Focus: Malayan Sun Bear
The Malayan sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) is the smallest bear species in the world. An adult individual weighs 27-66kg and stands at 48-60 inches, with the male being some 10-20% larger than the female. It has a distinctive orange U- or crescent-shaped marking on its chest, while its fur ranges from black to dark brown.
The sun bear is an agile climber and active at night, with long, strong claws (up to six inches), a strong jaw and long tongue (of to 25cm) -- a good arsenal for feeding. It primarily inhabits the lowland rainforest, which provides more variety of food and cover from predators, as this species sleeps and sunbathes in trees.
The Malayan sun bear survives on a variety of plants, fruits and small animals, including birds, snails, lizards, rodents and termites. It is also, as stories are told, fond of honey, thus the Malayan sun bear is also known as the honey bear. It is also recognised as an important seed disperser and its diet also influences colonial insect populations.
Helarctos malayanus is estimated to have a lifespan of about 25 years in the wild (30 in captivity) and, unlike bear species popularly highlighted on TV, it does not hibernate.
The species is categorised as "Vulnerable" under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Photo: Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (Perhilitan)