From the Temperate Zone to the Tropic–Sun Bear Research and Conservation from Montana to Borneo

Scientific Disciplines
Biological Sciences - Terrestrial
University of Montana
College of Forestry and Conservation
Southeast asia
sun bear
College of Forestry
Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre
sun bears
bear research
sun bear research
Volume 16, No. 4

From the temperate zone to the tropic–sun bear research 
and conservation from montana to borneo

Siew Te Wong* and Christopher Servheen, Wildlife Biology Program, College of Forestry and 
Conservation, University Hall, Room 309, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812
Originally found throughout Southeast Asia, sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) are the 
least known bear and remain poorly studied. We initiated one of the first ecological studies 
of the sun bear in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo starting in 1998. This research has continued 
since then and has expanded to include conservation actions that respond to key findings. Our 
research documented the life history and ecology of the sun bear in the tropical rainforest and 
highlighted serious conservation concerns for the species. Sun bear numbers are decreasing 
in Borneo and the rest of Southeast Asia from habitat loss and illegal hunting for food and 
medicine. Poaching sun bears for body parts and capturing sun bear cubs for the pet trade 
has resulted in many orphaned sun bears.  In addition to these direct human pressures, we 
documented the impact of environmental variability on sun bears in Malaysia when we 
observed an unusual famine event in Borneo in 1999-2000. Studied sun bears suffered from 
severe emaciation and even death. The famine event was related to abnormal climatic events 
of El Nino and La Nina Southern Oscillation that disrupted the mast fruiting activities in the 
forest. In response to the many conservation issues facing sun bears in Malaysia, Siew Te 
Wong founded the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in 2008. The BSBCC 
aims to conserve sun bears by rehabilitating orphaned bears, providing long-term care for 
captive bears, conducting education and outreach activities, and serving as a base for sun bear