Meet the smallest bear in the world

A yellow U-shaped patch, the longest tongue of its kind... This is the smallest bear in the world, but also one of the rarest. Meet the Malayan Sun Bear.

One of the rarest bears in the world

This is the smallest bear in the world but also one of the rarest. Much smaller than its cousins the brown bear, the giant panda and the polar bear, it is also much lighter: weighing between 25 and 65 kilos on average, whereas polar bears can weigh up to 800 kilos.

Living in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia, it spends a lot of time hanging in trees. Unlike other bears, it benefits from its small size and large sickle-shaped claws. Up there, it builds a kind of nest that it uses for shelter. Another surprising feature: its tongue, which is the longest of all bear species. Measuring up to 45 cm, it helps it fetch honey and extract insects from the holes they're hiding in. Its food diet provides several services to the ecosystem. The seeds of the fruits it feeds on are spread through its feces and contribute to the survival of the tropical forest. By eating parasites like termites, it also regulates their population and limits their impact on trees.

However, this bear is listed as "vulnerable" by the IUCN. The reasons: the destruction of the forests on which it depends and hunting. Like its cousin the Asian black bear, with which it shares some habitats, it is targeted by the trade in bear bile, used in traditional Chinese medicine. In Southeast Asia, several organizations are working to protect this unique bear. Recognizable by its short black fur, the yellow u-shaped patch on its chest and its greyish-orange muzzle, this is the Malayan Sun Bear.