DC -- Natl Zoological Park -- Bears:
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- Description of Subject Matter: This section is used on this site and may include several animals from several sections of the zoo: sloth bears (from Asia Trail) and spectacled bears (from Beaver Valley).
On January 9, 2006, a new sloth bear cub was born. Six months later, the zoo's main donor for the animal selected a name for him -- Balawat. All of one pound at birth, he was the offspring of Hana (age 11) and Merlin (age 24). Merlin does not live with Hana and the cub because these bears are usually solitary in the wild; males do not take part in cub rearing. The cub will nurse until he's two or three years old, but by June he was also eating solid food, including insects, fruits, nuts, and dry dog food. In the wild, Sloth Bears eat mostly termites and ants, as well as some fruit.
Sloth bears are unique bears. Unlike other bears, the moms carry their cubs on their backs; the cubs will use mom for transportation until they are nine months old. Adults have a special ridge of hair on their backs for the cubs to hold on to.
Sloth bears have two fewer teeth than other bears. They are missing their upper incisors to help them suck up insects. In addition, they can close their nostrils so they don't inhale dirt when they're sucking up their dinners. They use their long claws to tear open termite mounds.
Sloth bears live mostly in India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. There are only 71 sloth bears in zoos worldwide, and with no more than 10,000 left in the wild, they are considered highly endangered.
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