SUN BEAR - Origin, behavior and photos!

Malayan sun bear: find out what this animal is like, its physical characteristics, character, behavior, etc. The sun bear (Helarctos malayanus), coconut bear or bruan (from...

Help the development of the site, sharing the article with friends!

The sun bear (Helarctos malayanus), coconut bear or even bruan (from Malay beruang, “bear”) is the smallest of all currently recognized bear species. Beyond their small size, these bears are very particular in their appearance and morphology, as well as in their habits, distinguishing themselves by their preference for warm climates and their incredible ability to climb trees.

In this PlanèteAnimal sheet, we talk to you in detail about the origins, appearance, behavior and reproduction of the sun bear.We will also talk about its conservation status, since unfortunately its population is in a vulnerable state due to the lack of protection of its natural habitat. Read on to learn all about the sun bear!


  • Asia
  • Bangladesh
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • India
  • Vietnam

Origin of the sun bear

En la actualidad, se reconocen dos subspecies de oso malayo:

The sun bear is a species native to Southeast Asia, living in tropical forests with stable temperatures between 25ºC and 30ºC and a high volume of rainfall throughout the year. The highest concentration of individuals is found in Cambodia, Sumatra, Malacca, Bangladesh and west-central Burma. On the other hand, it is also possible to observe smaller populations living in northwestern India, Vietnam, China and Borneo.

It is interesting to note that sun bears are not strictly related to other types of bears, as they are the only representatives of the genus Helarctos. This species was first described in mid-1821 by Thomas Stamford Raffles, a Jamaican-born British naturalist and politician who rose to prominence after founding Singapore in 1819.

Currently, two sun bear subspecies are recognized:

  • Helarctos malayanus malayanus
  • Helarctos malayanus euryspilus

Physical Characteristics of the Sun Bear

As we mentioned in the introduction, the sun bear is the smallest species of bear known today. The male sun bear is usually between 1 and 1.2 meters tall in the bipedal position, with a body weight between 30 and 60 kilos. The females are already noticeably smaller and slimmer than the males, usually measuring less than a meter when standing and weighing around 20 to 40 kilos.

The sun bear is also easy to recognize thanks to the elongated shape of its body, its tail so small that it is difficult to see with the naked eye, and its ears which are also very small . On the other hand, it has quite a long neck and pasta compared to the length of its body, and a very large tongue which can reach about 25 centimeters.

Another characteristic feature of the sun bear is the orange or yellowish patch that adorns its chest. Its coat is made up of short, smooth hairs that can be black or dark brown, except for the muzzle and around the eyes, where we usually observe yellowish, orange or whitish tones (usually associated with the color of the stain on the chest). The sun bear's paws have "bare" pads and very sharp, curved (hook-shaped) claws, which allow it to climb trees very easily.

Sun bear behavior

In their natural habitat, it is very common to see sun bears climbing tall forest trees in search of food and warmth. With their sharp, hooked claws, these mammals can easily reach treetops, where they can pick coconuts and other favorite tropical fruits, like bananas and cocoa. The sun bear is also a great lover of honey and uses its climbing skills to try to find a hive of bees.

In terms of diet, Sun bears are omnivorous animals whose diet is mainly based on the consumption of fruits, berries, seeds, nectar from certain flowers, honey and certain vegetables like palm fronds. However, this mammal also typically ingests insects, birds, rodents, and small reptiles to supplement the protein intake of its diet. Eventually, these bears can capture certain eggs that provide protein and fat to their bodies.

They usually hunt and feed at night, when temperatures are more pleasant. Lacking privileged vision, sun bears mainly use their excellent sense of smell to find food. In addition, its long, flexible tongue helps it collect nectar from flowers and honey, which are among the most prized foods of this species.

Reproduction of the sun bear

Given the warm climate and balanced temperatures in its habitat, the sun bear does not hibernate and can reproduce throughout the year. Usually the pair remains together throughout the gestation period and the males are usually active in rearing the young, helping to find and collect food for the mother and her young.

As with other types of bears, the sun bear is a viviparous animal, which means that fertilization and the development of the young take place in the female's belly.After mating, the female will experience a gestation period of 95 to 100 days, at the end of which she will give birth to a small litter of 2 to 3 cubs that will weigh at birth around 300 grams.

In general, cubs stay with their parents until their first year of life, when they can climb trees and look for food on their own. When the offspring are separated from their parents, the male and female may stay together or separate, and may meet again at other times to mate again. There are no reliable data on the Sun bear's lifespan in the wild, but the average longevity in captivity is around 28 years.

Sun bear conservation status

Currently, the sun bear is considered to be in a state of vulnerability according to the IUCN, as its population has undergone a significant reduction in recent decades.In their natural habitat, these mammals have few natural predators, such as big cats (tigers and leopards), or large Asian pythons.

Therefore, the main threat to their survival is hunting, which is mainly due to an attempt by local producers to protect their banana, cocoa or coconut plantations. The use of its bile in traditional Chinese medicine also remains frequent, which also contributes to the perpetuation of the hunt. Eventually, these bears are also hunted for subsistence by local families, as their habitat expands into some very poor economic regions. And sadly, it's still common to see "recreational hunting trips" aimed primarily at tourists

Sun Bear Pictures

Help the development of the site, sharing the article with friends!