This shaggy looking Indian Sloth Bear is native to the Indian Sub continent and is mainly insectivorous in nature. The lankily built body structure is covered with black unkempt hair and has a V patch on its breast. They can be seen in the jungles all across India and can be spotted in almost all national parks of India.


Scientific Name Melursus ursinusi 
Species M. ursinus
Diet Insectivore
Status Endangered
Lifestyle Solitary
Lifespan 20 years
Top speed 2 miles/minute

Physical Characteristics: The adult sloth bears are medium sized in nature and generally weigh about 130 kg. They grow up to a height about 60 cm to 90 m and their body length is about 1.4 to 1.9 m. Females are comparatively smaller than the males. They have the longest tail in the bear family, which can grow up to about 15 to 18 cm in length. They have shorter hind legs and their claws are very long, sharp and sickle shaped. They have very large and flappy ears and have the longest hair in their ears. They have black fur with a white V shaped marling in the chest which is unique to them.

Habit and Habitat: In India sloth bears are found in the foothills of the Himalayas, the Shiwaliks range till Arunachal Pradesh where dense jungles are found in plenty. They are not found in the high Himalayan range and the western desert of Rajasthan and the sparsely forested areas of South India. Almost all the national parks of India are home to sloth bear including Jessore Sloth Bear Sanctuary, Simplipal National Park etc.,

Sloth bears generally walk in leisure and their walking is characterized as slow and shambling in nature. However, they can gallop faster than humans and they are also excellent climbers of trees. Generally, adult sloth bears are seen walking in pairs with their cubs. They are also excellent swimmers and love playing in water. They can also hang upside down from branches of tree. They have very strong sense of small, which is generally used by them to hunt for insects and termites. They are generally noisy in nature and can produce about varieties of grunts and growls. The sloth bear is the only bear who carries their cubs on their backs.

Diet: They are insectivorous in nature and are very good in hunting termites with their heightened sensory perception. Once they locate the termite mound then they destroy it with their large claw till they reach the main comb. They suck the ants with their snout making a sucking sound that can be heard about 180 m away also. They do not prey on other animals. However, they supplement their diet with fruits, leaves and plants. Sloth bears are very fond of honey.

Reproduction: In India, sloth bears mate in April, May and June and give birth in December and early January.

Threats: There are many reasons for the weaning population of sloth bears:

  1. Poaching: The sloth bear has been becoming the victim of poachers mainly for their gall bladders which are used in ancient traditional Chinese medicine. There is also an illegal trading of bear meat in the North east. The claws, teeth, fur are kept as souvenirs. Their body parts are exported illegally to countries like China, Hong Kong, North and South Korea.
  2. Entertainment purpose: In India a nomadic tribe known as the Kalandars began the ruthless practice of training the bear cubs for dancing purpose. The baby bears were ruthlessly snatched away from mother bears. At such a tender age, a red hot poker would be brutally driven through the muzzle and a rope would be strung to make them dance. With the help of the Indian Government and other NGOs 620 dancing bears were rescued. They are now living peacefully in national parks and sanctuaries.

Conservation Acts: The Sloth Bear is listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act. 1972. International trade of sloth bear is prohibited. They are kept well protected in high profile national parks and sanctuaries of India. The important sanctuaries exclusive to bear built in India are:

  • Daroli Bear Sanctaury, Karnataka.
  • Gudekote bear sanctuary (created recently) in Karnataka
  • Jessore bear sanctuary, Gujarat.
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