The Sun Bear sometimes known as the Honey Bear, is a bear found primarily in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia; Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Southern China, Peninsular Malaysia, and the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.
The Sun Bear stands approximately 1.2 m (4 ft) tall, making it the smallest member in the bear (Ursidae) family.
Males tend to be 10-45% larger than females; the former normally weigh between 30 and 60 kg (66-132 lb), and the latter between 20 and 40 kg (44-88 lb).
Unlike other bears, the Sun Bear’s fur is short and sleek. This adaptation is probably due to the lowland climates it inhabits.
Dark black or brown-black fur covers its body, except on the chest, where there is a pale orange-yellow marking in the shape of a horseshoe. Similar colored fur can be found around the muzzle and the eyes. These distinctive markings give the Sun Bear its name.
The diet of the Sun Bear consists mainly of invertebrates and fruits but as omnivores they will eat a wide variety of foods including small vertebrates, such as lizards, birds, and turtles, eggs, the young tips of palm trees, nests of bees, berries, sprouts, roots, and coconuts. In fact, Sun Bears have been observed to eat over 100 insect species and over 50 plant species.
Despite being able to eat many species, the Sun Bear has certain favourite food sources.
This was demonstrated in one study where termites, ants, beetles and beetle larvae made up the majority of the invertebrates eaten, whilst figs were the most important fruit source consumed.
The Sun Bear’s fondness for honey gives rise to its alternative name of the ‘Honey Bear’. In Malay and Indonesian, it is known as ‘Beruang Madu’ which translates to Honey Bear.
Its powerful jaws can crack open nuts. Its long, powerful claws are used to break into tree trunks and fallen logs to access honey, grubs and termites.
Much of the Sun Bear’s food must be detected using its keen sense of smell, as its sight is poor.
The Sun Bear does not hibernate, and, as a result, it can reproduce year-round. The offspring reach sexual maturity after 3-4 years and may live up to 30 years in captivity.
A female Sun Bear can produce 1 to 2 cubs per year. Sun Bears undergo a roughly 96 day gestation period after which the 300 to 400 g cub is born blind and hairless.
The cub is initially totally dependent on its mother and suckling can continue for about 18 months. After 1 to 3 months, the young cub can run, play and forage near its mother. Male Sun Bears grow larger than females.
Females are observed to mate at about 3 years. During time of mating, the Sun Bear will show behavior like hugging, mock fighting and head bobbing with its mate.
Being a primarily nocturnal creature, the Sun Bear tends to rest during the day on lower limbs not far above the ground.
Because it spends so much time in trees, the Sun Bear can sometimes cause damage to private property. It has been known to destroy coconut palms and cacao trees on plantations.