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Malayan Sun Bear

Helarctos malayanus

Did you know?

  • Malayan Sun Bears are part of the Ursidae family, which they share with other bear species.
  • The name “Sun Bear” comes from the marking on their chest, which resembles a rising or setting sun.
  • The sun bear is also known as the “dog-face bear,” the “honey bear,” and the “Malay bear.”
  • They live in forests in Malaysia, southern China, eastern India, and Indonesia.
  • They are the smallest bear species.


Malayan sun bears have large paws with bare soles to help them climb and long, sharp claws to break open hives or insect mounds. Their unusually long tongues (at about one foot-long) help them gather insects, sap and honey. Thanks to a number of characteristics, like their small size and large claws, they are excellent climbers. They spend a lot of time in trees, resting, eating and raising young. They also have sleek, thick fur, which protects them in rainstorms and from sharp twigs and branches.

A Tropical Bear

Malayan sun bears live in a tropical environment. While most bears store food for the winter, sun bears have access to food through the whole year. They do not hibernate. Instead, throughout the year they live as opportunistic omnivores, basing their diet on vegetation, fruits, insects and small mammals that are available.

Threat Level

  • Unknown
  • Common
  • Near Threatened
  • Threatened
  • Endangered
  • Critically Endangered
  • Extinct in the Wild


The Malayan Sun Bear faces a high risk of extinction in the wild.


Malaysia, southern China, eastern India, Indonesia


Lowland rain forests

We care about malayan sun bears

The main threat to wild sun bears is the loss of forests and the development of palm oil plantations.

The Saint Louis Zoo participates in the Species Survival Plan for the Malayan Sun Bear, a cooperative breeding program that helps ensure a healthy population of animals. We also support sun bears at the Zoo. Learn more about how we are helping wildlife around the world.

Dedicated to Conservation

Find this animal in River's Edge


River's Edge

Take a journey along a mythical waterway through four continents to discover how wildlife, plants and people interact. River's Edge is the Saint Louis Zoo's first immersion exhibit—a lushly planted naturalistic environment showcasing multiple species from around the world.

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