Just when you thought nothing could be cuter than a baby panda, the sloth bear shows up at Zoo Boise. One of several new additions to the Zoo's thriving animal community, the 14-year-old, 288-pound female sloth bear was welcomed on December 4 and is now hanging from branches and foraging for fruit in her new home.

Native to India, sloth bears (Melursus ursinus), also called honey bears or Hindi Bhalu, are forest-dwelling members of the bear family that inhabit tropical or subtropical regions of India and Sri Lanka. Named for its slow-moving habits, the sloth bear has poor senses of sight and hearing but has a good sense of smell. Various adaptations equip this nocturnal animal for raiding insect colonies. With long, curved front claws, it digs and rips open a nest of bees or termites. Inserting its long snout into the nest and closing its nostrils (thereby preventing entry of insects into its respiratory passages), the sloth bear opens its protrusible lips and sucks in the insects through the gap caused by the lack of central upper incisors. This sucking sound can be heard up to 200 yards away and is also used to dine on fruit, honey, grains, and small vertebrates.

As far as looks go, sloth bears have distinctly shaggy heads with white crescents across the chest. They have the muzzle of a petite black bear and the tree-climbing claws of a traditional sloth, but they are much bigger and less known in the world. An adult usually stands about 30 inches at the shoulder, weighs 200 to 250 pounds (our girl is unusually girthy) and is about 5 feet long with a protruding tail. Shades of gray, red or brown may tinge its black, shaggy coat, composed of long hairs. Whitish to yellowish colored hair marks its snout and forms the chevron on its chest, so it looks like a very large, friendly badger on a cartoon show for kids.

If you haven't stopped by to visit Zoo Boise's new addition, it is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (excluding major holidays), and special discounted winter admission through Feb. 28 is only $2.75 for ages 12 and older, $1.50 for ages 4-11 and free for kids 3 and younger. For more information, call 384-4125 or visit


Ramsey Lewis, Curtis Stigers and Paul Tillotson have joined the lineup for the eighth annual Gene Harris Jazz Festival slated for April 7, 8 and 9 in Boise.

Ramsey Lewis' career took off in 1965 with the release of "The In Crowd," and the subsequent radio hits "The In Crowd," "Hang On Sloopy," and "Wade In The Water." Since then, he has been awarded three Grammys and has hosted several radio programs, including his current show on WNUA and the syndicated "Legends of Jazz," which is broadcast on more than 70 stations nationwide.

After a brief detour as an international pop star, Boise's own Curtis Stigers returns to his first love: jazz.

"I realized jazz was what I needed to be doing," said Stigers. "I wanted to return to my roots."

Those roots included jam sessions with Gene Harris at the Idanha in downtown Boise when Stigers was a student at Capital High School. He eventually appeared on two of Harris' albums as a guest vocalist.

Composer/pianist Paul Tillotson also grew up in Boise and as a Borah High School student met Gene Harris and developed a long friendship. After Boise, Paul went to college at Edmonds Community College, the University of Miami and finally William Paterson College. After graduating from William Paterson he moved to New York City where he started his "real" education.

"Nothing can replace living and playing with the greatest musicians in the world," said Tillotson, who has participated in jazz festivals around the world including Bermuda, Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark. (For a related story on Paul Tillotson and the start of his jazz career in Boise, see page 39.)

For more information on the 2005 Gene Harris Jazz Festival, including updates on festival performers, visit

--Compiled by Cynthia Sewell and Erin Ryan

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