dook challenge held at Scotland’s Firth of Forth, the estuary in which River Forth meets the North Sea.
The event drew participants, both young and old, who took a leap of faith by plunging into the icy depths of the firth as a novel way of celebrating the New Year.
A conversation between two pals over drinks during Christmas break in 1986 sparked off the idea after one of them suggested dipping in the firth to clear their hangovers! When more friends took to the idea, Loony Dook was thus born, and is now celebrated in a much more boisterous manner than in the past.
People come from around the world to join in or be a spectator, and over time, the participants have also made the dip a fundraiser for charities of their choice. Part of the fun lies in some of the bizzare costumes that participants don.
To reflect the charity they picked – the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sabah, Malaysia – McDonald and Zarb made online purchases of outfits which they later modified to look like that of a sun bear with its unique yellow chest patch.
So what motivated McDonald and Zarb to raise funds for an NGO that is nearly halfway around the globe from their home country?

“I was in Malaysia for a few years and saw that it is such a beautiful country. There’s such an amazing biodiversity, but the ecosystem is fragile and many of the animals are threatened,” said McDonald, 28, in an e-mail interview.
“During my stint in Malaysia, I worked closely with a number of wildlife and conservation-related organisations. It was tough having to single out one particular project to raise funds for. I felt that the work carried out at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre covered a lot of important areas which included animal welfare, wildlife rehabilitation, habitat preservation, public education and research. I also like the idea of bringing awareness of tropical animals and conservation to a different part of the world.”
For Zarb, 34, the plight of animals is a subject close to her heart, and she is happy to help any animal charity, regardless of its location.
Both women are currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare at the Edinburgh University, which was how they met.

“Loony Dook is a part of Hogmanay (a uniquely Scottish New Year celebration that dates back to olden times) and certainly seems like fun!” said Zarb.
On the day of the event, the weather was sunny. Despite that, they could still feel the chill while waiting for their turn to jump in.
“We had no idea what the water temperature would be like, only that it would be cold! The thought of a good cause helped us overcome the temperature anxiety!” said McDonald.

“Anna decided that the best strategy was to scream and run in, so that was what we did and after a few seconds, we kind of lost feeling anyway! All around, there were stewards from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution stopping people from going too deep as a safety measure,” said McDonald.
The duo stayed in the water for a couple of minutes, accompanied by a quick swim.

“At the end of the day, we know that it’s BSBCC and the sun bears that are benefiting, so it was worth braving the cold!” added McDonald.
In mid-December, she had put up a posting on a social networking site to share what she was doing, to raise a targeted sum of £200.
“We wanted to raise greater awareness about sun bears in the hope that more people would think about them and find out more about this little known but fascinating animal,” said McDonald.

“I have visited the centre several times as I used to work for a company which brought groups of school kids to Sabah.
“One of the projects we undertook was making enrichment toys for the bears; we learnt about their natural behaviour and the ecology of the species. All the centre’s personnel were so supportive of the students. They were happy to share their knowledge and passion for sun bears.

“The centre’s founder, Wong Siew Te, is a leading expert, yet he always has time to spend with visitors and share everything he knows about sun bears, the smallest among eight bear species. It’s a fantastic centre and a great place to learn about sun bears and conservation,” said McDonald, who recently helped to raise funds for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, as well as Save the Children, a global organisation working to help children get access to food, education, healthcare and human rights.
To learn more about the sun bears, visit the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre homepage at www.bsbcc.org.my/.


Learning about enrichment for sun bears at BSBCC

Text by Gloria Ganang & photo by Tee Thye Lim
The kids from the ISS International School have selected the BSBCC as one of their destinations for their Borneo trip. Thanks to APE Malaysia, we managed to team up and get these kids to learn about the importance of enrichment for sun bears in captivity.  A total of 29 13-14 year old kids involved and they were accompanied by their 4 teachers.
It all started with an introduction talk about sun bears and the BSBCC.


Introducing the BSBCC

Then the students were brought to the platform and the bear house to do a pre enrichment observation on the bears. In other words is they get to see how the bears behave without any enrichment given.
Then, the fun part! ENRICHMENT MAKING!!


