The image of sun bear recored in Yingjiang, Yunnan
In the evening of 23 October, 2016, a short video footage of sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) was recorded in Yingjiang County, Yunnan Province, China. This precious video is the first recorded image of the species in China, strongly supporting the distributions of sun bear in China.
The sun bear, also known as honey bear, is the smallest of the bears. It is arboreal species inhabits in tropical forests of Southeast Asia. Now, it is classified Critically Endangered in The latest Red List of China’s Vertebrates and Vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The major threats to sun bears are habitat loss and commercial hunting. .
“The first solid evidence showing the existence of sun bear in China was a female specimen collected in 1972 from the Red River Basin, lvchun County, Yunnan Province”, Prof. Xue-Long Jiang (Kunming Institute of Zoology, CAS), the co-author of the article said. After that, even though there are literatures reporting the occurrence of sun bears, most of them are controversial due to the lack of details or image materials. Some scholars are questioning even if sun bear is already extinct in China.
“This 10 second video captured by an infrared camera installed in the forest adjacent to Tongbiguan Nature Reserve is surely an exciting discovery”, Fei Li (conservation officer, Kadoorie Conservation China), the first author of the article, said, “in the footage, the features of sun bears can be clearly identified, i.e., head broad with a short snout; muzzle very short and pale in color; face pale in contrast to the black body; ears set low on sides of head, very small and rounded without ear tuft; coat black, very short and dense; crescent-shaped pale-colored chest mark; limbs relatively slender and long, forelimbs bowed, forefeet turned inward”.
This discovery provides clear image of sun bears in Yunnan after 45 years of the first official record. It has critical meaning in verifying the existence of the species in China. In the future, more extensive studies and necessary conservation measures will be carried out in the related areas.