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Wildlife Trade Specialists

Sun Bear Helarctos malayanus poached for their paws, claws meat, and gall bladder

Sun Bear Helarctos malayanus poached for their paws, claws meat, and gall bladder

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Published 10th August 2018

Sumatran court bares its claws for bears

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 10th August 2018—Indonesia has slapped a stiff sentence on a wildlife trader caught with a freezer full of wildlife parts which included 64 bear paws. The move sends a strong signal to wildlife criminals targeting Sun Bears Helarctos malayanus for their products.


The 55-year-old- trader was sentenced to four years and six months in jail as well as fined a total of IDR100,000,000 (approximately USD6,900) by the Muaro District Court in Sumatra this June.

The trader’s arrest and conviction are significant not only for the strict sentence he received, which was a few months shy of the five years sought by prosecutors, but also because the quantity of endangered wildlife found in his possession highlights an ongoing poaching and illegal trade issue.

The 64 bear paws in his possession are equivalent to a minimum of 16 bears. 23 Critically Endangered Sunda Pangolins Manis javanica, all frozen except one live individual, were also seized from his premises in January. The man was reported to have sourced wildlife from several provinces in Sumatra.  

We need more court outcomes like these to show offenders that such crimes will not be tolerated. We commend the investigators, prosecutors, and the Muaro District Court

Lalita Gomez, Programme Officer for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.

“Penalties like this will boost overall efforts to end the threat to threatened species like bears and pangolins”, said Gomez.

The case has occurred at a time when Sun Bears across Southeast Asia are facing increasing threats.

There have already been numerous cases in Indonesia this year of poaching and illegal trade in Sun Bears. In May, the skin of a Sun Bear was seized in West Kalimantan. The previous month, four individuals in Riau were arrested for killing and cooking three Sun Bears. In February, a man from Sumatra was arrested for selling bear claws and canines on Facebook.  

Between 2012 and 2017, there were at least 14 seizures in Kalimantan alone involving bears killed for parts used in traditional medicine, as well as incidents of poaching for their meat.  One case in November 2017 involved over 200 bones, over 1,000 claws and over 20 gall bladders of Sun Bears that were seized on route from Kalimantan to Viet Nam via post. More recently, bear gall bladders reportedly from Indonesia have been found for sale in Malaysia. 

This case also illustrates the presence of networks operating in Sumatra to poach bears and pangolins and supply them to a collection point which ultimately gets fed to traders further down the supply chain

Kanitha Krishnasamy, Acting Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.

“Thorough investigation into these parties should be pursued to ensure that they do not continue to empty Indonesian forests of their wildlife,” said Krishnasamy.

Responding to the threats, experts from around the globe have drawn up a specific action plan for Sun Bears, one of the least studied and yet one of the most threatened of the Asian bear species.

The Sun Bear is the only native bear to Indonesia, and has been fully protected in the country since 1973.  It is also listed on Appendix I of CITES, and assessed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List™. Its populations are described as being in decline across their range with Indonesia considered to be one of the remaining strongholds for wild populations.