As many of you will have no doubt seen through other media releases, the poorly sun bear that was surrendered to Matang a few weeks ago died. It was quite an ordeal to get her to Matang as she was first sighted in January but not able to be caught until March, and she was in terrible physical condition on arrival – certainly the worst bear that has ended up at this centre in all the years we have worked here.
She was suffering from heavy loads of internal and external parasites, including quite sizeable tapeworms, which were clearly affecting her health and she was seriously anaemic. Many of her claws were broken and her teeth were severely damaged. As was obvious to all, she was also suffering from extreme malnutrition.
We were able to treat the parasite infections and gave her daily vitamin and mineral supplements to help with her general health. Since she appeared close to starvation we fed her small amounts of a wide range of soft food continuously throughout the days. For a short time she seemed to improve – she put on a little weight and muscle tone and there were small tufts of hair attempting to grow back. She was never very comfortable with the presence of people though, and this, along with her general condition, led us to think that perhaps this was an old, wild sun bear.
During the weeks she was with us she remained in the quarantine area of the centre. Other than to eat, we never saw her spending her time on the floor. She was always using the tree structures in the cage and sleeping on these branches or on the small platform. We left her as undisturbed as possible, and during those few weeks she seemed to enjoy all the extra food (soggy dog biscuits and porridge oats being her favourites) and the chance to rest.
Her condition got noticeably worse just a couple of days before she died. She stopped eating food, was resting on the floor rather than the trees or platform and small amounts of vomit were found in her cage. She died very soon thereafter. Autopsy revealed what appeared to be cancerous growths through her digestive system. This further suggests that the bear was overwhelmingly suffering from old age. If this was a wild sun bear as we suspect, succumbing to old age is a fairly lucky way to go. We feel that she was not suffering for those final few weeks and are pleased to have been able to provide heaps of nice food and a safe, calm environment for her to rest.