Jessore Sloth Bear Sanctuary
Located in the lap of Aravali hills in North Gujarat, bordering Rajasthan, Jessore Sloth Bear Sanctuary has many rare species of flora and fauna. It is a home to the endangered sloth bear. The sanctuary derives its name from the charming Jessore hills of Aravalli ranges cutting across the sanctuary. The area was declared as a wildlife sanctuary in May 1978. The area has a great ecological importance as it acts as a cushion between the desert eco-system and the dry deciduous type of forest ecosystem.
It was declared as a sanctuary in May 1978, covering an area of about 180 square kilometers, chiefly for the protection of the sloth bear, which is now categorized as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. Their numbers are declining in the wild and they are threatened with extinction.
While it is now known as sloth bear, initially it was called “bear sloth” since the game hunters identified this species with the sloth of South America as the physical characteristics and arboreal habits of both species matched. Towards the later part of the 18th century, its scientific name was ursine bradypus, Ursiform sloth or Bradypus ursinus.
Wildlife at the Flora Jessore Sloth Bear Sanctuary
The vegetation in the sanctuary consists of arid to semiarid and dry deciduous thorny scrub. A UNDP-sponsored study of the flora of the sanctuary has identified 406 species of plants (90 trees, 47 shrubs, 33 climbers, 194 herbs, 31 kinds of grass, six pteridophytes, two bryophytes, one epiphyte, and two fungi). A further analysis indicates that the families of tree species are 13, shrubs 15, herbs 11 and climbers 13. Some of the species reportedly belong to the threatened category as per IUCN; these are Pavonia arabica, Tecomella undulata, Capparis cartilaginea, Dendrocalamus strictus, Sterculia urens and silver date palm and Ceropegia odorata, an endangered species. Six endemic species to India recorded are Ogeissus sericea, Chlorophytum borivilianum, Sterculia urens, Tecomella undulata, and silver date palm and Dendrocalamus strictus. Further, 89 plants are recorded to have medicinal properties.
Apart from sloth bear, other fauna reported in the sanctuary are the leopard, sambar, blue bull, wild boar, porcupine, and a variety of birds. Other endangered species harbored by the sanctuary are jungle cat, civet, caracal, wolf, and hyena.
The faunal study by UNDP covered the herpetofaunal group. 14 species of amphibians and reptiles have been recorded here; the list includes Indian python (Python molurus) an endangered species, Indian Flap-shelled Turtle (Lissemys punctata) of vulnerable category and muggar (Crocodylus palustris) and Varanus (Varanus bengalensis) of an endangered category. Threats faced by these species have been noted as water shortage, traffic, and hunting by snake charmers.
Reptiles found also include cobra, krait, several types of Viper and monitor lizard
Sloth bear is an animal found in many parts of Asia including Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Bangladesh. Two subspecies have been standard namely, the Indian sloth bear and the Sri Lankan sloth bear. A Sloth bear is omnivorous, black and dark brown in colour with an yellowish patch on the chest, has large feet and claws, as tall as 5–6 feet (1.5–1.8 m), heavy in size (males weigh 175–310 pounds (79–141 kg), females 120–210 pounds (54–95 kg)), runs as fast as humans and has a long muzzle.
They eat insects; their favorite is termites, live on fruits (mangoes and figs), grass and honey. Fifty percent of their diet is fruits during March to June, and termites and other insects the rest of the time. They have high sensory perception. It is the only bear with long hair on the ears. Its life span is estimated as 25 years.