EXCHANGE PROGRAMME WITH UK’S RARE SPECIES CONSERVATION CENTRE WILL BOOST CAPTIVE BREEDING OF THE ENDANGERED SPECIES

Singapore, 28 June 2011Singapore Zoo’s juvenile Malayan sun bear has arrived safe and sound in the United Kingdom and has made himself right at home at the Rare Species Conservation Centre (RSCC) in Kent.

Within minutes of settling in, the one-year-old was already eating fruit. Being young and adventurous, the curious sun bear also explored his new enclosure by sniffing out every nook and cranny, and was climbing and playing with enrichment devices almost immediately after being introduced to his new home.

Indera’s new ‘mate’ at the centre’s sun bear exhibit is Charlotte, a four-year-old female born in Cologne Zoo in Germany. Keepers at RSCC hope to kick start a breeding programme with the pair when Indera reaches sexual maturity in the next two years.

“Charlotte, however, was at first apprehensive about Indera and showed some aggression towards him. However, the little one stood his ground and rose on two feet to show he was not going to be intimidated. Such confidence is rarely seen in young sun bears and staff at RSCC have high hopes for him as a mate for Charlotte,” said Todd Dalton, Director of RSCC.

His journey to the UK was arranged in the summer to help him adapt more easily to the new surroundings. Both bears have a temperature controlled ‘house’ in the exhibit which keeps them warm in the winter.

Indera’s transfer from Singapore Zoo to RSCC is part of an exchange programme between the centre and Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), which also manages Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari and the upcoming River Safari. These animal exchanges boost genetic diversity by ensuring the survival of captive populations of endangered species.

Sun bears are found primarily in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia. Though relatively diminutive in size and cuddly-looking, these animals can be aggressive in the wild, and are among the most dangerous creatures in the forest. Humans pose the biggest threat to their existence – deforestation and logging have led to their habitat loss. They are also poached for their parts, e.g. fur, paws, or bile, and many young sun bears are trapped for the illegal pet trade. International laws have made any commercial trade in the bear or its body parts illegal, and they have been listed as a species ‘vulnerable’ to extinction.

Besides WRS’ ongoing breeding programme, it has also been involved in overseas research and conservation projects, including a field research project in the Danum Valley region of Sabah to gather data on the ecology of the sun bear and its prospects for survival in disrupted forest habitats.

Photo courtesy of Balazs Buzas and Rare Species Conservation Trust - Indera explores his new home.

Photo courtesy of Balazs Buzas and Rare Species Conservation Trust - Like all adventurous young bears, Indera sniffs out his environment.

Photo courtesy of Balazs Buzas and Rare Species Conservation Trust - Indera plays with the various enrichment devices in his enclosure.