Materials for making enrichment


The kids were briefed about "safe enrichment for sun bears" by Thye Lim


Eliminating plastic tapes from the cardboards


Staples aren't safe for the bears


The bears would love these in their enrichment


"What should be made out of these egg trays?"


Using ropes made of natural fiber to tye up enrichments


Spreading bits of herbs and spices on a ginger leaf


Everyone is so focused


Looking good!

Everybody managed to complete their enrichment in 20 minutes (thats fast!). They did a very good job in creating them using the provided materials (cardboard, egg trays, various kinds of herbs & spices, beans, ginger leaves, hessian sack etc).

The bears could smell their "toys" from afar as the kids were bringing them closer. They were curious and couldn't wait to check out whats coming ahead. Everything was quickly ripped apart, however the bears continued to check out every remain pieces until the end of the day. Not forgetting the macaques that shares the forest enclosure, they got entertained by the enrichment as well.
It was another interesting day for the bears at the BSBCC as these enrichment were different from the daily enrichment provided by the BSBCC staff. Thanks to the ISS kids, you all definitely made a difference.
Not forgetting your kind donations to the centre, we really appreciate them!


ISS kids presenting their donations to BSBCC


Cops on the trail of animal killers


Tuesday February 19, 2013



‘Crime scene’: Malacca Zoo director Azman Ghazali pointing out where the bear was found poisoned and dead.

MALACCA: The hunt is on for the killers of a 14-year-old female Malayan Sun Bear and an Arabian stallion at the Malacca Zoo.

Visitors alerted the zoo keepers when they saw a male Sun Bear lying protectively over the still body of its partner at about 5pm on Sunday.
“The keepers rushed to the site and found the animal lifeless,” said zoo veterinarian Dr Zubaidah Kamarudin.

A post-mortem revealed that the bear had eaten a banana laced with toxin.


Jumbo problem: The animal enclosures at Malacca Zoo are set up in a way that allows anyone to gain access into them.

​An autopsy is yet to be performed on the 17-year-old horse “Basket” which was found dead by groomer P. Lohan around 7am yesterday.
“We have yet to identify the type of poison used but have lodged a police report,” Dr Zubaidah added.

She also said poison-laced oranges, bananas and sugar canes were found in the enclosures of a chimpanzee and two orang utans, which are believed to have refused to eat them because of the pungent smell. The feed has been sent to the Chemistry Department.

The zoo is not taking any chances. “We are monitoring the condition of the animals round the clock,” added Dr Zubaidah.

State CID deputy chief expressed confidence in catching the culprits soon.
He declined to elaborate but sources said police were looking for two former zoo workers seen at the elephants' enclosure on Sunday trying to feed the animals.
“They ran off carrying a package when ex-colleagues spotted them,” a source said.

The sources believe the two were linked to private zoo operators.


Clear reminder: A signboard warning visitors not to feed the animals.

It is learnt that the Sun Bear was presented to the Malacca Zoo in 2000 after it was caught in the wilds of Johor.
The owner of the stallion had kept the horse at the zoo and it was not one of the exhibits.

The Malacca Zoo and Night Safari, sited on a 21.22ha zoological park, is the second biggest zoo in the country after Zoo Negara.
It has over 1,200 species of animals made up of 215 different types of birds as well as mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

The major attractions at the zoo include the critically-endangered Sumatran Rhinoceros, Malayan Sun Bear, Malayan Gaur Oxen, Serow and the Malayan Tiger.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam has offered an RM10,000 reward to anyone providing information leading to the arrest of the culprits.
He also asked the zoo management to install CCTVs immediately.

Related Stories:
Perhilitan sends team to probe deaths
Animal activists and conservationists see red


Animal activists and conservationists see red


Tuesday February 19, 2013


PETALING JAYA: Animal activists and conservationists want those behind the fatal poisoning of a horse and a Sun Bear at the Malacca Zoo to be caught, prosecuted and punished severely.

