Sun Bear

Helarctos malayanus
SUN BEAR
About The Sun Bear
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Carnivora
Fun Facts:
  • Malayan sun bears are skillful climbers, a useful ability for a species which spends a lot of time climbing trees to get fruit.
  • Their name is believed to derive from the sun shaped crest on their chest. 

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The Malayan sun bear is the smallest member of the bear family. It is also the one with the shortest and sleekest coat – perhaps an adaptation to a lowland equatorial climate.

These animals grow to approximately four and a half feet in length and have a tiny, two-inch tail. Their average weight is less than 100 pounds. The short-haired, deep black or brown-black fur is interrupted on the chest by a pale orange-yellow horseshoe-shaped marking. In folklore, this yellow crescent is said to represent the rising sun and is apparently the origin of the name sun bear.

They have a long narrow tongue which can be extended quite far. The long sickle-shaped claws on all four feet and the large, inward-oriented feet are most reminiscent of the sloth bear. Malayan sun bears are skillful climbers, a useful ability for a species which spends a lot of time climbing trees to get fruit.

DISTRIBUTION & HABITAT

Although they inhabit both lowlands and highlands, the Sun bears are primarily forest dwellers. They rest and feed in trees in tropical to subtropical regions of Southeast Asia – Borneo, Sumatra, Malay Peninsula, Kampuchea, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, and possibly southern China.

BEHAVIOR

Relatively low weight, strongly curved claws, and large paws with naked soles help to make the Sun bear an adept climber. It is primarily nocturnal, frequently resting or sunbathing during the day on a platform of broken branches several feet above ground level.

Malayan sun bears have an excellent sense of smell and an incredibly long tongue for extracting honey from bee nests, coining their nickname, “honey bear”.

DIET

Malayan sun bears are omnivorous. They eat small vertebrates such as lizards and nesting birds and fruit. They are also very fond of honey.

REPRODUCTION & GROWTH

Sun bears may mate at any time of year; they are thought to have only one mate. Two or three cubs are usually born after a gestation period of 96 days. The young, usually weighing 10-15 ounces each, are suckled for about 18 months. Females reach sexual maturity at about three years and males at four years. These bears live 25 to 28 years in captivity.

HONOLULU ZOO

Scientific Name: Ursidae helarctos malayanus

1 Female: Juwetta

1 Male: Blackie

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