SANDAKAN: A wild Malayan sun bear was recently trapped and fitted with a satellite collar for the first time ever, as part of a collaborative project between the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).
The project, focusing on research and conservation of the Malayan sun bear in Sabah, is mainly funded by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Columbus Zoo, the International Association for Bear Research & Management and Danau Girang Field Centre.
Roshan Guharajan from DGFC and a Master’s student at University of Minnesota said the adult male bear weighing 53 kilograms and in excellent physical condition was caught in one of our traps set up along the Kinabatangan River, in the vicinity of DGFC, in the early morning of March 8.
“After a combined trapping duration of almost five months, as well as hours of camera trap footage showing the bear outside the trap, you can imagine how excited we are to have finally caught a bear,” said
“No matter how many times you mentally prepare yourself for it, handling a wild sun bear is definitely a nerve racking affair. This capture and collaring will give us insights into the movements of sun bears in the Lower Kinabatangan, which until recently has been very poorly understood. Now comes the equally exciting part of tracking the bear across the landscape,” he said in a statement issued by DGFC.
Dr Laura Benedict, wildlife veterinarian attached to the Wildlife Rescue Unit, meanwhile, said anesthetizing a wild sun bear has been one of the most exciting moments of her still young professional career.
“The whole operation took about one hour, including health assessment, blood, saliva and faeces sampling, morphometric measurements and finally collaring.
“We decided to name the bear “Meegar”, after Mee Ngar Restaurant in Batu Putih that supplied the bait for our trapping,” she added.
Dr Benoit Goossens, Director of DGFC and researcher at Cardiff University, said collaring the sun bear is part of an intensive satellite tracking programme to study the spatial ecology of the Malayan sun bear and other sympatric species such as clouded leopard, Bornean elephant, proboscis monkey, Malay civet and water monitor lizard in the fragmented landscape of the Lower Kinabatangan, dominated by palm oil plantations and highly degraded forest.
“We want to know how extensively do wildlife in the Kinabatangan use designated wildlife corridors to move within the highly fragmented landscape and how extensively do they use oil palm plantations.
“Ultimately, we want to find out about what dispersal opportunities exist for these species within this fragmented landscape, and how might dispersal corridors be protected, enhanced and restored,” added Benoit.
According to Sabah Wildlife Department Director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, one of the major outputs of this long-term research programme on the Malayan sun bear will be the production of a State Action Plan for the species.
“By better understanding the sun bear ecology and habitat, we will be able to understand how habitat loss and fragmentation have impacted Sabah’s biggest carnivore.
“We also hope that with more accurate data collected on its home range via satellite collars, we will be able to provide a better management of this beautiful animal in such a modified landscape,” he added.