In some positive news for Asia’s wildlife, a rescued sun bear named Natalie was released into her natural habitat in a wildlife reserve near Lahad Datu in Malaysia last week. The release was carried out by the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) and marks the first time that the team has successfully rehabilitated and released a bear into the wild since the centre began its work seven years ago.

“Releasing her was a moment of bittersweet joy,” BSBCC founder Wong Siew Te told Malay Mail Online. “I cared for her like a daughter. I had brought her for walks in the forest, fed her, taught her what food to identify and played with her. It was sad to let her go but I know she belongs in the forest,” he added.

After losing her mother to poachers, Natalie, along with 35 other sun bears at the centre, was cared for in captivity until she was ready to be released back into her natural habitat.

Sun Bear Preparing For Release 2015 05 26
Wong Siew Te carefully lifts a sedated Natalie so she can receive a health check before transportation. According to Wong, Natalie was raised in natural forest enclosures at the BSBCC to help prepare her for life in the wild. The enclosures feature dense vegetation and lots of natural food items such as earthworms, termites, insects and honey from bee hives. Image: Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Sun Bear Transported From Helicopter 2015 05 26
A helicopter transports Natalie to her new home in a Lahad Datu forest reserve on the island of Borneo. Image: Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Sun Bear On Route To Release 2015 05 26
The team from BSBCC carry Natalie to the release spot. Natalie’s rehabilitation process included walks in the forest to help her learn to live like a wild bear - an exercise that aids in developing vital survival skills like climbing, foragingsocialising and nest building. Image: Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Sun Bear Released Into Wild 2015 05 26
After almost five years at the centre, Natalie is released into the wild! She was fitted with a satellite collar before release so her movements can be carefully monitored to ensure that she adapts to her new environment. Image: Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Sun Bear Rescue Team 2015 05 26
The proud BSBCC team involved in Natalie's release. Image: Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

 Header image: Jeff Whitlock/Flickr