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Sloth Bear

Classification
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Ursidae
  • Genus: Melursus
  • Species: ursinus
Fun Fact

Sloth bears are the only bear species to carry their young on their back.

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About Sloth Bears

Sloth bears are covered in long shaggy fur ranging in colors from black to an auburn color. All sloth bears have a white marking of a “V” or “Y” shape on their chests. They generally grow between 5–6 feet long and at the shoulder are about 2–3 feet high. Large males can weigh up to 310 pounds, with females weighing about half that 150–120 pounds. They have long, 4 inch, non-retractable claws which they use to dig up termite and ant nests and to climb trees to find bee hives.

The sloth bear got its name because of its ability to hang upside down, like a sloth, using its long claws and muscular limbs. They usually are nocturnal and are most active at night due to predators, such as tigers and leopards. Females with cubs will sometimes travel during the day. During the day they sleep in caves. Sloth bears have an excellent sense of smell but poor eyesight and poor hearing.

Females usually give birth to two cubs. In the wild, the cubs are born in an underground den, and stay there for several months. After emerging from the den, cubs stay at their mother's side for two to three years before heading off on their own.

Sloth Bears in the Wild

Habitat

Habitat can vary from wet forests to more arid and dry forest regions. Sloth bears do seem to favor dry, lowland forests.

Location

Found in the countries of India and Sri Lanka but also in southern Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

Diet

Their main diet consists of termites, grubs, beetles and ants. Sloth bears can close their nostrils while sucking up ants and termites with their mouth, this adaptation keeps insects from crawling up their nose.

When fruit is available, sloth bears will eat mangos, figs, and other fruits. They will climb trees and knock down honeycombs to eat. If food becomes scarce they have been known to eat carrion and raid farm crops.

Population Status

The sloth bear is listed as “vulnerable.” The destruction of habitats is a major cause for their rapidly declining numbers. These bears have also been hunted because of their reputation for aggression and crop destruction. They are also being hunted for medicinal ingredients.

Field Conservation

The Akron Zoo has partnered with Wildlife SOS to focus on sloth bear conservation. The zoo’s support goes towards a den study project to understand the ecology of sloth bears as it pertains to the birthing den. Information from this study will be utilized by anti-poaching teams to help better protect mothers and cubs.

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