Sweet Not Sweaty Sun Bears!
They're here! Our funky, jazzy, blue-themed sun bear socks! Could we get a better contrast ever??
Well, as much as we love this new design, we're still saving animals at Bare Kind, so let's dip right into the good ol' golden pot of knowledge, shall we? (Get it? Golden pot? Honey? Sun Bears love honey!)
Anyway, as always some fun facts first
Sun Bears are the second rarest bear species. The rarest is the giant panda (and guess what? We've got Save the Panda socks now as well! Bare Kind - that's us, saving the two rarest bear species one sock at a time! Not to toot our own horn or anything... you know we're all animal lovers here, and researching these animals is genuinely enjoyable. Eventually, learning why and how they're becoming endangered genuinely saddens us. For one, sun bears are hunted for their paws to use in soups. Their fat, bone and other physical properties are used for traditional Asian medicine and other bear products, making them even more valuable to poachers. It's sad. Local communities don't protect them enough, so they're left to fend for themselves, and there's a whole load of other issues here. But more on that later).
Sun bears are also the smallest, most arboreal (tree inhabiting) and least studied bear.
Though we have noted that they have long, curved claws helping them climb from tree to tree, and their tongues can extend out to 25 cm - that's about the length of an adult human's forearm! Can you imagine your tongue being that long? Although it's about half of a giraffe's tongue, which ranges between 45 and 50 cm. Either way, for sun bears, their tongue makes them experts at licking out the honey from beehives. Unlike giraffes, a sun bear's tongue will be fully pink.
Ever wondered why they're called sun bears?
It's said that the distinctive pale mark on their chest resembles a rising or setting sun, and that is what the bears are named after.
Like giraffe coats and human fingerprints, no two sun bear chest markings are the same.
Sun bears are generally diurnal and won't hibernate, but they will build nests in trees, and particularly enjoy basking in the sun on a hammock.
The bears reside in Southeast Asia, as far west from eastern India to as far north as southern China and as far south as Indonesia. Tropical forests are their favoured habitat and the exact type they live in varies geographically. Bears living in Borneo, Sumatra and peninsular Malaysia are found in tropical evergreen rainforests. These areas consistently receive high rainfall throughout the year. On the other hand, sun bears in mainland southeast Asia will be found in seasonal forests with long periods of dry weather.
Now, what makes sun bears endangered?
Sun Bear forest habitats have been destroyed by logging and agricultural conversion. The land is used for coffee, rubber, and oil palm plantations, making their already very elusive population fragmented.
Sun bears are hunted illegally throughout the areas they've historically inhabited. The habitat loss, forest levelling and logging roads create access for poachers who go after bears for bear products. Sun bears are hunted for their fat, bones, claws and paws for use in east Asian medicine and soups among other bear products. The number of sun bears kept in captivity in bile farms for bile extraction goes into the thousands. The process is cruel and leads to disease and infection. The good news is that organisations are campaigning to end bile farming, Animals Asia is one of them, and they continue to rescue sun bears from farms and reducing the demand for, and thus the lucrativeness of, bear bile business.
Furthermore, sun bears are subject to on-site shootings as people fear the bears would damage their livestock despite the livestock not being part of their normal diet. Sun bears are omnivorous but tend to go for small rodents and fruits like berries instead of farm animals, so the shootings are fairly ill-informed.
Lastly, sun bears currently have very little protection from local governments and communities, meaning it's very difficult to conserve their population on a community level. However, the IUCN aims to take action on a global level to raise awareness and educate people on sun bears so the human interference with their population reduces.
How you can save them
Bare Kind donates 10% of profits on our Save the Sun Bear socks to The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, which rescues and rehabilitates sun bears, whilst also raising awareness about them. Their mission is to give captured sun bears a better home and restoring their right to live in the wild through education, habitat protection and species conservation as well as long-term living improvements in their natural habitat.