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Malayan Sun Bear
Source:  National Geographic Photo Gallery
Photographer: Bates Littlehales

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The sun bear is one of the smallest bears, at around 1.4 meters (4.5 ft long) and weighing up to 100 lbs.  They have short, sleek black fur with an orange-yellow horseshoe shape of color on their chest. In some folktales it is said that this shape represents the rising sun.  They are also known as honey bears and Malayan sun bears.

A sun bear's diet consists of lizards, little birds, rodents, insects, termites, fruit and honey.  The long sharp claws of the sun bear are handy for tearing open trees where insect and bee nests can be found and slurped up using their extra long tongue.

Because they live in tropical temperatures, sun bears do not need to hibernate and are able to mate at any time of year. Unlike North American bears, male and female sun bears may hang out or live together while raising the cubs.  Sun bears will usually have two cubs at a time and care for them for two years until they are old enough to survive on their own.

Sun bears have loose skin that allows them to twist when being bitten, so as to bite an attacker.  They also have very strong legs that are great for climbing.  These characteristics help this bear protect itself from tigers and other possible predators.

The sun bear can be found in the tropical rainforests of southeastern Asia .  They are hunted for their meat and their body parts which are used for medicine. Cubs are often taken from their mothers and kept as pets.


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