KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A one-month-old sun bear cub that looks like an adorable plush toy was snatched from its mother to be sold illegally online.
Last Saturday (Oct 22), the National Parks Department (Perhilitan) saved the cub at a hotel in Kuala Lipis, Pahang.
A 30-year-old man was arrested for possession of the sun bear without permit.
"There are people who buy wildlife as pets. They like to keep young bears, leopard cats and owls," said Perhilitan director-general Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim.
"Only the 'cute' ones. But they don't know how hard it will be to care for the animals once they've grown."
He warned that wild creatures could be aggressive and would attack without reason.
Mr Abdul Kadir gave the example of keeping a tiger cub as a pet.
"I don't know where they will keep the tiger when it's two years old. It would probably eat its owner," he said in jest.
As for the sun bear cub, Mr Abdul Kadir said Perhilitan had been monitoring the man for about a month before the arrest.
"The sun bear was about to be sold for a mere RM2,000 (S$668). We believe the bear was brought in from a neighbouring country," he told a press conference at the Perhilitan headquarters on Tuesday (Oct 25).
Perhilitan also saved seven leopard cats at a house in Ampang last Friday.
There were no special permits for five of the cats. Although there were permits for the other two, they were registered under a different address.
The sun bear will be sent to the National Wildlife Rescue Centre in Sungkai and released into the wild once it has matured, while the cats can be released immediately pending veterinary inspection.
Mr Abdul Kadir advised the public to stop buying exotic animals as pets.
"The thing about Malaysians, they feel a sense of pride having wildlife as pets. But we can't do that. We have cats and dogs that we can keep as pets. Don't buy wildlife. Let them be free in the wild," he said.
Mr Abdul Kadir added that each wild animal had its own purpose in the cycle of life in the jungle and snatching them away would only cause harm.
"God has created tigers to be a certain way, or bears a certain way. If one of the species is not around anymore, the cycle of life will be disrupted," he said.
Last Friday, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said Perhilitan arrested five wildlife traffickers and retrieved 32 rare animals, including a tiger cub, a bearcat and a dwarf caiman.
The nearly 20 species of animals recovered, among them a leopard cat, mousedeer, turtle, four baby monkeys, birds and squirrels, were worth about RM500,000.