Don’t you think that this is a strange name for a bear since it isn’t a sloth? At one time, scientists thought that this creature was a sloth! They have many similar characteristics such as hanging from branches, carrying their babies on their backs, living near other sloth bears, and having the fathers around to help raise the cubs. Only after studying the sloth bear closer, did scientists decide to change the classification to bear family. Sloth often refers to being slow, but these bears are not slow.
The sloth bear has adapted to its environment in a neat way. These bears have developed hairless, flexible lips with gaps in their teeth, long tongues and closing nostrils. Why? Well, since their main source of food is termites, they have to be able to suck the bugs out of their homes. The sloth bear claws into the hard termite mound with its sharp, long claws. It then sticks its snout into the hole, closes its nostrils and ‘vacuums’ the termites into its mouth. Its long tongue scoops up the termites that get away! People have heard their sucking and slurping from over 90 meters (around 300 ft) away! Sloth bears also eat eggs, insects, honeycombs and carrion. They can climb high into trees for fruit.
Female sloth bears will have one or two babies and will raise them for the first 2-3 years of their lives. The male will stick around with his family and help take care of the cubs.
The sloth bear has a shaggy coat that is usually black with a ‘Y’ shaped white color down its chest. They live in the evergreen forests and grasslands of India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Burma and Nepal. They are popular in those countries but not for good reasons. These are the bears that are captured and trained (often tortured) to entertain people as the famous dancing bears. They are also hunted for their body parts to be used in traditional medicines. And, sadly, because their habitat is shrinking due to growing human population, they go looking for food on farmland and are killed by farmers protecting their crops and animals.