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The large-scale deforestation and degradation throughout southeast Asia over the past three decades - clear-cutting for plantation development of palm-oil, unsustainable logging practices, illegal logging (both within and outside protected areas) - has dramatically reduced a suitable forest habitat. Unfortunately, habitat loss and degradation are pushing this bear to the brink of extinction. Because Sun Bear are elusive animals, it is hard to track their numbers. It is estimated the Sun Bear population has declined by at least 30% in the last 30 years, contributing to sun bears being classified as 'vulnerable' in 2007, meaning they are at high risk of extinction in the wild (IUCN 2007). Some estimate less than 1,000 of these bears remain in the wild.
Sun Bears are illegally hunted for a few tragic reasons. As agriculture spreads into Sun Bear habitat, the bears are killed to prevent damage to crops. Being the smallest bear, cubs are also captured for the illegal pet trade. As pets, many are condemned to spend their lives in small cages in which they often cannot even stand up or turn around. They are also trapped for their body parts. Bear bile farms exist today and require the bears to be caged while bile is harvested from their gall bladders. The “milking” practice requires the bears to remain alive and is painful and inhumane. Bear bile is sold and used for medicinal purposes, which is scientifically proven to have no medical value. It is a horrific life for a bear and continues to happen because the farming of bear bile is profitable and deeply rooted in Asian cultures. Sun Bears are also poached for their body parts, mostly paws, which are an expensive delicacy.
The zoo supports the mission of Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) through an annual partnership grant.
Oakland Zoo shares conservation issues facing Sun Bears and empowering solutions to conserve them to the public through a variety of channels: Docents and Volunteers, Teen Wild Guides, Education Programs, Events, Exhibits, Campaigns, Keeper Talks, and media stories.
Oakland Zoo is committed to combating the Illegal Wildlife Trade and promoting sustainable palm oil purchases and encourages our community to Take Action for Wildlife by joining our Illegal Wildlife Trade pledge and choosing Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) palm oil products while shopping.
Oakland Zoo provides yearly professional training for field partners and offers myriad staff skills and resources to enhance conservation efforts. In 2013, a team of Oakland Zoo staff and volunteers traveled to Borneo to help the BSBCC prepare their visitor center for their Grand Opening to the public. Oakland Zoo’s Veterinary Staff members have also travelled to Malaysia to provide hands-on assistance in moving and providing medical care to the Sun Bears currently being rehabilitated by the BSBCC.
Oakland Zoo’s Eco-Travel to Borneo includes a special visit with the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre, located in Sabah, Malaysia. The trip provides its travelers with authentic hands-on work at the Centre, engagement with the local community, and needed supplies. Oakland Zoo offers travel participants a unique glimpse into the complexities of conservation issues and solutions with the aim to positively impact our partner projects, our travelers, and wildlife.
Oakland Zoo is committed to animal welfare and offers a Forever Home to animals in need due to injury, parental loss due to car strikes or fires, the illegal pet trade, human-wildlife conflict, or other challenges. Three sun bears reside in the Zoo’s spacious Sun Bear habitat. Ting Ting, was just a cub when her mother was killed by poachers. Ting Ting was sold into the pet trade where she lived in a small cage for four years before being confiscated by the Malaysian government and sent to a refuge. In 2000 the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) arranged to import bears from this refuge to the United States. In 2006, Ting Ting arrived at her forever home at Oakland Zoo. Joining Ting Ting are two sister bears, Bulan and Pagi. Born in 2008, Pagi came to Oakland Zoo in 2010. She is the youngest of our bears and the younger sister of Bulan. Born in 2006, Bulan came to Oakland Zoo in 2008, just a couple months before her younger sister Pagi was born. She has a “U” shaped crest that is covered in black spots.