The first sun bear to be born in captivity in Cambodia made its appearance about two weeks ago at Phnom Tamao Zoo, according to Suon Phalla, head of education for the Wildlife Protection Office, which runs the zoo.
No one has seen the baby yet, as it and mother Dina have been in seclusion since before the birth to simulate the hibernation environment in which they would live in the wild, Suon Phalla said Monday. “We don’t want people to disturb them,” he said.
David Ware, an adviser to the Wildlife Protection Office, said the half-kilogram baby bear’s eyes and ears haven’t opened yet, but once that happens it will learn to crawl and eventually be able to mingle with the other 10 or so bears in the zoo’s enclosure.
For the time being, however, staff at the Wildlife Protection office and Free the Bears Fund are crossing their fingers that the baby bear lives long enough to join the others.
Free the Bears Fund, a Perth, Australia-based organization, provides funding and staff assistance for the bear program at the zoo, which was established in 1995 and is funded primarily through the Ministry of Environment.
“In a month we can say that the mother won’t eat [the baby] or roll over on it and crush it,” Ware said Monday. He explained that if the mother feels threatened, uncomfortable or stressed out in any way it may accidentally kill the baby sun bear.
The mother was seized from an illegal smuggler more than two years ago, Suon Phalla said, noting most of the zoo’s bears—both Malaysian sun bears and Asiatic black bears—are rescued from smugglers and others attempting to sell them for the Chinese delicacy bear paw soup or for their bile, which is said to have medicinal powers.