THE strange-looking creature which spooked a group of plantation workers in Sarawak has been identified as a rare Malayan sun bear by environmentalists, The Rakyat Post reported.
Environmental group Naturetalksback also condemned the workers in Sarawak for beating the animal who had wandered into the plantation until it passed out. They also filmed the beating.
"The workers should know better than to hit the poor animal which is our very own Malaysian sun bear that had lost its fur, either from disease or because it had been abused," said Naturetalksback's Facebook page administrator Cyren Wong.
"How is it that they can hit the poor animal which they deemed threatening until it passes out before chasing it away?" he told The Rakyat Post.
The strange-looking animal, which none of the workers could identify, crawled around on all fours but did not have a tail, and had brownish-grey skin, sharp claws and short ears, as could be seen on a video posted on The Borneo Post's YouTube channel.
"We were shocked. None of us has ever seen such thing. One of us then hit the animal until it appeared to have passed out," The Borneo Post Online quoted a worker as saying.
A worker claimed that the creature had charged at them. "It could be a rare species of bear. When it regained consciousness, we forced it to go back into the jungle," he was quoted as saying by the news website.
The workers did not notify the authorities about the early-morning incident, they said.
Wong said that the animal was a sun bear, which was probably suffering from skin disease. "An animal such as the one in the video is probably suffering from some skin disease.
"By letting it go into the wild again, it might spread its disease within its species or possibly beyond as well," Wong said, adding that the workers should have informed the authorities to take the animal away.
Wong deplored the lack of awareness among members of the public on their local and unique species of animals, Rakyat Post said.
"These days, so many Malaysians are getting excited over 1,600 plastic panda bears, but our own local bear gets beaten up," Wong said, referring to the recent exhibition in Malaysia of 1,600 paper mache pandas created by French sculptor Paulo Grangeon to raise awareness of environmental conservation.
"If that particular creature turned out to be a fur-less dog or cat, we can imagine the public outrage and attention that it would receive compared to this animal."
Wong added that in the future, should anyone find an animal in such a condition, they should inform wildlife officials or any non-governmental organisations related to wild animals immediately.
The Malayan sun bear, the world's smallest bear, lives in tropical forests but deforestation in South-east Asia threatens the species's survival.