Sloth Bear Kills Couple

Witnesses said bear was seen eating remains of couple in India
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 9, 2022 9:25 AM CDT
Sloth Bear Kills Couple
A sloth bear at the Smithsonian's National Zoo.   (Mehgan Murphy, Smithsonian's National Zoo)

Sloth bears aren't aggressive unless they feel threatened and they live mainly on insects and fruit, which makes the death of a couple in central India all the more puzzling, authorities say. Officials in Madhya Pradesh say the man and woman were killed and eaten by a sloth bear they encountered in a forest near a Hindu temple Sunday morning, the Times of India reports. Witnesses said the bear killed the couple as they went to fetch water and was seen eating the bodies for hours afterwards. The animal died hours after it was tranquilized and taken to a nearby national park.

"We saw the bear walking from one body to another, clawing out flesh and eating it," forest officer Gaurav Sharma tells India Today. "It is a very rare occurrence. While sloth bears eat meat, they are not known to consume human flesh, not even of those they have killed." Uttam Kumar Sharma, field director of Panna National Park, says the bear appeared to be in the final stages of rabies, which would explain its "odd behavior." He added that a post-mortem did not find human flesh in the sloth bear's stomach. Other officials say the bear may have been driven to desperation by hunger. (More India stories.)

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