MELURSUS URSINUS (Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – Env and Eco)

News-CRUX-10     30th January 2024        

Context: Recently, a survey conducted in Karnataka’s Western Ghats, spanning 38,540 square kilometres during September 2021, revealed that sloth bears exhibited a surprisingly harmonious coexistence with humans, contrary to expectations.

Melursus ursinus

  • About: It also known as the Indian bear, is a myrmecophagous bear species native to the Indian subcontinent.
  • Characteristics: Shaggy Coats and Unique Markings: Sloth bears boast shaggy, dusty-black fur, with distinctive cream-colored "V" or "Y" markings on their chests. 
  • Taxonomy: First described by George Shaw in 1791, the species was labeled Ursine bradypus, indicating a bearlike creature with slow feet. Although subsequent research clarified their taxonomic relationships, the confusing common name persists.
  • Size: Sloth bears typically grow 5 to 6 feet in length, stand 2 to 3 feet tall at the shoulder, and weigh around 200 to 300 pounds. 
  • Habitat: Dry and moist forests, as well as tall grasslands, where boulders and scattered vegetation offer shelter. 
  • Found: India, Sri Lanka, and southern Nepal, with historical records in Bangladesh and Bhutan, though their current presence in the latter two is uncertain.

oKarnataka is a home to one of India’s largest sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) populations.

  • Sloth Bear Sanctuaries: India boasts four dedicated sanctuaries that provide a habitat for over 620 sloth bears.
  • Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary: The Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary, located in Karnataka, is one of the key habitats for sloth bears in India.
  • Asia's Pioneering Sloth Bear Sanctuary: The Ballari district in Karnataka is home to Asia's inaugural sloth bear sanctuary, covering an expansive area of 82.72 sq km.
  • Bilikallu Reserve Forest: Originally known as the Bilikallu Reserve Forest, this area underwent a significant transformation when the government officially declared it as the Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary in 1994.
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