WATCH: The UK’s first sun bear cub emerges from its den
The first sun bear cub to ever be born in the UK has emerged from its den for the first time at Chester Zoo… in very wobbly fashion!
The little cub – which does not yet have a name - had several minor tumbles as it tried to keep up with mum, Milli.
The chunky youngster was seen exploring its heated indoor habitat at the zoo in front of enthralled visitors before the sleepy-eyed cub headed back to the den for some more cuddle-time with mum.
Tim Rowlands, Curator of Mammals at Chester Zoo, said:
The new cub has plenty of enthusiasm but, at just 12 weeks old, it is still somewhat wobbly on its legs. It’ll soon find its feet though and it won’t be long until mum Milli really has her paws full. Her little one will quickly gain in confidence; become more and more excitable and look to explore. That’s when her parenting skills will be given a new test. We’re sure she’ll come through it with flying colours though – she’s proving to be a great mum so far.
The new arrival is the first healthy cub for mum Milli and dad Toni who, as young bears, were both rescued from illegal wildlife traders in Cambodia who killed their mothers and kept them as mistreated pets.
After being cared for by conservationists working for the Free The Bears organisation, the duo then moved to the Rare Species Conservation Centre in the UK, before arriving at Chester Zoo. Now, the pair have completed their recovery and become parents to the UK’s first sun bear cub.
Mike Jordan, Collections Director at the zoo, added:
These bears had a really tough start to life and so to now see Milli thriving with a cub is ever so special. It’s the wonderful culmination of an awful lot of hard work by numerous conservationists – here and in Cambodia - who have fought to give her a brighter future. The cub is the shining beacon of light at the end of what, at one stage, was a very dark tunnel.
Sun bears – the smallest of the world’s eight species of bear - are highly threatened in their native South East Asia where they are found in declining populations in Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, India, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo. Already, they are now thought to be extinct in Singapore, where they were once found in large numbers, and are close to being wiped out in Bangladesh and China.
They are listed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – a result of widespread habitat loss to make way for palm oil plantations, the illegal wildlife trade, human-wildlife conflict and hunting for its body parts, which are used in traditional Asian medicines, although there is no scientific evidence that they have medicinal value.
Sun bear facts:
- Scientific name: Helarctos malayanus
- The new cub at Chester Zoo was born on 13/06/18
- Milli and Toni first arrived in the UK in October 2013
- The pair initially lived at Rare Species Conservation Centre in Kent before moving to Chester Zoo in 2015
- They are the first sun bears to live at Chester since 1976
- The sun bear is the smallest of the world’s eight living species of bear
- Sun bears get their iconic name from the yellow or orange crescent marking on their chest, which legend says resembles the rising or setting sun. The species is also known as the ‘honey bear’ due to its love for honey - which it extracts by using its famously long tongue
- The Malay name for the tree-loving sun bear means “he who likes to sit high”
- Sun bears use their long tongue to eat termites and ants, beetle larvae, bee larvae, honey and a large variety of fruit species, especially figs
- They have powerful jaws that can tear open trees in search of insects to eat
- Their short black fur helps then to keep cool in hot climates
- They have big paws with large claws and hairless soles to help them climb