You've probably heard of black bears, and you're no doubt familiar with the iconic grizzlies of North America, but Asia's bears don't get as much time in the limelight. So to help get you better acquainted with these lesser-known species, we’ve lined up some fascinating facts about the mysterious bears of Asia - from the secret superhero moon bear to the meat-munching, bamboo-addicted panda.

Moon bears

Asiatic black bears are adorable but they might also be secret superheroes (just look at that Batman-like emblem on their chests!). Move over Bruce Wayne, 'Bat Bear' is here!

Moon bear 2015-04-09
The chest markings on the moon bear show a marked similarity to Batman's iconic branding. Image © Elvis Payne

Often called moon bears, their superpowers include being able to walk upright for over a quarter of a mile, and the ability to track down honey (their absolute favourite food) from great distances away (approximately 3.1 miles).

Sun bears

The sun bear, named for the yellow crescent marking on its chest that looks a little like a rising sun, is the smallest of the bear species. All about extremes, these mostly tree-dwelling animals have the longest tongue and claws of all bear species, and although they aren't carnivorous, they also have the largest canines relative to their size. Mothers find it difficult to cut the apron strings and their cubs stay with them until the age of two. Oh, and they bark!

Panda bears

The darlings of all the Asian bear species, giant pandas are full of surprises. Originally thought to be solitary, new research has revealed that they actually meet up for social gatherings.

Famous for their love of bamboo (some might call it an addiction), they live out their days merrily munching on its shoots, stems, and leaves. Or do they? In what is thought to be a kind of evolutionary ‘throwback’, a panda was caught on camera in 2011 chewing on a decidedly non-plant like object ... a dead gnu’s leg!

Sadly, these fascinating animals are in trouble. Habitat loss, the pet trade, a demand for their body parts and the cruel practice of bear bile farming for traditional medicine are threatening their survival. In a new two-part series, we take a look at some of the threats facing Asia's bears and showcase some of the sanctuaries that are working to help these creatures. Here's Part One:

Header image: Jeff Whitlock/Flickr