Thailand park officials criticised over bear's fatal chopper fall

PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

A WILDLIFE activist strongly criticised Khao Yai National Park officials yesterday for allowing a rescued Asian black bear to fall to its death from a helicopter during an operation to return it to nature.

Thongchai Saengprathum, secretary of the Khao Yai Foundation, said the |officials concerned should face legal action for |negligence during the February 11 incident.

The bear woke up aboard the helicopter while it was being flown into the national park in Prachin Buri. It had not been put inside a cage but was instead covered by a net and put on board. As the helicopter flew over forest land, the animal panicked and fell to its death.

The young bear, which weighed about 90 kilograms, had been found injured in November last year and officials took it for rehabilitation until it fully recovered.

Thongchai said the accident could have been avoided, as Khao Yai National Park had been a role model for other parks in its handling of rescued wild animals.

He said the park officials made a wrong decision to fly the bear in a helicopter because other wild animals were earlier transported in trucks to be released back to nature.

Starving sun bears beg for food at Indonesian zoo

  • Distressing images and videos of skeletal sun bears begging for food from visitors in an Indonesian zoo has prompted calls for them to be rescued.
  • In one video, posted on Jan 10, the bears are seen standing up on their hind legs inside their pen, and appearing to plead with visitors, who throw in bits of cake, sweets and crackers to feed them.
  • The videos were posted on YouTube by the Scorpion Wildlife Trade Monitoring Group.
  • The group has started an online petition to pressure Bandung mayor Ridwan Kamil to close the zoo.
  • The petition has garnered over 2,200 signatures since.
  • Another horrifying video, which was posted in May last year, shows the extent of the creatures' plight when one starving bear ate its own faeces.
  • Scorpion's director, Gunung Gea, said: "We saw a sun bear eating its own dung but when we contacted the zoo's officers they told us the bear was medicated and we weren't allowed to see it."
  • Volunteers from the animal welfare group said that the sun bears in the zoo were only a fraction of their healthy 80kg weight, The Straits Times reported.
  • Sun bears are the smallest of the world's eight bear species and are found throughout mainland Asia, Sumatra and Borneo.
  • According to National Geographic, their natural habitats are being threatened due to deforestation and poachers have also hunted them for their body parts and fur.

Thongchai also said the plan to release the bear at Khao Laem, which is deep in the forest and far from the spot near the forest border where it was found and rescued, was flawed.

He said Asian black bears are social animals that need to stay with their packs. Flying the bear to a new location could also see it killed by local bears, Thongchai added.

The activist said officials were also careless in calculating the weight of the bear to give the correct dose of tranquilliser to prevent it from waking up during the operation. It should also have been put it a cage, he said.