Sloths

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This unusual leaf-eating animal spends most of its solitary life hanging upside down from the forest canopy


It eats, sleeps, breeds and nurses its young in this position, but will sit in the fork of a tree but sometimes descends to the ground.

  • Least Concern
  • Near Threatened
  • Vulnerable
  • Endangered
  • Critically Endangered
  • Extinct in the Wild
  • Extinct

The under fur is dense, often matted, while the outer fur is finer and sleek. The hair flows back from the head and as the animal is almost constantly upside down, the body hair lies from belly to back so that the rain will run off. Often the fur has a greenish tinge caused by microscopic plants that live on the hairs.

The sloth leaves the trees to defecate on the ground once a week in a carefully selected toilet site. It tries to avoid going down to the ground where there is risk of predators such as jaguars and ocelots. The two-toed sloth is nocturnal, sleeping during the daytime and eating at night. They move very slowly at night, one limb at a time, but when sufficiently motivated they are capable of moving at about 1.6 km per hour. Sloth’s are actually much better at swimming than walking, using their strong fore feet to propel themselves through the water, although they spend almost all of their time in the trees.

Key Facts

Family:
Megalonychidae
Diet:
Tree leaves, shoots and foliage
Life Span:
30+ years in captivity
Distribution:
South and Central America
Did you know?
Organs such as the heart, liver and spleen are placed differently in sloths than in other mammals to accommodate their upside-down lifestyle

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