Smallest Bear in the World - Honey Bear

The sun bear (Ursus malayanus), sometimes known as the honey bear, is a bear found primarily in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia; Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Southern China, Peninsular Malaysia, and the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.

The sun bear is 120–150 cm (47–60 in) long, making it the smallest member in the bear (Ursidae) family. Males tend to be 10–45% larger than females;the former normally weigh between 30 and 70 kg (66–154 lb), and the latter between 20 and 40 kg (44–88 lb). The shoulder height is about 60–72 cm (24–28 in). The sun bear possesses sickle-shaped claws that are relatively light in weight. It has large paws with naked soles, probably to assist in climbing. Its inward-turned feet make the bear's walk pigeon toed, but it is an excellent climber. It has small, round ears and a stout snout. The tail is 1.2–2.8 inches (3–7 cm) long. Despite its small size, the sun bear possesses a very long, slender tongue, ranging from 8 to 10 inches (20–25 cm) in length. The bear uses it to extract honey from beehives.

Unlike other bears, the sun bear's fur is short and sleek. This adaptation is probably due to the lowland climates it inhabits. Dark black or brown-black fur covers its body, except on the chest, where there is a pale orange-yellow marking in the shape of a horseshoe. Similar colored fur can be found around the muzzle and the eyes. These distinctive markings give the sun bear its name.

The diet of the sun bear consists mainly of invertebrates and fruits but as omnivores they will eat a wide variety of foods including small vertebrates, such as lizards, birds, and turtles, eggs, the young tips of palm trees, nests of bees, berries, sprouts, roots, and coconuts. In fact, sun bears have been observed to eat over 100 insect species and over 50 plant species.

Despite being able to eat many species, the sun bear has certain favorite food sources. This was demonstrated in one study where termites, ants, beetles and beetle larvae made up the majority of the invertebrates eaten, whilst figs were the most important fruit source consumed.

The sun bear's fondness for honey gives rise to its alternative name of the 'honey bear'. In Malay and Indonesian, it is known as 'Beruang Madu' which translates to honey bear. Its powerful jaws can crack open nuts. Its long, powerful claws are used to break into tree trunks and fallen logs to access honey, grubs and termites. Much of the sun bear's food must be detected using its keen sense of smell, as its sight is poor.

The sun bear does not hibernate, and, as a result, it can reproduce year-round. The offspring reach sexual maturity after 3–4 years and may live up to 30 years in captivity. A female sun bear can produce 1 to 2 cubs per year. Sun bears undergo a roughly 96 day gestation period after which the 300 to 400 g cub is born blind and hairless. The cub is initially totally dependent on its mother and suckling can continue for about 18 months. After 1 to 3 months, the young cub can run, play and forage near its mother. Male sun bears grow larger than females. Females are observed to mate at about 3 years. During time of mating, the sun bear will show behavior like hugging, mock fighting and head bobbing with its mate.

Being a primarily nocturnal creature, the sun bear tends to rest during the day on lower limbs not far above the ground. Because it spends so much time in trees, the sun bear can sometimes cause damage to property. It has been known to destroy coconut palms and cacao trees on plantations.

Adult sun bears have almost no predators except humans, due to their fierce reputation and formidable teeth. Occasionally, they may be overwhelmed by tigers, or large reticulated pythons. Other possible predators include the leopard, the clouded leopard, and the sun bear's larger sympatric relative, the Asiatic black bear. The bear's loose skin on its neck allows it to wriggle its body inside its skin far enough to turn around and bite its attacker when grabbed.

The recent decline in the sun bear population can be largely attributed to the hunting of "nuisance bears" that destroy crops and widespread poaching driven by the market for their fur and for their bile, which is used in Chinese medicine.

Sometimes, sun bears are captured or bred to be domestic pets—a role for which they are considered desirable, due to their relatively inoffensive nature and small size in comparison with other bears.

The IUCN reclassified the sun bear from "data deficient" to "vulnerable" status in 2007.