Sloth Bear Eats Two Cubs; Keepers Wear Surviving Cub in Baby Sling

Zookeepers removed a sole surviving sloth bear cub from its mother after the mother ate her other two cubs, the National Zoo announced Thursday.

The surviving cub was one of three born to a sloth bear named Khali on Dec. 29, but she ate her first cub about 20 minutes after birth.

"It is not uncommon for carnivores, including sloth bears, to ingest stillborn cubs, or even live cubs if they or the mother are compromised in some way," the zoo said on its website.

The zoo decided to leave the other two cubs with Khali because she appeared to be attentive, but she ate a second cub about a week later and began to ignore the remaining cub.

At that point, keepers removed the last baby, rushing her to a vet clinic to treat her for a low body temperature and give her antibiotics, vitamins and fluids.

Keepers have been acting as surrogate mothers since then, bottle-feeding her several times a day, carrying her in a baby sling and playing with her to encourage behaviors like climbing.

"Carrying the cub around for hours at a time gave us a unique opportunity to bond with her," said keeper Stacey Tabellario. "We quickly became in-tune with her vocalizations, movements and sleep patterns. With past cubs at this stage, we mostly only viewed them via closed-circuit television, so this has been a great chance to learn more about cub development."

Keepers said the cub will soon begin exploring the indoor dens of the zoo's adult sloth bears while they're outside, and hope to introduce her to the adults, including Khali, over the next few months.

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