The Sun Bear, Helarctos malayanus, is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. It occurs in forest patches of mainland Southeast Asia, Sumatra and Borneo. The world’s smallest bear, it is identified by an individually distinct patch of light fur (resembling the sun) on the chest.
The Sun Bear’s range has been greatly fragmented and reduced through large-scale deforestation (legal and illegal logging and burning) and conversion of natural forests to oil palm and other commercial crops. It is also illegally exploited for its body parts, used in traditional medicines, and killed when ransacking human crops. Although killing of Sun Bears is strictly prohibited, the laws are seldom enforced.
This species is relatively poorly studied, and little conservation action has been targeted directly at it. Although no population estimates are available, it has become clear from the rapid loss of habitat that Sun Bear numbers must be in significant decline. Protection of habitat and reduction of poaching are paramount to its conservation.