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Rare bears at rural Virginia zoo

By Jim Conrad
Published On: Jul 15 2013 04:39:43 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 14 2013 04:39:43 PM CDT

A pair of rare sloth bears are making Creation Kingdom Zoo home.

SCOTT COUNTY, Va. -

The wilds of Scott County, Virginia are a little bit wilder with the introduction of two new bears to the Creation Kingdom Zoo.

As we discovered, these bears weren't really classified as bears when first found, and they're more endangered than the panda.

If Fuzzy Wuzzy was a real bear, he may look something like the new arrivals at Creation Kingdom Zoo in Scott County. These bears have a lot more fur than your average bear, and they're not ordinary by a long shot.

"They're sloth bears. Their natural habitat is Sri Lanka. They're one of the most endangered bears on the planet actually," said zoo director Marc Bradley. "They don't get quite as much attention as some of the other bears. We tend to think a lot of times as the pandas as being more rare, but there are actually more pandas in the world than there are sloth bears."

Maybe one of the reasons is the fact that the sloth bear was thought to be, just as its name implies, a sloth, not a bear. "They have long white claws and they also have a couple of patches of fur on their backs where their babies cling to. Unlike most bear babies that walk with their parents, the sloth bear babies ride on mom's back. When they first found them they thought they were sloths," Bradley said.

Another unusual fact: they don't have any bottom front teeth. "They roll their tongues to suck up termites out of the ground. You [can hear them] up in their enclosure [eating termites]. You can hear that sucking noise up to a hundred yards away," Bradley said.

Bradley tells us that they are partnering with the Species Survival Plan, along with other zoos, to ensure that the species doesn't go extinct and that Creation Kingdom is the only private zoo to have a pair.

The other four pairs in the U.S. are in public zoos.

"They tend to be a little bit more of an aggressive bear; not like the grizzly in that they will stalk humans from time to time, but if surprised they tend to be a little bit grouchy," he said.

That's because they are hunted by tigers, so they're always on guard. And guess who lives next door at the Creation Kingdom? Bengal tigers.

Click here for more information on the zoo.