Malayan sun bear

(Helarctos malayanus)


Malayan sun bear IUCN VULNERABLE (VU)


Facts about this animal

The Malayan sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) is the smallest of the eight living bear species. It's head-body length is about 1.2 –1,5 m; height at shoulder ca. 70 cm; and it weighs about 25–65 kg.


Sun bears do not hibernate. They are predominantly nocturnal and spend much of the day sleeping or sunbathing in trees.


Mating may occur at any time of the year. Gestation lasts 90-110 days and either one or two tiny cubs will be born. The cubs remain with their mother for quite some time, learning how to find food and fend for themselves. They reach sexual maturity at between three and four years of age.


Sun bears are omnivorous, that means they feed on both plants and animals like smaller mammals, birds, fish, rodents, fruit, honey and berries. They often climbs in search of food, using its long claws to tear into bee nests and termite mounds.

Did you know?
That, despite threats from habitat loss and hunting, Malayan sun bear remains one of the most neglected large mammal species in Southeast Asia, and the least known bear species in the world (Servheen 1999)?


Name (Scientific) Helarctos malayanus
Name (English) Malayan sun bear
Name (French) Ours malais ou Ours des cocotiers
Name (German) Malaienbär
Name (Spanish) Oso del sol, Oso malayo
Local names Bahasa: Beruang madu
Malay: Bruang, Basindo nan tenggil
CITES Status Appendix I
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Ryan E. Poplin



Range Southeast Asia: Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam
Habitat Lowland tropical forest
Wild population Because of its shy, secretive nature, and because it lives in dense tropical forest, few is kwown about this species. But numbers are declining because of habitat destruction and poaching for bear parts used in exotic foods, medicines, or aphrodisiacs (Mills and Servheen 1991).
Zoo population 126 reported to ISIS

In the Zoo

Malayan sun bear


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 72 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Frank C. Mueller

Why do zoos keep this animal

The sun bear is rated data deficient by IUCN but its habitat it rapidly dwindling in many places, being used for subsistence farming or being replaced by oil palm plantations. Zoos therefore keep the sun bear as an ambassador species for South-East Asia's threatened lowland rainforests.


Through coordinated breeding programmes zoos aim at maintaining a self-sustaining reserve population of the species.


Finally, zoos may also come into the position of having to take care of illegally traded sun bears which were confiscated by the customs or CITES authorities. As such trade affects mainly bear cubs, it is almost never possible to return confiscated animals to the wild.