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Sloth Bears and Facts

Sloth Bears are not regular sloths, and have long, shaggy hair, especially over their shoulders. They diverged from the main lineage of bears about 6 million years ago. Due to its ability to hang upside-down from branches, the first Europeans to see this bear believed it was a type of genuine Sloth.

The Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus) is an inhabitant of lowland tropical forests and grasslands of India and Sri Lanka.(picture right)
Its favourite food is primarily termites and other insects which it snorts and sucks out of termite hills on the ground with a vacuum-cleaner sounding roar that can be heard several hundred yards away.

Using its narrow tongue and long lower lip, which it can extend far beyond its nose, the bear has no difficulty scooping up the tiny morsels. The bear has special adaptations for feeding on termites. It has gap between its front teeth which allows it to suck in the insects, and also the top of its mouth is hollowed and tube-like.

The Sloth Bear also eats different insects such as ants and bees, and it also includes fruits, blooms and honey in its menu.
The Sloth Bear has a coarse, shaggy ebony pelt, a white V-shaped mark on its chest and has a protruding lower lip.

After mating, there is a period of about 6 to 7 months before the young are born. Generally they breed in June and July and cubs are born from November to January. In South Sri Lanka there appears to be less breeding convergence and cubs may be born at any time of the year.

They reach a length from 150 to 190 centimetres. Females reach a weight from 55 to 95 kilograms, while males are clearly heavier and between 80 and 140 kilograms in weight. Although Sloth Bears are rather shy animals, sometimes they are considered as aggressive as other breeds of bear.

The total world population of the Sloth Bears is estimated at approximately 7,000 to 10,000 animals, which means that the IUCN lists it as an endangered species (vulnerable).

The Sloth Bear Facts
  • Name: The Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus)
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Subclass: Theria
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Ursidae
  • Length of life: About 35-40 years in zoos. In the wild unknown
  • Size: 150 to 190 cm
  • Weight: 80 to 140 kg males
    55 to 95 kg females
  • Habitat: Forests and grasslands
  • Diet: Eggs, insects, termites, carrion, honeycombs and vegetation
  • Gestation: 4 to 7 months
  • Cubs: 1 to 3 cubs
  • SubFamily: Ursinae
  • Genus: Melursus
  • Sloth Bear Predators: Humans. Leopards, tigers, wolves (prey on cubs)
  • Distribution: Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India
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