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Woodland Park Zoo sloth babies receive names

Woodland Park Zoo's 3-month-old sloth bear cubs have names are have been venturing out. (Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo)

Woodland Park Zoo names baby sloth bears

The Seattle community helps to christen twin cubs, who are just starting to go outside after being born on New Year's Day

The rambunctious twin sloth bear babies at Woodland Park Zoo have been given their names. The zoo made the announcement on Earth Day (April 22), three months after their birth. As has been the case with other animals born at the zoo, choosing the baby names was a community effort.

Hindu names chosen

The male sloth bear cub is now called Madhu (muh-DOO), which means “sweet, honey.” The female cub’s name is Lila (LEE-lah), which means “play, amusement.” Both names are Hindi to represent India, one of several countries where sloth bears live.

Madhu was named through a community poll and Lila by special friends of the zoo. 

“Our family has enjoyed and supported Woodland Park Zoo for many years. We visited the zoo as children and now we can share our love for animals and conservation with our eight grandchildren,” said Diane Shrewsbury, a long-time supporter, volunteer and Board member of Woodland Park Zoo who helped name Lila. “We are honored to have the opportunity to name a sloth bear cub. Our hope is to leave behind a better place for future generations and protect all living creatures.”

New Year’s Day arrival

Lila and Madhu were born on New Year’s Day to first-time mom Kushali (kuu-SHAW-lee) and dad Bhutan (boo-TAHN). Because sloth bears are solitary animals (except for mating and mom and cubs), dad lives separately from them.

Since their birth, Lila and Madhu had been living in an off-view maternity den, but recently have been enjoying short excursions in Banyan Wilds’ public outdoor habitat. 

“Kushali is steadily gaining confidence in being outdoors with her cubs, so initially they may only be out for short periods,” said Kim Szawan, an animal care manager at Woodland Park Zoo. “As (she)becomes more secure outdoors and the cubs gain more footing in navigating the outdoor habitat, visitors should be able to see the cubs increasingly more starting early next week. Meanwhile, the cubs are being cubs—adorable and mischievous!”

Upgrades to exhibit

To improve the welfare for the sloth bears, upgrades were recently made to the exhibit such as artificial climbing structures for the rambunctious cubs to climb, jump and play. Among all bear species, sloth bears are the only moms that carry cubs on their back until the cubs are 6 to 9 months old.

Sloth bears live in forests and grasslands in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. A vulnerable species, the survival of sloth bears is challenged by conflicts with humans and animals for space and food caused by deforestation, the bear parts trade for use in traditional Asian medicines and fragmented populations.

Baby sloth bear sighting? 

Hope to catch a glimpse of the newly named twins? Woodland Park Zoo hours are 9:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. daily through April 30; 9:30 a.m.–6:00 p.m. daily starting May 1.For more information visit www.zoo.org or call 206.548.2500. Follow the zoo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The zoo is part of the City Nature Challenge, read more about that here.

About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is a certified doula, lactation educator and postpartum doula. She’s the owner of Nesting Instincts Perinatal Services in Seattle.