Indian Sloth bear... not so sloth-like after all! :/
We had time for only one safari on our tight schedule so we were excited to get in the jeep and head into the unknown. The safari started off quietly with little animal movement or alarm calls indicating the presence of a predator. But with numerous Spotted and Sambar deer around, the big cats’ food of choice, we remained hopeful. The forest was quiet, unnerving yet peaceful, all of which added to our anticipation. We went on, with increasing tension and excitement, spotting many birds, monitor lizards and enjoying the feel of the forest. Close to the end of the tour we crested a small rise to come across a Sloth bear rummaging in a termite-mound about 10 metres away from the road. Focused on its dinner it hardly paid any attention to us, lifting its head only to recognize our presence briefly before digging around for more termites!
We sat quietly for what seemed like an age, revelling in the bear being so close and at ease, they are usually very wary of humans. When all of a sudden it patience with its uninvited dinner guests vanished and it charged at us stopping scant meters from the car and rearing on its hind legs. There were four cameras following the bear, but not one picture was taken, all of us were leaning away from the bear in shock and fear! We sat still holding our breath until it slunk off into the bushes, obviously satisfied that it was the victor. After witnessing the speed of the bear I have felt that ‘sloth’ probably was not the most appropriate name for it!
The sloth bear, also known as the Stickney bear or labiated bear, is a nocturnal insectivorous species of bears found wild within the Indian Subcontinent. The sloth bear evolved from ancestral brown bears during the Pleistocene and shares features found in insect-eating mammals through convergent evolution. The population isolated in Sri Lanka is considered as a subspecies.