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Asian Gardens Animal Fact Sheet
Melursus ursinus inornatus

Sri Lanka (another race is found in India)
The sloth bear has a feeding adaptation that is unique to the bear family. The snout is long, the nostrils can be closed and the bare lips are very flexible. The palate is hollowed and the upper incisor teeth are absent, forming a gap in the upper teeth. These characteristics enable the sloth bear to feed on termites by digging up the mound and sucking up the occupants with a vacuum cleaner action. The noise from this action may be heard for up to 600 feet.

This bear has short legs and large feet. The claws are very long and sickle-like and are useful when foraging in trees for fruits and flowers. The sloth bear is the only bear with the ability to hang upside down in trees (sloth-like), though it does this rarely. One theory is that this behavior is responsible for its common name, a more likely theory is that its name is derived from the English term "sloth" which is one who is slow, apathetic and lazy. Because of its nocturnal behavior it would have appeared slow to the first Europeans who encountered it during the day.

The sloth bear is highly feared in its native India and Sri Lanka and has a reputation for unpredictability and ferocity. This is due to the fact that the sloth bear tends to panic if taken by surprise. Instead of climbing a tree like other bears, the sloth bear hurls itself through the undergrowth. In the winter, this bear does not become dormant, but dens for seclusion and protection. This bear has been hunted extensively, and its habitat has undergone serious destruction.

Habitat: Lowland forests
Diet: Termites, insects, sugarcane, honey, eggs, carrion (dead and decaying flesh), fruits and flowers
Status: Vulnerable (IUCN)
Approximate Dimensions of Adult: Length: 4 to 6 feet
Shoulder height: 24 to 36 inches
Weight: 198 to 253 lbs.
Lifespan: 30 years in captivity
Reproduction & Offspring: Gestation: 210 days. Offspring: 1 to 3 (usually 2 ). Sloth bears are reported to have only one mate. The northern populations breed in June, and the southern populations breed year round. Cubs leave the den at two to three months and will ride on their mother's back. They remain with their mother until they are almost grown at age two to three.


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