Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Zoosday Tuesday

***Any opinions expressed on this blog are mine alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Kansas City Zoo.***


I decided to do one last animal from Indonesia before moving to a different region of the world. The Malayan Sun Bear is the smallest of the eight bear species, with males weighing up to 140lbs. and females around 120lbs. They lie mainly in the Maylay peninsula, and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo, but there are some small pockets of Sun Bears as far away as India.

Sun Shaped Crest on Chest
The Sun Bear gets it's name from the white or golden sun shaped crest on it's chest. These can vary in size and shape. They also have golden coloring around their eyes and muzzle.

See full size image
Check out that tongue
Like all bears the sun bear's sense of smell is very powerful, but this bear also has a very impressive tongue. They use their super long tongue to scoop tasty food like termites and larve out of trees. But they also use it to lap up their favorite food, HONEY. They are also known as the Honey Bear.

Oversized Canines

See full size image
Sickle-shaped claws
The sun bear uses his claws to dig into trees and fallen logs to extract insects and honey. They also eat fruit, leaves, and small animals like lizards and amphibians. The sickle shaped claws and over sized canines of the sun bear make them a formidable opponent for even the largest predators like tigers. They also have loose skin around their neck and upper back that make it possible for them to turn, even in the clutches of a predator and strike with their teeth and claws.

I'm sure you won't be surprised to find that these bears number one predator is man. They have have all of the same issues that plague the other Indonesian animals we've discussed, namely habitat destruction. But like the tiger, these bears are also hunted for body parts used in ancient Chinese medecine. Namely the bile, from the gall bladder of bears is believed to have medicinal properties, used to treat rheumatism.

Mother cradling baby
Sun bears don't hibernate like their cousins to the north, so they can reproduce at any time of the year. (Although they're difficult to study in the wild, there is some evidence that they may be monogomous, but the father is not involved in rearing the cubs.) The mother gives birth to one to two cubs after a 3 month gestation. The cubs weigh just under a pound at birth, and are blind and hairless. Within 3 months they are able to follow their mom around. Unlike most bears, the sun bear has been known to carry her cub by cradling it in her arms and walking upright.

Sun bears are primarily nocturnal and like to spend their nights foraging in trees. During the day, the spend most of their time sleeping in the trees.

Sun Bear Cub


  1. Hi Melissa,
    thank you for this "beary" nice and informative post. I absolutely love bears. When I was a little girl I had a life-size red teddy bear that sat in my rocking chair and a small one on my bed. I love teddy bears:real or not. This Malayan sun bear is just beautiful. I love your Zoosday ;)

  2. Awwww, they are so beautiful! I love the shot of the mother cuddling her baby. Thanks, Melissa!! :-)

  3. Oh wow!! What a lovely name for a bear!! And how beautiful!! The baby bears are adorable!! I always thought all bears hibernate but I guess if the environment isn't cold enough and there's plenty of food all year, there's no reason to!! Awww but poor bears!!! Persecuted as always for existing!! :-( thanks for the adorable pics and fab info!! Take care

  4. That's an amazing photo of the bear carrying her cub!

  5. I have to say, I really like this segment of your weekly posts. I keep learning about new animals I've never heard of. A sun bear. How cool!

  6. Claudia- I had a teddy bear as a child too, Cinnamon Bear went everywhere with me.

    Shannon and Alex-The way the mother carries the cub is very unusual and cool. Most bears carry their cubs in their mouths like dogs and cats.

    Kitty- you're right about these bears from the equator don't have to hybernate. (Although I think I'd like to hybernate at this point.

    Jolene- the tongue is something else. Sort of like an ardvark.

    Lynda- Thanks, I'm glad to share something new.

  7. Isn't it funny that a nocturnal animal would be called a sun bear? :P

  8. What a beautiful bear! I've never seen one with such strange markings. And that cub...oh how I'd love to give it a cuddle (when mother wasn't around!)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse