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10 things you probably don't know about bears

By: Jaymi Heimbuch on Oct. 20, 2015, 9:36 a.m.
Malayan sun bear

Photo: wrangel/iStock

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I'm medicine. Not!

The sun bear is the smallest of the world's bear species, with a unique marking on its chest that resembles the rising sun and gives the bear its memorable name.

However, this beautifully optimistic name belies a more disturbing reality for many individuals of the species. Sun bears, as well as Asiatic black bears and sometimes brown bears, are killed for their paws, gall bladders and other parts that are used in traditional Chinese medicine, despite the fact that scientifically they have no medicinal value.

Arkive writes, "Malayan sun bears have recently been re-classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, primarily due to the continued destruction of its habitat... Another threat facing these bears is poaching, even within protected areas, to serve the trade in bear parts. Bear gall bladders and bile products are used in traditional medicines despite the fact that many herbal alternatives are equally beneficial, more readily available, legal and cheaper."

What's more, sun bears are one of the species used in bear bile farms, an immensely cruel practice in which bears are kept caged to extract bile for the medicinal trade, though again, there is no evidence at all that there is any real medicinal value.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the sun bear population has fallen by perhaps 30 percent in the last 30 years. Thankfully, there are a number of groups dedicated to the conservation of sun bears and all bear species.

To learn more about bear conservation, visit: