Sri Lankan Sloth Bear (M. u. inornatus) in Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka (Gaurika Wijeratne) (Creative Commons License)

Accepted scientific name:  Melursus ursinus inornatus (Jacques Pucheran, 1855)

Description:  Sri Lankan sloth bears have much shorter body hair than the common sloth bear and  a much less shaggy appearance.   They are also smaller and sometimes lack the broad white chest blaze.  The snout is pale, the lips protrusible and the mouth lacks the two upper middle incisors.  As with the mainland subspecies they have slightly curved front claws and inward turning front paws.

Range:  Found only on the island of Sri Lanka and now restricted to the northern and eastern lowland forests of the island.  The map to the left shows the approximate current range of the Sri Lankan sloth bear outlined in yellow.  Bears are scattered and do not occupy the whole of these tow areas. (Map NASA / Bear Conservation).

Habitat:  Dry-zone forests.

Status:  The bear is highly threatened although definite population figures are not known.  Estimates suggest fewer than 1,000 individuals in the wild and the actual figure could be as low as 500.  Listed in Appendix I of CITES.  Populations are fragmented and decining and sloth bears are described as “vulnerable” in the IUCN Red List.

Life span:  Up to 40 years in captivity, likely to be significantly less in the wild.

Food:   The bears are omnivorous and fruit and various insects form major parts of their diet. They also eat nuts, berries, roots, honey, eggs and small mammals.  They will take carrion when available.

Behaviour:. Whilst sloth bears do not hibernate they are much less active during the rainy season.  They are excellent climbers and have a keen sense of smell.  Whilst generally solitary except for mothers with cubs and during mating, there is some evidence that sloth bears are not territorial and will sometimes associate with one another.  Males have been observed in the company of females with cubs.  Mating commonly occurs during May to July but can occur at any time during the year.  Females usually give birth in a cave or in a shelter built on the ground, usually to one or two cubs but sometimes to three.  Cubs remain with their mother for 18 months to two years, during which time she will not become pregnant again.

Threats:  The main threats are habitat loss caused conflicts with humans and poaching.


The documents listed below are held on our web server so you won’t be directed elsewhere when you click on the links.

Home Ranges and Habitat Use of Sloth Bears Melursus Ursinus Inornatus in Wasgomuwa National Park, Sri Lanka

Landscape Characteristics of Sloth Bear Range in Sri Lanka


Camera trap footage




Page updated 21 September 2017