The Sloth Bear, Melursus ursinus, is a nocturnal bear, inhabiting the lowland forests of India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It has also been sighted in Bhutan. It is found in a variety of habitats, from dry grassland to evergreen forests. It has a preference for tropical deciduous forests. Within that category, the Sloth Bear prefers dry deciduous forests and rocky outcrops to wet deciduous forests. The Sloth Bear is the only bear species classified in genus Melursus.
Its body is covered in long, shaggy fur, ranging from auburn to black, with a distinctive “V”-shaped white mark on the chest, a whitish snout and black nose. The snout is long with bare lips and a lack of upper incisors, adaptations for its insect-based diet. The front feet are turned inwards and have non-retractable, curved ivory claws that are adapted for digging. The males are larger than the females; reaching a height of 6 feet and a weight of 300 pounds.
The Sloth Bear does not move as slowly as a sloth, and can easily outrun a human. One theory has it that early explorers saw these bears lying upside down in trees and gave them their common name for the similarity to the way a sloth hangs in trees. Another theory claims that the Sloth Bear gets its name because its normal walk is more of a meandering shuffle.
The Sloth Bear primarily eats ants and termites. It may also eat honey, eggs, birds, flowers, tubers, fruits, grains and meat. The animal’s fondness for honey has caused it to be nicknamed the Honey bear. It has been known to scale the occasional tree to knock down a bee honeycomb, which it will then enjoy on the ground below.
Photo by Aaron Siirila