Sean, Wellington Zoo’s 22-year old rescued Malayan Sun Bear, was euthanised today after the recent deterioration of his health.

Our Animal Care and Veterinary Teams have been monitoring Sean’s health closely over the last few months and was scheduled for a general anaesthetic today, to perform an operation on his eyes, also an endoscopy and to check his kidney function – all areas where health problems had been identified. Once we’d done some initial diagnostics it was obvious that his multiple medical problems were compromising his welfare and affecting his quality of life. The welfare of our animals is of paramount importance, so the difficult decision to euthanise him was made.

Sean has been much loved by Zoo staff and visitors over the last fourteen years. He has been an advocate for his wild cousins and has helped us to share the story of his rescue in Cambodia and our work with our conservation partner, Free The Bears.

Sean the Sun Bear as a cub getting rescued in Cambodia

Sean the Sun Bear as a cub getting rescued in Cambodia

Sean was one of the earliest bear rescues for Free the Bears in Southeast Asia. Sean was rescued from outside a shop in Cambodia almost 21 years ago, on 22 February 1997. An Australian businessman found Sean chained outside a shop in Phnom Penh and rescued him on the back of his motorbike. After keeping him for a short while at his house he worked with Free the Bears to find a suitable home for Sean’s long-term care.

Free the Bears and the Cambodian Department of Forests and Wildlife sent Sean and two rescued female bears to Perth Zoo in 1998 to establish a regional conservation breeding programme for Sun Bears. Sean then came to Wellington Zoo in 2004 to breed with the Zoo’s female bear Chomel. Their pairing was successful and Chomel gave birth to Sasa in 2006. At that time, Wellington Zoo was the only Zoo in Australasia that had successfully bred Sun Bears.

Wellington Zoo is home to the only bears in New Zealand, and our Sun Bears are very special to the people of Wellington. Sean has helped so many people find a connection with Sun Bears and to understand the threats these animals face in the wild. By choosing sustainable wood and paper products with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo, we know that we’re helping to look after his wild relatives as well.

Sasa the Sun Bear still lives at the Zoo, and we will be keeping a close eye on her over the next few weeks. Sun Bears are naturally solitary animals so we believe she will be okay, however, this will still be an adjustment for her after this big change in her environment.


About Sun Bears

Sun Bears are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to extensive habitat loss in Southeast Asia and their use in traditional medicines. Wellington Zoo has worked with Free the Bears for many years to help save wild Bears and their habitats.