Last week the 1st International Symposium on Sun Bear Conservation and Management was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A total of 97 field researchers, conservation managers, environmental educators and conservation breeding specialists, as well as government and industry representatives came together to discuss the world’s smallest bear; the sun bear.
The symposium organised by Free the Bears, IUCN Bear Specialist Group and Traffic consisted of a mixture of presentations, workshops, panel sessions and group discussions over three days. It was a very productive meeting with new connections being made, discoveries being shared and conservation goals being developed.
Symposiums are a great opportunity to meet like-minded people who share similar goals about wildlife, forests and the environment. As well as sharing knowledge and experience, the main purpose of this symposium was to develop the first conservation strategy for sun bears, which can be utilised in all countries where the sun bear is found. Not an easy task!
The sun bear is threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, and exploitation for the pet trade and bear parts for medicinal purposes. This has resulted in a 30% decline in sun bear populations. 46% of the entire sun bear range is in Indonesia, so a very important country for this little bear.
Suzanne Turnock, from Borneo Nature Foundation, participated in the symposium and shared BNF’s sun bear research and conservation work in Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. She also led a workshop on education and how to encourage positive behavioural change. Guided by Suzanne, workshop participants explored ideas of how to motive and inspire people to change their behaviour to help conserve the sun bear and reduce threats to the species.
During the meeting Suzanne met with Dr Gabriella Fredriksson, a leading sun bear expert, who kindly donated a range of books in Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian) to assist with BNF’s education activities. There are very limited conservation education resources available in Indonesian so we greatly appreciate this donation. The books will be taken to schools and villages to be used as an educational tool by the BNF Education Team.
Conferences and symposiums can be a catalyst for change and we hope this symposium will be a big step in raising the profile of the sun bear within the conservation community and to a wider audience. We look forward to the first sun bear conservation strategy to be finalised to assist our conservation efforts on Borneo.
The next International Symposium on Sun Bear Conservation and Management will be in 2019 and will be hosted by the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.(ST)