Winter surprise! Rare sloth bear gives birth to tiny cub at Woodland Park Zoo

SEATTLE -- Zookeepers welcomed the birth of a sloth bear earlier this month at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo.

On Dec. 19, 3-year-old Kushali had her first cub in a maternity den. The cub's father is 15-year-old Bhutan.

“Mom and cub are doing very well,” says Pat Owen, collection manager at Woodland Park Zoo. “The first 72 hours are the most critical for a cub. Kushali’s cub has surpassed that mark which is a good sign, but we will continue to monitor the cub for the first few months to ensure it remains healthy and continues to grow.”

The video below shows the tiny cub just moments after birth. Zookeepers say the average birth weight for sloth bears is 10.5-17.5 ounces. For comparison, a pomegranate weights about 12. 5 ounces.

According to National Geographic, sloth bears typically weigh 120 to 310 pounds.

Right now, the cub is very tiny and practically blind. Zoo officials say sloth bears don't typically open their eyes until they are 3-4 weeks old.

"Unlike other bear species, sloth bear mothers carry cubs on their back when cubs reach about 2 months."

Sloth bears are an endangered species, according to the zoo. There are fewer than 10,000 remaining in the wild.

Here's more information from the zoo:

"For over 400 years sloth bears were targeted for human exploitation to perform as “dancing bears;” in 2009, the last dancing bear in India was released. Woodland Park Zoo is a participant in the sloth bear Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding program under the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) that ensures genetic diversity and demographic stability among North American zoos. Prior to this cub, Woodland Park Zoo had five sloth bear births; two sets of twins and one cub which did not survive."