The sloth bear

Sloth Bear

 

Shaggy, dusty, and unkempt, the reclusive sloth bear makes its home in the forests of South Asia. Emitting noisy grunts and snorts, it wanders alone, usually at night, in search of insects and fresh fruit.

Size

They grow up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) in length, and males can weigh up to 310 pounds (140 kilograms), while females weigh up to 210 pounds (95 kilograms).

The leopard is very adaptable and can live in many different places across the globe. Leopards are found in sub-Saharan Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, southwestern and eastern Turkey, in the Sinai/Judean Desert of Southwest Asia, the Himalayan foothills, India, Russia, China and the islands of Java and Sri Lanka, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These large cats can live in almost any type of habitat, including rainforests, deserts, woodlands, grassland savannas, forests, mountain habitats, coastal scrubs, shrub lands and swampy areas. In fact, leopards live in more places than any other large cat.

Habits

Sloth bears are solitary creatures and generally nocturnal. When threatened they respond by standing on their hind legs and displaying their formidable foreclaws. They wear an extremely shaggy black coat and a cream-colored snout, and their chest is usually marked with a whitish “V” or “Y” design.

After a six- to seven-month gestation period sloth bears normally give birth to a litter of two cubs in an underground den. The cubs will often ride on their mother’s back, a unique trait among bears.

Diet

Sloth bears feed predominantly on termites and ants and employ a well-evolved method to dig them out. Their long, curved claws are used for penetrating nest mounds, which can be rock-hard. Once they’ve opened a hole, they blow away excess dirt then noisily suck out the insects through a gap in their front teeth. To do so, they close their nostrils and use their lips like a vacuum nozzle.

Beyond insects, sloth bears feast on a variety of fruit and flowers, including mango, fig, and ebony. They are also known to scale the occasional tree to knock down a bee honeycomb, which they will then enjoy on the ground below. It is this habit that’s given rise to their nickname, honey bears.