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  • Tee et al (accepted version, Ursus)

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An evaluation of non-invasive sampling techniques for Malayan sun bears

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

  • Thye Lim Tee
  • Wai Ling Lai
  • Terence Kok Ju Wei
  • Ooi Zhuan Shern
  • Frank T. van Manen
  • Stuart P. Sharp
  • Siew Te Wong
  • Jactty Chew
  • Shyamala Ratnayeke
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>4/04/2020
Publication StatusAccepted/In press
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Malayan sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) populations are impeded by logistics of live trapping wild individuals. The development of non-invasive sampling techniques for monitoring sun bear populations is therefore crucial for targeted conservation action. Sun bears have short fur, and conventional hair-snagging devices are ineffective. Moreover, scats are rapidly decomposed by the warm, humid environment as well as by invertebrates. In combination with camera sampling, we tested 2 designs of hair traps (n = 45) in-situ at Tabin Wildlife Reserve to obtain hair samples from wild sun bears. We also deployed 4 types of hair traps in rainforest enclosures with captive sun bears to evaluate hair capture success and the 25 effects of weathering, lure, and adhesive on PCR amplification success. Wild adult male sun bears displayed back-rubbing behavior at hair traps and 6 individuals were identified based on unique chest marks. We collected 30 hair samples from wild sun bears including 15 chest mark images of 6 individuals over 1,260 trap nights. We detected adult males at hair traps more frequently than females and subadults. We obtained 39 hair samples in the captive trials, 38 of which successfully amplified with mitochondrial primers and 29 with microsatellite primers. Adhesive and lure type did not affect PCR amplification, but weathering reduced amplification of microsatellite loci. This study is the first successful attempt to obtain genetic samples from wild sun bears using inexpensive, readily available materials such as duct tape, polybutyl glue, and locally sourced lures. The quality of genetic material from these genetic samples should be suitable for studies of population size and gene flow.