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Sun Bear Fact File

Appearance

The Sun bear measures about 120-150cm (47-59in) long, which makes it the smallest members of the bear family. Males weigh between 30 and 70 kg (66-154lbs) while the females are smaller weighing between 20 and 40 kg (44-88lbs).

The Sun bear has dark black or black-brown fur all over its body except on its chest where it has an orange yellow marking in the shape of a crescent. It has similar color fur around its eyes and muzzle also. These markings are what gives the Sun bear its name. Most other bears have longer fur however the Sun bear has short and sleek fur, an adaptation for the warm environments that they inhabit.

They have large paws with no fur on the bottom which helps them with their climbing, they also have inward facing feet to help them grab onto trees. On each paw are long, curved claws used for climbing trees and ripping open logs to catch food. They have small round ears and a short snout.

The Sun bear has a very long skinny tongue which is 20-25 cm (7.9-9.8in) long, and they use it to be able to get honey out of beehives.

sun bear

Scientific Name

Helarctos malayanus

Conservation Status

Vulnerable

Weight

Male

30-70kg (66-154lbs)

Female

20-40kg (44-88lbs)

Length

120-150cm (47-59in)

Lifespan

30 years

Diet

Omnivorous

Diet

The Sun bear is an omnivore which means that it eats plants and meat. Their diet consists mainly of small mammals, birds, fruits, termites, insects and also coconut palms.

They use their long claws which are about 7cm (2.8in) long to rip the bark of trees and eat the insects underneath. They also eat wild honey from the tree crevices and hollows.

To catch termites they will place their paws in a nest and as the termites run on to his hands he licks them off.

Sun bears rely on their strong sense of smell to find their food because they don't have very good eyesight.

Range

Asia is the native home of the sun bear. Here they can be found in Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam.

They were previously found in Singapore but are now extinct there.

Their current range is much reduced on the areas which they have previously inhabited.

Habitat

The Sun bears habitat is in the dense tropical and subtropical forests.

sun bear

Reproduction

The sun bear is able to breed throughout much of the year. Typically a single cub is born per year though there are records of two cubs being produced in a single year.

Gestation is typically 95 days. In some rare instances it occurs that they can delay implantation. This delays the birth of a cub until conditions are more favorable. This may extend the pregnancy to as much as 240 days.

A typical litter contains 1-2 cubs. In some rare instances 3 cubs can be raised. The mother gives birth in a nest at ground level.

At birth the cubs are blind and hairless. They are entirely reliant on their mother for care. An average cub weighs 300g (10.6oz) at birth.

The cubs are mobile by 2 months old and weaning takes place at 4 months old. Females will provide care for the cubs until the time they are mature.

In some rare cases the sun bear has been seen walking on its hind legs while cradling the cub in her arms.

Sexual maturity is reached at 3 years old.

Behavior

Sun bears are called basindo nan tenggil in the Malay language which translates to "he who likes to sit high". This is because Sun bears are arboreal and spend most of their time high up in the trees.

Due to the fact that they are nocturnal animals they will spend most of their day sunbathing and sleeping in a nest in the fork of a tree. They use twigs and leaves that they have scooped up from the ground to make the nest more comfortable.

Predators and Threats

They have few natural predators due to their size. Cubs are preyed upon by tigers.

Malayan sun bears face significant threats from humans. They are hunted both in retribution for eating human crops and to be poached both as food or for illegal wildlife trade. One of the main reasons they are captured is to harvest bile which is believed to cure disease. They are also sold as an exotic pet.

Their habitat is being destroyed for human expansion. A major threat is land clearing for palm oil plantations.

Quick Facts

The Sun bear has many different nicknames including "malay bear", "dog bear" and "honey bear".

Because they live in a tropical climate they do not hibernate like most other bears do.

They get their name from the yellow-orange crescent marking that they have on their chest, which some people think looks like a rising sun.

In Malay and Indonesian they are known as "Beruang Madu" which translates to honey bear, because they like to eat honey so much.

Photo Gallery

sun bear
sun bear
sun bear

Photo Credits

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Used under license

References

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Scotson, L., Fredriksson, G., Augeri, D., Cheah, C., Ngoprasert, D. & Wai-Ming, W. 2017. Helarctos malayanus (errata version published in 2018). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T9760A123798233. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T9760A45033547.en. Downloaded on 18 July 2020.

Stlzoo.org. 2020. Malayan Sun Bear | Saint Louis Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.stlzoo.org/animals/abouttheanimals/mammals/carnivores/malayansunbear> [Accessed 18 July 2020].

Bies, L. 2007. "Helarctos malayanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed July 18, 2020 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Helarctos_malayanus/

National Geographic. 2020. Sun Bear. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/s/sun-bear/> [Accessed 18 July 2020].

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