Brian Crudge, Member: Sun Bear Expert Team, IUCN Bear Specialist Group
Caroline Lees, Program Officer, IUCN SSC CPSG
Matt Hunt, Co-Chair, Asiatic Black Bear Expert Team, IUCN Bear Specialist Group
Dave Garshelis, Co-Chair IUCN Bear Specialist Group

In September 2017 a hundred stakeholders gathered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the 1st International Symposium on Sun Bear Conservation & Management. The symposium was immediately followed by a conservation planning workshop facilitated by the IUCN/SSC Conservation Planning Specialist Group (CPSG) (Crudge 2017, Garshelis and Steinmetz 2017). Throughout 2018 a small team of editors combined the outputs of the symposium, planning workshop and reviewer comments to create the first rangewide conservation action plan for the sun bear (Helarctos malayanus), which includes both in-situ and ex-situ populations, and links between them (Crudge et al. 2018).
The plan describes 20 objectives and 60 priority actions to be implemented over the next ten years in order to work towards the 25-year vision and goals for sun bear conservation.

Sun bears thrive as a functional component of all natural ecosystems in which they occur in each of the eleven range countries. Human societies coexist with wild sun bears throughout the range with political and cultural appreciation of their intrinsic value as living beings. Wild sun bear populations are no longer threatened. Captive sun bears are maintained under high welfare standards and contribute to conservation through advocacy, education, research, and where appropriate, release back to the wild. Conservation of sun bears aids in the conservation of other species and ecosystems in Southeast Asia.

1. Eliminate illegal exploitation of sun bears.
2. Protect and restore sun bear habitats and populations across the species’ natural range.
3. Devise and employ methods to reliably monitor trends in sun bear populations.
4. Maximise the contribution of ex-situ sun bear populations to conservation.
5. Raise the profile and awareness of sun bears and their conservation needs.
Structure of the sun bear action plan implementation task force for 2018–2020 (reproduced from Crudge et al. 2018).

Structure of the sun bear action plan implementation task force for 2018–2020 (reproduced from Crudge et al. 2018).

The implementation of actions in this plan will be monitored and coordinated by an Implementation Task Force comprised of Focal Point persons for each range state and each of the 5 goals. The Focal Points will serve as contacts for anyone conducting or wishing to conduct recommended actions within range states or working group themes. The Focal Points will report annually to the Action Plan Implementation Coordinator for the duration of the action plan (2019–2028).  This process is aimed at ensuring communication and coordination to efficiently use resources and maximise outputs.
The Implementation Coordinator will be recruited from within the IUCN/SSC Bear Specialist Group’s Sun Bear Expert Team, which has a mandate to coordinate global sun bear conservation. The coordinator will serve a term coinciding with that of the Specialist Group membership and will report annually to the Bear Specialist Group Co-chair(s). An implementation progress report will be submitted annually by the Implementation Coordinator for publication in the winter issue of International Bear News. The role of Implementation Coordinator for the first term (until 2020) is being filled by Brian Crudge (, reporting to BSG Co-chairs, Dave Garshelis and Rob Steinmetz.

Malayan sun bear in a semi-natural enclosure. Photo credit: B. Crudge/Free the Bears

Malayan sun bear in a semi-natural enclosure.
Photo credit: B. Crudge/Free the Bears

The various actions in the plan relate to both wild and captive sun bears and will be implemented by a wide range of people and organisations, including students, university departments and researchers, government departments, and non-governmental organisations. The Implementation Task Force will act as a central hub for this diverse array of activities, keeping track of current and past projects conducted under the umbrella of the action plan.
People and organisations carrying out projects and actions are encouraged to notify and communicate their progress to the Implementation Task Force. The Sun Bear Expert Team has representatives in most sun bear range countries, and these representatives along with other Focal Points will be responsible for monitoring and maintaining communication with projects occurring in their respective countries.
At the time of writing, the action plan document is in the final stages of production. Once complete it will be available to download from the Free the Bears, BSG, and CPSG websites. The IUCN/SSC is committed to developing Conservation Action Plans for all 23,000 Threatened species on the Red List. In partnership with the IUCN/SSC, National Geographic Society recently launched a new programme to provide funding to halt further biodiversity decline by implementing species conservation plans for species and groups of species (see: One such grant was awarded in 2018 for research into motivations for hunting sun bears, one of the priority actions in the plan. There are many other priorities identified for sun bear conservation and so it is our hope that this Action Plan will serve as a catalyst for further interest in sun bear conservation and will aid all stakeholders in ensuring that their work contributes to a truly global effort aimed at reversing the decline of the world’s smallest bear species.

Literature Cited
Crudge, B.  2017.  Shining a light on sun bears.  International Bear News 26(3): 34–35.
Garshelis, D., and R. Steinmetz. 2017. The world’s least known bear species gets its day in the sun. International Bear News 26(3): 5-6.
Crudge, B., C. Lees, M. Hunt, R. Steinmetz, G. Fredriksson, and D. Garshelis.  2018 (in prep). Status review and rangewide conservation action plan for sun bears, 2019–2028. IUCN/SSC Bear Specialist Group, Free the Bears, TRAFFIC.

Brian Crudge

Member: Sun Bear Expert Team, IUCN Bear Specialist Group
Research Programme Manager, Free the Bears
PO Box 723, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Caroline Lees

Program Officer, IUCN SSC CPSG
Co-convenor, CPSG Australasia Branch, IUCN SSC Conservation Planning Specialist Group

Matt Hunt

Co-Chair, Asiatic Black Bear Expert Team, IUCN Bear Specialist Group
Chief Executive, Free the Bears

Dave Garshelis

Co-Chair IUCN Bear Specialist Group
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Grand Rapids, MN 55744, USA

originally published in International Bear News 2018 Fall Vol. 27 No. 3 on pages 33-34