Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family:    Ursidae
Size:    Length: 3 to 4.5 feet (91 to 137 cm)
Weight: 60 to 143 pounds (27 to 65 kg)
Diet: Fruit, honey, bees, rodents, termites, lizards, earthworms and the palm heart of the coconut palm tree
Distribution: Burma, Sumatra, Borneo, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia
Young:  1 or 2 cubs, once a year
Animal Predators:  Unknown
IUCN Status: Data deficient
Terms: Young: Cub
Lifespan: Up to 25 years



·       The sun bear is also called a “Malay bear,” “dog bear” or “honey bear.”

·       Sun bears bark loudly when attacked.

·       Sun bears walk with their feet pointed inward.



Because of the yellowish crescent most of these bears have on their chest that resembles a rising sun, this bear is called the sun bear. Of the eight bear species in the world, sun bears are the smallest; they are half as big as American black bears. Sun bears have black fur, a light brown muzzle, a wrinkled forehead and long, curved, very strong claws. They also have small eyes, short bowlegs and a short tail. Males are larger than females.  



Sun bears once ranged across Southeast Asia, but are now believed to be extinct in much of their former range, including China and perhaps India as well. It is thought that their small population now lives in the tropical rainforests of Myanmar (formerly Burma), Borneo, Sumatra, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. 


Feeding Habits

They use their strong claws to rip open trees with bee nests inside, eating the bees along with the honey, seemingly oblivious to the stings of the irate bees. Sun bears have extremely an long tongue that can reach deep inside a nest. They also eat fruit, rodents, termites, lizards, earthworms and the palm heart of the coconut palm tree. 



Sun bears are often seen in pairs, especially when there are cubs, and are therefore thought to be monogamous, although not enough study has been done to make a definitive statement. Mating takes place any time of year and includes barking, kissing, hugging, play fighting and nuzzling. Females begin to breed at age three, while males are usually at least five. After a gestation period of about three-and-a-half months, one or two cubs are born. They are very tiny (7 to 10 ounces/198 to 283 g) and completely helpless, with no fur and no sight. The cubs grow very quickly and although they nurse for 17 weeks, they will begin to forage with their mother by the time they reach eight weeks of age. They stay with their mother for up to two years. 



When approached in the wild, these bears can be quite formidable. They have powerful jaws with large, sharp teeth and they can tear an enemy apart with their sharp claws. The skin of a sun bear is fairly loose and if one is grabbed from behind, it can turn around and bite whoever is holding it. Because they inhabit areas that are warm year round, these bears do not hibernate. During the day, they usually sleep or sunbathe high up in a tree nest made of branches, coming down at night to forage for food. Sun bears are adept climbers and, despite their small eyes, have excellent eyesight. 



With a world population estimated at 600 to 1000, sun bears are among the rarest animals on earth. Their numbers are declining due to deforestation and hunting. Sun bears are listed as Data Deficient by the IUCN, which means that there is insufficient data concerning their abundance and/or distribution to classify them as threatened. 



Sun Bear Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US