Sloth bears are typically praised in the human community for their slow-moving nature and weird long claws. But one mother sloth bear is ruining that good will and pushing the limits of human patience by eating her own sloth bear babies.
A sloth bear named Khali at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington D.C., the nation's most prestigious and governmental zoo, had her third sloth bear cub removed from her presence after she ate two others from that litter. The details of this incident, via the Smithsonian, are not for the faint of heart:
Khali ingested the first cub about 20 minutes after she gave birth December 29. It is not uncommon for carnivores, including sloth bears, to ingest stillborn cubs, or even live cubs if they or the mother are compromised in some way. Khali, an experienced mom, appeared attentive to her two remaining cubs, and keepers monitored her closely via closed-circuit cams before, during and after the births. However, she ingested a second cub seven days later and spent several hours away from her remaining cub in the early morning hours of January 6, which is not normal for a sloth bear with a newborn cub.
The Zoo has not revealed what they think happened with bear mother Khali and these cubs; she had previously birthed three other children, none of whom she ate. Despite her questionable parenting decisions, Khali still has the distinction of being "only the second sloth bear to give birth to a litter of three cubs in North America."
The bear cub is being raised by the animal keepers at the zoo, hanging out with them in a snugglie while they do other activities to mimic how she'd hang onto her mother if her mother hadn't wanted to eat her. Zoo keepers say that if the cub's "gradual introductions" to other adult sloth bears go well, she "may eventually be reintroduced to Khali, or introduced to her father François for companionship." She should be in the habitat this summer, so consider planning a trip to D.C. in order to watch this very special episode of Sloth Time: A Family Torn Apart, A Family Reunited.
Image via Janice Sveda/Smithsonian National Zoo