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Viral Video Puts Sun Bear in Spotlight

When people started talking about a video of a sun bear, conservationists saw an opportunity to save the species.

Top half of a sun bear standing on its hind legs and holding up its two front paws.

© MrPreecha/stock.adobe.com

The sun bear gets its name from the “bib” of fur around its neck.

A sun bear named Angela turned into a major influencer after a video from a Chinese zoo went viral. Scientists are hoping that the popularity of the video will shed some light on sun bears, which are little known but endangered.

The video, which was recorded at Hangzhou Zoo in China, showed Angela standing on two legs and seeming to wave to a crowd from her enclosure. The bear looked so human that many people were convinced that it was a person in a costume. Eventually, biologists weighed in on the debate. The verdict? Angela is a real sun bear. In fact, it’s not unusual for sun bears to stand on their hind legs, making them seem humanlike because of their relatively small size.

Biologists say one reason for the misunderstanding is that most people know very little about sun bears, especially compared to their larger cousins, such as grizzly bears and polar bears. So, here are some facts.

  • Of the world’s eight bear species, the sun bear is the smallest, weighing 59 to 143 pounds (27 to 65 kilograms) and growing to 3.3 to 4 feet (1 to 1.2 meters) long.
  • The sun bear lives only in Southeast Asian forests.
  • The sun bear gets its name from the bib-shaped golden or white patch of fur on its chest.
  • Sun bears help keep forests healthy by spreading seeds from the fruit they eat and by eating termites that can damage trees.
A sun bear stands on all fours in grass and looks at the camera.

© sirichai_raksue—iStock/Getty Images Plus

Sun bears are much smaller than grizzly bears.

Sun bears are threatened with extinction. In the past 30 years, their population is estimated to have fallen by about 30 percent because of deforestation and illegal hunting. Scientists aren’t sure how many sun bears are left, but estimates range from 1,000 to 2,500.

Conservationists are hoping that the viral video of Angela will help shed some light on the uncertain future of sun bears.

“Sun bears are extremely rare and close to extinction,” Bosco Chan, conservation director at the World Wildlife Fund, told CNN. “Their forest habitats, where destruction…remains rampant, must be strictly protected.”

NEWS EXTRA

World Cup Winners!

Women in red, yellow, and black uniforms pose and cheer with their arms up as one woman holds a trophy.

Catherine Ivill/Getty Images Sport

Ivana Andrea of Spain lifts the FIFA Women’s World Cup Trophy as her team celebrates their World Cup win.

Spain has won the 2023 Women’s World Cup! On Sunday, August 20, the Spanish team scored a 1-0 victory over England, thanks to Olga Carmona’s first-half goal. Carmona had also scored the game-winning goal in Spain’s 2-1 semifinal win over Sweden. 

It was a comeback story for Spain, which lost to England at the 2022 European Championship. 

“I think all of us, we felt that this team had something special,” Carmona told the Associated Press. “We’ve been fighting until the end. We never stopped.

Did You Know?

A sun bear carries a sun bear cub as a speech bubble says Ma, this is embarrassing.

© Tanja/stock.adobe.com, © Lukas Blazek/Dreamstime.com; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Sun bears have been seen cradling their cubs in their arms (much like humans carry their babies) while walking on their hind legs.

Bear vs. Bear

Side by side images of a grizzly bear and a black bear.

© Paul, troutnut/stock.adobe.com; Photo composite Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Some bear species are harder to identify than others. Most people know a panda bear’s distinctive look, but it can be more difficult to tell a grizzly bear (otherwise known as a brown bear) from an American black bear. You can’t go by fur color. Confusingly, some black bears are actually brown!

So, how can you tell these two species apart? Here are some key differences.

Grizzly Bear

  • It stands 3 to 5 feet (0.9 to 1.5 meters) at the shoulder. 
  • It has a hump at the shoulder.
  • Its rear end is lower than the shoulder hump.
  • Its ears are short and round.
  • Its front claws are slightly curved and 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) long.
  • Claw marks are often visible in its tracks.

American Black Bear

  • It stands 2 to 3.5 feet (0.6 to 1.0 meters) at the shoulder.
  • Its shoulders are level or flat with its back.
  • Its rear end is higher than its shoulders.
  • Its ears are tall and oval shaped.
  • Its front claws are curved and less than 2 inches (5 centimeters) long.
  • Claw marks are not always visible in its tracks.

The Bear Facts

A polar bear and two cubs sit on ice.

© Uryadnikov Sergey/stock.adobe.com

Can bears run and climb trees? Do they really sleep all winter? And what on Earth is a sloth bear?

Find the answers to these questions and more at Britannica School!

WORD OF THE DAY

anthropomorphic

PART OF SPEECH:

adjective

Definition:

: described or thought of as being like human beings in appearance, behavior, etc.

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