International Sloth Day 2017 - Learn More About These Amazing Animals

Posted by Michael Starbuck on Oct 16, 2017

There are no two ways about it. Sloths are extremely popular animals. It doesn't matter if your love for the animals blossomed after watching Sid the Sloth in the Ice Age films or if you have watched one of the thousands of baby sloth videos on Youtube, recently there seems as if there is no way to escape these adorable animals!

Every year October 20th marks an important day in the calendar for fans of sloths as it is International Sloth Day. This day was created in an attempt to raise awareness about the animals that everybody knows, but few know much about. If you want to learn a little more about sloths in a minute and a half then why not check out our video?

To celebrate International Sloth Day 2017, we wanted to take a closer look at these incredible animals and help you all learn a little more about them. You can thank us later when the famous sloth round comes up on the pub quiz....

Let’s learn about sloths!

One Of The First Questions To Ask Is “Are There Actually Different Types Of Sloths?”

To cut a long story short, yes. There are actually two different types of sloth, the three-toed sloth and the two-toed sloth. These two different types can be further split into six species and we will take a closer look at them below.

Three Toed Sloth

Three-Toed Sloth

There are four different species of three toed sloth, and whilst they may all look very similar to each other they are actually slightly different! The four different species are:

• The Pygmy Three-Toed Sloth (which is critically endangered)

• The Maned Sloth (which is endangered)

• The Brown-Throated Sloth

• The Pale-Throated Sloth

The average person would have a very hard time differentiating the three toed sloths from their two toed cousins, but they are actually genetically different. Recent analysis done on the sloths lineage lines has shown that the two different species are not closely related and they developed their arboreal lifestyles completely independently of each other. Lots of sleep and moving slowly must have been all the rage thousands of years ago then...

There is one way you will be able to tell the three toed sloth apart from the two toed though, and that is in a swimming pool. If you struggle to find one of these in the jungle then the ocean will do, but what you would notice in a sloth swimming race is that the three toed sloth would win easily. This clip from Planet Earth II shows just how surprisingly mobile and graceful the three toed sloth is in the water.

Putting a three toed sloth on the land is a different matter altogether though as they are slower than their two toed cousins both on the forest floor and up in the trees. Imagine being slower than a sloth, even if you are one yourself! Fortunately their algae coated fur acts as camouflage to protect them from opportunistic predators as they clamber through the forest floors of Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela, Suriname, Columbia and parts of Central America including Costa Rica.

Two Toed Sloth

Two-Toed Sloth

The Usain Bolt of the sloth world, the two toed sloth stands out in the sloth family thanks to their more prominent snout, longer fur and their tail-less bodies. There are two different species of two toed sloth and they are:

• Hoffmann's Two-Toed Sloth

• Linneau's Two-Toed Sloth

Both species of sloth unsurprisingly spend most of their time up in tress, but they both have different techniques to get back down them when they need to eat. Two-toed sloths go down head first, and those with three-toed will head down backwards. After all, they do say it's not about the destination, it’s about the journey, and luckily for both species of sloth they have a lot of time to enjoy their journeys.

Three-Toed Sloth Walking Backwards

Something to watch out for is the fact that the names of the sloths are very deceptive. Both species have three toes...the difference comes when you look at their "fingers". The front appendages are from where these animals take their names.

Where On Earth Do Sloths Live?

    As we touched on earlier, sloths tend to live in the hotter locations on the world map and these include:

• Brazil

• Guyana

• Venezuela

• Suriname

• Columbia

• Costa Rica

Two-toed and three-toed sloths are not averse to sharing and they do just this with their territories. It is not uncommon to find one dominant two toed and one dominant three toed sloth sharing a section of the forest.

I Imagine The Answer Is Leaves, But What Do Sloths Actually Eat?

Two-Toed Sloth Eating Leaf

If you guessed the above then you are partially right. Sloths do love to eat leaves, and some of the other food sources they enjoy include:

• Fruit

• Flowers

• Nuts

• Berries

• Bark

• Some small insects

However, the cute and cuddly image sloths portray is somewhat of an illusion when you look in more detail at what the two toed sloths enjoy on their dinner plate. They are a lot less picky than the two toed sloths and they have been known to enjoy:

• Rats

• Mice

• Bird Eggs

You don't see many sloths tucking into a rat on television do you now...

Are Sloths Endangered?

Whilst most of the different species of sloth live in protected areas of land with very healthy habits, there are two species that are classed as endangered on the IUCN red list. The Maned three-toed sloth and the Pygmy three-toed sloth are endangered and critically endangered respectively and this is due to a number of reasons, the first of which being their famed lack of speed…

Why Are Sloths So Slow?

This question has a very simple answer, and it is to do with the animal’s metabolism. Sloths, which got their name from the sin that represents laziness, have an extremely low metabolic rate and this means that they cannot afford to expend much energy. Travelling on average less than 41 yards per day, sloths are very vulnerable when on the forest floor and this makes them easy pickings for the predators in the area. They are seen as a very slow moving and defenceless snack, and this does have an impact on sloth numbers.

The second reason two species of sloth are endangered is one that is becoming all the more common around the world for many different animals…

Deforestation Is A Huge Problem

Deforestation In Rainforest

The health of the world’s sloth population is entirely dependent on the health of the world’s rainforests and with the latter at an almost permanent risk of deforestation sloth numbers are beginning to suffer. Without an abundance of trees, sloths will be at risk of losing their shelter and will therefore be much more vulnerable to predators. Sloths also rely on the trees to supply them with a source of food so if the trees disappear so will the sloths.

How Can I Help?

There are any number of sloth related charities out there that you can donate to, but please do check them out in detail before sending your money over.

The more hands on option however is to volunteer with these adorable animals and make a difference to their lives in a direct manner. The Sloth Conservation and Wildlife Experience is a good example of a place where you will get to make an immediate difference to the lives of sloths and other animals as you help to run the sanctuary they live in. You can learn a little more about this project by looking at the project page, or give us a call to find out more!

We would love to hear from you on your ways to protect the sloths, so let us know in the comments below.

Happy International Sloth Day 2017 everyone!

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