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In addition to caring for and rehabilitating orangutans, the BOS Foundation also looks after a number of sun bears. The sun bears at our Samboja Lestari facility have been entrusted to the BOS Foundation by the East Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan BKSDA (Natural Resources Conservation Agency), the provincial level governmental agency in charge of species protection. The BOS Foundation has had sun bears in its care since 1998.

We currently take care of 71 sun bears at our Sun Bear Sanctuary in Samboja Lestari, East Kalimantan. Previously, a number of sun bears were also housed at our Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Central Kalimantan. However, the decision was made to move all sun bears to Samboja Lestari, where we have special, custom-made enclosures that account for their species-specific needs.

Also red-listed by the IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature), sun bears face similar threats to their survival as orangutans do: the illegal wildlife trade and habitat loss due to forest fires, land use change, and illegal logging.

There are significant differences in the handling of sun bears compared to that of orangutans, particularly in terms of veterinary care and their capability to develop the survival skills needed to return to the wild. With orangutans, our most common veterinary challenge comes in the form of disease treatment and management; but with sun bears, our veterinary team is mostly called in to treat wounds or injuries sustained from fights. Sun bears and orangutans are similar in that they both learn survival skills from their mothers, but unlike orangutans, sun bears are more challenging to teach without them becoming overly attached to humans. This makes it almost impossible for sun bears to be released in the forest.

Even though the sun bears housed at our Samboja Lestari facility will likely need lifelong sanctuary care, we still provide them with stimulating enrichment that helps to simulate the foraging activities they would otherwise be undertaking in the wild. According to Vet Agus Irwanto, from Samboja Lestari; “Sun bears also need to be fed, given enrichment, and provided with safe and secure enclosures. At its core, we care for them in a similar way to how we care for orangutans, because for both it is not only about tending to their physical needs, but their social and psychological ones as well!”

Despite all the challenges involved, we will continue to strive for a high quality of life for the sun bears at our centre and we will always work to provide them with the safe, forested environment that they all deserve.

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