|Citation:||Fredriksson, G., Steinmetz, R., Wong, S. & Garshelis, D.L. 2008. Helarctos malayanus. In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.1. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 27 September 2009.|
|Scientific Name:||Helarctos malayanus|
|Species Authority:||(Raffles, 1821)|
|Taxonomic Notes:||Sun Bears on Borneo (Helarctos malayanus euryspilus) are sufficiently different from those on the Asian mainland and Sumatra, representing the typical form (H. m. malayanus), as to warrant subspecific differentiation (Meijaard 2004).|
|Red List Category & Criteria:||Vulnerable A2cd+3cd+4cd ver 3.1|
|Assessor/s||Fredriksson, G., Steinmetz, R., Wong, S.T. & Garshelis, D.L. (IUCN SSC Bear Specialist Group)|
|Evaluator/s:||McLellan, B.N. & Garshelis, D.L. (Bear Red List Authority)|
Given the Sun Bear’s dependence on forest, it is clear that the large-scale deforestation that has occurred throughout southeast Asia over the past three decades has dramatically reduced suitable habitat for this species. Although quantitative data on population sizes or trends are lacking, it is suspected that the global population of Sun Bears has declined by > 30% over the past 30 years (3 bear generations). Deforestation has reduced both the area of occupancy (AOO) and extent of occurrence (EOO) of Sun Bears, and has also reduced habitat quality in remaining forest. In Malaysia and Indonesia, deforestation will likely continue as long as accessible forest areas with high value timber stock are available. This will result in a highly fragmented range for sun bears, with forest mainly conserved at higher altitudes where forest clearing and harvesting are either difficult or not economically viable.In addition, Sun Bear numbers have been reduced by uncontrolled exploitation for body parts. It is expected that commercial exploitation will continue during the next 30 years unless abated by the implementation of significant anti-poaching measures.
|Range Description:||Sun bears occur in mainland Southeast Asia as far west as Bangladesh and northeastern India (Chauhan 2006), as far north as southern Yunnan Province in China, and south and east to Sumatra and Borneo, respectively. It now occurs very patchily through much of its former range, and has been extirpated from many areas, especially in mainland southeast Asia. Its current distribution in eastern Myanmar and most of Yunnan is unknown. Reports of sun bears formerly occupying Nepal appear to be erroneous. Sun bear fossils from the Pleistocene have been found much further north into China and on the island of Java (Erdbrink 1953), but sun bears did not occur there in historical times.Sun bears are uncommon at the northern and western edges of their range (southern Yunnan province, southeastern Tibet, northeast India, and Bangladesh; (Chauhan 2006, Gong and Harris 2006); this lower abundance was apparent in historical times (e.g., in India; Higgins 1932) so is probably a natural gradient unrelated to human exploitation.|
|Countries:||Native:Bangladesh; Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; China; India; Indonesia; Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Malaysia; Myanmar; Thailand; Viet NamRegionally extinct:Singapore|
|Population:||Reliable estimates of sun bear populations are lacking. However, rapid loss of forests throughout their range and an active trade in wild bears and their parts is strong evidence of a declining trend. Attempts to extrapolate population size (e.g., Meijaard 2001) from anecdotal information on bear density (derived from occasional bear sightings and sign surveys, e.g. Davies and Payne 1981) have led to unreliable estimates (Garshelis 2002).|
Habitat and Ecology
|Habitat and Ecology:||Sun bears rely on tropical forest habitat. Two ecologically distinct categories of tropical forest occur within its range, distinguished by differences in climate, phenology, and floristic composition. Tropical evergreen rainforest is the sun bear’s main habitat in Borneo, Sumatra, and Peninsular Malaysia. This aseasonal habitat receives high annual rainfall that is relatively evenly distributed throughout the year. Tropical evergreen rainforest, includes a wide diversity of forest types used by sun bears, including lowland dipterocarp, peat swamp, freshwater swamp, limestone/karst hills, hill dipterocarp, and lower montane forest.In contrast, sun bears in mainland Southeast Asia inhabit seasonal ecosystems with a long dry season (3–7 months), during which rainfall is <100 mm per month. Seasonal forest types are usually interspersed in a mosaic that includes semi-evergreen, mixed deciduous, dry dipterocarp (<1,000 m elevation), and montane evergreen forest (>1,000 m). The range of sun bears overlaps that of Asiatic black bears (Ursus thibetanus) in this seasonal forest mosaic.Sun bears also have been reported in mangrove forest, although their occurrence in this forest type probably depends on proximity to other, more favored habitats. Sun bears use selectively logged areas (Wong et al. 2004, Meijaard et al. 2005), and oil palm plantations near forest edges (Nomura et al. 2004). Sun bears occur from near sea level to over 2,100 m elevation, but appear to be most common in lower elevation forests. In Indonesia and western Thailand, for example, sun bears occur primarily below 1,200 m (Vinitpornsawan et al. 2006). Sun bears have been observed up to 2,100 m in Myanmar (Saw Htun 2006), 1,600 m in Lao PDR (Steinmetz et al. 1999).Sun bears are omnivores, feeding primarily on termites, ants, beetle larvae, bee larvae and honey, and a large variety of fruit species, especially figs (Ficus spp.), when available (McConkey and Galetti 1999, Wong et al. 2002, Fredriksson et al. 2006). Occasionally, growth shoots of certain palms and some species of flowers are consumed (Fredriksson et al. 2006), but otherwise vegetative matter rarely occurs in the diet. In Bornean forests, fruits of the families Moraceae, Burseraceae and Myrtaceae make up more than 50% of the fruit diet (Fredriksson et al. 2006), whereas in western Thailand fruits of Lauraceae and Fagaceae are the most commonly consumed (Vinitpornsawan et al. 2006). In Thailand sun bears and Asiatic black bears use many of the same habitats and have extensive overlap in diet. However, in montane forests >1,200 m elevation (where ground cover is sparse) Asiatic black bears are more abundant than sun bears (Vinitpornsawan et al. 2006).Little is known about social structure or reproduction in sun bears. Except for females with their offspring, sun bears are usually solitary. They may congregate to feed from large fruiting trees, but this behavior appears to be rare. Sun bears do not seem to have a defined breeding season anywhere in their range and usually give birth to only one cub (less commonly two; Schwarzenberger et al. 2004). Female bears use cavities of either standing or fallen large hollow trees as birthing sites. As sun bears occur in tropical regions with year-round available foods, they do not hibernate.|
|Major Threat(s):||The two major threats to sun bears are habitat loss and commercial hunting. These threats are not evenly distributed throughout the range of the species. In areas where deforestation is actively occurring, sun bears are mainly threatened by the loss of forest habitat and forest degradation arising from: clear-cutting for plantation development, unsustainable logging practices (Meijaard et al. 2005, Tumbelaka and Fredriksson 2006, Wong 2006), illegal logging both within and outside protected areas (Fuller et al. 2004), and forest fires (Fredriksson et al. 2007). These threats are prevalent in Indonesia and Malaysia on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo (Sundaland), where large-scale conversion of forest to oil palm (Elaeis guineenis) or other cash crops is proceeding at the rate of 1,000s of km² per year (Holmes 2002).Human-caused fires in parts of Sundaland are also diminishing habitat quality for sun bears. These fires are more extensive during El Niño-related droughts. On Borneo, periods of prolonged drought have disrupted fruiting patterns (e.g., Harrison 2000), which in combination with reduced habitat availability due to logging and fires, resulted in starvation among sun bears, even in primary forest areas (Wong et al. 2005, Fredriksson et al. 2006b).Commercial poaching of bears for the wildlife trade is a considerable threat in most countries (Meijaard 1999, Nea and Nong 2006, Nguyen Xuan Dang 2006, Saw Htun 2006, Tumbelaka and Fredriksson 2006, Wong 2006), and is the main threat where deforestation is currently negligible (for example in Thailand where nearly all remaining forest is within protected areas; Vinitporsawan et al. 2006). Killing bears is illegal in all range countries but is largely uncontrolled. In Thailand, local hunters in one area estimated that commercial poaching reduced the abundance of sun bears by 50% in 20 years (Steinmetz et al. 2006).In Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia and Viet Nam, sun bears are commonly poached for their gall bladders (i.e., bile) and bear-paws; the former is used as a Traditional Chinese Medicine, and the latter as an expensive delicacy. In China and Viet Nam, bile is milked from commercially-farmed bears; however, as there are few sun bears in China, farms there contain mainly Asiatic black bears. Conversely, both sun bears and Asiatic black bears are farmed in Viet Nam, in small private enterprises. Bears are routinely removed from the wild to stock or restock these small farms (Nguyen Xuan Dang 2006, B. Long, MOSAIC and WWF-Viet Nam pers. comm.).Other motivations for killing bears include: preventing damage to crops (Fredriksson 2005), subsistence use, fear of bears near villages, and capture of cubs for pets (the mother being killed in the process). Although few sun bears exist in India, villagers there still kill sizeable numbers (Chauhan and Singh 2006).Despite significant poaching within extant forest areas, sun bear populations appear to persist longer than some other heavily-exploited large carnivores. For example, tiger (Panthera tigris) populations have been severely reduced or extirpated in 12 of 15 protected areas surveyed in Myanmar, whereas sun bears were still encountered relatively frequently in 13 of these areas (Lynam 2003, Saw Htun 2006). Similarly, in Thailand tigers are close to extirpation in the Khao Yai forest complex, but sun bears and their signs are still consistently encountered there (Lynam et al. 2006, Vinitpornsawan et al. 2006).|
