KUCHING: The sick sun bear found near an oil palm estate in rural Sarawak has arrived at the Matang Wildlife Centre and is under quarantine.
"It is very weak, so we are letting the bear rest,” said Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) deputy general manager Oswald Braken Tisen.
”It is under quarantine. The only test we have done is on its faeces. Results showed parasites. We've adjusted medication and food accordingly," he told The Star on Friday afternoon.
Braken said even a blood test might be too much for the animal right now. In a week or so, more examinations would be done.
The bear would need to be placed under general anaesthesia for a full check up.
"By the way, the bear is a she. She is very underweight at the moment - only about 20kg. A healthy sun bear should be 30kg to 40kg.
"We are also not sure of her age. Healthy ones can live up to 40 years in the wild," Braken added.
The animal lower would not reveal the findings of the investigations so far.
All possibilities remained open, he said, explaining the bear could have accidentally eaten poison or eaten a poisoned animal.
"Sun bears are known to eat smaller animals like rats. We know oil palm estates have rat problems, and might have used rat poison. It is entirely possible the bear got sick after eating a poisoned rat," he said.
Braken added that the Matang Wildlife Centre, which is about 30km from Kuching, would become the permanent home of the sun bear once it recovers.
"Unfortunately for bears, once they have experienced being caged, you can't put them back into the wild.
"For this one, we are estimating it might need to be with us for a couple of months, at least until its fur grows back, by then, it would have gotten used to being kept by humans," he said.
Currently, there are 11 healthy sun bears at the wildlife centre.
The sick sun bear had been spotted in January by Indonesian plantation workers, who were shocked by its strange and hairless appearance.
Photos and videos of it quickly became viral online, with many commenting on the animal's Gollum like appearance.
Sun bears are the smallest of the world’s eight bear species and are found throughout mainland Asia, Sumatra and Borneo.
They are classified as "vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List and are at risk of becoming endangered unless circumstances threatening their survival
In Sarawak, the sun bear is protected under the Wild Life Protection Ordinance 1998.
Braken said the sun bear's population in Sarawak was unknown, but the species was not likely to be endangered due to its ability to adapt, living from coastal to mountainous areas.
On another note, the SFC official said members of the public are welcomed to submit name suggestions for the sick bear.
"If the public are interested, they can suggest names. They can do so via Facebook.
"We have never given names to bears in the past. They haven't been as well known as orang utans," Braken said.
SFC's Facebook page is at facebook.com/sarawakforestry or email firstname.lastname@example.org.