2 Oct 2018

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 Cambodia.

Mum Milli and dad Toni were taken from the wild by poachers when they themselves were cubs and kept as pets. After being discovered by conservationists working for the Free The Bears organisation in Cambodia, the duo was then transferred to the UK to the Rare Species Conservation Centre in Kent and then to Chester Zoo.

Now 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. This 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 fast facts:

  • Scientific name: Helarctos malayanus
  • They are the first sun bears to live at Chester since 1976
  • 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