Indian Sloth Bear Facts
Indian Sloth bears are large mammals found in India. What makes these bears unique is their diet’s key source is insects. The estimated number of Sloth bears in the wild is less than 20,000. The body-length of the Indian Sloth Bear is between 5-6ft. Female Indian Sloth Bears weight is 175-310 pounds and the males weight is 120-210 pounds. Its tail is about 6-7 inches long, which is the longest tail in the bear family. Plus, its footprint is like a human’s footprint.
Diet, Habitat, Predators, and Behaviour:
Diet: The Indian Sloth Bears diet includes insects. Their sense of smell and their long, curved claws help them locate and rip the termite mounds. Termites are the Indian Sloth Bears favourite delicacy. Indian Sloth Bears also eat flowers, mangoes, jackfruits, sugar cane, honey, wood apples and other fruits, seeds.
Habitat: They live in lowland forests and sometimes, and they live in tall, dense grasslands and a range of insect-rich habitats. They prefer living in areas with lower elevation and also dry forests.
Predators: Humans, leopards, tigers and wolves are the major predators. Tigers, Leopards, and Wolves prey on the cubs.
Behaviour: Most of them are nocturnal. The females are more active during the daytime so she can avoid predators preying on her young ones at night. Cubs and adults climb trees, however, the cubs do not climb the trees to avoid predators like other bear species. The cubs jump on their mother’s back while their mothers scare the predator/s away. These bears live in a warm climate and need not hibernate in winter like other bear species. The surprising thing is that these bears kill 12 people a year.
Reproduction depends on the location and it can happen anytime in the year. The gestation period is around 9 months and their litters contain 2-3 cubs. Female sloth bears reproduce at different times of the year based upon their location. Once they mate, their gestation period is nine months long. The mother uses a cave or rock cavity so they can give birth with optimal safety.
The cubs ride on their mums back for safety and quicker travel until they are about nine months old and they become independent when they are 2-3 years old.
Threats and Conservation efforts:
Threats: Use of bears for entertainment, deforestation, loss/fragmentation of habitat hunting, poaching, and other forms of human conflict are just some threats that the bear’s face. In the Dancing Bear Trade in India, the bears end up suffering from malnutrition.
Poachers kill the bears to use their gall bladder for traditional eastern medicine. Some people still use them for entertainment despite bans being put in place in 1972 which prohibit the use of bears for entertainment.
The IUCN’s (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List labels the Sloth Bear as a ‘Vulnerable’ species.
Despite all the threats, there are efforts aimed at conserving the Indian Sloth Bear populations. Community-based incentives aim at planting more trees and protecting the bears’ habitat.
Zoos help to preserve the Sloth Bear’s populations. In addition, the Wildlife SOS has saved 400 bears from the dancing bear business in India. The Wildlife SOS is a non-profit organisation that aims at conserving India’s natural resources. It also has rescue and rehabilitation centres that help the bears with recovery efforts.
Indian Sloth Bear Facts -Sources: