About Sloths

Sloths are mammals that live in tropical Central America. They have long claws which they use to hang onto  branches and eat the leaves that most other animals can’t reach. Unfortunately, their 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 centimeters) long claws — make walking on the ground nearly impossible, which is why they spend most of their time in the trees of the tropical rain forest.

Pregnant mother sloth

Pregnant Mother Sloth

There are two different types of sloths, two-toed and three-toed, the latter being sightly bigger. They share many of the same features. On average they are around 20 to 30 inches and 17 to 19 pounds or about 7 to 9 kilograms.

In ancient times, they were much larger, 1.000’s of years ago sloths would grow as large as an elephant. They lived in North America before becoming extinct about 10,000 years ago.

Although their ancestors roamed North America, today’s sloths live mostly in Central and South America in the trees of the rain forests. they sleep a lot while hanging from a branch. They also sleep curled into a ball in the fork of a tree.

Mostly, a sloth’s life is about sleeping and eating in their trees. They only come down from their tree once a week to use the bathroom where they dig a hole at the bottom of their tree defecate and then cover the hole back up. All this takes some time and this is often when they run into trouble. Occasionally they take a swim.

Sloth in a bar

What? No draft beer?

They sleep between 8 to 10 hours a day. Sloths are not generally gregarious and make little attempt at getting friendly with other sloths. Apart from occasionally sharing the same tree they live very much alone.

Similar to other mammals, sloths usually only have one baby at a time. Pregnancies are five to six months for some sloths and up to 12 months for others.

After birth, the babies ride around clinging to their mother for many weeks. Baby slots usually stay with their mother for up to five years.

The leaves that the sloth’s eat are not only difficult to digest but contain little nutrition which is why they have a four part stomach that digests the leaves slowly using bacteria. This is the reason they only defecate once a week.

Sleeping Sloth

Time for a nap

The pygmy three-toed sloths that are only found in Panama are on the Survival Commission’s top 100 list of most threatened species.

The sloths scientific name, Bradypus, is Greek for “slow feet,” what else would you call the world’s slowest animal? Sloths are so slow that algae grows on their fur, which helps the sloth blend in with it’s habitat. They move very slowly and can climb only 6 to 8 feet a minute. They are however great swimmers and can do the breaststroke easily.

In the local harbors, Portobelo and Puerto Lindo during rainy season it is not uncommon for a sailor to wake up in the morning to find a sloth hanging in his cockpit or up his mast as they often get washed out of their natural habitat, swim to the nearest boat and climb the anchor chain.

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