KOTA KINABALU: Conservation efforts for endangered sun bears are beginning to pay off as a cub found five years ago was returned to its natural habitat in the east coast Lahad Datu district.
The release of the female sun bear named Natalie was first for the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) that began operating at Sepilok in Sandakan seven years ago.
BSBCC founder and chief executive Wong Siew Te said Natalie was flown by helicopter from Sepilok and released in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve on May 17.
He said wildlife officials would be keeping track of Natalie’s movements at Tabin through a satellite collar she had been fitted with.
Natalie was brought to the centre after it was surrendered to Wildlife Department officials in Lahad Datu by an individual.
Its mother was believed to have been hunted by poachers.
“Natalie has since matured into a healthy young adult under our care,” said Wong, adding that the centre had been preparing her for the move by helping her to develop essential survival skills like foraging, climbing, nest building and socialising.
“Natalie grew up in natural forest enclosures in BSBCC with tall trees, dense vegetation and significant amounts of natural food such as termites, earthworms, insects and honey from bee hives,” he added.
He said Natalie’s release to Tabin was a joint effort of BSBCC, the Sabah Wildlife Department and its Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU), as well as the Danau Girang Field Centre.
Department director William Baya commended BSBCC for initiating the project.
“The release of Natalie is a sign of BSBCC’s success and I believe more bears will be released into the wild in the near future,” William said.