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Malayan sun bear

Helarctos malayanus

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.

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.

Our Malayan sun bear habitat is at the very top of our Cave Hill site, with some of the best views across Belfast Lough.

IUCN Status

The IUCN status of the Malayan sun bear is vulnerable.

For more info on classifications visit

Animal class


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.




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.


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