Sun bears are native to tropical and subtropical forests of South and Southeast Asia: Bangladesh, Borneo, Cambodia, Laos, the Malay Peninsula, Myanmar, Sumatra, Thailand, Vietnam and possibly southern China. They're omnivores, eating mainly invertebrates and fruit, but they are also known to enjoy the tips of palm trees, honey, roots, eggs and turtles.
Sun bears are also called honey bears. They rip into a bees nest and devour the bees along with the honey. The bear's whitish or orange chest mark and muzzle gave them the name "sun bear."
Sun bear behavior and facts
- Sun bears are nocturnal (active at night) and arboreal (live in trees). They build nests in tree branches where they nap during the day.
- Their feet have long, curved claws; good for tearing apart trees to reach insects.
- Their jaws are large relative to their face, an adaptation for breaking open hard fruit such as coconuts.
- Their tongue is extraordinarily long, to pull insects out of logs.From birth to death
- Sun bears are thought to have just one mate.
- They give birth throughout the year, usually to twins.
- At birth, cubs weigh 10 to 12 ounces.
- Lifespan: unknown in the wild; in captivity, 12 to 24 years.
- Sun bears are the smallest member of the 8 bear species, at about 3.5 feet high when standing, or 2 feet at the shoulder.
- Males: 60 to 190 pounds
- Females: 50 to 150 pounds
CITES App I; due to habitat destruction; SSP; studbook participant; TAG
Sun bears, the Oregon Zoo and you
The Oregon Zoo's two sun bear females, Vivian and Jody, live in the Sun Bears exhibit and enjoy an omnivore diet of fish, apples, coconuts, dried fruit, oranges, strawberries, sweet potatoes, omnivore biscuits, insects and eggs.
Sun bear populations are declining due to habitat loss as their native forests are cut down for human use; in addition, bears are poached for their gall bladders and bile, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
You can help by buying forest friendly products that prevent habitat destruction, and contributing to conservation groups like Animals Asia that work to end bear farming.
Malayan sun bears at the Oregon Zoo
- Jody –female
Born in July 1986
Arrived on July 25, 2000 from the St. Louis Zoo
Jody has black nails.
- Vivian – female
Born on Oct. 10, 1985 at the Audubon Park Zoo (New Orleans, LA)
Arrived at the Oregon Zoo on March 12, 1986
Hand-raised because her mom was not successful at raising her young
She has spots on her crescent chest mark and a noticeable scar on her backside.
Vivian can often be seen asleep in a tree perch.
She has white nails.
Did you know?
In its native land, the sun bear has many names, including “human bear”, “upright bear”, or more commonly, “honey bear.”