Dr Sharmini Paramasivam, of zoo animal welfare group myZOO, said a thorough investigation must be carried out to determine the motive behind the poisoning.

“We must take this very seriously and ensure our animals are not suffering. Placing animals in captivity means taking full responsibility for their well-being and health,” she said.

Zoo Negara deputy director Dr Muhammad Danial Felix described the killing as a “national outrage”.

Condemning the crime, he said the guilty must be harshly punished.
“Maintaining tight security at the zoo, including during the feeding of animals, is extremely important.

“If it is found to be an inside job, the culprit may killed the animals as a way to get noticed,” he said.

Wong Siew Te, founder of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, said the sun bear was a “Totally Protected species” in the peninsula, adding that the maximum penalty for killing such animals under the new Wildlife Conservation Act (2010) was a fine of RM100,000 and a jail term of up to three years.
The Sun Bear is classified as “vulnerable species” in the IUCN Red Book Listing of Threatened Species in 2007.

Wong said its global population had been declining over the past 30 years and if the trend continued, it would join the “Endangered Species” or “Critically” endangered species.

“The punishment for this crime should be significant and widely reported to deter potential offenders and raise awareness, “ he added.
Malacca SPCA chairman Vincent Low described the poisoning as a “dastardly and uncouth” act.

He said the heinous crime could be an inside job or committed by former workers who still had access to the animal enclosures.

Animal Concerns Research and Education Society executive director Louis Ng said the zoo management should take urgent measures to ensure only authorised staff were allowed into enclosures or places where animals were fed.
Wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic South-East Asia's regional director Dr William Schaedla said that if the poisoning was found to be premeditated and intentional, the culprit must be prosecuted and harshly punished.

Related Stories:
Perhilitan sends team to probe deaths
Cops on the trail of animal killers

Sun bear, racehorse died of suspected poisoning


18 February 2013| last updated at 04:12PM

MALACCA: A Malayan sun bear and a racehorse have died at Malacca Zoo, here, as a result of suspected deliberate poisoning.
A vet at the zoo, Dr. Zubaidah Kamarudin, said autopsy results on the sun bear revealed that it had eaten a banana which contained a white powder.
"At around 5pm on Sunday, a visitor told a member of zoo staff that a sun bear was behaving oddly. When the zookeeper went to check on the animal, we found it foaming at the mouth and suffering from seizures," she said.
Dr. Zubaidah said the sun bear was immediately taken to the zoo's clinic to attempt to flush out the poison, but unfortunately, it could not be saved.
"The poison used was very strong; it caused severe damage to the sun bear's digestive system and we were unable to save it," she said.

The female sun bear, estimated to have been around 14 to 16 years old, had been one of four sun bears under the zoo's care and had been rescued from the forests of Johor by the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) in 2000 before being sent to Malacca Zoo.

The Malayan sun bear, also known as the honey bear due to its penchant for eating honey, is classified as 'vulnerable' by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a result of the large-scale deforestation that has occurred throughout Southeast Asia over the past three decades, dramatically reducing its habitat.

Dr. Zubaidah added that following the incident, thorough checks were made on all animals and their exhibits.

"During the checks, we found a plastic bag in the chimpanzee exhibit containing a banana, an orange and sugar cane, all with the same white powder. Luckily, no animals had eaten it," she said.

This morning, a 17-year-old male racehorse had also been found dead in its stall by zoo staff.

The racehorse, named Basket, had been a part of the pony ride exhibit at the zoo for the past three years and had been on loan.

Samples from both animals have been sent to the Chemistry Department to determine the type of poison that had been used.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, who visited Malacca Zoo today, said it was clear that the animals had been intentionally poisoned.

"I'm very saddened by the deaths of these innocent animals. Whoever was responsible for this is cruel and irresponsible.

"I've been informed that the sun bear had been fed the poisoned banana prior to its feeding time, so it is possible that a visitor had been behind this," he said.
Mohd Ali added that in the past, Malacca Zoo had allowed visitors to bring in food to feed the animals.

