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Malayan sun bear

Helarctos malayanus

Malayan sun bear

There are eight species of bear in the world and Malayan sun bears are the smallest members of the family.

This bear’s common name comes from the white/yellow crescent marking on the chest, which has been compared to the shape of a rising or setting sun. Each bear’s crest is individual, like a human’s fingerprints. In the Malay language, the bear is called ‘basindo nan tenggil’, which means “he who likes to sit high”. The sun bear is an agile climber and makes its home in the trees.

Belfast Zoo is home to two Malayan sun bears, Indera and Bora. Our pair live at the very top of our Cave Hill site, with some of the best views across Belfast Lough.

Animal class


Diet - Omnivore
Malayan sun bears eat insects, fruit, honey and small to large prey animals.

These bears can be up to 1.5 metres tall with a short tail of around seven centimetres. They can weigh up to 65 kilograms.

Malayan sun bears live in the dense lowland tropical forests of south-east Asia.

Conservation status
The IUCN considers the Malayan sun bear to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. The species is listed under Appendix I of CITES.

The biggest threat to Malayan sun bears is the destruction of their habitat. They are also captured for their use in traditional medicines.

Current population
There are no estimates to show how many of these bears live in the wild. Due to increasing deforestation, however, experts believe that the population is almost certainly declining.

Zoo population
There is an ESB for Malayan sun bears. There are currently 150 Malayan sun bears in zoos across the world.

Key to acronyms

CITES - Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species

IUCN - International Union for Conservation of Nature

ESB - European Studbook

Related links

Our other bears