Given the Sun Bear’s dependence on forest, it is clear that the large-scale deforestation that has occurred throughout southeast Asia over the past three decades has dramatically reduced suitable habitat for this species. Although quantitative data on population sizes or trends are lacking, it is suspected that the global population of Sun Bears has declined by > 30% over the past 30 years (3 bear generations). Deforestation has reduced both the area of occupancy (AOO) and extent of occurrence (EOO) of Sun Bears, and has also reduced habitat quality in remaining forest. In Malaysia and Indonesia, deforestation will likely continue as long as accessible forest areas with high value timber stock are available. This will result in a highly fragmented range for sun bears, with forest mainly conserved at higher altitudes where forest clearing and harvesting are either difficult or not economically viable.
In addition, Sun Bear numbers have been reduced by uncontrolled exploitation for body parts. It is expected that commercial exploitation will continue during the next 30 years unless abated by the implementation of significant anti-poaching measures.
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These bears are sought after for their bile and paws in the black market and illegal bear trading. Free the Bears provide care and shelter for rescued bears, and post some of the cutest photos of Sun and Moon bears. Check out their Facebook for daily photos and videos of the cubs.
The reclusive sun bear, smallest member of the bear family, lives an insular life in the dense lowland forests of Southeast Asia.
Found from southern China to eastern India and as far south as Indonesia, sun bears, also called Malayan sun bears, take their name from the bib-shaped golden or white patch on their chest, which legend says represents the rising sun. They have a stocky, muscular build, small ears, and a short muzzle, which has earned them the nickname “dog bear.” Their sleek, black coat is short to avoid overheating in the tropical weather but thick and coarse to provide protection from twigs, branches, and rain.
Sun bears grow to only about half the size of an American black bear. Males, slightly larger than females, are about 5 feet (1.5 meters) in length and weigh up to 150 pounds (70 kilograms), a stature which suits their arboreal lifestyle and allows them to move easily through the trees. They have even been observed making sleeping platforms high above the ground out of branches and leaves.
Ironically, sun bears are nocturnal. They lumber through the forests by night, snacking on fruits, berries, roots, insects, small birds, lizards, and rodents. They have an excellent sense of smell and extremely long claws, exceeding four inches (ten centimeters) in length, which they use to rip open trees and termite nests. They also have an almost comically long tongue for extracting honey from bee nests, giving them their other nickname, “honey bear.”
Little is known about the social life of these bears, but there is some evidence that suggests they may be monogamous. Mother bears, called sows, make ground nests and give birth to one or two blind, helpless babies that weigh about 11 ounces (325 grams). Mothers have actually been observed cradling a cub in their arms while walking on their hind legs, a rare trait among bears. Cubs can move about after two months and are weaned by four months, but they remain with their mothers for two years or more.
Because of their remote habitat and shy personality, there is currently not enough data to determine if sun bears are in danger of extinction, but scientists fear the worst. Their homelands are being lost rapidly to deforestation, poachers hunt them mercilessly for body parts and fur, and some farmers kill them on site because they often eat crops such as oil palm, coconuts, and bananas. Adult females are also frequently killed so their cubs can be taken and raised as pets.
Some of the most devastating fires the world has ever seen are
happening right now in Indonesia, and this unfolding disaster is getting
Some 5000 fires have burned in Borneo alone in just the last 2 months. Species are going up in smoke at an untold rate.
Here, the land itself actually catches fire, not just trees and
vegetation, because great swaths of the forest sit on enormous eat domes
that act as fuel under such dry conditions that have been exacerbated
this year by the El Niño weather phenomenon.
have been fragmented for decades by timber and farming companies.
Plantation companies move in to destroy what remains of the forest to
plant monocultures of pulpwood, timber and palm oil. The easiest way to
clear the land is to torch it. Every year, this causes disasters. But in
an extreme El Niño year like this one, we have a perfect formula for