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. Steve Bircher, Saint Louis Zoo Curator of Mammals/Carnivores, who was leading a Zoo-sponsored trip to Borneo, learned during his visit to Sepilok that the facility was not designed to hold a large group of confiscated animals permanently. There was concern for the bears’ welfare.
As a member of the AZA Bear Taxon Advisory Group, Bircher relayed this information to the Malayan Sun Bear Species Survival Plan Management Group (SSP), whose leaders contacted Sepilok to begin the importation process of two groups of ten Bornean sun bears. The SSP, working with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and a consortium of Association of Zoos and Aquariums institutions, imported the sun bears from Borneo over a three-year period. The consortium sent a team to Sepilok to conduct medical exams and help crate the bears for shipment to the United States.
The Malayan sun bear is the smallest among the eight species of bears. Also, it is considered vulnerable due to the lack of accurate numbers of bears in the wild, and is threatened by deforestation from the development oil palm plantations, as well as from human encroachment and poaching.