Highlights of the Month

Sloth Bear


Sri Lankan Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus inornatus)

The Sloth Bear is a nocturnal insectivorous species of bear found wild within the Indian subcontinent. The population isolated in Sri Lanka is considered as a subspecies.

Description: Unlike brown and black bears, sloth bears have lankier builds, long shaggy coats that form a mane around the face, long sickle shaped claws, and a specially adapted lower lip and palate used for sucking insects. Adults weigh anywhere between 55kg-190kg.

Habitats: In Sri Lanka, sloth bears are confined to the remaining dry forests in the north and eastern parts of the island, mostly below 300 m. In areas where cover is sparse, and where daytime temperatures are high (a large part of the range), the bear is largely nocturnal or crepuscular and will shelter in rock outcrops, thickets, and tree cavities during the heat of the day. Although sloth bears may be active during the day in protected areas, they tend to be almost exclusively nocturnal in disturbed and fragmented forests interspersed with human habitations.

Behavior: Adult sloth bears may travel in pairs, with the males being gentle with cubs. They may fight for food. They walk in a slow, shambling motion, with their feet being set down in a noisy, flapping motion. They are capable of galloping faster than running humans. Although they appear slow and clumsy, sloth bears are excellent climbers. They climb to feed and rest, though not to escape enemies, as they prefer to stand their ground. They are capable of climbing on smooth surfaces and hang upside down like sloths. They are good swimmers, and primarily enter water to play. To mark their territory, sloth bears will scrape trees with their forepaws, and rub against them with their flanks. Sloth bears have a great vocal range. Sloth bears are the most nocturnal of bears, though sows become more active in daytime when with cubs.

Where can I look for the Sloth Bear while on tour?

The sloth Bear is a nocturnal animal, bit during the palu season from May- July in Yala and Wilpattu National Park

Did you know? Adult Sloth bears have 40 teeth but cubs have 42 while nursing


·  Sloth Bears. Smithonian National Zoological Park  

·  Sloth Bear Melursus ursinus, Final draft: Chapter for the book “Mammals of South Asia” (Eds. Johnsingh, A. J. T. and Manjrekar, N.), Authors: K. Yoganand, Clifford G. Rice and A. J. T. Johnsingh 

· Bear Behavior and Activities from Gary Brown’sThe Great Bear Almanac, Lyons & Burford, Publishers, 1993