The West

Perth link saves rare twin sun bears
Orphaned: The sun bear twins. Picture: Matt Hunt/freethe

Curled up together, these two-week-old orphaned twin sun bears in Cambodia are unaware their survival depends on an organisation with its roots in Perth.

Officially known as Cambodia Rescue 180 and Cambodia Rescue 18, the female bears are yet to open their eyes and are being cared for at Free the Bears Fund's 7ha sanctuary at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre, 40km from Phnom Penh.

Free the Bears was set up by 76-year-old Stirling grandmother Mary Hutton in 1995 and has since saved thousands of bears and established sanctuaries in countries including India.

Chief executive Matt Hunt said the cubs had nicknames and were almost certainly twins, a rarity for sun bears, which are named after their U-shaped yellow chest marking, said to resemble the rising sun.

"One of the little girls has a beautiful, full-circle chest marking, so we named her Donut," Mr Hunt said. "Her sister is the more quiet and incredibly sweet. We named her Jammy, making them Jammy Donut."

Jammy and Donut have 24-hour care, including bottle feeds and cuddles.

"Our Cambodian bear sanctuary is now home to over 130 rescued bears," Mr Hunt said. Of those, 95 are sun bears, making it the biggest sanctuary for sun bears.

The sun bear is among 14 endangered species in Cambodia, with illegal logging and wildlife poaching threatening protected areas.

"They are targeted for a variety of reasons - for their gall bladders and bile to be used in medicine, their paws and meat to be used in restaurants and their bones boiled down to make glue which is a tonic," Mr Hunt said. "The cubs will likely remain in our care at the sanctuary for the rest of their lives."

For details about the Free the Bears Fund, visit freethe

The West Australian

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