Sloth Bears - Sri Lankan Sloth Bear - Indian Sloth Bear
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Sloth Bear

Sloth Bears or Melursus Ursinus, is found throughout India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan. About 20 years ago, these species were fairly common in India and Sri Lanka, but are harder to see now-a-days. Heir range is widely spread from grasslands to forests; however, prefer drier areas or forests on lower elevations. Two sub-species of Sloth bear are recognized, namely the Sri Lankan Sloth Bear and the Indian Sloth Bear.

Sloth bears have a shaggy black coat of fur, especially over the shoulders, and some individuals have an appearance of a cinnamon color due to the presence of brown and grey hair on the coat. The face of sloth bears is rather naked as compared to the rest of the body. These bears have a U or Y shaped marking on the chest, and the color of these markings may vary from white to Yellow. The sloth bears are not as slow as the sloths, i.e., these can outrun a human easily!

Sloth bears have long snout, flat and broad molars, extremely large tongues, and are capable of voluntarily open and close their nostrils. Their forepaws are turned inwards, which help them a lot in digging. These also have a distinction to other bears, as they feed mostly on insects, and that is why they have such an awkward physical structure so as to adapt the diet! The weight of a female sloth bear may range from 55 to 95 kg, while an adult male may weigh from 80 to 140 kg. The height up to the shoulders ranges from 60 to 90 cm for an adult sloth bear. These species are mainly nocturnal. They have a very good smelling sense, while their sight and hearing abilities are little poor, which helps humans to draw nearer.

The sloth bear is normally a solitary animal except for breeding and the mothers with their cubs. The mating period varies with the location; however, it occurs usually from May to June and the gestation period lasts for about 6 to 7 months. The mating lasts a little, but a number of males run around an active receptive female for mating. The birth of cubs takes place in the caves in the base of some hollow trees. Adult bars are active throughout day and night, while the mothers with their cubs restrict their movement during the daytime, as a matter of safety to the little cubs.

Generally, in a litter a sloth bear gives birth to one to two cubs and rarely these are three. The little cubs are blind at the time of birth and remain in such condition for almost three weeks, and as they emerge from the cave they mostly spend their time riding on the back of their mothers. The cubs stay under the care of their mother for about 2.5 years before being independent, which clearly means that a female sloth bear breeds only every two to three years. In wild, the lifespan may reach up to an age of 40 years.

Further Reading

Animal Diversity Web
http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Melursus_ursinus.html

Arkive
http://www.arkive.org/species/GES/mammals/Melursus_ursinus/index.html

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