Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus)

The Sun Bear is the smallest of all the bear species being on average only 28 inches at the shoulder with a weight of between 25 and 65 kgs. They have strong curved claws which aid climbing as they are the bear species most suited to life in the trees and have several adaptions to support this life style, such as hairless feet for better grip and short hair to suit the hot climates they inhabit. They are also good swimmers and studies have shown them to have expressive faces and keen problem solving intelligence including using claws to pick locks to open food cupboards.

Despite their size they have large canines and a very powerful bite possibly an adaptation to help reach insects and larvae deep within hard wood trees. They also have an impressively long tongue (up to 10 inches long!) to help reach larvae and honey.
The name Sun Bear comes from a distinctive chest patch which is normally orange or cream, their fur is short glossy and normally jet black but red and grey colours have been seen. The chest patch is displayed in threat displays

They shy and don’t attach humans unless provoked and this has lead them to be tamed and kept as pets in the past to the detriment of the species. They become sexually mature after 2 years with gestation between 95 – 240 days with the longer pregnancies being recorded in temperate climate zoos. The mother normally gives birth in hollow tree cavities of 1-2 cubs who remain blind until 50 days after birth, the young remain with the mother for about 3 years. Sun bears have an average life span of 20 years with one reaching 31 years in captivity


Sun Bears like most bears are omnivores eating various insects, plants and honey as well as occasional birds, reptiles and small mammals in some areas they have been found to prey on livestock and poultry when they have opportunity. Sun bears in captivity are normally fed a vegetarian diet.


Sun bears are found in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam as well as far south as Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. The species is regarded as vulnerable due to hunting for food and deforestation, in recent years they have been sighted in areas of China. They prefer unlogged forests of any kind, normally at fairly low elevations but not always, in some areas their territory is limited by competition with Sloth bears. As well as human poaching, tigers will prey on adult Sun Bears and young are vulnerable to other smaller predators.