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New Year welcomes sloth bear twins!

Posted by Alissa Wolken, Communications

As a very auspicious start to 2018, we are excited to announce the birth of twin sloth bear cubs. The tiny cubs were born December 27, 2017, in an off-view maternity den. The first cub made its appearance around 3:20 a.m., while the second cub took its timeappearing almost 11 hours later. Animal management has been diligently watching and listening to the twins and mom since the birthkeepers can tell a lot from the noises the cubs make, like whether or not they are nursing etc. So far they say the little family is doing great.

Tasha and cubs through the den cam. The twin cublets are highlighted here in the circle above.
Mom, 13-year-old Tasha, is showing all the signs of being a protective and attentive mother. She has experience after all, having successfully raised two cubs in 2012. Bhutan, the 17-year-old father, is hanging out away from mom and cubs to give them plenty of quiet time.

Tasha and cubs will remain off view to allow for peaceful family time. This time is critical for maternal bonding and undisturbed nursing. Animal care staff is monitoring the new family via a live web cam to ensure the cubs continue to thrive. Right now we can expect a lot of napping and keeping cozy on mom's warm fur.

Tasha with cubs in 2012.
“Mom and cubs are doing very well,” says Pat Owen, collection manager at Woodland Park Zoo. “The first 72 hours are the most critical for a cub. Tasha’s cubs have surpassed that mark which is a good sign, but we will continue to monitor their health for the first few months to ensure they remain healthy and continue to grow.”

Animal care staff will continue to monitor the cubs’ progress on the den cam and will perform a routine wellness and development check on the cubs if Tasha begins to temporarily shift in and out of the maternity den. Sloth bears are born extremely small and blind at birth. They open their eyes at between 3 to 4 weeks old and can walk shortly after their eyes open. Unlike other bear species, sloth bear mothers carry cubs on their back when cubs reach about 2 months. If all goes well, weather included, Tasha and her cubs could be on exhibit sometime in March.

Tasha hanging in Banyan Wilds.
Sloth bears are found in the lower elevations of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. They are an endangered species, less than 10,000 remain in the wild. Their survival is challenged by fragmented populations, competition with other animals (particularly humans) for space and food, deforestation, and the bear parts trade for use in traditional Asian medicines. 

Woodland Park Zoo is a participant in the sloth bear Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding program under the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) that ensures genetic diversity and demographic stability among North American zoos. In addition, the zoo funds Wildlife SOS and their sloth bear research through the Wildlife Survival Fund.

For updates on the 2018 twinsies, check back right here and we'll keep you posted on their development milestones and any information on when you might be able to visit the cubs.