Sheroo meets his friend Jamboo, the sloth bear, who lives up to his name.

“Look for the bare necessities….The simple bare necessities…Forget about your worries and your strife…” I heard a cheerful voice singing above and looked up to see an old friend hanging upside down! It was Jamboo, the sloth bear. I should have known.

Sloth bears are called so because they do this upside down circus like the sloths of South America, a wonderfully weird species I've heard of but never seen. (You would know slothful means lazy or slow so I don't dare ask Jamboo why someone chose to name him so!)

Sloth bears are found in India and in our neighbourhood — Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. Further south in Sri Lanka, there is a separate species — the Sri Lankan sloth bear — as opposed to the Indian one.

Sleep mode

“Greetings Jamboo, you seem to be in a chirpy mood,” I tell Mr. Upside Down. “Just finished an old jar of honey I'd saved for the summer, pal,” he said as he jumped down and joined me below. “I thought you would be in the sleep mode…after all isn't winter the time for hibernation for bears?” I asked. “No Sheroo, not for me. We sloths don't hibernate, probably because our winters are milder. It is only the mother bear who kind of hibernates when she has her cubs. She spends six to ten months inside her den with her cubs depending wholly on her fat reserves. When she ventures out she carries the little ones on her back. ” he says.

He is a cuddly kind of fellow with a shaggy black coat with a kind of V-shaped yellowish white marking on the chest. His pointed muzzle is also a yellowish white.

“What a long snout you have Jamboo!” I looked at him closely. “All the better to dig deep into termite hills!” laughed Jamboo. “We love to eat termites and ants. We can also close our noses when we choose to, so no fear of dust choking us. With a long tongue and a couple of missing front teeth, we can suck out the termites like a vacuum cleaner. Whoooosh…like that!” he made a strange sound.

“See my claws, I can dig with these” he showed me his long, curved claws some three inches long. “I also eat fruits, insects, and berries. Of course we bears love honey, never mind the stings. And love the mahua flowers in the summer! They really give you a high,” he whispered and I remembered his drunken revelry last summer which annoyed a lot of folks.

“Aren't you a creature of the night?'' I asked as he yawned. “Yes, pal. I seldom venture out as the sun comes up,” he said stretching himself on a rocky crevice. “So long then, pleasant dreams,” I wished him as I quietly walk away.

Mail sherook@wildmail.com

A Children for Nature and Animals Unlimited (CANU) Initiative