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Tiny sun bear listed as 'vulnerable'

Nov. 13, 2007 at 4:08 PM

GLAND, Switzerland, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- The world's smallest bear, the sun bear, is now "vulnerable" on the World Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Species, the Swiss-based group says.

The sun bear, which inhabits mainland Southeast Asia, Sumatra and Borneo, previously was listed as Data Deficient, meaning not enough was known about the species to give it a status on the organization's Red List, the group said in a news release.

"Although we still have lot to learn about the biology and ecology of this species, we are quite certain that it is in trouble," said Rob Steinmetz, co-chairman of the Bland, Switzerland, organization's Bear Specialist Group's sun bear expert team. "We estimate that sun bears have declined by at least 30 percent over the past 30 years, and continue to decline at this rate."

Steinmetz said the sun bear, which stands about 4 feet tall and weighs less than 145 pounds, is threatened by commercial poaching and its habitat is compromised by deforestation.

"We are working with governments, protected area managers, conservation groups and local people to prevent extinctions of the many small, isolated sun bear populations that remain in many parts of Southeast Asia," he said.

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