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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Our team in Indonesia have rescued a sun bear caught in a snare!

A sun bear in Borneo that had to have its leg amputated after being caught in a snare has been restored to health and returned to the wild by our team.

The bear was caught after a resident of Sungai Nanjung village, in the District of Matan Hilir South, Ketapang, West Borneo, set a snare because he claimed bears were entering the hut in his garden and eating his honey – sun bears are also known as honey bears because of their love of honey. The man set the trap on the afternoon of 19 November and by the following morning a bear had been caught in the snare.

Some of the locals in the village reported the existence of the captive bear to the local Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) and the BKSDA’s Wildlife Rescue Unit joined up with our team and drove to the location.

When we arrived the male bear, whom they named Nanjung, was very aggressive and stressed at being held captive. He was fighting to get free but the more he pulled and fought at the end of the rope, the more it tightened around his paw.

We used a blowpipe to anaesthetise Nanjung who weighed about 40 kgs. Once he was sedated, we were able to cut through the rope of the nylon snare which had been cutting into his flesh and tormenting him all day and night and one of our veterinarians cleaned his wounds.

Nanjung was transported to our rehabilitation centre in Ketapang which has facilities for the treatment and care of sick and injured animals. However, after four days in quarantine, our medical team became concerned by the swelling in his right foreleg which had been caught in the snare.

The following day, Nanjung’s condition had deteriorated even further. The skin and flesh of his leg was severely damaged and partially decomposed so that the bone was now exposed. We carried out a thorough examination and also took X-rays to see the extent of the damage. After discussions with the local BKSDA, it was decided that the bear’s leg should be amputated in order to prevent further infection and decay. The operation was carried out on 25 November.

The surgery went smoothly and by 1 December the wound had healed and, after receiving treatment and care for a further six weeks, Nanjung was ready to return to his natural habitat.

The West Kalimantan BKSDA, alongside our team, collaborated with PT Ketapang Industri Forest (HKI), to release Nanjung in the forest estate owned by the company in Kendawangan, Ketapang in West Kalimantan on Friday, 17 January 2020.

Karmele L Sanchez, Programme Director of IAR Indonesia, said that, despite losing his leg, the bear would be able to survive in the wild. "We are confident that, as a wild bear, Nanjung will survive because of his natural ability to adapt to his altered condition,” she said.

“However, the problem is not going to end with the release of Nanjung into a safer area in the wild. Cases like this are symptoms of an underlying problem and there is a high probability that something like this will happen again. The real issue is the low level of public awareness and understanding of protected wildlife, as well as the conversion of the forest into plantations and settlements. Forests are increasingly shrinking and so the habitat of wild animals like Nanjung is being squeezed, leaving them with no option other than to seek food in villages and gardens.”

Sadtata Noor Adirahmanta, Head of the West Kalimantan BKSDA, said: “It is time for humans to change. All natural disasters, human-animal conflicts and other crises are just signals that all is not well in nature. Habitat destruction will have an adverse impact on human beings as well as wildlife and drive us all towards extinction.”

The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) lists the sun bear’s conservation status as vulnerable or threatened. Although the species has been protected by law in Indonesia since 1973 and this was strengthened in 1999 with legislation relating to the Utilisation of Wild Plants and Animals, it continues to be threatened by habitat destruction and forest fires, as well as poaching for the pet trade or for body parts.

Alan Knight OBE, Chief Executive of International Animal Rescue, concluded: “Our team in Indonesia works to rescue, rehabilitate and release orangutans – but the case of this sun bear demonstrates only too well that all species of wildlife are impacted by habitat destruction which can lead to conflict with people when they go in search of food. Sadly, in this instance, the little bear’s love of honey cost him his leg – but thankfully not his life, thanks to the treatment and care he received from the medical team at our rescue centre.”