Sun Bears Befriend Local RER Rangers

The Helarctos Malayanus, more commonly known as the Sun Bear, lives in the dense lowland forests of Southeast Asia and is the smallest member of the bear family.

Due to the eco-restoration efforts of the Indonesian peatlands in Pelalawan by Restorasi Ekosistem Riau (RER), rangers stationed at the sites have encountered Sun Bears on multiple occasions. They have had opportunities to observe the bears as well as interact with them, and have come to think of them as friendly companions.

Photos were taken with a cell phone of three rangers crouching on the ground playing with a black Sun Bear cub. One of the rangers was able to get within half a meter of the cub, to give it some food.

“After getting the food, the bear returned to the forest. However, there are new rules now for the rangers to no longer feed the bears.” – Peter Gunarso, Director of RER.

According to Mr Gunarso, there are plenty of natural food sources in the forests for the Sun Bears. However, to ensure that they will be able to find enough food on their own and that they will not start relying on receiving food from humans, RER has decided to plant extra natural food sources throughout the forest for the Sun Bears.

RER was established with the support of APRIL, which is part of the RGE group of companies founded by Sukanto Tanoto in 1973, and is devoted to protecting and restoring 150 000 hectares of natural peat lands in Indonesia. Not only do they guard the forest against illegal logging and enforce the strict rules pertaining to the peatlands, they also go through great efforts to educate inhabitants of local villages in the attempt to enlist their help in maintain the forests and to cease all land burning practises which contribute to deforestation. The education offered to villagers includes teaching them the skills to grow crops and to become fishermen.