Malayan sun bear

Helarctos malayanus

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 form strong pair bonds.
  • They give birth throughout the year, usually to twins.
  • At birth, cubs weigh 10 to 12 ounces.
  • Life expectancy: unknown in the wild; in zoos, 12 to 24 years.

Vital statistics

  • 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 bear conservation

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 is a female Malayan sun bear. She was born in July 1986, and arrived on July 25, 2000, from the St. Louis Zoo. ...