Sun bear expert, Siew Te Wong, has captured rare footage of the world’s smallest bear making a nest high in the canopy. The nest-building of a sun bear is behaviour rarely seen, let alone filmed. The sun bear in the video is a radio-collared individual that Wong is keeping tabs on in Borneo.
“Sun bears in the wild make nest on tree and sleep on these tree nests like orangutans,” explains Wong on his blog at Wildlife Direct. “However, nest building behavior is more common in forest where human disturbance is higher and large terrestrial predators like tigers, and leopards are [present]. It makes sense for sun bears to make such tree nest and sleep on high on tree, some as high as 40 meters (128 feet) because it is much safer and dryer on top of tree. These nests usually consist of a pile of tree branches and twigs that are band over from the surrounding centered at a tree fork that close to the main trunk. The diameter of these tree nests ranges from a 1 to 2 meter. Unlike orangutan nest, sun bear rarely snap branches or break branches close by.”
Sun bears are classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Their populations have declined due to widespread deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia for timber products and agriculture, such as oil palm plantations. Poaching has also impacted this species on the mainland in countries like Thailand and Vietnam: their gall bladders are used in traditional Chinese medicine and their paws are eaten as a delicacy. The trade is illegal but still widespread. Sun bears are also captured illegally for the pet trade. The mother sun bear is killed in order to steal her infant.
Wong and the BSBCC (Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Center) is currently working on building a conservation center for sun bears–usually victims of the pet trade–in Sabah, Boreno for rehabilitation to the wild.
Sun bear building a nest, footage by Siew Te Wong.
David Attenborough’s Life of Mammals showing how a sun bear climbs up and down trees.
(12/01/2009) Wildlife Direct, a group that promotes conservation through blogging by rangers and scientists, has won mongabay.com’s “Innovation in Conservation Award” for 2009. The prize, which includes a cash donation and and prominent placement on the mongabay.com web site and newsletter for the month of December, is granted each year to an organization using an unconventional and highly effective approach to conserving forests and biodiversity.
(09/25/2008) Industrial logging, large-scale forest conversion for oil palm plantations, and the illegal wildlife trade have left sun bears the rarest species of bear on the planet. Recognizing their dire status, Siew Te Wong, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Montana, is working in Malaysia to save the species from extinction. Known as “Sun Bear Man” in some circles, Siew Te Wong is setting up the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sabah, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. The project aims to save sun bears, which have largely overlooked by conservationists, through research, education, rehabilitation, and habitat conservation.