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Scientific Name
Helarctos malayanus

Conservation Status
At risk

Where to see them
Trader’s Alley, Asian Forest

Fun Facts

Sun bears are named for the yellowish markings on their chests. No two “sun” markings are alike!

Sun bears have specialized claws and tongues adapted for their largely arboreal lifestyles. Their claws are curved for climbing, and their long tongues are uniquely suited for obtaining insects and sap from trees.

Malayan sun bear

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Size
Sun bears are the smallest of the bear species, standing up to 27 inches at the shoulder and averaging four feet long from nose to tail. Males are slightly larger than females.

Range
Southeast Asia

Habitat
Tropical forests

Lifestyle
Sun bears are generally solitary and nocturnal, frequently sleeping in trees. Unlike many other bears, sun bears do not hibernate; this fat-storing behavior is not necessary in their native tropical climate.

Food
Omnivores in the truest sense of the word, sun bears will eat everything from insect larvae, honey and fruit to the occasional small reptile or mammal.

Life Cycle
Females may give birth up to twice a year. Cubs are born completely dependent on their mothers’ care. Young sun bears remain with their mothers until they are approximately 3 years old.

Some of My Neighbors (IN THE WILD)
Asian elephant, Indochinese tiger, Malayan tapir, Sumatran tiger 

Population Status & Threats
The wildlife trade is one of the greatest threats to sun bears. Sun bear gall bladder bile is believed by some cultures to possess medicinal powers; this substance is commercially harvested in many parts of Asia. Wild populations are also threatened by habitat loss due to deforestation.

Zoo Atlanta Conservation Efforts
Zoo Atlanta is a participant in the Sun Bear Species Survival Plan (SSP), which seeks to maintain self-sustaining populations in AZA-accredited zoos in North America.

Trader’s Alley: Wildlife’s Fading Footprints, the new series of exhibits opened at Zoo Atlanta in June 2010, seeks to enlighten guests about the global problem of animal trafficking, which has a direct impact on sun bear populations in Asia.