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Zoo Proudly Announces Birth of Sloth Bear

LITTLE ROCK (Feb. 28, 2019) – The Little Rock Zoo is proud to announce that a healthy female sloth bear cub was born January 9, 2019.  The proud parents are mother, Kali, and father, Sahaasa. 

In celebration of our newest addition, the Zoo is hosting a naming contest.  Zoo staff have selected three (3) names from which to choose. The public is invited to vote by online poll .  The voting will end Friday, March 8, 2019, at noon.  Choices are:  1) Zaara (Arabic), which means bright as the dawn; 2) Rani (Hindi), which means princess; and 3) Geeta (Hindi), which means pearl or song.  The name Geeta is in honor of Geeta Seshamani, co-founder and Director of Wildlife SOS, an Indian conservation group whose goal is to protect and conserve India’s natural heritage, forest and wildlife wealth. The Zoo has supported the work of Wildlife SOS for many years.  In 2018 and 2019, Zoo staff have traveled to India and have helped to improve daily management of their rescued sloth bears.

This baby sloth bear is the only survivor of a two cub birth; her brother did not survive. Gross necropsy reports did not reveal a conclusive cause of death. To ensure the health and survival of the second cub, the decision was made to remove the cub from the mother on January 23.  The cub is one of only 34 sloth bears currently held in AZA zoos in North America and is an important individual in the survival of this population. The cub is bottle-fed every three to four (3-4) hours to help her continue to grow and thrive; she is healthy and progressing well, according to Zoo staff.

The bear’s birth comes as a recommendation of the American Species Survival Plan ® Program, known as SSP.  The SSP Program, developed in 1981 by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), helps to ensure the survival of select species in zoos and aquariums, which are either threatened or endangered in the wild. Native to the Indian subcontinent, sloth bears are listed as a vulnerable species, meaning one that is likely to become endangered unless the circumstances that are threatening its survival and reproduction improve.  Their vulnerability is mainly caused by habitat loss or degradation of their home. Experts estimate less than twenty-thousand (20,000) sloth bears survive in the wilds of the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka.