Most Endangered Bears Ranked

Most Endangered Bear Species List Released
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2. Sun Bear

For the first time, the world's smallest bear species is listed as vulnerable in an IUCN report, meaning the species faces a "high risk of extinction in the wild." (Full story: World's Smallest Bear Faces Extinction.)

The 4- to 5-foot-long (120- to 150-centimeter-long) bear was previously listed as data deficientnot enough was known about the species for IUCN to issue the bear a conservation status.

"Although we still have to learn about the biology and ecology of this species, we are quite certain that it is in trouble. We estimate that sun bears have declined by at least 30 percent over the past 30 years and continue to decline at this rate," Rob Steinmetz, co-chair of the IUCN sun bear team, said in a November 12, 2007, statement.

Sun bears live mostly in the tropical forests of mainland Southeast Asia. The two major threats to the species are habitat loss and commercial hunting, IUCN says. A 2006 study estimated that local hunters in Thailand had reduced the population of the bears by 50 percent in 20 years.

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—Photograph by Barbara Sax/AFP/Getty Images
 
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