For Release: Jan. 19, 2006
John Gibbons (202) 633-3083
Peper Long (202) 633-3082
National Zoo’s Sloth Bear Gives Birth to a Cub
The female sloth bear at the Smithsonian's National Zoo gave birth to a single cub on Monday, Jan. 9. The cub was born in an inside den at the National Zoo's sloth bear exhibit.
National Zoo staff are monitoring the cub and its 11-year-old mother, “Hana,” via a camera mounted in their den, but Zoo veterinarians and keepers will not examine the cub for at least several weeks. They do not want to disturb the mother and cub during the critical first few weeks of the cub’s life to allow them time to bond. Zoo staff also hope to determine the cub’s gender at that time.
This is the third cub for Hana; she gave birth to two cubs in December 2004, but both cubs died within four days of being born. At birth, sloth bear cubs are very small, fragile, and dependent on maternal care. They are known to stay in their dens until they are two or three months old, and will stay with their mother for two or three years. Female bears are known to carry their young on their backs with the cubs holding on to the mother's long shaggy fur.
No photographs or video of the cub are available. The cub's father, 24-year-old “Merlin,” may still be seen at the Zoo's sloth bear exhibit near the sea lion exhibit.
When Asia Trail opens this fall, sloth bears will be the very first animals Zoo visitors see when entering the main gates on Connecticut Avenue. They are one of seven species to be exhibited on the Zoo's Asia Trail, which will also include clouded leopards, Asian small-clawed otters and giant pandas. Asia Trail is scheduled to open in October.
Sloth bears are native to the tropical deciduous forests of India and Sri Lanka, with no solid estimate of how many remain in the wild. Sloth bears usually mate in early summer and females give birth six to seven months later. It is unknown how long sloth bears live in the wild, but these bears have lived up to 40 years in zoos. They are listed as "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
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