After months of cozying up with mom Tasha in the den, the Woodland Park Zoo’s 13-week-old Sloth Bear cubs took their first steps outdoors. The tiny adventurers explored all around, trying to climb on everything. The best perch of all? Mom's back!
Until now, fans have only been able to see the two male cubs via cameras installed in the maternity den.
Photo Credit: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo
“We’re very excited to see Tasha and her cubs out on exhibit,” said Pat Owen, animal care manager at Woodland Park Zoo. “The fact that they’ve started to go outside the maternity den and explore is a good indicator the cubs are healthy and thriving. At this time, the cubs and mom are still exploring and adjusting to their new surroundings. They will still have access to the off-view maternity den as they make this transition.”
The two male cubs, born December 27, 2017, are the offspring of 13-year-old mother Tasha and 17-year-old father Bhutan.
Sloth Bears are native to the lower elevations of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. There are currently less than 10,000 remaining in the wild. Their survival is challenged by fragmented populations, competition with other animals (particularly humans) for space and food, deforestation, and the illegal trade in Bear parts, which are used in traditional Asian medicines.
For more than 400 years, Sloth Bears were targeted for human exploitation to perform as “Dancing Bears;” in 2009, the last Dancing Bear in India was released. Woodland Park Zoo is a participant in the Sloth Bear Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding program under the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) that ensures genetic diversity and demographic stability among Sloth Bears in North American zoos. Prior to the birth of these cubs, Woodland Park Zoo had five Sloth Bear births; two sets of twins and one cub which did not survive.
Woodland Park Zoo supports Wildlife SOS in their Sloth Bear maternal and day denning research project focused on Sloth Bears in the wild and in zoos. The project aims to learn more about day dens (used by Sloth Bears as a place to rest in safety during daylight hours), and the maternal dens used to give birth to and raise cubs.