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Also known as the honey bear for its love of honey, the Sun Bear is the smallest, least well-known and one of the rarest of all the bear species.

Key Facts
Common name
Common Names

Sun bear, Malayan sun bear



Vulnerable (A2cd+3cd+4); CITES appendix I

Latin name

Scientific Name

Helarctos malayanus


How many?

There are no reliable population figures.

Physical Description
The sun bear can be clearly distinguished from other bears by a white or yellowish patch on the chest. Sun bears are excellent climbers and spend considerable time in trees. They feed on sweet fruits, small rodents, birds, termites, and other insects.

Length: 120-150cm
Weight: 35-80kg

Southeast Asian tropical forests, including tropical evergreen rainforest, montane forest and swamp habitat.

Range States
Bangladesh; Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; China; India; Indonesia; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia; Myanmar; Thailand; Viet Nam

Population and Distribution
The Sun Bear was formerly widespread in the lowland forests of South East Asia. However, it has mostly disappeared in recent decades from most of its former ranges. Nevertheless, Sun Bear is still found widespread in a few protected areas in Cambodia 's Mondolkiri province and Virachey National Park. It is thought that the population fallen by more than 30% in the last 30 years.

What are the main threats?
Like other bears in Asia, Sun bears are hunted for their gall bladders and other body parts for medicinal uses that have been proven by scientist to have no medical value at all.

Female nursing sun bears are sometimes killed and their cubs are captured to be sold in the pet trade.

Habitat destruction caused by clearance for plantation development and illegal logging is also another major threat to the small remaining critical population of this species.


What is WWF doing?

WWF works with local communities, government organisations and other NGOs to protect the habitat of the sun bear. It also works to stem the rise in wildlife trade through its partnership TRAFFIC.

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Did you know?

  • Sun bears are named after the bib-shaped golden or white patch on their chest, which legend says represents the rising sun.