Rimba and Miskin, a pair of Malayan sun bears at the Saint Louis Zoo, were born in the rainforests of Borneo. Both bears were captured by loggers, who were clearing the forests.
Rimba was sold to a private family, illegally. After about a year, the family turned him over to government officials when he had grown to be a dangerous pet.
Government officials placed Rimba, Miskin and other confiscated sun bears at Sepilok Rehabilation Center, an orangutan forest reserve in Sabah, Borneo. Because Sepilok was not prepared to take in bears, the 10 confiscated animals were kept in a fairly small enclosure. Dr. Bosi, Director of Sepilok, was concerned for the bears’ welfare and contacted the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA).
AZA’s Bear Taxon Advisory Group (which includes Steve Bircher, curator of carnivores at the Saint Louis Zoo) began an importation process for the10 bears, which took almost two years. A consortium of a dozen zoos worked with U.S. Fish & Wildlife to remove the bears from Borneo. The consortium sent a team to Sepilok to conduct medical exams and help crate the bears for shipment to the U.S.
The Malayan sun bear is the most endangered of all eight bear species, including the giant panda. There are probably only about 800 sun bears left in the wild, and about 1,000 giant pandas in the wild.
"We are very hopeful that Rimba and Miskin will breed in the future," says Dr. William J. Boever, director of the Saint Louis Zoo. "These bears, and the others brought to U.S. zoos, represent new genetic lines for the North American zoo population. Our zoo and others are trying to keep this gravely endangered bear from extinction. In addition," he adds, "we continue to tell the story of Rimba and Miskin, so our visitors will understand the plight of sun bears due to loss of habitat in the wild."