Malayan sun bear in Oregon Zoo, USA (Stuart Seeger – Creative Commons Licence)

Accepted scientific name:  Helarctos malayanus malayanus (Raffles, 1821)

Description:  The Malayan sun bear is the smallest of the world’s eight bear species with a maximum length of around 150 cm (the Borneo subspecies is smallest of all).  Adults typically weigh between 35 and 70 kg.  They have short, sleek fur which is usually black, but occasionally reddish-brown or grey.  The bears almost always have a distinctive chest patch which can be yellow, orange, or white, sometimes speckled or spotted.  The head is large and the muzzle broad and relatively short.  The extremely long tongue is the longest of all bear species.

Range:  Helarctos malayanus malyanus occurs in mainland Southeast Asia, west to  the eastern edge of India, north to Yunnan Province in China,  south to Sumatra.

Current distribution and status of Helarctos malayanus malyanus (For an up to date and detailed map click here to open the IUCN species page)

Habitat:  Tropical forests, both evergreen and seasonal.  Within these eco-systems, sun bear habitat is diverse ranging from lowland areas through swampland to hills and montane forests to an altitude of 2,000 metres and above.

Status:  Classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and is listed in Appendix I of CITES.

Life span:  Up to 24 years in the wild although often considerably less.  Up to 28 years in captivity.

Food:  Sun bears are omnivorous and feed primarily on termites, ants, beetle larvae, bee larvae and honey.  Their diet also encompasses a large variety of fruit species when these are in season.

Behaviour:.  Information from the wild is sketchy.  Except for females with  offspring sun bears are usually solitary. They will very rarely congregate to feed from large fruiting trees.  There is little information about reproductive behaviour in the wild.  Cubs are apparently born throughout the year with no defined breeding season.  The gestation periods recorded in zoos were between 93 and 96 days (suggesting no delayed implantation) and 174 to 240 days (suggesting delayed implantation).. Litters in captivity have been of either one or two cubs.  In the wild cubs are believed to remain with their mothers until fully grown.

Threats:  Habitat loss and the resultant conflicts with humans.  Poaching, predominantly to obtain body parts for use in medicine.


No further information available at present

Page updated 18 February 2021