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The above video was posted on LEAP blog by Sue.
Thanks for posting this behavior on sun bears that not many people know about. This sound is a “suckling” sound when the bear such a particular body part of themselves or other bears. It is fairly common among the captive sun bears, especially young ones. The reason behind this is actually quite sad.
In the wild, mother sun bears nurse their cubs up to 2 years or even longer. During this time, besides suckling for mother’s milk, the process of suckling also let the cubs seek comfort and feel secure and safe being side by side with their mother. This behavior is best explained by human babies sucking pacifier to seek comfort. Same theory: no milk draw out from the pacifier, but the suckling action make the babies feel comfort and safe.
Most captive sun bears share the very similar stories: they all were being captured by poachers and separated with the mother when they were at very young age. These were serious traumas, especially those mother bears being slaughtered in front of the babies. There was a story that I will never forgot in my life: a tiny baby sun bear was tied up for sale at Gaya Street Sunday market in Kota Kinabalu, and its mother was being cut up in pieces for sale as meat.
This kind of trauma is way beyond anyone’s imagination. Anyway, these baby bears grow up without mother and without a chance to suckle. However, suckling is an innate behavior. When the cub is hungry or feel uncomfortable, they suckle their mother’s breast. For these poor captive bears, they do not have their mother around, but the urge to suckle is very strong. So they learn to suckle on something handy. This “something handy” can be any part of their body like limbs, toes, or paws. More commonly was something that they can “latch on” like their own penis for male bears or vulva for female bears. If there are other young bears around, they may suck on each other’s ears. They always suckle on the same object or the same body part over and over again that later become their favorite suckling object.
"How can we not to do our best to help them?”
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