"However, with immediate enforcement, zoo management have decided that visitors are not allowed to bring outside food to give to the animals and must purchase food supplied by the zoo that has been deemed safe.
"Additionally, I have suggested to zoo management to install closed-circuit television cameras around the zoo to closely monitor activities within the compound," he said.

Mohd Ali also said a police report had been filed, adding that the state government was offering a RM10,000 reward to those with information that would lead to apprehending the culprit

Read more: Sun bear, racehorse died of suspected poisoning - Latest - New Straits Times http://www.nst.com.my/latest/sun-bear-racehorse-died-of-suspected-poisoning-1.220607#ixzz2LJSIIH3C


Damai's Days Out

Text by Gloria Ganang

I always consider it a great privilege as well as an amazing experience to walk a sun bear cub in the forest. BSBCC’s CEO and Founder, Wong Siew Te trains his staff, including myself to walk sun bear cubs in the forest. Sun bears usually spend their first 2-3 years with their mother learning survival skills before they eventually travel solitarily in the forest. Unfortunately for little Damai, she have to rely on humans to learn these skills. Here at BSBCC, Damai gets to use the adjacent forest reserve to develop her skills and get her natural instinct stimulated.


Day 2: Wong and I walking Damai out to the forest Photo by Dawn Serene Tukalan

It has been more than 3 months now since Damai first went out to the forest. She would follow us around like a shadow for her first few days. We use to lead her to decaying stumps or logs where she’ll dig and bite them into pieces.  She would often find termite larvae and feast on them as much as she could. She sometimes gets bigger rewards such as beetles, beetle larvae and millipedes


Day 4: Digging soil over a tree root Photo by Ng Wai Pak


Day 6: "I smell yummy termites inside!" Photo by Dawn Serene Tukalan

It took some time for Damai to climb up high on trees. She started climbing dead stump of 1 - 2 meters height. As soon as she gained confidence to go higher, she went impressively high up to 5 meters from the ground, and kept going higher and higher.


Day 18: Damai 2 meters high from ground Photo by Gloria Ganang

Damai would initially pick and climb on leaning trees or trees which are wrapped by climbers.This would assist her to carry herself up the tree by grabbing on the climbers. Gradually, she starts spending more time on the trees, breaking twigs, licking ants, grooming herself and sometimes takes naps on the tree. She now can climb on any trees using  her claws  and canine strength.


Day 25: Damai adjusting her position to walk through tree branches Photo by Dawn Serene Tukalan

We sometimes may come across wild animal such as pythons, orang utans, bearded pigs and mouse deer. The loud calls of the Bornean Gibbons, Rhinoceros Hornbills, Racquet-tailed Drongos and even the “barking” sound of geckos often made Damai wary of the nearby animals.  She would be the first one to react to the calls and the sounds of cracking branches or fallen leaves by standing on her hind feet and sniff around. Whenever she felt scared, she would climb up a nearby tree and look down. She would climb down as soon as she felt safe again.


Day 73: Reacting towards the calls of wild animals in the forest Photo by Gloria Ganang

Generally Damai knows how to get around the forest. She knows where to find her favorite snacks and climb her favorite tree. However, the BSBCC staff still has to observe and guide her to the forest everyday. These are some more photos of Damai's recent activities in the forest:


Digging on decaying stump Photo by Gloria Ganang


Damai cracking wood using her little canines Photo by Gloria Ganang


Feasting on termites from termite mound Photo by Gloria Ganang


Removing leeches from her paws Photo by Gloria Ganang


Climb as high as she can Photo by Gloria Ganang


The Tree Loving Sun Bear


Text and video by Chiew Lin May
Tropical rainforest are the sun bear's main habitat. They are tree lover and can climb extremely well. Many of the features are specifically adapted for a more tree-dwelling lifestyle. Example the long, curved, pointy claws and they can rotate their arm just like primate do. However, sun bear faces many challenges for its survival, including destruction of forests and commercial hunting.
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre  (BSBCC) would like to help and conserve sun bears.Please help us save them.Watch this video to discover what we do know about this amazing and special sun bears in their natural habitat.