BEST SEEN AT: Daroji Bear Sanctuary, Karnataka
STATUS: Schedule I/Vulnerable
GOOD TO KNOW: It uses its long claws to dig for its favourite meal — termites — and then sucks them in like a vacuum cleaner
YOU MUST have seen them painfully shuffling their feet to the tune of the madarion Indian streets. Thankfully, this miserable sight is not so common anymore due to a crackdown on the illegal trade, combined with provisions for alternative livelihood for the madaris. The bear continues to be poached, though, for its gall bladder, used in Chinese medicine. Contrary to their name, sloth bears are intelligent creatures. They are known to be aware of when their favourite trees fruit and travel long distances in pursuit. They scale trees to get to honey combs and have a particular fondness for mahua flowers, from which local liquor is brewed. The females are very protective of their young and carry them piggyback when negotiating tough terrain. Sloth bears have long snouts, a lumbering gait and poor sight. They may turn aggressive when suddenly surprised. They are largely nocturnal and don’t hibernate. The other three species of bears in India — Sun bear, Himalayan brown bear and the Asiatic black bear — are all threatened with poaching and shrinking habitats.