Sloth Bear - Shaggy-Coated, Insect Sucker
The sloth bear is a shaggy, untidy-looking member of the bear family. They’re indigenous to Southeast Asia and are mostly found in India. Their preferred habitats are flat tropical forested areas and they prefer to live alone although for mating, or if there is some food for many, they may be seen together. They can climb but not very effectively so they stay on the ground mostly. This species is fairly shy and usually nocturnal.
These bears can grow up to 6 feet (1.8 m) in length and males can weigh up to 310 pounds (140 kg). Females very rarely weigh more than 210 pounds (95 kg). When they feel threatened, they rise up on their back legs and wield their fearsome claws. Sometimes they also stand up just to get a good look around or smell the air. The coat of the sloth bear is extremely long, shaggy and black in color. They also sport a cream/beige snout and often have a patch of Y-shaped cream fur on their chests.
Sloth bears are essential insectivorous which means they prefer to feast only upon insects. Their main prey is the termite and they’re known for their formidable claws which can smash through a termites nest. They use an interesting technique to catch termites. First, they smash a hole in the nest and then they use their lips to make a vacuum and suck out all the content. The noise produced when the bear inhales the termites is deafening and some liken it to a roar! It can be heard several hundred yards away. Along with the insects like termites, the bears may feast upon fruits such as the mango and pawpaw and very rarely they may prey on other mammals. They have also been known to climb trees to get to bees nests and enjoy the sweet honey. This is where they’ve gained their nickname the ‘honey bear’.
The sloth bears’ gestational period is around six-to-seven months and the female bear usually gives birth to two cubs per litter. They tend to mate in the months of June and July although bears living in Sri Lanka are known to mate all year round. A fascinating and unique feature of this species is that they carry their offspring on their backs until they’re ready to fend for themselves.
In captivity and in the wild this species can live up to forty years. With their numbers declining, they currently are listed as endangered.