STANDING TALL: Sun bear Johnny now is a busy boy with a harem of three girlfriends.
STANDING TALL: Sun bear Johnny now is a busy boy with a harem of three girlfriends. Contributed

Johnny the bear’s future looks sunnier

JOHNNY the sun bear has a face and nature that would melt even the coldest of hearts.

But only three years ago seeing the Malayan native would have broken it.

Just like hundreds of other endangered sun bears, Johnny was subjected to cruel conditions in a small cage for many years.

Johnny could barely stand in the cage he lived in. He had no water and no enrichment to pass the time in the cage, which was located in a parking lot in the city in Sumatra.

Fortunately for him, Johnny was rescued by three Sunshine Coast wildlife advocates, who came across him while on their journey to rescue orphaned baby elephant Bona.

Described by one of his rescuers Amanda French as a "special little soul", Johnny found refuge with many other endangered species at Kalaweit, an animal refuge that has been running since the late '90s.

Amanda said finding Johnny had been a long and tricky process, and Kalaweit had been the ideal place for him as he can never be released into the wild.

The former Australia Zoo worker has just returned from visiting Johnny and Bona and she couldn't be happier about how well they are both doing.

"I always wanted to see him in his new home to be left with a positive image in my mind, since I had last seen him in that tiny green cage," Amanda said.

She said she contacted Chanee, the man who runs Kalaweit, and he allowed her to make arrangements to stay at his sanctuary in the jungle, just outside of a town called Padang.

"I was excited to be going back to see Johnny in a better place and also to find out about the man who took on this bear," Amanda said.

"When so many others couldn't or were not able to help, Chanee, although at full capacity, took on another lifetime care."

Chanee's only stipulation was he needed a new enclosure built.

Amanda said Johnny now lives with his three girlfriends and stood up when he saw her for the first time in so many years.

"I had never seen him stand up before," she said.

"It was beautiful."