Watch Sun Bears in the wild @ Khao Yai

Most of the natural history 'What to do today''s I've written for What's On Korat have been quite easily achievable, if you go to the locations, are patient and have luck on your side you should see what you went there to see plus hopefully a lot more. So I've decided to raise the game and give you a more challenging mission.

Sun Bears, also known as Honey Bears because of their love of honey, are the smallest, least well-known and one of the rarest of all the bear species. They vary in size between around 120cm and 150cm and weigh between 35 and 80 kilograms. They are solitary, secretive and shy. They have large ranges and sleep a lot especially after a good feed. Sun bears are excellent climbers and spend a considerable amount of their time in trees. They feed on termites, ants, beetle larvae, bee larvae and honey, and a large variety of fruit species, especially figs. All this makes them a lot harder to find than most of the species I've written about on the site so far. But if you do find one, it's well worth all the effort, they are simply gorgeous.

Sun Bears occur in mainland Southeast Asia as far west as Bangladesh and northeastern India, as far north as southern Yunnan Province in China, and south and east to Sumatra and Borneo. Thailand being at the very centre of their world range. They inhabit tropical forests, including tropical evergreen rainforest, montane forest and swamp habitat.

The status of the Asiatic Sun Bear is classed as Vulnerable on the IUCN List of Threatened Species. Killing bears is illegal in all range countries but is largely uncontrolled. In Thailand, local hunters in one area estimated that commercial poaching reduced the abundance of Sun Bears by 50% in 20 years. In Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, Sun Bears are commonly poached for their gall bladders (i.e., bile) and bear-paws; the former is used as a Traditional Chinese Medicine, and the latter as an expensive delicacy.

The only place I have seen them on numerous occasions, but as mentioned there is no guarantee, is a footpath on the left hand side of the main road just after the wooden sign which says 'Snake Crossing' going south. There are numerous wooden signs along the road throughout the park for Elephant crossing, Gaur crossing etc. etc. Look out for the one with carved snakes on it and the words Snake Crossing. Don't worry there is no such thing as a snake crossing, it was put there along with all the others in an attempt to excite visitors to the park by the park rangers. But that said this is a much less visited part of the park on foot so do keep your eyes open for snakes.

Park your car on the side of the road then walk quietly along the footpath until you decide that you've gone far enough then turn around and follow the path back to the road. Don't wander off the path more than a few meters, depending on the amount of people who have walked it recently (which could be very few) it could be overgrown and difficult to find again and you don't want to get lost in a forest the size of Wales.

As with finding monkeys watch for any movements in the canopy. But bear (pun intended, initially removed, but then added again in a vain attempt at humour) in mind that the Bears move a lot slower than monkeys so they are far harder to find. But with perseverance you could well find and enjoy observing this wonderful Asian bear.  FF

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