The reclusive sun bear (Helarctos malayanus), Malaysian Sun Bear or the “honey bear” is one of the smallest bears in the bear kingdom. The name sun bear arrives from the yellowish or white U-shaped patch on the chest of the animal. The smallest species of the bear also happens to be one of the most unique. They are the only of their family that has adapted completely to life in the forest, to the point of leading an exclusively tree-dwelling life.
Sun Bear’s Habitat
The sun bear was formerly widespread in the lowland forests of South East Asia. However, their ranges in this region have nearly disappeared over the last few decades.
These bears as stated above make their homes mainly in the Southeastern Asian tropical forests, tropical evergreen rainforest, montane forest, and swamp habitats. These interesting small bears can be seen in: Vietnam, Bangladesh, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, India, and Indonesia.
The forests that these bears are inhabitants of provide the must have parts of the sun bears diet. The trees are nest to not only leisure and rest time for the sun bear, but also their most important and preferred meals.
Sun Bear’s Diet
The sun bear is technically classed as a carnivore, but the majority of this animal’s diet is comprised of fruits and other plant matter and dwellers in the surrounding forests. Sun Bears eat a wide selection of fruits, nuts, berries, roots, and shoots, along with insects, grubs, honey, eggs, and small animals like birds, lizards, and rodents. They prefer to eat vegetation but when that resource is low they settle for the carnivorous options.
The longest canines in the bear family tree and long sharp claws, allow the sun bear to break open hollow logs. Once opened their long tongue begins to extract the termite inside Their tongue also comes in handy for extracting honey from bee nests. Sun bear’s excellent sense of smell joined with their other natural tools make them the perfect hunter for honey and insects.
Sun Bear’s Anatomy
Except for the name sake horseshoe shaped patch of white, yellow, or gold hair, sun bears are also recognizable for many of their other features. They only grow to be about 1.2 to 1.5 meters long, with the females maxing out at 27-50 kilograms and males at 27 to 80 kilograms. The tinniest of their species, sun bears have the classic short black or dark brown water-repellent fur.
Sun bear’s strong paws with naked soles and long sickle shaped claws have developed through centuries of adaptation. Along with their flexible snouts and very long tongues. Relative to their size, they have the largest canines of all bear species. These teeth come in extremely helpful for tearing meat and trees alike. The sun bear uses its canines like a human might use weapons or tools.
The legs of a sun bear are very strong, which allows them to climb very fast and help them avoid bigger predators.
Sun Bear’s Behavior & Life Cycle
Sun bears are ironically enough, nocturnal. They can be seen using high above tree platforms to create make shift sleeping platforms from branches and leaves. This can be partially credited to their remote habitats and shy personalities. These two traits also lead to the lack of information about these bears. In fact, very little is known about the social lives of these bears, but the evidence shows that they are monogamous.
Unlike other bears, sun bears are known to mate and give birth all year round. The gestation period changes depending on the individual and amount of food available, but usually takes about 3 to 8 months. A female sun bear gives birth to up to three cubs at a time. The cubs start moving around after two months and are weaned by the 4th month.
It takes 2 years or more for the bears to reach full maturity and leave their mothers sides. Females can reproduce at age 3 while the males must wait till they are 4 years old. Sun bears are thought to live for an average of 25 years in the wild and around 30 in captivity.