Sun Bear Arrival!

July 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

 It’s a very exciting time at the zoo today as our newest arrivals go on show to the public! We are happy to announce that the sun bears have arrived after a 6,000 mile trip from Cambodia!

Having a good look at his new surroundings!

 The two brothers are called Somnang (Cambodian for lucky) and Rotana (a popular Cambodian name) have come to Edinburgh Zoo from Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre.  They were born in the wild, their mother would have been shot and the cubs sold as part of the illegal wildlife trade.  The pair were taken to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in 2004 by Free the Bears Fund after they were seized from a private owner who kept them in a cage with barely enough room for them to stand. The two brothers get along great and have very different personalities; Rotana is more excitable whereas Somnang is a bit more easygoing! 

 Malayan Sun Bears (Helarctos malayanus) are the smallest bear species in the world (about 4 foot in length) and they are mainly found in the tropical rainforests of South East Asia.  They have very long claws on slightly inward facing feet making them extremely well adapted to climbing. Their diet consists of fruit, nuts, insects and honey.  These bears have an extremely long tongue that they use to get insects and honey from inside trees.  Sun bears get their name from the yellow coloured crescent shape on their chest which is said to look the sun when it rises or sets.  


 Malayan sun bears are classed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Vulnerable meaning that they are facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.  The main threats that they face include habitat destruction through logging and deforestation and the illegal wildlife trade where they are hunted illegally for the pet trade, traditional medicines or restaurant trade

 The sun bear’s new enclosure has been purpose built to simulate the bear’s natural habitat and to allow them to exhibit their natural behaviours! Their new home has indoor and outdoor climbing structures, an indoor pool, a waterfall and the RZSS gardens department have planted plenty of trees, shrubs and herbs to represent the bear’s tropical forest habitat.  The enclosure is full of enrichment including a fruit shaker tree, holes in which to hide food and a honey drip with clear honey boxes which the bears need to use their incredibly long tongues to get into, allowing the public to see this impressive adaptation. 

The new enclosure

  The bears have come to Edinburgh Zoo as part of a long-term breeding loan from the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) will provide support to efforts to conserve wild bears in Cambodia and provide assistance to Cambodian Forestry Administration for the care of thousands of other wild animals at Phnom Tamao.  Earlier this year the RZSS vet team visited the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre where they met our bears and worked with the local vets to train and share skills in the more specialized treatment of the bears at the sanctuary. These efforts are just some of the ways in which RZSS is not only helping to conserve endangered species through captive breeding programmes but also through supporting conservation work in the species’ natural habitat!

 Iain Valentine, Director of Animals, Education and Conservation at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, the charity which owns Edinburgh Zoo, said: “Our policy at Edinburgh Zoo is to ensure that we focus our collections on species that are really struggling so that we can activity contribute to managing the captive collections that could, in the future, be the only real safeguard for wild populations. With sun bears declining we saw an opportunity to bring them to Scotland. From the animal conservation perspective we are bringing new blood lines into the captive populations at the same time providing a charismatic creature which will hopefully encourage our visitors to come and find out more about the conservation work that goes on at Edinburgh Zoo.”



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