Of the eight bear species currently recognised around the world, the sun bears are by far the smallest. They are also known as the dog bears, on account of their size and the shape of their heads, and the honey bears, because they just love honey.
Sun bears love climbing trees, and their physique has adapted to suit this lifestyle – its’ front legs are much longer than the back, its’ claws are perfect grappling hooks and the front legs are slightly inverted and bow-legged – a perfect shape for hugging a tree trunk. They have super long tongues, excellent for extracting honey, though if a sun bear comes across a bees’ nest they are just as likely to consume the whole thing than carefully remove only the honey. As well as fruit, they also eat a huge amount of insects, and their long claws and strong jaws help in tearing through a whole manner of materials in the forest to uncover the goods lurking within.
There are 2 distinct subspecies of sun bear, both of which are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ by the IUCN. Their threats include habitat loss and illegal trade, as cubs are traded as pets, while the all sun bears are at risk due to the value of their parts in traditional medicines including bear bile. As the human population continues to soar, demand for sun bear parts is only increasing.
Read our full fact sheet on the Sun Bear here.