Two male sun bears from Cambodia’s Phnom Tamao Zoo arrived safely at their new Scottish home on Friday. The brothers named Rotana and Somnang flew around the world to take part in a European breeding program to ensure the survival of the rare species.
“Bears always travel well…. Everybody at Edinburgh Zoo said they walked out of their crates as relaxed as anything,” Matt Hunt, CEO of the Australian NGO Free the Bears Fund, which supports the zoo’s bear sanctuary, said.
Worldwide there is a shortage of captive male sun bears and these– the only pair in Scotland– will be taken for breeding across Europe and are likely to stay permanently, Mr Hunt said.
The colder Scottish weather would not upset the sun bears who are ranked as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, he said. “They are pretty adaptable and have a heated swimming pool in a large indoor area.”
The Forestry Administration’s wildlife rescue team saved Rotana and Somnang in 2004 from an unnamed private owner who kept them in a small cage, Free the Bears Fund said in a statement.
Since then they stayed with 75 other sun bears at Phnom Tamao’s bear sanctuary– the world’s largest captive population of the climbing bears who can measure 1.2 meters when standing.
Sun bears, named for the yellow crescents on their chests, are in decline in Cambodia because the forest where they live is being destroyed, said Vuthy Choun, Free the Bears Fund Cambodian program manager.
Iain Valentine, director of animals, education and conservation at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, welcomed the bears, who are on a long-term breeding loan and remain Cambodian government property, to a new $225,000 enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo.
“We are bringing new blood lines to the captive populations and at the same time providing a charismatic creature which will hopefully encourage our visitors to learn more about the plight of the sun bear,” Mr Valentine said in a statement.