project news

Signs of Sun Bears discovered

News item submitted by Alex Baker
News item dated 3 Feb 2011


Whilst carrying out forest treks over the past few weeks, volunteers on the Frontier Cambodia Forest project have seen increasing evidence of Sun Bears in the areas around the camp. As well as finding tracks left by a mother and cub, the team has spotted other telltale signs of bear activity, including claw marks left on tree bark, and logs that have been ripped open by bears searching for food. Sun Bears, also known as the “Honey Bears” because of their fondness for honey, are omnivorous, and eat a wide range of fruit and invertebrates. They use their powerful claws to break open tree trunks and logs in order to access the honey, grubs or termites contained within, and due to their weak eyesight rely heavily on their keen sense of smell.

Cambodia is home to two species of bears; the Sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) and the Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus), both of which are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Whilst both species are threatened by habitat loss, resulting from illegal logging and forest clearance for plantation and road expansion, they are also under serious threat from commercial hunting operations. Both the Asiatic Black Bear and the Sun Bear are hunted for their fur and gall bladders, as well as other body parts, for use in the production of traditional medicines. This practice continues despite having been scientifically proven to have no medicinal benefit.

Sun Bears are also threatened by farmers who hunt them because they regard the bears as a danger to their crops, and Sun Bear mothers are sometimes killed so that their cubs can be captured and sold as part of the pet trade. Most recent conservation efforts have focused on mapping bear distribution and ranges, although anti-poaching measures, such as the establishment of protected areas and increased action to reduce the trade in bear parts are also regarded as essential in protecting populations of both Sun Bears and Asiatic Black Bears.

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