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The sun bear is the smallest of all the species in the bear family. Most of these bears do not exceed 4.5 feet (about 1.4 m) in length, and typically do not weigh more than 100 pounds (roughly 45 kg). They get their name from the orange patch of fur on their chests, which is shaped like a sun. The rest of the body is typically black to brown in color. Sun bears are also referred to as Malaysian sun bears, and are typically found throughout the rain forests of Southeast Asia.
In the rain forest, sun bears like to spend lots of time in the treetops. They may be seen either foraging for food or even resting in the forest canopy on beds they create out of leaves and twigs. Their long, curved claws make it easier for them to climb trees and travel quickly through the forest. Sun bears are omnivorous and will eat many different types of plants and various small animals. Some people refer to these bears as honey bears because they tend to have such a fondness for it, and have exceptionally long tongues to aid them in extracting it from nests.
Unlike the majority of other bear species, sun bears do not hibernate. The climate of the rain forest is warm enough that hibernation is not necessary for their survival. These bears are also primarily nocturnal and do most of their hunting and other activity at night.
Scientists believe that the average sun bear lives monogamously and keeps the same mate for life. When baby sun bears are born, the father remains with the entire family. The gestation period for the typical sun bear is roughly 96 days, and the cubs normally stay with their parents for up to two years. Most sun bears reach sexual maturity by the age of three or four. If they are living in captivity, most of these bears are expected to live for up to 25 years.
It has been difficult for scientists to study the sun bear extensively because of their reclusive nature and scarceness in the wild. Deforestation and hunting have likely had a severe impact on their numbers. Some people who live near areas inhabited by sun bears kill them to get money for their fur or to sell the young as pets. There are currently laws in place to protect the sun bear, but not everyone abides by them.
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