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Bearly on the radar – an analysis of seizures of bears in Indonesia


Indonesia is home to one species of bear, sun bear Helarctos malayanus. Aside from forest loss and habitat degradation, wild populations are being hunted and killed for the illegal wildlife trade. Yet, very little data exists on the extent of this exploitation or its potential impact on bears. To gain a better understanding on this front, we assessed seizure data involving bears, their parts and derivatives in Indonesia from 2011 to 2018. We obtained 71 records of seizures of bears in Indonesia over the 8-year period which was estimated to represent a minimum of 254 sun bears. We found a relatively high number of bears being kept as pets as well as parts prized as trophies or talismans like claws, teeth, or taxidermied specimens. To a lesser extent, we found bear parts coveted for traditional medicine use and for food. At least five countries were linked in the illegal trafficking of bears from Indonesia, mostly involving bear parts (teeth, claws, gall bladders and paws). Our results show that the sun bear trade in Indonesia is widespread and persists despite its protection status, in violation of national laws and international regulations. While numerous seizures have been made, follow-up arrest, prosecution and conviction rates are extremely low. Considering how lucrative the illegal trade in wildlife has become, punishments must reflect the crime if it is to serve as any kind of deterrent, and if the sun bear is to be saved from further decline.

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We are immensely grateful to Holly Shepherd for her help in improving an earlier draft of this paper, Biofagri Rachmayuningtyas whose research and local language skills were a tremendous help, and Linda and Bill Bucholtz for supporting us during the planning phase of this project. We thank Fran Duthie for supporting the collection of seizure data in Indonesia. We also owe a great deal of thanks to Hauser Bears who, ever dedicated to eradicating the illegal trade in bears, has been generously supporting our endeavour towards this end.

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Correspondence to Lalita Gomez.

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Gomez, L., Shepherd, C.R. Bearly on the radar – an analysis of seizures of bears in Indonesia. Eur J Wildl Res 65, 89 (2019).

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  • Helarctos malayanus
  • Kalimantan
  • Sumatra
  • Sun bear
  • Wildlife trade