PETALING JAYA: Sun bears are being poached for the pet trade and for their parts, according to sun bear conservationist Dr Wong Siew Te.
“The entire body of the sun bear has commercial value. Its meat can be sold as exotic food.
“Its gallbladder is valued as a type of traditional Asian medicine.
“Its claws and canine teeth are being sold as souvenirs. There are people who believe that the claws and canine teeth have supernatural powers to chase away evil spirits.
“The claws have also been fashioned into jewellery as pendants with gold and silver,” he said.
Baby sun bears, he said, had been sold by traders for about RM4,000 as pets to irresponsible parties.
He said a study in Sabah two years ago showed that the paw of a sun bear cub could fetch about RM1,000, while the adult’s paw could be sold for RM4,000.
“The sun bear’s gallbladder can be sold for hundreds to thousands of ringgit.
“Owning a sun bear is prohibited in the country,” Dr Wong said.
“There is a small group of people that wants to keep exotic animals and wildlife as pets. The government should take this matter seriously because we can still control it if we want to.”
He said the illegal wildlife trade should be condemned to raise awareness of the severity of the situation.
“The sun bear in our country is a totally protected species. No one is allowed to keep them as pets.
“Wildlife authorities will not give any special permits to anybody to keep sun bears except zoos and places with proper facilities,” he said.
Dr Wong said there were risks in keeping sun bears as pets, as they were wild animals.
“The domestication of dogs and cats took thousands of generations.
“For sun bears, their instinct for wildness remains and you cannot tame them. When they grow up, they are dangerous, ferocious and strong,” he said.
He added that removing sun bears from their natural habitat would have negative effects on the ecosystem of the area.
A female singer was arrested on Friday for keeping a sun bear cub in her condominium unit at Desa Pandan.
She was arrested after a video showing the cub sticking its head out of a window and roaring went viral on social media.
The Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia is currently investigating the woman under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 for keeping an endangered wild animal without permission.