|Conservation Actions:||Killing of sun bears is strictly prohibited under national wildlife protection laws throughout their range. However, little enforcement of these laws occurs. The sun bear has been listed on CITES Appendix I since 1979.Conservation measures and priorities vary by country. None of the range countries have established specific conservation measures for sun bears, and some taking is permitted (Servheen 1999). General measures to reduce forest loss and poaching would help conserve the species. The most beneficial conservation measure in Indonesia and Malaysia would be protection of remaining forests from conversion to other land-uses, eliminating unsustainable logging practices, and prevention of forest fires. Establishment of new and effectively managed protected areas in Indonesia and Malaysia should be promoted in order to preempt land conversion (Tumbelaka and Fredriksson 2006, Wong 2006).Reducing the trade in bear parts would be highly beneficial for the survival of the species in mainland Southeast Asia. However, given available resources, the patrolling and monitoring of entire protected areas is currently an overwhelming task. To make this problem more manageable, a network of small bear recovery zones (100–200 km²) could be established within key protected areas. The patrolling efforts of rangers could then be focused on these zones. Recovery zones should be locations with plentiful bear foods such as trees from the families Lauraceae, Moraceae, Burseraceae, Myrtaceae and Fagaceae. Such zones would provide a biologically meaningful, geographically focused, and logistically realistic way for the efforts of protected area staff to be translated into population recovery for bears (and other wildlife species).Recently, the Bear Specialist Group mapped the current, range-wide distribution of sun bears. Important habitat blocks for long-term survival of sun bears were identified (Bear Conservation Units-BCUs). Anti-poaching efforts within these BCUs should be a high priority. Trends in bear occurrence and relative abundance within BCUs could be monitored using standardized sign surveys and camera trapping. Results of such monitoring could indicate which management or ecological conditions promote successful bear conservation, and which do not, and provide a means to assess the results of conservation efforts (e.g., future range expansion and/or increased bear density being indicative of effective conservation efforts). Additional field studies also would be helpful in this regard; few intensive studies have been conducted on this species.|
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Scientific Reserach on sun bears
Date: December 1st 2008
Today is already the first day of December 2008. Sun bear still remains the least know bear in the world. Almost everyone know about bears. They know polar bears, grizzly bears, American black bears and giant pandas because these are the bears that they seen in the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, National Geographic Channel, movies, advertisements, bill board, news articles or any kind of mass media you can think of. A small portion of the people know Andean or spectacle bears from South American, sloth bears from India, and Asiatic black bears from Asia. However, only very few people know about sun bears. This is a sad fact.
One of the biggest reasons for sun bear remains so little known is the lack of biological studies on this species. Until now, there are only 3 ecological studies that involved trapping and radio-collaring of wild sun bear in the world. One of them is my study base in Danum Valley Field Center and Ulu Segama Forest Reserve, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo. I did my Master of Science (MSc) project on studying the ecology of sun bear from 1998 – 2000, and then continued the study, by looking at the effects of logging on sun bear and bearded pigs for my doctorate degree.
Here are lists of publications with PDF from my M.Sc. studies:
Masters Thesis: Fredriksson G. (2005) Human–sun bear conflicts in East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. Ursus, 16 (1): 130 – 137.
- The Ecology of Malayan Sun Bears (Helarctos malayanus) in the Lowland Tropical Rainforest of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. 153 pp.
- Wong, S.T., C. Servheen, L. Ambu, and a. Norhayati. 2005. Impacts of fruit production cycles on Malayan sun bears and bearded pigs in lowland tropical forest of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Journal of Tropical Ecology 21:627-639. 13pp.
- Wong, S.T., C.W. Servheen, and L. Ambu. 2004. Home range, movement and activity patterns, and bedding sites of Malayan sun bears Helarctos malayanus in the Rainforest of Borneo. Biological Conservation 119:169-181.
- Wong, S.T., C.W. Servheen, and L. Ambu. 2002. Food Habits of Malayan Sun Bears in Lowland Tropical Forests of Borneo. Ursus 13:127-136.
Other publications, reports and articles from my sun bear works:
Wong, S.T. 2006. The status of Malayan sun bear in Malaysia. Pp 66-72 in Japan Bear Network (compiler). 2006. Understanding Asian bears to secure their future. Japan Bear Network, Ibakari, Japan 145 pp.
Wong, S.T and C. Servheen. 2007. Sun Bear and Bearded Pig Research and Conservation Project: 4th Progress Report. 16pp.
The Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders, Wong S.T. & Gabriella Fredriksson. 2006. Sun Bear Adventure Journals. EWCL. 34 pp.
