Conservation and life in Borneo

Handedness in Sun Bears

This week I did a little informal study into whether or not sun bears display a preference to use one front paw rather than the other. My inspiration came from something I had heard several months ago about polar bears all being left-handed. I had also read a paper from a university in the United states which suggested that in the case of humans, you can predict the percentage of left-handed participants in sports leagues by assessing to what degree it is a team sport. Their idea was that same-handedness has evolved for cooperation. Bearing this in mind, I was curious as to whether the ration of left to right-handedness would be closer to 50-50 in sun bears than it is in humans, considering that we are social animals and they are essentially solitary.

This was done by offering 10 bears 4 pieces of banana each over a period of time and noting which paw they used to retrieve the fruit, which was placed around 30cm beyond their cages. I found that of the 10 bears, 2 used their left paw every time, 2 were 50/50 (one of whom was blind) and one used its left paw once. The remaining 5 used only their right paws. It’s a bit more than the 1:10 ration generally found in humans, but you can’t prove anything with 40 pieces of banana. It was interesting to watch, nevertheless. BTW, the confirmed “lefties” were Wan Wan and Kennigau.

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