KOTA KINABALU - Five endangered Malayan sun bears that were seized and handed over to the Sabah Wildlife Department now have a chance to return to the wild.
The five were recently transferred to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sandakan from the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, near here, where they were initially sheltered.
They were either seized by wild life rangers between June last year and March 1 or handed over to the department by the public.
Officer-in-charge of the park and veterinarian Dr Rosa Sipangkui said that the four male and one female bears were tranquillised on March 10 and given a full medical examination to make sure they were healthy before they were put in cages for an eight-hour journey to their new jungle home at the conservation centre.
"One day they may be rehabilitated and released into a protected forest reserve," she said.
The conservation centre's chief executive officer, Wong Siew Te, said his team took three hours to unload the bears when they arrived there and to settle the animals into a bear house.
"We are monitoring their progress and will keep the public updated on how they are doing.
"The bears are not among those that were for public viewing at the wildlife park," he said, adding that two more bears were expected to arrive at the conservation centre.
"With that, the bear population at the centre will increase to 34," he added.
Wong reminded the public that it was an offence to keep protected species and should they have any such animal in captivity they should surrender it to the department.
"Sun bears are protected by law, and cannot be kept as pets," he said, adding that they were forest dependent and played important roles in the forest ecosystem as seed dispersers, forest engineers, forest doctors and forest farmers.
"They keep our forests healthy, for the benefit of humans and all life-forms."