Sun Bear - The Dog Bear, Asian Bear
Legend has it that the bib-shaped patch on the sun bear's chest is representative of the rising sun. The beautiful sun bear is the smallest member of the bear family, and calls the lowland forests of Southeast Asia home. The sun bear is a reclusive sort that can be found in Southern China, Eastern India, and in some parts of Indonesia, and is also known as the Malayan sun bear or the "dog bear" (because of the bear's stocky build, short muzzle, and small ears). The sun bear has a sleek black coat that allows it to avoid overheating in its tropical habitat. The sun bear is only about half the size of its American black bear cousin, with the male sun bear being slightly larger than the female. Most sun bears weigh around 150 lbs (68 kg) and are about five feet (1.5 m) tall.
Strange Sleeping Habits
The sun bear's stature is perfectly suited for its lifestyle and allows it to move quite readily through the trees. Sun bears make themselves sleeping platforms high above the ground using leaves and branches. The sun bear's name is quite deceptive; sun bears are nocturnal and sleep the daylight hours away, ironically oblivious to the sun at all. At night, the sun bear lumbers through the forest, snacking on fruits, roots, berries, insects, small birds, rodents, and lizards. The sun bear's sense of smell is quite profound and he has very long claws (usually longer than four inches) that he uses to rip open trees for his favorite snack – nests of unsuspecting termites. The sun bear has a disproportionately long tongue that comes in useful when he decides to rob the honey from bee hives.
A Good Mother
Although the sun bear is one bear species that has escaped intense study, there is evidence that these bears are among nature's greatest mothers. The mother sun bear (or sow) makes a nest on the ground where she can give birth to up to two babies that weigh less than a pound each. Baby sun bears are born blind (and of course, helpless) – but the sun bear is fiercely maternal. She will cradle her cubs in her arms while walking on her hind legs – which is an action that is very uncommon among bears. After two months, sun bear cubs can move about on their own and by four months they are weaned; however, cubs stay with their mother for at least two years, sometimes longer.
Unfortunately, the bear is another target of the strange traditional practices of China. Their body parts are used in ceremonies, as part of costumes and for medicinal purposes.
Although it is not a very big bear, it may be one of the more dangerous bears to meet in the wild as they are known to be aggressive.