Brookfield Zoo to show off new sloth bear cubs - New York News

Brookfield Zoo to show off new sloth bear cubs

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BROOKFIELD, Ill. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

The three dozen or so sloth bears living in U.S. zoos will have two new additions as two cubs born in January at Brookfield Zoo make their public debut on Wednesday.

The Chicago Zoological Society announced Tuesday that sloth bear cubs were born Jan. 20 and have been living in a maternity den with their mother, Hani, 10, a statement from the zoo said.

At birth, the cubs, a male and a female, weighed less than one pound and could fit in the palm of a hand, but 3½ months, they now weigh 10-20 pounds, according to the statement.

It's the first successful litter of the nocturnal, insect-eating species at Brookfield Zoo, though there have been successful litters at other zoos, spokeswoman Sandra Katzen said.

Hani, a 10-year-old on loan from Capron Park Zoo in Attleboro, Mass., and her mate, Kartik, 3½, were paired in 2011 based on a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan.

Sloth bears, which Katzen said live only in southern Asia, are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, with fewer than 20,000 thought to remain in the wild, including populations in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

There is evidence of wild populations declining 30-49 percent over the last 30 years because of deforestation and poaching — mainly for the medicinal market, according to CZS.

While the cubs are still young, zoo guests will be able to witness their mother carrying them on her back, a trait rarely seen in other bears, but the regular mode of family travel for sloth bears. Hani will carry the cubs until they are about a third her size.

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