Members of the public with personal experiences of encountering or having knowledge of sun bears are welcome to participate in the Brunei-wide survey of the Malayan Sun Bear conducted by Brunei-based Borneo Futures Sdn Bhd who is working with the Forestry Department at the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) and the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Research (IBER), Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD).
The questionnaire can be found at https://forms.gle/DTELaJ4PtD8npkU77 in English and https://forms.gle/6XS5PoQazDBZXiDh6 in Malay.
According to Borneo Futures, the sun bear – helarctos malayanus – is the smallest bear in the world, growing to just 1.4 metres in length and weighing 25 to 70 kilogrammes. The bears, with black fur and a unique orange to cream marking on their chest, populate the dense lowland forests of Southeast Asia and is a native species to the Sultanate. Sun bears are the forests’ natural seed dispersers, pest control and house builders. When hunting for insects, they create new tree cavities which in return creates nests for hornbills, flying squirrels and other tree-dwellers. Sun bears also help to drive the forest nutrient cycle by digging for food among the leaf litter, and leaving scraps for scavengers such as pheasants and partridges.
The species thrives in the thick and abundant forests, but their loss can alter the ecosystems. To conserve the sun bears, they must be understood. During the first meeting in Q3 2021, Borneo Futures, the Forestry Department and IBER, UBD commenced a baseline study of sun bears in Brunei. The study aims to establish the population distribution, gauge population trends, identify potential threats in the country’s context and subsequently produce a country-specific plan to protect sun bears in Brunei and join the global effort to protect the ecosystems.
Borneo Futures’ focal point for the project Thina Ariffin expressed gratitude to be working with the Forestry Department and IBER, UBD to explore what the Sultanate has to offer. She highlighted the potential for the study, considering Brunei’s untouched forests and abundance of biodiversity.
The Forestry Department said, “This is a step towards understanding not only sun bears but also other species in Brunei’s forests. This knowledge can be extended further to future biodiversity and forestry conservation plans, and natural resource management.”
IBER, UBD shared the same sentiment and added how it is a great prospect to showcase and raise the profile of Bruneian research in scientific literature.