Sloth Bear Facts
Sloth bear - Melursus ursinus
What it looks like…
The medium sized Sloth Bear weighs between 125 and 145 kilograms with an average body length of between 140 and 170 cms. Its long shaggy black coat helps it keep warm and prevents the ants and termites it likes to eat from biting its skin. There is a white or cream coloured U or Y shaped patch of fur on the chest. A lighter colour also occurs around the muzzle and sometimes extends around the eyes. The snout is mobile and the nostrils can be closed voluntarily.
What it eats…
Sloth Bears use their claws to dig up beetles and anthills. Their loose lips and long mobile snouts suck up insects. The snuffling noises made when eating, which can be heard from over 330 feet away, are caused by the bear closing the flaps of its nose which it does to stop dirt being sucked up with its meal. Sloth Bears enjoy fruit and cereals, like corn and maize, and love anything sweet. These bears climb well and will scale trees in search of honey.
Where it lives…
Sloth Bears once ranged throughout all the forests of India. Unfortunately, due to habitat loss the cubs are being poached and traded for use as ‘Dancing’ Bears. Sloth Bears are also found in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. This bear prefers grasslands and forested areas at predominantly lower altitudes and is most often found in drier forests and areas with rock outcropping.
Sloth Bears mate in the hot season, which is between April and August, depending on the area. The gestation period is about six months. There are usually two cubs, which are born between late November and February. The cubs are born in earth dens and will stay with their mother for up to two years. Mother bears are known to carry their young on their backs. The cubs use the long shaggy fur on the mother's back to hold on to.
Threats to Survival
Natural predators such as wild dogs, tigers, and leopards take a toll on Sloth Bears, but their most dangerous predator is Mankind. Sloth Bears face severe habitat loss as the forests are being cut down. In addition, poaching for the medicinal market and use as ‘Dancing’ Bears reduces numbers in the wild. Bears do not dance. They are made to stand upright and jump by means of a stick and a painful rope threaded through their muzzle.
The aim of Free The Bears Fund is to protect, preserve and enrich the lives of bears throughout the world. In India the Fund established a sanctuary for rescued Sloth Bears and continues to campaign against the cruelty of bear ‘dancing’.