Sun Bear

Although the sun bear is the smallest of all bears, it is also one of the most aggressive, and is equipped with particularly fearsome canine teeth. The world’s smallest bear rarely stands taller than 1.5 m (5 ft) and has a short coat.

Living in lowland areas of tropical rainforest, sun bears are solitary by nature and nocturnal in their habits. They can climb well — aided by their relatively small size and the way in which their paws curve inwards - and will even rest off the ground during the day. Relatively little is known about their habits, although they tend to find their food by their sense of smell as their eyesight is poor. They can occasionally cause havoc on cacao and coconut plantations.

The Sun Bear has curved claws for climbing trees and an elongated tongue for eating insects which it finds in the canopy. It will also eat rodents, lizards, honey and the soft insides of palm trees. In more urban areas, it has been seen eating banana crops and refuse. In common with most bears, it is hunted for its medicinal value according to local beliefs, and a combination of hunting and habitat destruction has led to a serious decline in populations of bears, with possibly only a few thousand left.

Distribution: Occurs in various parts of Southeast Asia, from India eastwards to Myanmar (Burma) and China, and south through Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia to Indonesia.

Habitat: Mountain and lowland forest.

Weight: 60 - 150 kg (220 - 330 lb); males are heavier.

Length: 120 - 150 cm (47 - 59 in); about 71cm (28 in) tall.

Maturity: 3 - 4 years.

Gestation Period: About 96 days; breeding can occur throughout the year as these bears do not hibernate.

Breeding: 1 - 2; weaning occurs at about 18 months.

Food: Omnivorous, taking small vertebrates, insects, berries and fruit, eggs and honey.

Lifespan: 20-30 years.

Status: Endangered.

Ears

These are small and rounded, positioned well back and set quite low on the head.

Body colouration

Short, sleek blackish coat with an orange-yellow crescent area on the chest.

Facial appearance

There is yellowish fur on the face, which explains the bear’s name.

Paws

Paws are powerful, with no fur on the soles and sharp, sickle-shaped claws.

POWER OF THE PAWS

The Sun Bears break into insects’ nests with their sharp claws and use their long tongue to scoop up honey or termites.

Gallery of Sun Bear