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Mr Hobbs the Sun Bear

Walking past the Sun Bear exhibit and watching the bears rest, climb or forage it’s hard to imagine Mr. Hobbs had a very sad and frightening beginning to his life.

In 1995 Mr. Hobbs was born in a Cambodian forest. While he was still a very young cub he was taken from the wild and his mother despite fierce efforts to protect the cub from harm.

Sun Bears are commonly used in the restaurant and traditional medicine trade. Bear Paw Soup is considered a delicacy and consumers flaunt their wealth by buying it for themselves and their guests. Luckily, Mr. Hobbs was rescued by an Australian businessman.

The cub was only the size of a puppy. After rescuing Mr. Hobbs and two other females from similar situations the businessman cared for them until he had to return to Australia. He handed the bears over to Free the Bears and founder Mary Hutton soon contacted Taronga Zoo. The Zoo spent almost two years working with the Cambodian Government and Australian Governments to complete the first-ever Memorandum of Understanding to bring Mr. Hobbs legally from Cambodia to Australia.

Mr. Hobbs has been a terrific bear to work with. His early times demonstrated his inability to climb and problem solve. He would get into areas in his exhibit and not know how to climb out; this was worrying as Sun Bears are the best bear climbers in the world. These are skills Sun Bears normally learn from their mother during their first two years of development and growth.

He has been improving since the arrival of his companion Mary in 2012.  Mary was born at the National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra. Her mother was also rescued in Cambodia. Mary’s exceptionally high skill levels are due to her spending over two years learning skills from her mother, and much of this has now been passed on to Mr. Hobbs.

While at Taronga he has slowly learnt typical Sun Bear skills.  We offer Mr. Hobbs and Mary enrichment items to challenge them physically and mentally. These include presenting their foods wrapped in sacks, buried or in areas to climb up to. In the wild, Sun Bears spend large amounts of time and energy looking for insects, larvae, small animals, honey and available fruits.

Mr. Hobbs is one of the “lucky ones” to have survived the illegal wildlife trade. However, thousands of birds, mammals and reptiles are being taken alive from the wild for the pet, restaurant or traditional medicines.  

The Wildlife Witness App is a very valuable tool that lets everyday people help the wildlife authorities such as TRAFFIC in South-east Asia. Everyday people, particularly in hotspots around South-east Asia, can photograph and report any suspicious incident where they may see trapped, caged wildlife, animal products being sold in a market place or delicacies in restaurants offered that may include illegally poached wildlife. The free app is user friendly and has the potential to help the authorities catch the poachers who are at the top end of the industry and help keep wildlife in the wild.

By Keeper Lesley Small

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