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Back in February, ZooBorns featured news of the birth of ‘Niko’, the Sloth Bear cub, at NaturZoo Rheine. The young guy is now on public display in the Zoo’s outdoor exhibit, and he is enjoying one of the perks of being a Sloth Bear cub---traveling, in style, on mom 'Devi's' back! 



NaturZooRheine_4_NikoPhoto Credits: NaturZoo Rheine

After mating, the gestation period, for Sloth Bears, lasts from 6 to 7 months. The mother will usually give birth to one to two hairless, blind cubs. Mom will remain in the cave with the cubs for the first 6 to 10 weeks, living mainly on her body reserves. When the time comes to leave their den, the cubs will ride on mothers back to and from the feeding grounds. The mother bear will usually carry her young in this manner for about 6 months, until the cubs are almost one-third her size.

The cub was born on December 6, 2014, but the news of the birth was kept under-cover in order to allow much needed bonding time with the mother. Remote control cameras, in the den, showed the mother was doing an outstanding job with her new offspring, during this time.  In early February, it was determined the cub was a male, and Zoo staff named the new little guy ‘Niko’.

Sloth Bears, originating from India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, are rare sights in zoos. There are just 25 individuals kept in European zoos, and these are managed by a breeding-programme (EEP). This season, only Zoo Leipzig and NaturZoo Rheine are lucky enough to have successful births of this unique bear species, which is characterized by a shaggy black coat, long claws and long snout.

NaturZoo Rheine has cared for Sloth Bears since 2009 when a new state-of-the-art bear-enclosure was opened. There was a first birth in December 2013, but the young were found dead two days after birth. Hopefully, Niko will be the first successful birth and rearing of a Sloth Bear in Rheine.

The parents of Niko are both zoo-born themselves: Father “Franz” was born in Leipzig Zoo in 2005, and mother “Devi” originates from Zoo Berlin, where she was born in 2008.

The Sloth Bear is classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. According to the IUCN, there are estimates of less than 20,000 in the wilds of the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka.