>Bear cub debut puts spotlight on survival

>Bopha with her three-month old cub, Maly, at Pert Zoo.

Ryan Emery | June 30, 2008
The Australian

HER parents may have suffered greatly in their lives, but Australia’s first-born sun bear has started her life in a far more peaceful way.

On the weekend, three-month-old Maly was unveiled to the public at Perth Zoo.

Keeping a watchful eye on her was first-time mother Bopha, who was rescued from poachers in Cambodia some years ago.

Often cradled in her mother’s arms, Maly was experiencing the world outside her den for the first time. She was born weighing just 406g on March 26 to Bopha and father Jamran.

Jamran and Bopha were part of Asia’s illegal culinary and medicinal trade, which has pushed the sun bear, also known as the honey bear, towards the edge of extinction. The sun bear, the world’s smallest bear, is reputed to have great healing powers and is considered a delicacy in some parts of Asia.

A bowl of bear-paw soup in Cambodia can reportedly cost up to $1290, and dried bear gall can sell for 18 times the price of gold. The sun bears, named after the U-shaped golden patch of fur on their chests, are milked for their gall bladder bile while they are still alive.

West Australian Environment Minister David Templeman said the birth of Maly, the Cambodian word for blossom, was an important achievement.

“Maly is particularly special because of the remarkable survival story of her parents, six-year-old Bopha and eight-year-old Jamran, who were rescued from poachers,” he said.

“Bopha and Jamran were taken illegally from the wild when they were cubs, and were in a terrible condition when they arrived at the Free The Bears Fund sanctuary near Phnom Penh in Cambodia.”

The sanctuary nursed the bears back to health before they were sent to Perth Zoo.

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