Sloth bears (Melursus ursinus) are secretive animals. The Family and I have been doing wildlife trips in India for around fifteen years, but in all these years the number of photos of bears I’ve got can be counted on the fingers. When we heard about the Daroji Bear Sanctuary near Hospet in Karnataka, we were ready to go. This is a small reserve by any standards, only about 8.3 square Kilometers in area, but an important one for the preservation of bears. This landscape would have had a large population of bears historically. As the land began to fill up with farms, the need for a sanctuary became clear, and Daroji was notified 25 years ago.
One wonderful thing in this place is a hide. We got permission to drive into a parking lot inside the sanctuary one afternoon, and then were conducted to the hide by two park rangers. The hide faced a clearing beyond which was a small hillock and a meadow with a water hole. The ground here was teeming with termites, which the bears love to eat.
The bears made an appearance as the sunlight began to pick up a slight golden tinge. I quickly realized that they were not bothered by us sitting inside the hide. It was a great opportunity to take videos of their behaviour. This one shows a mother with a cub and another juvenile. One of them digs into a termite mound, getting the insects all over its paws, and then falls back to lick them off. If this makes you think of bears as jokers, then let the video play. When the mother senses some danger to the cubs (and a peacock calls somewhere nearby) she rears up on her legs and gets ready to charge. You wouldn’t want to be in the way.
In spite of the discomfort of about six of us crowded into a small hide full of mosquitoes, this was an experience I’m happy to have gone through. I doubt that I will ever get a better view of sloth bears.