Feb 1

We’ve asked conservation organisations around the world to nominate a species that they believe to be overlooked, underappreciated and unloved, and tell us why they think that they deserve a fair share of the limelight, this Valentine’s Day.

Each nominee’s story is featured on the Arkive blog with information on the species, what makes them so special, the conservation organisation that nominated them and how they are working to save them from extinction.

Click the ‘unloved species’ tag above to see all of the nominations and their blogs.

Once you have perused the blogs you can vote for your favourite to help get them into the top ten unloved species and get them the recognition that they truly deserve! Share your favourite with others using the #LoveSpecies hashtag on Twitter and Facebook and tell them why they should vote for them too. Voting closes on February 14th at 23:59 PST (07:59 GMT).

Join us and our conservation partners in celebrating and raising awareness for some of the world’s most unloved species this Valentine’s Day!

Species: Sloth bear

Nominated by: IUCN Bear Specialist Group

Conservation status: Vulnerable

Why do you love it? This is the rebel bear: instead of a sleek shiny coat of a “normal” bear, the sloth bear has opted for a dishevelled, dull, shaggy look. Sloth bears mooch around in a zig-zag path, bowlegged, eyes fixed to the ground, like sulky teenagers.  Two sloth bears can be feeding near each other, and never look at each other.  Almost as a sign of being rebellious, a sloth bear will frequently have grass or leaves clinging to its coarse coat (it has no underfur).  Also clinging to its long coat, riding on its back are its cubs – it is the only bear that carries them around like this, to keep them safe from tigers.

This bear makes a living eating termites, sucking them up through the space where its two upper front teeth are missing.  It has very large protrusible lips that are used to create suction to extract termites from their colony, and long straight claws to dig into their hard mounds.  Often they can be heard, digging, blowing, huffing, and sucking well before they are seen.  They aren’t cute, but they are certainly a very unique bear and “Baloo” from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is a sloth bear!

What are the threats to the sloth bear? This bear is restricted to India (over 90 percent of its range), Nepal, and Sri Lanka. It can also live in scrubby habitats, and as such, can live close to people.  This is both good and bad:  As the habitat becomes degraded from cutting, grazing, and general overuse, sloth bears can still live there – as long as they can find termites and shade during the heat of the day.  But it is also bad because it brings them very close to people.  This is an aggressive bear (more aggressive than a grizzly bear), so attacks on people are common.  Therefore, most people living around sloth bears don’t like them.  As human populations have grown dramatically in India, habitat has become increasingly degraded, sloth bears and people have been forced to live near each other, attacks have become more frequent, and attitudes towards this species have become worse, leading to bears being killed more and more often.

What are you doing to save it? We have recently learned that this species has disappeared from Bangladesh.  It looks somewhat like an Asiatic black bear, so the continued existence of black bears in Bangladesh masked the disappearance of the sloth bear.  We then looked in Bhutan, where sloth bears also existed historically.  But, despite many reports of sloth bears, we found that they are extremely rare there.  We do not know if they were always rare, or if this is a new occurrence, because again, they are often confused with Asiatic black bears in places where these two species overlap.

Find out more about the work of the Bear SG

Discover more bear species on Arkive




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