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Location: Bears

Malayan Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus)



Malayan Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus)
Order: Carnivora, Family: Ursidae

The smallest bear in the world, being about half the size of the American black bear. Adults stand 2 1/4 feet tall and are 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 feet long. Adult males weigh between 63 and 143 pounds. Females are slightly smaller. Sun bears have a solid sleek body, short tail, small rounded ears and plantigrade feet (both heel and toe make contact with the ground when walking in a manner similar to humans). They have short bow-legs and sharp sickle-like claws. Sun bears have no hair on the soles of their feet, which assists them in getting a better grip when they climb trees.



I.DESCRIPTION:
  • The smallest bear in the world, being about half the size of the American black bear. Adults stand 2 1/4 feet tall and are 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 feet long. Adult males weigh between 63 and 143 pounds. Females are slightly smaller.
  • Sun bears have a solid sleek body, short tail, small rounded ears and plantigrade feet (both heel and toe make contact with the ground when walking in a manner similar to humans). They have short bow-legs and sharp sickle-like claws. Sun bears have no hair on the soles of their feet, which assists them in getting a better grip when they climb trees.
  • The sun bear is covered by very short, dense, black fur which is very efficient at repelling moisture. Most of these bears have a large yellowish-white or orange U-shaped blaze on their chest. The feet are sometimes grayish in color.
II. GEOGRAPHIC RANGE AND HABITAT:
  • The sun bear is found in Southeast Asia, particularly in Vietnam, Laos, Borneo (Indonesia), Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula, Burma (Myanmar) and Kampuchea.
  • The sun bear lives in tropical rainforest. Although it inhabits both highland and lowlands, the sun bear dwells primarily in forests, and only in Southeast Asia. They have been reported to live from sea level up to 9,184 feet.
III. DIET:
  • The sun bear is omnivorous, eating tree fruits, termites, small mammals and birds. It is also extremely fond of honey and will tear open trees to find bees' nests. It uses its long tongue to extract bugs and other food from hard to reach places, such as in the bark of trees.
IV. LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
  • Females first breed in their third year. Courtship length varies from 2 days to a week, and can take place any time of the year. The average gestation period for sun bears is 100 days. They are thought to give birth to their young hidden in vegetation on the forest floor. Newborn cubs are tiny (only 7 ounces) and are born blind, hairless and nearly transparent. Mothers usually nurse for 17 weeks, and the cubs accompany her until they are grown.
  • The sun bear is said to be one of the most dangerous animals a human can encounter in the Asian jungle. Besides biting with its powerful jaws, it has been known to tear apart its enemies with its sharp claws. If a larger predator grabs the sun bear, it can turn around in its loose skin and bite back.
  • They have earned the reputation of being one of the very few animals that will attack seemingly without provocation. It barks loudly upon attack.
  • An expert climber, the usually nocturnal bear spends its days sunbathing or sleeping in trees between 6 and 21 feet off the ground. It makes its bed in a small platform of broken branches. The nests look similar to those of orangutans. Sun bears usually travel in pairs - these seem to be monogamous mated pairs.
V. SPECIAL NOTES/ADAPTATIONS:
  • There are only about 800 sun bears left.
  • Sun bears do not hibernate, as their food source is year round.



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