Tourists discover dead sun bear floating in river

sunbearSANDAKAN: The carcass of an adult sun bear floating in the Kinabatangan River was the last thing Swedish tourists Tommy Eriksson and his wife, Teuta Hajra, expected to see while on a cruise to spot wildlife.

They managed to capture photographs of the bear at about 6pm on January 16, and shared the images with the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) chief executive officer Wong Siew Te today.

The carcass they saw was the lower part of a sun bear that was cut into half with both its hind paws missing. It was seen floating downstream at Kampung Sukau, close to an agriculture estate.

According to Eriksson, his wife was the first to spot the floating carcass and when they got closer to it, they realised that it was actually half of a sun bear carcass.

Eriksson said they felt depressed and angry after seeing the dead sun bear, which they believed was a victim of poaching.

“We feel sad witnessing the scale of deforestation in this area. The act of killing the animal is really brutal. This country has so much magnificent wildlife and I hope that it will take care of their habitats,” added Teuta, who broke into tears when she saw the carcass.

The sun bear’s carcass was recovered later in the night with the help of Kinabatangan–Corridor of Life Tourism Association (KiTA) members and sent to the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) for investigation.

In a joint statement issued by the SWD and the BSBCC, Wong said the bear was killed in cold blood and that the act was an illegal one that should be stopped immediately.

“The sun bear population is already seriously threatened by the loss of the rainforest, and they have lost their habitat due to agricultural development.

“The remaining population is very fragile and faces extinction. Sun bears play many important roles in maintaining a healthy forest ecosystem,” Wong said.

There are no estimates on the number of sun bears in Sabah’s wild, and those that are found orphaned or caged as part of the pet trade are usually sent to the BSBCC for rehabilitation.