Rescued from the illegal wildlife trade sun bears Milli and Toni have become parents to the first sun bear cub born in the UK.
Sun bears are the world’s smallest bears and keepers estimate the newborn weighed just 400 grams at birth. The cub is particularly special given the remarkable survival of its parents who were rescued from poachers in Cambodia. Milli and Toni were taken from the wild as young bears by traders who killed their mothers and kept them as mistreated pets.
After being found in very poor condition and nursed back to health by Free The Bears in Cambodia, the duo were moved to the UK. The pair lived at Rare Species Conservation Centre in Kent before moving to Chester Zoo in 2015 to complete their recovery. Now, after moving into a brand new habitat in Chester, the pair have produced their first healthy cub.
Tim Rowlands, Curator of Mammals, said: “Chester Zoo was specially selected to work with Milli and Toni and continue their care following the harrowing and horrible experiences they had in their younger lives. It’s simply fantastic that we’ve been able to help them come this far and have a cub together. It’s momentous for them and, with it being a UK first breeding of this species, momentous for the zoo too.”
Sun bears can be found in declining populations in Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, India, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo. The species is thought to be extinct in Singapore and China, where they were once found in large numbers, and is on the edge of extinction in Bangladesh.
Mike Jordan, Collections Director, added: “Sadly, sun bear numbers are rapidly declining, due to a range of factors including widespread habitat loss to make way for unsustainable palm oil plantations and the illegal wildlife trade. As well as being sold into the pet trade, the species is also exploited for its body parts, which are used in traditional Asian medicines - although there is no scientific evidence that they have medicinal value. This tragic and unnecessary combination of factors means they are now one of the world’s rarest bears.”
Anyone travelling to South East Asia can help fight the illegal wildlife trade by downloading the Wildlife Witness smartphone app, and use it to report suspicious activity, where safe to do so. Those travelling elsewhere in the world can report illegal trade via Chester Zoo’s online illegal wildlife trade reporting form.
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