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Baby Sloth Bear at Philadelphia Zoo

Born in December, it is the first healthy sloth bear cub at the zoo in more than 30 years.

Mom and dad, Kayla and Bhalu, have a new baby at the Philadelphia Zoo. The public will get to see the cub this spring.

Courtesy of Philadelphia Zoo

The first healthy sloth bear cub born at the Philadelphia Zoo in more than 30 years is doing well.

The baby, born Dec. 11, is mostly hanging around mom, Kayla, who seems to be adapting well to her maternal role, say zoo officials, who are monitoring mom and baby (whose gender is not yet known) by a camera in their den.

This is the first healthy sloth bear born at the zoo since 1997. One that was born to Kayla last year and a second one born in the same litter on Dec. 11, both died shortly after birth. 

Sloth bears, which are listed as a "vulnerable" species, live in the lowland forests of India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The birth of one here is a boon to efforts to help the species survive.

 “In the summer of 2015, Kayla arrived from the San Diego Zoo and Bhalu from the Brookfield Zoo on a Species Survival Plan breeding program with the hopes of successful breeding," says Dr. Andy Baker, Philadelphia Zoo’s Chief Operating Officer. "We are thrilled this match was successful. This birth is a significant contribution to the overall sloth bear  population in the U.S.” 

Sloth bears can weigh as much as 300 pounds and reach 6-feet long when full grown, but it's a long way to that for this baby. Cubs are born around one pound and don't emerge from the den for three or four months, usually clinging to mom's back, an uncommon way for a baby bear to travel.

No sloths

Sloth bears are not related to sloths, but were mistakeningly given that name by a zoologist because they had some of the same features, like their non-retractable claws. Unlike sloths, sloth bears, while unkempt in appearance, are not slow-moving layabouts, says the San Diego zoo. 

"In fact, they’re agile bears that can run faster than a human and will attack if surprised," the zoo says, although they do sometimes hang upside from trees like their namesake.

Sloth bears usually spend two or three years with mom. Dads are not involved with raising the cub and, in the wild, aren't even around, officials at Philadelphia Zoo say.

The zoo expects to announce in the spring when the public will be able to see mom and cub in Bear Country.

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