10 02/10/2018

UK’s first baby sun bear named Kyra

A rare baby sun bear – the first of its kind ever to be born in the UK - has been named Kyra by zookeepers.

The female cub, now 16 weeks old, delighted conservationists when she was born at Chester Zoo in June, not least given the remarkable survival story of her parents who were rescued from illegal wildlife traders in Cambodia. 

Mum Milli and dad Toni were ripped from the wild by poachers when they themselves were cubs and kept as mistreated pets. 

After being discovered in very poor states and nursed back to health by conservationists working for the Free The Bears organisation in Cambodia, the duo was then transferred to the UK, first to the Rare Species Conservation Centre in Kent and then to Chester Zoo to complete their recovery.

Now, despite Milli and Toni’s troubled start to life, the pair has had a healthy baby girl and zoo staff say the trio is doing fantastically well. Keepers chose the name Kyra as it means ‘sun goddess.’

Sun bears are the smallest of the world’s eight species of bear and are listed as vulnerable to extinction on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of threatened species. Their demise is a result of widespread habitat loss to make way for palm oil plantations, human-wildlife conflict, hunting and the illegal wildlife trade.

Chester Zoo has joined forces with illegal wildlife trade enforcement agencies, the UK government, and zoos across UK and Ireland to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, which is threatening the future of species such as the sun bear.

Experts hope that the new worldwide campaign will inspire the public to report offences when they see or suspect them via Wildlife Witness, a free smartphone app, and Chester Zoo’s own Report It form.

Find out more about the illegal wildlife trade and download the app here.

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