Interviews with farmers (1998–2000) in 5 communities along the edge of the Sungai Wain Protection Forest, East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, indicated that crop damage caused by sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) was higher than normal following the 1997–98 El Niño Southern Oscillation Event. Widespread drought and forest fires reduced habitat and fruit availability for sun bears on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. The main source of antagonism toward bears resulted from the damage they caused to stands of old coconut trees, which frequently killed the trees. This prompted farmers to seek removal of the bears. Bear damage to annual crops generally spurred a less hostile reaction. Experiments with metal sheeting affixed to the trunks of coconut trees to deter climbing by bears were successful, at least in the short term (<3 years). Inexpensive and easily applicable crop-protection devices such as this could help protect sun bears in the future, as increased human–bear conflicts are anticipated due to rapid human population growth, unabated forest destruction and fragmentation, and increased susceptibility of remaining forests to fires.
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Vol. 16 • No. 1