|Sloth Bear in the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. Photo By Asiir|
Our sloth bear Hana gave birth to one cub on December 19, 2012.
National Zoo’s Sloth Bear Gives Birth to a Cub
The female sloth bear at the Smithsonian's National Zoo gave birth to a single cub on Monday, Jan. 9. The cub was born in an inside den at the National Zoo's sloth bear exhibit.
National Zoo staff are monitoring the cub and its 11-year-old mother, “Hana,” via a camera mounted in their den, but Zoo veterinarians and keepers will not examine the cub for at least several weeks. They do not want to disturb the mother and cub during the critical first few weeks of the cub’s life to allow them time to bond. Zoo staff also hope to determine the cub’s gender at that time.
This is the third cub for Hana; she gave birth to two cubs in December 2004, but both cubs died within four days of being born. At birth, sloth bear cubs are very small, fragile, and dependent on maternal care. They are known to stay in their dens until they are two or three months old, and will stay with their mother for two or three years. Female bears are known to carry their young on their backs with the cubs holding on to the mother's long shaggy fur.
|Young bear cub on mother. Photo By L. Shyamal|
No photographs or video of the cub are available. The cub's father, 24-year-old “Merlin,” may still be seen at the Zoo's sloth bear exhibit near the sea lion exhibit.
When Asia Trail opens this fall, sloth bears will be the very first animals Zoo visitors see when entering the main gates on Connecticut Avenue. They are one of seven species to be exhibited on the Zoo's Asia Trail, which will also include clouded leopards, Asian small-clawed otters and giant pandas. Asia Trail is scheduled to open in October.
Sloth bears are native to the tropical deciduous forests of India and Sri Lanka, with no solid estimate of how many remain in the wild. Sloth bears usually mate in early summer and females give birth six to seven months later. It is unknown how long sloth bears live in the wild, but these bears have lived up to 40 years in zoos. They are listed as "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
JANUARY 19, 2013
Time flies: Our sloth bear cub is one month old today! Hana continues to be very attentive to him or her, and keepers are still monitoring the pair closely through their closed-circuit cam. Because the cub’s dark hair is growing quickly, it’s getting tougher to spot. (If it turns just so, the white patch of fur on its chest gives its location away!)
Even if keepers can’t always see the cub nursing, they can hear that distinctive suckling sound as well as some typical squeaks and squawks. On occasion, they spot Hana and cub pawing at each other as though they are playing! Exercising those limbs is important, and the cub is almost on the go! It can push itself up using it’s front legs, but it has not yet mastered using its back legs. It will be another few weeks before it’s fully crawling and climbing aboard mom’s back.
DECEMBER 21, 2012
Forget two turtle doves—we’ve got two bearing bears! Our 18-year-old sloth bear Hana gave birth to a single cub around 8:30 a.m. on December 19, 2012—which happens to be her birthday, too! Animal care staff are keeping a close watch on the cub through a closed-circuit TV camera, and it appears both bears are doing great. Mom is very attentive, and the cub has successfully nursed. If the cub thrives, it will be a few months before it goes on exhibit. On warm winter days, Zoo visitors can watch the cub’s father, Francois, sunning himself on Asia Trail.
JANUARY 30, 2013
Hana and the cub continue to do well! Keepers are seeing the cub sit up more but it still hasn’t tried to climb onto Hana’s back. Hana leaves the den more frequently and eats small snacks on a daily basis, but she still spends the majority of her time in the den with the cub. We occasionally see Hana sitting next to the cub or going into the tunnel connecting the den to her outer enclosure, coming back to nuzzle the cub briefly, and then repeating. We wonder if she’s teaching that it’s okay when mom leaves because she’ll always come back? The cub is certainly becoming calmer when she leaves the den and not screaming at the top of its lungs like it did during those first few weeks!
Sloth bears have shaggy, dusty-black coats, pale, short-haired muzzles, and long, curved claws that they use to excavate ants and termites. A cream-colored "V" or "Y" usually marks their chests. Sloth bears' nostrils can close, protecting the animals from dust or insects when raiding termite nests or bee hives. A gap in their teeth enables them to suck up ants, termites, and other insects.
Sloth bears grow five to six feet long, stand two to three feet high at the shoulder, and weigh from 120 (in lighter females) to 310 pounds (in heavy males).
Most sloth bears live in India and Sri Lanka; others live in southern Nepal, and they have been reported in Bhutan and Bangladesh.
The sloth bear is listed as vulnerable on the World Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Animals.
Sloth bears live in a variety of dry and wet forests, and also in some grasslands, where boulders and scattered shrubs and trees provide shelter.