Sloth Bear

(Melursus ursinus)




Facts about this animal

The Sloth Bear is a medium-sized bear, with males being larger than females. The length is 130-180 cm, the height at the shoulder 65-100 cm and the weight is 55-145 kg. It has a very long muzzle with a specially adapted mobile lower lip to eat insects and a broad blackish-brown nose which can be closed voluntarily. The eyes and teeth are small, the 1st upper incisor is missing. It has tufts of hair on the ears.


The coat is long (80-200 mm), coarse and shaggy, typically black or blackish brown (occasionally cinnamon or "red") except for face and muzzle where hair is short and dirty white, beige or brown. The hair is longest on the neck and shoulders.A white, yellowish or chestnut brown V shaped chest mark is usually present.  The soles of the feet are naked. The claws are white, cream or occasionally light brown. They are very long, blunt and curved.

Did you know?
that sloth bears are the only bears to carry young on their backs? In the late 1700s, the first Europeans to see sloth bears described them as bear-like sloths due to their ungainly appearance and long claws. The Hindi word for bear "bhalu" inspired the name of Rudyard Kipling's bear character Baloo in The Jungle Book.


Name (Scientific) Melursus ursinus
Name (English) Sloth Bear
Name (French) Ours lippu ou Ours à miel, Ours paresseux
Name (German) Lippenbär
Name (Spanish) Oso bezudo
Local names Hindi: Bhalu, Rinch, Reech
Marathi: Asval
Malay: Puni karadi
Tamil: Karadee
CITES Status Appendix I
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Aaron Siriila



Range Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka
Habitat Lowland, evergreen, moist and dry deciduous forest, grassland and thorn scrub
Wild population Approx. 10,000-20,000 (2006) (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 68 reported to ISIS (2005)

In the Zoo

Sloth Bear


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 72 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


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Why do zoos keep this animal

The sloth bear is rated Vulnerable by IUCN. With a view of building up a viable reserve population, an International Studbook has been established in 1996 under the WAZA umbrella, and coordinated conservation breeding programmes are operated at the regional level by AZA, EAZA and JAZA.


Animal welfare may be another reason for South Asian zoos to keep sloth bearts, as they may come into the situation to care for confiscated specimens that were illegally traded or illegally kept.