There are two types of bears that call Vietnam home: the Malayan Sun Bear and the Asiatic Black Bear, also referred to as a “moon bear.” While it’s not likely that you’ll see either in the wild, a few of each species are still roaming free.
Malayan Sun Bear
Originating in southeast Asia, the Malayan Sun Bear is a member of the Ursidae family and can get up to about 65 kilos, max (25–65 kilograms | 55-143 pounds). On average, an adult sun bear will grow to about 70 centimeters tall (28 inches), and between 99 and 140 cm (39-55 in).
Even though this bear is smaller than many others, it has some large canine teeth, sharp claws and is reportedly very aggressive, and will attack for unknown reasons. It’s speculated that there are only about 1,000 of these bears left in the wild, and they are dangerous to run into.
Asiatic Black “Moon” Bear
Asiatic Black Bears are also part of the Ursidae family, and even though they are not as aggressive to humans, they may attack when startled. The most prominent physical feature of the Asian Black Bear is the white crescent shape on its chest. In addition to these two names, it can go by moon bear or white-chested bear.
When it comes to their diet, they primarily feast on berries, small birds, beehives, insects, and they usually like to stay within an area of 1-2 square kilometers unless their food sources dry up.
Size-wise, they can get bigger than the Malayan Sun Bear. Adult Asian Black Bears reach 70 to 100 centimeters (28-39 inches) at the shoulder, and a length of 120-190 cm (47-75 in). Typical males will will anywhere from 60 to 200 kilos (130-140 lbs), and women 125 kg (276 lbs) on the high end.
Bear Bile Farms
Unfortunately, most bears in Vietnam are being held captive and farmed as resources, especially for their bile which is used in many Chinese medicines and household products. However, the Vietnamese government has been creating headway in ending this industry by making it illegal to hunt, advertise bear products, kill, trap, possess, and sell these animals. Additionally, they have brought the number of bears being kept for bile down from 4,000 to less than 400 as of the end of 2020.
Thanks to the efforts of the Vietnamese people, the remaining bears in the country are shifting to a better quality of life. Even with the reduction of bear farms, it’s still rare to spot one in nature.