Im­ages of elu­sive species cap­tured by sci­en­tists in Yun­nan prov­ince

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By YANG WANLI in Beijing and LI XINYI in Kun­ming

Sci­en­tists in Yun­nan prov­ince have strong ev­i­dence that sun bears live in China.

A video taken by sci­en­tists with in­frared cam­eras on the evening of Oct 23 in Yingjiang county, clearly shows the fea­tures of sun bears — a stocky, mus­cu­lar build, small ears and a short muz­zle — which earned them the nick­name “dog bear”.

The im­ages, cap­tured by re­searchers from the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences’ Kun­ming In­sti­tute of Zool­ogy, con­firms the pres­ence of sun bears in Yun­nan for the first time in 45 years. Gath­er­ing data is dif­fi­cult be­cause of the an­i­mals’ re­mote habi­tat and shy per­son­al­ity.

“This pre­cious video is the first recorded im­age of the species in China, and strongly sup­ports the ex­is­tence of sun bears here,” said Jiang Xue­long, a re­searcher at the in­sti­tute, who con­ducted the study.

The sun bear is the small­est species of bear. It grows to about half the size of a North Amer­i­can black bear. Males, which are slightly larger than fe­males, are about 1.5 me­ters in length and weigh up to 75 kilo­grams.

Sun bears are noc­tur­nal. They have an ex­cel­lent sense of smell and ex­tremely long claws. They also sport a long tongue that’s used for ex­tract­ing honey from bees’ nests — giv­ing them an­other nick­name, “honey bear”.

The bear is a tree-dwelling species that in­hab­its trop­i­cal forests in South­east Asia, in­clud­ing Malaysia, Thai­land and Viet­nam. It is among the top species on China’s en­dan­gered wildlife list and is un­der top-level pro­tec­tion.

In 1972, two Chi­nese re­searchers recorded a fe­male

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