Founder and Director Lesley Small started the not-for-profit charity, the Sumatran Sun Bear Team out of necessity. Most people have heard of the issues that bears are facing all over the world, but in a land of 50 million people in Sumatra, there was no one taking care of the Sun Bears there. We have a great team with Wildlife Veterinary, surgical nursing and bear keeping experience all on the board and a team member in the UK who has worked in bear sanctuaries in Borneo and the USA.
The Australian charity was registered in 2018 and Lesley and the team have worked hard to begin the first Sun Bear rescue and conservation centre in Sumatra. After partnering with an established wildlife organisation and raising enough funds, the first purpose-built naturalistic enclosure was able to start being built in May 2021. It is just a small beginning, 1 outdoor natural enclosure and 3 dens. The enclosure has a climbing structure, hammocks, a pond, and elevated beds in this new facility. There were Sun Bears waiting to move in from Government care including a young bear cub, Uca who Lesley had met in 2020. They all needed a place to call home, after they had been ripped away from their natural wild homes.
In January 2022 we were able to take in 3 female Sun Bears, including young Uca and one tiny cub who was even younger: Jessy. Rossa, a 13-year-old illegal ex-pet was a surprise guest but was welcomed with open arms, she had been in a cage for all her captive life. Lesley and our UK member, Philip were able to introduce all 3 bears to each other and that became a whole lot of fun for all the girls. When we are not in Sumatra we work closely with the team there, including Vets and a motivated local bear keeper to ensure that these beautiful bears are living a happy, enriched, and healthy life.
In March of 2023, a wild adult male bear was trapped in a wire snare by his left front paw, just several hours travel time away from our centre. We were able to support a rescue team to go to this terrible scene, anaesthetise him and bring him to our centre. He needed to have his lifeless paw removed. Our Veterinarian, Kimberly and our theatre nurse Lauren travelled to Sumatra, worked with the Indonesian Vets to perform the amputation, the only surgery that would save his life. He is called Hercules and he’s still in our care, albeit crowded now as he’s sharing the facility but separate from the 3 girls. We are hoping that we can get him well enough to return him to the wild.
We have plans in place with a proposed builder to build a quarantine and holding facility to be able to take in the awaiting bears still in Government care. Once that is complete, we will be working towards building a 1 Ha enclosure with up to 12 dens. With your support we can help the many bears waiting and counting on us to be there for them.