Traumatized Sun Bear Rescued after Spending Four Years in Cage

A seven-year-old sun bear that was kept in a cage for four years has arrived at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center after being rescued by conservation workers.

The bear, named Kukuton, was found illegally kept as a pet in Kampung village in Sabah, Malaysia.

According to the Sun Bear Conservation Center, the owner said she was trying to protect him as his previous owner had the intention to sell him off. The owner also said that she was too busy managing her family which led to the delay of handing Kukuton over to the authorities.

In a story posted to Facebook, the conservation center said: "The decision to not immediately inform and hand him over to the authorities after keeping him illegally in a cage for four years; from 2015 to 2019 was against the law and the owner was brought to court.

"On 19 July 2021, she was found guilty for keeping a the sun bear illegally and the court sentenced her with a fine of RM15,000 ($3,500) or four months in jail which was then settled with the owner paying the fine."

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Kukuton was then confiscated by Sabah Wildlife Department. Over the weekend, he was taken in by Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre where he is now in "safe hands."

Dr Wong Siew Te, C.E.O. and Founder of The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre told Newsweek that they have planned a health check for Kukuton on January 14. "Currently, Kukuton is still in the quarantine area," he said. "He appears to be traumatized and is showing stereotypical behavior. He is still taking his time to adapt to the new environment. However, he is improving little by little. We hope he gets better soon.

"Since he is an adult bear, he is actually quite alert and conscious on the sudden change of the environment. This behavior is very normal to any new rescued bear to our centre."

Sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) are the smallest species of bear, reaching around four feet in height. They are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, with their biggest threats including deforestation and commercial hunting. The species is hunted for their gallbladders, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, and their paws, which are considered a delicacy.

According to the U.K.-based charity Bear Conservation, Borneo has the largest remaining population of sun bears.He still do pacing as a sign of nerves but it is slowing down."

Kukuton's arrival marks the 66th rescue by the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center.

The sun bear will undergo a one-month quarantine and receive comprehensive care under the Bear Care team at the center.

The conservation center hopes that Kukuton can "leave his past behind, learn the skills of being a wild sun bear and prepare for the day for his return to the forest again".

In Sabah, it is illegal to keep a sun bear in captivity. According to the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, the sun bear is a Totally Protected species.

Violation of the law will be punished with a fine of no less than RM50,000 ($12,000) and up to RM250,000 ($60,000) and a maximum of five years' imprisonment.