Sloth bear, 2, awaiting debut at National Zoo

WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian’s National Zoo has a new arrival who’s getting ready for his close-up.

Niko, a 2-year-old male sloth bear, arrived Oct. 6 from a zoo in Germany, the National Zoo announced on Tuesday. He’s in the usual quarantine right now, but he’ll make his public debut early next month, the zoo said in a statement.

The zoo added that when Niko comes out of quarantine, he’ll join Remi, a 3-year-old female, in a new sloth bear cave complete with webcam, made possible by donations to the zoo’s 2015 Sloth Bear Campaign.

In the meantime, the National Zoo is keeping Niko occupied with “a variety of enrichment, including tree trunks, branches, bobbin toys and puzzle feeders.”

It’ll be a few years before Niko and Remi are old enough to have cubs, the zoo says; the goal right now is getting them to cohabitate successfully.

“Since Niko’s arrival, he and Remi have been able to see, smell and hear one another, and they appear to be very curious about and interested in one another,” the zoo said. “Once the quarantine period has lifted, keepers will begin formal introductions with and without mesh barriers between the bears.”

Sloth bears are not related to sloths, the zoo said in the statement; it’s a descriptive term. They’re native to India, Sri Lanka and Nepal, and are considered vulnerable to extinction; there are fewer than 20,000 left, and only 28 in North America.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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