Written by Katherine Burton, Animal Care Professional
Today is International Sloth Day!
In honor of the holiday, I invite you to learn more about this interesting mammal. Did you know there are two types of sloth? That’s right! The two-toed sloth and three-toed sloth are identified by the number of toes on their front feet. Six species of sloth make up those categories: Pygmy three-toed sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus), Maned sloth (Bradypus torquatus), Pale-throated sloth (Bradypus tridactylus), Brown-throated sloth (Bradypus variegatus), Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth (Choloepus didactylus), and the Hoffman’s two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni).
All species of sloth are found in Central and South America and spend their lives up in the trees. Even though not all sloth species are listed as endangered, all are dependent upon the forest for survival and are affected by deforestation. The tree canopy is a source of shelter, camouflage, and food.
The word sloth typically conjures an image of the animal sleeping or slowly moving while hanging from a tree branch. It's true! Sloths hang on to trees with their long claws, can sleep up to 20 hours a day, and they move at a leisurely pace due to their slow metabolism. During their waking hours they will eat various plant material such as leave, flowers, or fruit which can take days for them to digest. When they make their weekly journey to the ground to “go to the bathroom” they become exposed to natural predators such as large cats or birds of prey.
Protecting sloths is tied to protecting the rain forest. Without it, they can’t survive. Simple actions such as making sure wood or wood products come from sustainable sourced companies, can go a long way in helping this species. You can also visit ZooTampa to help support conservation initiatives all over the world. While you’re here you can look for our Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth in the aviary!