SEATTLE - Woodland Park Zoo caps off the year with yet another significant birth: an endangered sloth bear. The cub, born Tuesday morning in an off-view maternity den, represents the first offspring between 7-year-old mother Tasha and 16-year-old father Randy.
The last birth of sloth bears at the zoo was in 2004.
The mother and newborn cub will remain off view to allow for maternal bonding and continued nursing. Animal management staff is monitoring the new family via a live web cam to ensure the cub continues to thrive.
“Mom and cub are doing very well,” said Martin Ramirez, mammal curator at Woodland Park Zoo. “This is Tasha’s first cub, but her motherly instincts kicked in immediately. Following the birth, she built two large mounds of hay in the maternity den to support the new cub. With the web cam set up, we are able to see the two bonding and can hear the cub vocalizing and nursing normally.”
Sloth bears are born extremely small and blind at birth. They open their eyes at about 3 weeks old and can walk at 4 weeks. Unlike other bear species, sloth bear mothers carry cubs on their back when cubs reach about 2 months.
“With fewer than 50 sloth bears in North American zoos today and fewer than 10,000 remaining in the wild, we are thrilled to welcome this rare, new addition,” said Ramirez.
Woodland Park Zoo was chosen to breed its pair under the sloth bear Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding program to ensure genetic diversity and demographic stability among North American zoos.
Woodland Park Zoo participates in 72 Species Survival Plans sponsored by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). Led by experts in husbandry, nutrition, veterinary care, behavior, conservation and genetics, AZA-accredited institutions manage each species as one population in North America to maximize genetic diversity, with the goal of ensuring the long-term survival of the population and the health of individual animals. SSPs also involve a variety of other collaborative conservation activities such as research, public education, reintroduction and field projects.
The sloth bear exhibit is currently off view to the public as construction continues for the new Asian tropical forest exhibit. Upon completion of the exhibit, the zoo’s sloth bears will move into a new, state-of-the-art exhibit complex that will also feature Malayan tigers, Asian small-clawed otters and tropical birds. The $19.6 million exhibit project, part of the zoo’s $80 million More Wonder More Wild Campaign, will replace the 60-year-old infrastructure that critically endangered tigers and Asian bears currently inhabit at the zoo.