Two day ago Woodland Park Zoo announced the birth of a sloth bear cub. Sadly, today the zoo announced the cub died sometime last night.
Born December 19 to first-time mother, 3-year-old Kushali, the cub died of unknown causes overnight under the care of its mother in a private maternity den. This is the second cub to pass from Kushali’s December 19 litter—the first cub was not viable and did not survive past the first 48 hours.
“Kushali and her cub were being monitored closely by staff using cameras with microphones mounted in the maternity den,” said Martin Ramirez, Woodland Park Zoo mammal curator. “Observations indicated that the mother was attentive and nursing. Unfortunately, sometime between 9:00 p.m. and midnight on December 29, the cub passed away while the mother slept. She was observed on the cameras trying to wake it and could be heard calling it but the cub was unresponsive.”
It is not uncommon for first time sloth bear mothers to lose their litter. 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. The first 72 hours is very critical for a cub, though it is important to monitor cubs the first few months to ensure they continue to grow and remain healthy.
“Because it is a defense mechanism in this species to consume any dead offspring so as not to attract predators, we may never know the cause of death of either cub,” said Ramirez. “It was clear that Kushali, a first time mother, was attentive and showing all the appropriate maternal behaviors, so the cubs may have been born compromised in some way but that is speculation at this point. While we’re saddened by the loss of the cubs, we were encouraged to have seen Kushali doing everything she could to care for them. She will have other opportunities to breed in the future.”