|Scientific Name:||Melursus ursinus (Shaw, 1791)|
Bradypus ursinus Shaw, 1791
This species was initially classified in the genus Bradypus, as it was thought that it was related to South American sloths, due to the absence of the two first upper incisors. Debate persists as to whether this species should be in the mono-specific genus Melursus, or in Ursus (Pagès et al. 2008, Krause et al. 2008, Kitchener 2010).
|Red List Category & Criteria:||Vulnerable A3c ver 3.1|
|Assessor(s):||Dharaiya, N., Bargali, H.S. & Sharp, T.|
|Reviewer(s):||Garshelis, D.L. & Steinmetz, R.|
There are no reliable large-scale population estimates for Sloth Bears, nor any reliable large-scale estimates of population change. Since the total occupied area in India has been variously estimated at between 200,000 km² (Johnsingh 2003, Akhtar et al. 2004, Chauhan 2006) and 400,000 km² (Sathyakumar et al. 2012), or even more (Puri et al. 2015), it is impossible to gauge population trend from changes in occupied area. However, there is, throughout most of the range, a clear trend in deterioration of habitat, which has caused Sloth Bear populations to decline (Akhtar and Chauhan 2008). This deterioration in habitat is expected to accelerate in the future.
|Previously published Red List assessments:|
The Sloth Bear’s historical distribution includes a large portion of India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, as well as the southern lowlands of Nepal and presumably Bhutan. Some unverified reports suggested that they once occurred in the western-most corner of present day Myanmar (Erdbrink 1953), but this was never confirmed and seems unlikely based on the mountainous habitat. Historically this species overlapped the distributions of Asiatic Black Bears (Ursus thibetanus) in northern India (Bargali et al. 2012), and with both Asiatic Black Bears and Sun Bears (Helarctos malayanus) in northeastern India (Choudhury 2011). Historical records are confusing, though, because Sloth Bears and Asiatic Black Bears look alike and were often not reliably distinguished.
Native:India; Nepal; Sri Lanka
|Range Map:||Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.|
Information is available on the area of potentially occupied range in India (Chauhan 2006, Yoganand et al. 2006, Sathyakumar et al. 2012), Nepal (Garshelis et al. 1999a), and Sri Lanka (Ratnayeke et al. 2007a,b). The potential Sloth Bear distribution in India was estimated to be ca. 200,000 km² (Johnsingh 2003, Akhtar et al. 2004, Chauhan 2006) but the more recent National Bear Conservation and Welfare Action Plan 2012 (Sathyakumar et al. 2012) indicated that the occupied range is twice that large (400,000 km²). An even more recent survey suggested that Sloth Bears may occupy 52% of the land area of India (Puri et al. 2015). Notably, though, the latter study was based on very large sampling cells (2,800 km² across a sampling region of nearly 3 million km²), and any cell estimated to be occupied would have been considered as fully occupied; this would inflate the range area considerably. In short, the results of this study do not appear to reflect the reality of Sloth Bear distribution in India as they clearly do not occur in >50% of the land area. Additionally, the model predicts Sloth Bear occurrence in specific places where they are known to be absent, such as Gir Forest. However, the study does demonstrate that Sloth Bears can live in relatively small degraded areas.
|Current Population Trend:||Decreasing|
|Habitat and Ecology:|
Sloth Bears subsist primarily on termites, ants, and fruits. Sloth Bears are the only species of bear adapted specifically for myrmecophagy (ant and termite-eating; Garshelis et al. 1999a, Sacco and Van Valkenburgh 2004). Like other myrmecphagous mammals, they have especially small home ranges compared to other ursids (Joshi et al. 1995, Ratnayeke et al. 2007a, Akhtar et al. 2006b). The ratio of insects to fruits in the diet varies with the seasonal and geographical availability of each food (Baskaran et al. 1997, Joshi et al. 1997, Bargali et al. 2004, Sreekumar and Balakrishnan 2002, Mewada and Dharaiya 2010, Sukhadiya et al. 2013). Fruits may comprise 70‒90% of the diet during the fruiting season, whereas termites and other insects may comprise >80% of the diet the rest of the year (Ratnayeke et al. 2007b, Seidensticker et al. 2011, Yoganand et al. 2012).
|Generation Length (years):||10|
|Use and Trade:||
Poaching of Sloth Bears for trade in parts has been reported (Servheen 1990, Garshelis et al. 1999a, Sathyakumar et al. 2012), but its current extent and impact on bear populations is uncertain. Compared to other Asian bear species, commercial trade in Sloth Bear parts appears to be relatively low (Burgess et al. 2014). Poaching also occurs for local use: male reproductive organs used as aphrodisiac; bones, teeth and claws used to ward off evil spirits; bear fat used for native medicine and hair regeneration (Santiapillai and Santiapillai 1990, Seshamani and Satyanarayan 1997, Chauhan 2006). Occasional rashes of poaching incidents have been reported. For example, in Madhya Pradesh in 2014, at least eight male bears were found professionally poached, as indicated by the skilful removal of their reproductive organs, gall bladders and claws (Basu 2014, Naveen 2014). Two of the dead bears were found near the buffer area of Khana Tiger Reserve, while the others were found in less protected forests in the state. The manner in which the bear parts were removed led many to speculate that that the poaching may be taking place on a larger scale and that the parts may have been removed for illegal international trade.
Major threats to this species are habitat loss or degradation (often related to human population growth), retaliation from human‒bear conflicts, and (to a lesser degree) poaching (Johnsingh 2003, Chauhan 2006, Yoganand et al. 2006, Bargali et al. 2012, Bargali and Sharma 2013). Habitat has been lost, degraded, and fragmented by overharvest of forest products (timber, fuelwood, fodder, fruits, honey), establishment of monoculture plantations (e.g. teak, eucalyptus), over-grazing, extraction of minerals, quarrying, settlement of refugees, and expansion of agricultural areas, human settlements, and roads (Santiapillai and Santiapillai 1990).
Sloth Bears are listed in Appendix I of CITES and are completely protected under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. They are also protected to varying degrees by national laws in the other range countries. However, they can be killed to protect life or property.
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|Citation:||Dharaiya, N., Bargali, H.S. & Sharp, T. 2016. Melursus ursinus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T13143A45033815.Downloaded on 22 April 2018.|
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