Animals

This Zoo Just Welcomed A Baby Sloth Bear—And It’s Ridiculously Cute

Aw! It's the first of its kind to be born in the zoo for 30 years!

A brand new bundle of joy is being celebrated at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. But this is no ordinary baby. This is a baby sloth bear, the first of its kind to be born at the zoo in 30 years!

The six-pound baby sloth bear was born in captivity to 4-year-old mom, Shiva, and 13-year-old dad, Balawat. The zoo has yet to reveal the infant’s gender, and the baby cub reportedly remains unnamed. However, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo says they will reach out to the community for ideas in naming the little sloth bear when the time is right.

The precious cub is reportedly healthy and learning to walk, but it will be a while before the baby is visible to the public. Mom will stay by the baby’s side in a private enclosure until the baby is ready to make its debut.

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Sloth bears are native to India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. They are listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, largely because their habitat has been threatened by development and humans encroaching on their wilderness.

Despite the name “sloth bear,” these creatures have no association with sloths. However, original explorers did think that sloth bears were some type of sloth, due to some similarities between the species. These bears do hang from trees and carry their babies on their backs.

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However, the sloth bear is indeed a bear, and it can grow to between 200-300 pounds. Known for its shaggy coat (which helps babies grip onto mama’s back while she climbs on trees), this type of bear also has long front claws that it uses for digging. The carnivorous mammals have adapted to eat termites and other bugs.

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Sloth bears have been used as “juggling bears” in circuses. They may actually be the original dancing bears, since they were once trained by nomadic troupes touring India. The sloth bear was even the inspiration for Baloo in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.”

To learn more about how to protect sloth bears, go to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.