My Ultimate Guide on Bears in Thailand
Bears are a living memory of Thailand’s wild past. As the country has grown and developed, bears have become less common in many areas. Due to deforestation and development, bears have been pushed to more remote regions of the country.
The bear is an iconic animal for Thailand. Many Thai people have grown up hearing stories about how their ancestors used to hunt and eat these animals. So, let’s dive right in and find out more about these incredible wild animals and where to find such creatures on your Thailand adventure!
Are There Bears in Thailand?
The bear population exists throughout Thailand, including tourist places such as Khao Yai national park and Khao Sok national park in Surat Thani (see below).
While there are not too many to be discovered, Thailand houses two species of bears. The Asian Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus), commonly called Moon bear, and Malayan sun bears (Helarctos malayanus), also called Honey bear. Differentiating between the two of them can be difficult for the untrained eye.
How large is the bear population in Thailand?
Note, there are no current or historical estimates for either bear species population in Thailand. While not critically threatened, their status is vulnerable, but organizations are working to secure bear populations and helping to teach people about them.
Where do Bears Live in Thailand?
Looking to spot a Sun Bear? Click here to see where Sun Bears live in Thailand and where you can spot them. You can also click here to see which national parks you are more likely to see a bear.
Bears can typically be found in Southern Thailand. They prefer moist evergreen forests with heavy rainfall throughout the year and more or less non-varying climates to inhabit. Bears may inhabit Mangroves, but typically only when they are near to favored habitat types.
Asiatic black bears have been found in 123 regions (78 national parks, 45 wildlife sanctuaries) covering 77,519 sq. km of forests and sun bears appeared in 106 preserved areas (67 national parks, 39 sanctuaries), covering 66,075 km sq. of forest habitat.
Bears have been seen to avoid heavily logged forests and regions near human settlements. However, they tend to be in farmlands, orchards, and plantations, where they may be regarded as vermin.
Where To See Bears in Thailand?
Bears are among the most challenging mammals to witness in the wild. Most people who have seen a wild bear would admit it is one of Earth’s most excellent wildlife-watching adventures.
Some of the most incredible spots for seeing bears in Thailand are Khao Yai National Park, Mu Ko Chang National Park in Trat, Nam Nao National Park in Phetchabun, and Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi.
Khao Yai National Park
Khao Yai National Park is Thailand’s oldest rainforest, only 4 hours drive from Bangkok. It’s one of the best attractions to spot bears in Thailand. You might also witness wild elephants, tigers, snakes, gibbons, and parrots during your trip to the park.
Sometimes you may notice or listen to a single bear foraging alone, or if you are fortunate, you may see a complete pack on their wild hunt for food here.
Kaeng Krachan National Park
Kaeng Krachan National Park is another best national park in the country to witness Sun bears. Comprising an area of 2,914 sq. km, it is the most extensive national park in Thailand.
The park is top-rated for bear watching, hiking, camping, and its majestic viewpoints for the sea of mist.
Mu Ko Chang National Park, Trat
The word ‘chang’ in Thai means elephant. Thus, the island Koh Chang was named after its elephant-shaped headland. This national park is one of Thailand’s oldest rainforests and is a place bears and barking dear roam freely.
Nam Nao National Park, Phetchabun
The sleepy forest of Nam Nao is a paradise for bears. The conservancy’s patchwork mix of mountains, meadows and pine woodlands shelters the wild crowds, black bears, and a different kind of other unique mammals.
This is an excellent site for bird lovers, too, particularly during the cooler months of February.
Safari World Zoo, Bangkok
Within an area of 170 acres, the Safari World is a drive-in zoological park divided into two parts.
The first is the Safari Park, home to many animals like bears, lions, giraffes, tigers, etc. in a natural habitat. The second is the Marine Park which hosts incredible exhibitions like the excellent dolphin show.
Malayan Sun Bears
Sun bears are stockily developed, with huge paws, powerful curved claws, small rounded ears, and a pointed snout. The body-and-head height is between 140 and 100 cm (55 and 39 inches), and the shoulder-length is almost 70 cm (28 in).
Sun bears possess weak eyesight, depending more on their powerful sense of smell. Life spans in the forest are unknown, believed up to 24 years, but the oldest sun bears in captivity recorded 25 years old.
The red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies these mammals as ‘vulnerable.’
The diet of the Sun Bear ranges widely and mainly covers birds, lizards, fruits, eggs, termites, tips of palm trees, nests of bees, berries, sprouts, insects, roots, and many more.
Sun bears live at all heights of subtropical and dense tropical forests in Southeast Asia. Thanks to their excellent claws, which offer a good climb and sleep on trees from 3 to 7 m above the ground. It shows why their Malayan name means “one who likes to sit high.”
Where do Sun Bears Live in Thailand?
The Malayan Sun Bear, aka the Malay or Malaysian Sun Bear, is the smallest bear species on the planet found in Khao Sok National Park.
From sun bears to clouded leopards, you can find various Thailand’s most amazing animals roaming this ancient forest. Two-hour ride north of Phuket, Khao Sok National Park covers a pristine area of evergreen rainforests with untouched islands and waterfalls.
There are various jungle safari tours available, which provide many opportunities to spot these beasts and other fantastic wildlife. The odds of seeing bears in the Khao Sok National Park are among the world’s best.
You can find many other Thailand’s impressive animal species in the park: elephants, gaur, Asian black bears, sambar deer, Malayan tapir, Indochinese serow, wild boar, etc. High up in the trees, look for the dusky langurs and white-handed gibbons.
There are around 400 species of birds reported from the national park. The skies and treetops shimmer with captivating birds, such as the scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Chestnut-headed bee-eater and ruby-cheeked sunbird.
For some more thrill, catch a guided night-walking safari to witness bats flying across the starry sky and listen to the evening calls and rustles of the jungle.
The other places where you might spot Malayan Sun bear are Kaeng Krachan, Ang Thong National Marine Park, Doi Phu Kha National Park, Chae Son National Park, Ko Lanta National Park, and Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Sanctuary, but the chances are sporadic.
Do Sun Bears Attack Humans?
Sun Bears may look aggressive toward humans while defending their cubs or protecting a kill. However, they are shy and reclusive creatures and usually do not charge humans unless provoked.
Watching a bear in the wild is a unique treat for any tourist to a national park. Even if it is an incredible moment, it’s crucial to remember that these beasts in national parks are wild and dangerous.
Although rare bear strikes on humans have occurred, causing severe injuries and even death. Each bear and each experience is different; no particular strategy will work in every circumstance and guarantee safety.
So, When you visit the park, it’s essential to check with the nearest backcountry office or visitor center for advanced bear safety information.