INDERA THE SUN BEAR’S JOURNEY TO THE WEST

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.

GOODBYE SUN BEAR, HELLO WILD CATS!

Singapore, 29 April 2011Singapore Zoo visitors will soon have to be bid farewell to one-year-old Malayan sun bear, Indera. He will be making his way to the United Kingdom end May, where he will reside at the Rare Species Conservation Centre (RSCC), as part of an animal exchange programme.

Indera is the proud descendent of two generations of sun bears at the Singapore Zoo. Wildlife institutions around the world carry out animal exchanges to maximise genetic diversity and sustain captive breeding of the species. This helps to guarantee a captive population of the species should any natural or man-made disaster wipe out any one species in certain parts of the world.

The RSCC forms part of The Rare Species Conservation Trust which is a registered United Kingdom charity. It is home to the world’s lesser known rare and endangered species of animals and is an education and captive breeding facility. Other wildlife that reside at the RSCC include the extremely rare Bali starling, endangered Sambirano bamboo lemur and the New Guinea singing dog.

Found primarily in the rainforests of Southeast Asia, these elusive Malayan sun bears are the smallest yet most aggressive bear species and are classified as vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. Reliable estimates of sun bear populations are lacking.

In exchange for Indera, the Singapore Zoo will receive a pair of jaguarandi, a medium-sized wild cat which will be housed at the upcoming river-themed attraction the River Safari, and one fishing cat for the Night Safari.

Before Indera the young sun bear embarks on his new adventure, vets at WRS gave him a complete physical health check, including an x-ray, to ensure he is safe to travel.
Indera's health check
Indera's health check
Indera's health check

NIGHT SAFARI’S BABY ELEPHANT READY TO GREET VISITORS

Singapore, 4 April 2011 – This April, Night Safari visitors will get to see the park’s first baby elephant in nine years, when the five-month-old calf makes his first public appearance. Born on 23 November last year, this latest addition to Night Safari’s brood of endangered Asian elephants has been named ‘Nila Utama’, after the Sumatran prince Sang Nila Utama, who founded the kingdom of Singapura in 1324.

The bold and inquisitive elephant was sired by Chawang, the sole bull elephant at Night Safari, which is managed by Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS). Now 125cm tall and weighing a hefty 318 kg, it is the first elephant to be born at both Night Safari and Singapore Zoo in almost a decade. Visitors can witness the close bond between mother and baby at the Asian elephant exhibit from April onwards.

“Our four-month-old calf is growing up to be strong, curious, and independent. He is not afraid to leave his mother’s side to explore his surroundings and we have seen the little one even getting into the pool of water himself. Nila Utama is like our very own ‘Singapore son’ and we are excited for Singaporeans and tourists to get acquainted with him. WRS hopes his birth will go towards sustaining and increasing the population of Asian elephants both in captivity and in the wild,” said Ms Fanny Lai, Group CEO of WRS.

Nila Utama is the 11th addition to the family of Asian elephants at WRS, which also runs the Jurong Bird Park, Singapore Zoo and the upcoming River Safari. His mother, Sri Nandong, has raised two other males, Sang Raja (‘noble one’) in 1999 and Sang Wira (‘brave one’) in 2001.

WRS runs successful breeding programmes across all its parks, and has done particularly well with breeding endangered animals such as the pangolin, Malayan sun bear, the orang utans and many others. It works with global partners to increase the gene pool of captive animals through various exchange programmes. For example, Chawang’s semen has been sent to zoos in Australia to help facilitate artificial inseminations with elephants there.

The population of Asian elephants in the wild is dwindling fast – even more so than their better recognised counterpart, the African elephant. An estimated 30,000 to 50,000 are left in the forests of India, Sri Lanka, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Habitat loss poses the most serious threat to the future of these magnificent creatures, as a large part of their native homes are being logged and cleared for urban and agricultural development resulting in human – elephant conflict. WRS is working with Wildlife Conservation Society in mitigating this in Sumatra, Indonesia.

Photo courtesy of Bjorn Olesen
Photo courtesy of Bjorn Olesen

NIGHT SAFARI WELCOMES FIRST BABY ELEPHANT IN NINE YEARS

Singapore, 3 December 2010Night Safari, the world’s first wildlife park for nocturnal animals, was the birth place of a baby giant recently. The first elephant to be born in nine years, it arrived on 23 November 2010 at an auspicious time of 8.08am.

Considered large for a newborn at 1.5 times the average size, the 151-kg calf arrived after 3 hours of labour, making it the fifth elephant to be born at the Night Safari. His mother, Nandong, is 25 years old and is also the mother of the previous two elephant babies – Sang Raja which is currently in Cologne Zoo and nine-year-old Sang Wira which still resides at the Night Safari. The baby elephant is sired by Chawang, the only bull elephant in Night Safari and Singapore Zoo’s collection of Asian elephants. The birth brings the total number of Asian elephants at Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), parent company of Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari, Singapore Zoo and the upcoming River Safari, to 11.

The active calf, which has yet to be named, is already developing a character of its own. While most baby elephants stick close to their mothers in the early stages, zookeepers have noticed that this brave little one likes to wander from his mother to explore his surroundings.

“These elephants have such unique personalities. They are highly intelligent and self- aware,” said Mr Kumar Pillai, Director, Zoology, Night Safari. “We have been fortunate enough to witness 5 elephant births at our parks, as there can be a 4-5 year interval before a female will breed again. Her pregnancy lasts about 22 months, and she will not mate until the first calf is weaned, and this takes up to 2-3 years.”

Asian elephants are endangered – even more so than their better recognised counterpart, the African elephant – with an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 left in the wild. They are found in the forests of India, Sri Lanka, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Many of them are widely domesticated and are used for forestry, harvesting, or ceremonial purposes.

Habitat loss poses the most serious threat to the future of these magnificent creatures, as a large part of their native homes are being logged and cleared for urban and agricultural development.

WRS has a very successful captive breeding programme and has bred other endangered animals such as the pangolin, Malayan sun bear, the orang utans and many others.

For a video on the birth of the elephant, please click here. The video shows the mother giving birth to the baby and the natural process of the adult elephants removing the amniotic bladder from the newborn.

The young 151-kg calf is the fifth elephant to be born in the Night Safari.
Nandong, the 25-year-old mother, watches closely as the team of zookeepers and vets from Wildlife Reserves Singapore weighs the calf.