Species: Melursis ursinus
India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Sloth bears have been extirpated from Bangladesh and almost no more sloth bears exist in Bhutan.
Sloth bears are small, and usually black with a long shaggy coat, especially over the shoulders. There is a distinctive whitish or yellowish chest patch in the shape of a wide “U” or sometimes a “Y.” They have a light colored snout, and two-to-three-inch-long front claws used for digging.
Adult males weigh between 175 and 310 pounds (79 and 140 kg), while female sloth bears weigh 120 to 240 pounds (54 and 109 kg). Birth weight averages 10 to 17 ounces (28 to 48 grams).
The family unit generally consists of an adult female with cubs. Sloth bears breed in June and July, and cubs are born from November to January. A typical litter is two cubs. Cubs stay with the mother for a year and a half or longer.
Sloth bears generally live as solitary individuals, except for females with cubs. However, sloth bears sometimes congregate where food sources are abundant. Several adults may use a common rock outcrop as a daytime retreat, and during the breeding season, estrus females may be accompanied by several males. Home ranges overlap extensively among individuals of the same sex as well as between sexes.
Sloth bears specialize in termites, but fruit is another important component of their diet through much of their range. Sloth bears will eat eggs, insects, honeycombs, carrion, and vegetation other than fruit.
Sloth bears inhabit forested areas and grasslands in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan. They seem to prefer lower elevations and drier forests with rocky outcrops.
It is really difficult to collect data on sloth bears to estimate a population number. Currently, the estimate is between 6,000-10,000.
Special physical adaptations allow sloth bears to feed extensively on termites, and the nostrils can be closed voluntarily to keep termites from entering. Cubs ride on the mother’s back. Sloth bears have been used in circuses, and called “the juggling bear.” Sloth bears show aggressive behavior towards humans and other natural predators. Baloo of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book is a sloth bear.
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