Woodland Park Zoo today announced that a sloth bear cub was born on Dec. 19 to 3-year-old mother Kushali and 15-year-old father Bhutan. The pair will remain off view to allow for maternal bonding and nursing.
Animal care staff will continue to monitor the cub’s progress on the den cam and will perform a routine wellness and development check on the cub if Kushali begins to temporarily shift in and out of the maternity den. Sloth bears are born extremely small and blind at birth. They open their eyes at between 3 to 4 weeks old and can walk shortly after their eyes open. Unlike other bear species, sloth bear mothers carry cubs on their back when cubs reach about 2 months. If all goes well, weather included, Kushali and her cub could be on exhibit sometime in March.
Sloth bears are found in the lower elevations of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. They are an endangered species, less than 10,000 remain in the wild. Their survival is challenged by fragmented populations, competition with other animals (particularly humans) for space and food, deforestation, and the bear parts trade for use in traditional Asian medicines. For over 400 years sloth bears were targeted for human exploitation to perform as “dancing bears;” in 2009, the last dancing bear in India was released. Woodland Park Zoo is a participant in the sloth bear Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding program under the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) that ensures genetic diversity and demographic stability among North American zoos. Prior to this cub, Woodland Park Zoo had five sloth bear births; two sets of twins and one cub which did not survive.