The Sun Bear, also known as the honey bear, is a bear found primarily in the tropical rain forests of Southeast Asia. The Sun Bear stands about 4 feet in length with a 2-inch tail and weighs between 66 and 154 pounds, making it the smallest member of the bear family. It’s dark black or brown-black fur is short and sleek and its chest has a pale orange-yellow marking in the shape of a horseshoe with similar colored fur around the muzzle and the eyes which is how the Sun Bear got its name.
It has sickle-shaped claws and large paws with naked soles to assist it in climbing, small round ears and a stout snout, and possesses a very long, slender tongue almost 10-inches long to extract honey from beehives. Its powerful jaws can crack open nuts, its claws are used to break into tree trunks and fallen logs, and it has a keen sense of smell, though its sight is poor.
The Sun Bear does not hibernate so it can reproduce year-round and may live up to 30 years in captivity. Being primarily nocturnal, the Sun Bear rests during the day on lower limbs not far above the ground.
Adult Sun Bears have almost no predators except humans due to their fierce reputation and formidable teeth, though occasionally they may be overwhelmed by tigers, pythons, or leopards. The loose skin on its neck allows it to wriggle its body inside the skin far enough to turn around and bite its attacker.
The decline in the Sun Bear population is largely attributed to the hunting of “nuisance bears” that destroy crops. Widespread poaching is driven by the market for their fur and their bile is used in Chinese medicine. In 2007 they were reclassified from “data deficient” to “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. A live look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgCzxbEnJ7c or