Sun bear gets ‘vulnerable’ listing due to deforestation, poaching
November 12, 2007
The sun bear, the world’s smallest bear, has been added to the global list of species threatened with extinction, said the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
The bear, found in the tropical forests of southeast Asia, Sumatra and Borneo, has been classed as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List.
“We estimate that sun bears have declined by at least 30 percent over the past 30 years (three bear generations), and continue to decline at this rate,” said IUCN bear specialist Rob Steinmetz. “Deforestation has reduced both the area and the quality of their habitat. Where habitat is protected, commercial poaching remains a significant threat.”
IUCN says that while bear hunting is illegal in southeast Asia, poaching is rampant due to bear parts.
“Bile from the bear’s gall bladder is used in traditional Chinese medicine and their paws are consumed as a delicacy,” stated a release from IUCN. “Additionally, bears are often killed when they prey on livestock or raid agricultural crops. Bears simply roaming near a village may be killed because they are perceived as a threat to human safety.”
The sun bear joins the Asiatic black bear, the sloth bear and the Andean bear (also known as spectacled bears) on the vulnerable list. China’s panda bear is the only bear species listed as ‘endangered’ by the IUCN.
Chinese state media reported that giant pandas may soon face food shortages because of a cyclical die-off in their staple food — bamboo — in their mountainous habitat. A similar die-off — which occurs after flowering — killed hundreds of pandas between 1984 and 1987.
Overall six of the world’s eight species of bears are listed as being at risk.