The second person who studied sun bear and know more about sun bear than anyone on earth is Gabriella Fredriksson. She is the co-chair of the sun bear expert team of the Bear Specialist Group/IUCN, has been working for many years on sun bear conservation issues in Kalimantan, Indonesia and has been involved with the development of the first sun bear education center in the region. Currently Gabriella is assisting with the redesign of forest and conservation management for the province of Aceh (Sumatra), in a team established by the Governor of Aceh. Aceh with 3 million ha of contiguous forest has probably the most viable habitat and populations of sun bears and many other threatened species in Indonesia (orangutans, elephants and tigers).
I found this newspaper article written some 10 years ago when she first attempted to reintroduce 5 adult sun bears into the wild: “In Borneo’s Fading Jungles, a Grim Tale of Wildlife.”
Here is a list of her publications on sun bears:
Fredriksson, G. 2005. Predation on Sun Bears by Reticulated Python in East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. 53: 165-168.
Schwarzenberger, F., Fredriksson, G., Schallerc, K. and Kolter, L. (2004) Fecal steroid analysis for monitoring reproduction in the sun bear (Helarctos malayanus). Theriogenology, 62: 1677 – 1692.
Fredriksson, G.M., Danielsen, L.S. and Swenson, J.E. (2007) Impacts of El Nino related drought and forest fires on sun bear fruit resources in lowland dipterocarp forest of East Borneo. Biodiversity and Conservation, 16 (6): 1823 – 1838.
Fredriksson, G.M., Wich, S.A. and Trisno. (2006) Frugivory in sun bears (Helarctosmalayanus) is linked to El Niño-related fluctuations in fruiting phenology, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 89: 489 – 508.
Tumbelaka, L., Fredriksson, G.M. 2006. The status of sun bear in Indonesia. Pp 73-78 in Japan Bear Network (compiler). 2006. Understanding Asian bears to secure their future. Japan Bear Network, Ibakari, Japan 145 pp.
Fredriksson, G., Steinmetz, R. 2007. Bear sign survey training course- Phnom Tamao & Bokor National Park, Cambodia. 23rd – 27th April 2007. Unpublished report.
Beside Gabriella and me studying sun bear in the wild in 1998-2001, the third student who studied sun bear at the same time was Fuyuki Nomura. Fuyuki was a doctorate student from Hokkaido University, Graduate School of Environmental Science, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. He studied sun bear ecology and sun bear usage of oil plan plantation at Tabin Wildlife Reserve, eastern tip of Sabah. Among three of us, Fuyuki caught and radio-collared the first sun bear in Borneo in early 1999 and successfully caught 2 males and 2 females sun bears for his study:
Nomura, F., S. Higashi, L. Ambu, and M. Mohamed. 2004. Notes on oil palm plantation use and seasonal spatial relationships of sun bears in Sabah, Malaysia. Ursus 15:227–231.
The first scientific paper on sun bear was not published by any three of us who were studying sun bear in the wild in late 90’s. It was a paper published by Kim McConkey in 1999 describing how sun bear play an important role as seed disperser in Bornean rainforest. Kim was at that time doing her doctorate dissertation with University of Cambridge, in rainforest of Barito Ulu, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia Borneo.
McConkey, K., and M. Galetti. 1999. Seed dispersal by the sun bear Helarctos malayanus in Central Borneo. Journal of Tropical Ecology 15:237-241.
Another important scientist who contributes important publications and one of the very first publications on sun bear in late 90’s and early 2000’s was Erik Meijaard. Although he did not really study sun bear like Gabriella, Fuyuki and me, Erik has been very productive on sun bear publication and has long interest in sun bear and other large mammals in Southeast Asian mammals, especially Indonesia such as orangutan, bearded pigs and many others. He is a senior ecologist for The Nature Conservancy in Indonesia and the Kalimantan coordinator for the USAID-funded Orangutan Conservation Services Program. He publishes the monthly newsletter Forest Science News and frequently writes for newspapers and scientific journals.
Meijaard, E. 1998. The Malayan sun bear (Helarctos malayanus ) on Borneo, withspecial emphasis on its conservation status in Kalimantan, Indonesia. International MOF Tropenbos Kalimantan Project and the World Society of the Protection of Animals. London. 51pp.
Meijaard, E. 1999a. Ursus (Helarctos) malayanus, the neglected Malayan sun bear.Netherland Commission for International Nature Protection. Mededelingen No.34. 62 pp.
Meijaard, E. 2001. Conservation and trade of sun bears in Kalimantan. In: D. F. Williamson and M. J. Phipps (eds). Proceedings of the third international symposium on the trade in bear parts. pp: 26-37. TRAFFIC East Asia, Hong Kong.
Meijaard, E. 2004. Craniometric differences among Malayan sun bears (Ursusmalayanus); evolutionary and taxonomic implications. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 52:665-672.