Tony McRae

Tony McRae

Former Minister for the Environment; Climate Change; Disability Services

    Cambodian Sun Bears begin new life

    6/02/2007 2:07 PM

    Two rescued Sun Bears from Cambodia had their first public outing at Perth Zoo today.

    The rare pair of bears have been given a new chance at life thanks to the generosity of Western Australian families and businesses through Project Sun Bear.

    Environment Minister Tony McRae said Perth Zoo had worked closely with the Free the Bears Fund to give the bears a new home in Perth as part of an Australasian breeding program.

    “The bears arrived in Perth from Cambodia in late January and were given time to settle into their new surroundings before being introduced to the public,” Mr McRae said.

    “Both six-year-old male Jamran and four-year-old female Bopha were taken illegally from the wild as cubs and suffered at the hands of their captors.

    “Jamran arrived at the Free the Bears Fund sanctuary in Cambodia in a terrible condition, tied to a pole to prevent him from scratching or biting his captors.

    “Since their rescue, Jamran and Bopha have been cared for at the sanctuary and were accompanied to Perth by the sanctuary’s head keeper to help them settle into their new home.”

    The Minister said the zoo had received wonderful support from sponsors, the business community and members of the public to raise money to build the new exhibit, transfer the bears to Perth and support a breeding program.

    “The Cambodian Government has also been supportive of Project Sun Bear, providing permission to send the bears to Australia to join the regional breeding program,” he said.

    “Perth Zoo is a member of the Australasian captive breeding program for Sun Bears and it is our hope that Jamran and Bopha will breed in the future.

    “The new exhibit includes a birthing den, two enclosures providing each of the bears with their own territory but with the ability to create one large enclosure, a stream for the bears to play in and elevated climbing platforms.

    “There is also a special area at the front of the exhibit where in the future, visitors will be able to watch the bears’ training sessions with the keepers.”

    The exhibit also includes a life-sized model of a Sun Bear atop a ruined temple structure which acts as a donation point for visitors to support the conservation of Sun Bears in Cambodia.

    Founder and head of the non-profit Perth-based group Free the Bears Fund Mary Hutton said the plight of Sun Bears and other bears in Asia was overwhelming, particularly with the illegal wildlife trade and habitat destruction of greatest concern.

    In Cambodia, a bowl of bear-paw soup can fetch up to $1,290.

    “The Cambodian Government is doing its best to combat the illegal hunting and capture of Sun Bears, but it has limited resources,” Ms Hutton said.

    “Support from Perth Zoo and the wider community can make a huge difference.”

    Ms Hutton said Jamran had always been a slightly nervous bear, but since his introduction to Bopha at the Cambodian sanctuary he had settled down incredibly well.

    “We are confident this pair of Sun Bears will make fantastic ambassadors for their species at Perth Zoo,” Ms Hutton said.

    The new Sun Bear exhibit is now open to the public.

    Minister's office - 9213 7150